10 Step Guide: A recipe for email marketing

Despite the dominance of social media, email remains one of the most effective and cost-efficient marketing strategies for SMEs. Here’s a recipe for success.


1. Prepare your objective(s)

Know why you’re setting up an email campaign. Do you want to keep your customers engaged on a regular basis, talk about a new product launch or advertise an exclusive deal? Whatever the case, an email campaign for its own sake counts for little – always begin by setting your objectives.

2. Select a sharp service provider

There’s an abundance of email services out there, each with their own features and price points. Weigh these up before choosing, but as a rule of thumb you’ll want to look out for services that offer ease of use yet plenty of configurability, top-notch customer support, embedded sign-up forms and strong delivery rates. Amongst the most popular platforms are Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor and Send in Blue.

3. Welcome your subscribers

Social media is your best friend here – it’s where customers are. Reach out and tell them about your email campaign, offer sign-up incentives and (most importantly) make it easy for them to subscribe. A good service provider will enable you to set up online service forms on your website, and even offer an offline mobile/tablet form for use at events. Lastly, don’t forget to produce a friendly welcome email – your subscribers have given you special permission into their inboxes.

4. Use quality content (and mind portion control)

Content comes first with email marketing, but a little goes a long way. Keep it quality, and keep it tight. Every email you send must reflect the objective(s) that you established in Step 1. Subscribers should always have something they can take away and act on, so give your emails purpose and clarity. Subject lines should reflect this too, so take time researching and crafting them – they’re the doors into your emails.

5. Season with tone

The difference between a good email marketing campaign and a great one is often a matter of tone. Again, remember that you’ve been granted special access to your subscribers’ inboxes, so talk to them in a friendly, approachable tone. Don’t be overly amicable though – always maintain a professional attitude.

6. Garnish tastefully (but sparingly)

Once you’re satisfied with the content, it’s time to think about design. Many email services come with templates that are simple and quick to use. It’s worthwhile experimenting with different templates and tools before sending, but remember to keep campaigns largely consistent – and don’t overdo things. As with content, less is more.

7. Serve at the correct time

Don’t just hit the send button when you’re done – think about what your subscribers will be doing when they receive it. Will they be commuting? Having lunch? Enjoying payday? Depending on content there are lots of factors to consider when determining the ideal time to send. And if you’re sending to a global audience, think about time zones – some services offer ‘time warping’ to address this.

8. Check in on your subscribers

Become familiar with the tracking features provided by your chosen email service, and use them to understand your subscribers’ behaviour when reading your emails. You’ll soon get an idea of what works and what doesn’t in your campaigns. And don’t be afraid to ask for direct feedback in the form of surveys – these can furnish you with invaluable insight for future campaigns.

9. Clean up afterwards (and stay tidy)

Regularly clean and maintain your subscriber list. A good email service will help out with this by managing bounces and unsubscribes. It’s good practice to keep your subscribers to one list, within which you can group subscribers into segments to be sent customised content. Don’t be afraid to cull inactive subscribers – you might be reducing your subscriber base but you’ll be increasing open rates.

10. Experiment with different recipes

Don’t feel you need to stick with the one template, tone or approach in all of your email marketing campaigns – be willing to experiment and test new waters. Lots of email services offer A/B testing facilities, meaning that you can test two variants of a single email campaign at the same time to assess effectiveness.

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