There’s now an ongoing debate about whether email marketing is giving way to social networks and smart phones. But as things stand today, an email is still an essential requirement for people on social networks. It’s also fair to say that every online shopper has an email and uses it.In fact, Compete data says that email traffic is the second largest source for shopping sites after search engine traffic. As compared to the 27.3 percent of consumers that use social networks for shopping, there are 40.6 percent who still use email for shopping.
There’s also the small matter of affordability and returns, since email marketing provides an ROI of $40 for every dollar you spend. A cash-strapped startup badly in need of some exposure can hardly afford to ignore such an affordable marketing channel, regardless of what the marketing and tech gurus say about the future of email marketing.
You do, however, need to co-opt social networks and mobile phones. Here’s a few tips that email marketers need in order to survive and thrive in the shadow of giant social networks and the global surge in mobile internet and m-commerce.
The basics still haven’t changed. You need tools to manage email lists, create and send newsletters and offers, and keep the database up-to-date and clean. It’s not hard to find these tools – take a look at AWeber, MailChimp, Madmimi and Constant Contact.
If you really want to whip out a masterpiece of a newsletter, then Sendicate just moved out its beta phase and is now offering a tool that helps you create beautiful newsletters, and is offering an API so that developers can integrate other products with the Sendicate newsletter.
You also need to make sure that newsletters are customized based on demographics. If you send everyone an offer on products meant only for women, you can be sure that men will start ignoring your emails, and many will promptly unsubscribe. The same applies for region specific offers, or luxury products.
The best way to do it is to collect all the demographic data, along with personal preferences and interests, during the sign-up process. Have subscribers tick check boxes indicating their choices, and stick to sending them offers under the chosen categories.
Depending on what you’re selling and the type of customer targeted, there are three basic formats you can follow – plain text, HTML or PDF. Each one has its own set of pros and cons, but most of it is about the visual appeal and ability to embed hyperlinks and images.
Plain text is simple, the newsletters are easy to create and there will be no compatibility issues in terms of what device the reader is using. On the other hand, you can’t use anchor text or embed logos and images to make it look professional. PDF helps you customize newsletters with extensive graphics and can be sent as an attached file, but it needs a fair to advanced knowledge of Adobe graphics software.
HTML splits the difference with the possibility of embedding links and images while keeping the newsletter simple and compatible on all devices. The aforementioned tools will enable you to create HTML newsletters even if you have little or no knowledge about HTML tags and programming.
Gregory Ciotti is the marketing strategist for Help Scout, which provides email support software for startups and small businesses. Help Scout managed to build up 30,000 subscribers for their blog’s newsletter in just 12 months. Ciotti says that growing a newsletter takes time, but “once you begin to build a following of loyal subscribers, the game becomes more about keeping quality consistent.”
Another great example of highly effective email marketing is Quora’s weekly newsletter. They only send it once a week, and the subject line is always catchy. Newsletter content is based on your pre-selected preferences, and every story has a face and voice that is credible, such as a question about startup funding answered by a VC fund executive or principal.
Social media can easily help you get a boatload of subscribers. Use Twitter and Facebook to promote your opt-in URL and landing page. You can also use social media to remind subscribers about your latest newsletter and offers that have been or will be sent to them via email.
Integrate social media icons in your emails and encourage subscribers to share your emails on the networks and connect with you.
More email is now read on mobile devices than on computers, which means that email offers and newsletters must be optimized for viewing on mobile devices.
SMS is also a great tool for collecting email subscribers. One great example is Southwest’s
Click ‘n Save E-mails offer seen on in-flight magazines and the drink napkins passengers use onboard flights.
It says below the Click n’Save ad – “Sign up online or text your e-mail address to #83793 today.” You’re sitting in a plane holding a napkin that offers you great deals on airline tickets, and you have nothing better to do so you sign up online or send an SMS. It’s incredibly simple and devastatingly targeted and effective.