When it comes to building a brand and converting prospects into customers, email marketing is still one of the most powerful and cost-effective tools. But in an era of one-click unsubscribe and a customer base highly attuned to the ways of marketers, how can small businesses make the right connections?
Step one: build the database
The days of buying a prospect database are long gone – that approach is a fast track to a bad reputation and an avalanche of unsubscribes.
Instead, firms need to actively capture the email addresses of both customers and prospects; pretty much everyone you come across.
It is also worth considering creating a single database that combines both sales and marketing information. This avoids duplication and errors and it also makes it much easier to track interactions. This way, your sales staff get insight into all the past prospect communications, including which emails prompted click throughs and which did not.
Step two: create the right content
Email marketing is not a one-off event; it is an opportunity to build a relationship. And that means not bombarding individuals with blatant product sales – that will do nothing to inspire confidence or demonstrate value.
Instead, organisations need to create content that is interesting, insightful and indicates an understanding of the market.
Step three: use an email marketing tool
It’s well worth running an email marketing campaign once a month. But with each mailing, you’ll have manage all the inevitable email bounces and unsubscribes manually and that can be an administrative nightmare.
You can save a lot of time and stress by using one of the many low cost email marketing tools on the market. Products such as MailChimp can automate much of this process; and if it is integrated with your CRM system, so much the better as that means your database will also be updated automatically.
Step four: measure effectiveness
Email marketing tools provide valuable information about the success of each email campaign – most notably click through rates (CTR).
By combining your email marketing tool with your CRM you can add relevance to that data – correlating the number of leads generated and sales closed provides a direct financial ROI figure that can help you improve your on-going email marketing activity.
Step five: increase sophistication
Once you have mastered the process of sending regular, relevant and interesting emails, you can further fine-tune your email strategy. One way to boost your results is to split the email campaign between customers and prospects and refining the message accordingly.
If the company has enough insight in the customer database to distinguish between hot and cold prospects, it is also worth considering varying the frequency of the emails; creating a stronger, more frequent relationship with those on the point of purchase, for example.
The key to success
Email marketing is all about building a long-term relationship and then closing the deal. The key to success is to get the right processes in place from day one and then use the data to improve your return on investment.
Copyright © 2015 Helen Armour, marketing manager at Really Simple Systems.