Rumours of its death may have been circling for years now but the truth is that email marketing is still one of the most effective ways for small business owners to get their name out there. For a relatively low financial investment and a little know-how you can start to reap some real tangible benefits. In fact, according to recent figures from Smart Insights, 51% of UK marketers still rate the email channel as their most effective.

But if you’re starting out as a small business, it can be a daunting prospect. What’s the best way to maintain your customer database and build loyalty? What stats do you need to keep track of? And most importantly, what should the content contain? The average open rate for marketing emails in the UK is just 23%, while click-throughs are a little over 3%. So it’s all the more important to make sure what you’re sending is as relevant and useful to the recipient as possible, to achieve the desired outcome.

Every company will have a slightly different focus for their email marketing campaigns – after all, no business is the same. But there are some general best practices which should help you more effectively convert those all-important leads and prospects into paying customers, whatever you’re selling.

Top tips to get you started:

1. Capture those all-important emailsYou can’t start an email marketing campaign without the emails of customers, leads and/or prospects. But it has to be done transparently to get the best quality results

  • On the website: After purchasing or visiting your site, create a pop-up, opt-in box or similar
  • In store: Forms offering competition entry/discounts/newsletter sign-ups etc in-store can be useful, but make sure staff are trained to push them
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe: There’s no value in leads/prospects who don’t want to receive your marketing mails, so ensure they can leave easily
2. Retain your customer base

This isn’t always easy, but it’s always preferable to acquiring new customers, which is more expensive. Think about the following:

  • Frequent updates: But don’t go overboard as this can lead some to unsubscribe. No more than once a week is a decent rule of thumb
  • Cross-sell: This is Amazon’s favourite trick and can help drive revenue. But make sure you understand your audience’s behaviours before you start in order to stay relevant
  • Offer incentives: Discounts and the like can encourage customers to stay subscribed to mailing lists and build loyalty
  • Build loyalty: As well as discounts, ensuring your emails are highly personalised, relevant and rewarding will help here
3. Get the content rightThe content of the email is arguably the most important part of the whole campaign. It must be tailored to suit your audience where possible to ensure relevance.
  • Subject headers matter: This forms the recipient’s first impression of your business, so make it count. Keep it short and sweet, and make it clear how your reader will benefit from opening the email
  • Tone: This will depend on your audience. Being too informal/formal could create the wrong impression of your brand
  • Social handles: This will help integrate your channels, increase your followers on social media and improve the chances of recipients sharing your content
  • Make it relevant: Subscribers want content that means something to them. So be sure to do your research and give them what they are looking for; whether that’s expert information, discounts, or updates on new products etc
4. Email best practice

Now you’re ready to send the email off, make sure you don’t fall at the final hurdle. Consider the following:

  • Send domain: Keep the ‘from’ domain consistent and relevant. Try and insert your brand name in there somewhere and avoid domains that look irrelevant or recipients may think it’s a phishing attempt
  • Don’t bombarded inboxes: Less is more. Sending out emails too frequently is the quickest way to lose subscribers
  • Test, test, test: Check and double check that any emails you send look as you intended, whatever the browser/email client
5. Time to hit ‘send’There are a number of tools out there on the market that can automate the sending of large volumes of emails. Some of the basic ones will also help build your lists. But don’t forget to:
  • Keep your contact list: This should be maintained and regularly updated to account for any changes to the status of subscribers
  • Keep track: Ideally you should be tracking open rates and click through rates so that you can tweak campaigns as you go forward

By James Frost, CMO Worldpay

Originally posted on Digital Marketing Magazine