Email has become one of the most popular forms of communication. In 2010, there were an estimated 90 trillion emails sent out worldwide. That breaks down to 2.8 million emails sent every second. These numbers are gigantic, but not surprising when you consider how important the mail in all forms has been throughout history.
But as the cost of postage and printing has risen, the effectiveness of marketing through the mail has declined. Businesses now have to pay more while seeing smaller returns. This is exacerbated by the fact that new communication tools provide many of the same services that standard mail does. Although direct mail marketing has not disappeared by any means, it has been on the decline for years.
As advertisers have shifted more and more of their efforts online, they have tried to find ways to use the strategies developed in print advertising in new online environments. Most of the traffic once handled by the postal service now happens over email, creating a new method of direct marketing. Today, the average marketer sends 64 emails to their customers every year.
Email marketing is, quite simply, using the tools of email to deliver advertising messages. The vast majority of Internet users have email accounts which allow them to receive an almost unlimited number of messages instantly. According to a survey conducted by Pew Internet, 82% of U.S. adults use the Internet, and email is one of the fastest, cheapest and easiest ways for marketers to connect with customers.
Email is a remarkably flexible tool that can accommodate a wide range of messages. Ads can be quite simple, or they can be flashy, multimedia packages. The aesthetic of the ad will depend on the company and the product for sale. Some ads are only text while others include images, video, and long lists of links.
Email can accommodate almost any message a marketer wants to send. For instance, UrbanDaddy.com, a nightlife website, ran a highly successful email marketing campaign by including large, eye catching images in the header of the email. The images were geared toward a young male demographic and gave the email context. They encouraged the reader to scroll down and engage with the sales messages contained in the body of the email.
The email marketing industry has exploded over the last 15 years. In 2011, companies spent $1.51 billion on email marketing efforts. In order to tap into this growth, a number of companies have started to provide email marketing services to businesses large and small. Below are some of the most popular providers.
- Benchmark Email
- Constant Contact
Email Newsletters: These are regular emails that are sent to a list of subscribers who have chosen to receive updates from a company. Newsletters usually don’t have explicit sales messages, but try instead to build a relationship between a customer and a brand. They often have a conversational tone and contain news and information that will be of interest to the customer. The goal is to keep a customer connected to a company even when they are not buying anything.
Transactional Emails: These are emails that are sent out after certain actions trigger them. When a customer buys a product or makes a reservation, emails are sent out confirming that transaction. They legitimize online commerce by giving customers a way to prove they have bought something. Transactional emails often also contain new sales messages. Studies have shown that transactional emails are opened 51.3% of the time, while newsletters are only opened 36.6% of the time. Knowing that they have a captive audience, marketers will often try to insert new sales pitches into emails that are not explicitly for selling. For example, airline reservation emails often ask if you would like to upgrade your seat for a fee.
Direct Emails: These are used to inform customers about new products, sales and special offers. They provide customers with direct information about products and usually provide a link or another easy way for customers to access the product. They are similar to the coupons, catalogs, and sales fliers that used to be sent through the post office.
Email marketing is used most often by organizations with strong online presences. Competition amongst e-commerce sites is fierce, and email marketing is a proven way to engage with customers and differentiate your company. Online businesses prefer to use email marketing because it makes it easy for customers to link directly from an email to a product page.
However, email marketing isn’t used only for selling products online. Nonprofit organizations and political campaigns make use of email to connect with supporters and donors. They have as much to benefit from email marketing as anyone else. It is now standard to ask for an email address when collecting information from interested parties.
The low cost and relative ease of carrying out an email marketing campaign means that it is a tool that is accessible to almost any business. A small mechanic’s shop can put together an email list and then send out coupons for oil changes or brake jobs. The scope and sophistication of these campaigns may not be as great as larger businesses, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be effective.
Email marketing is an inexpensive and easy way to connect with customers, but campaigns must be carried out systematically. A poorly planned email campaign can quickly lead to annoyed customers and disappointing sales.
The first step is to collect a comprehensive list of email addresses. The only significant disadvantage of email marketing is that many countries have laws against sending spam. Companies that send out unsolicited emails can face significant fines. It is crucial to only send emails to customers who want to receive them. It is important to make the process easy for customers to sign up for email updates. They can also offer incentives like one time coupons to encourage higher subscription rates.
Analyzing the emails of competing businesses can be a great way for companies to plan their own. This can be done easily by just signing up for their email lists. Competitor’s emails reveal what kinds of images, messages and specials they are using to appeal to their customers. Businesses can then tailor their email campaigns to match or beat the offers of their competitors.
Designing the look and feel of the email is an important but tricky process. The choice of images and text must reflect the demographic that is being marketed to. The email needs to grab the reader’s attention and draw them into the details of the sales pitch as quickly and succinctly as possible. If the email is confusing or boring, readers are likely to delete it before reading too far into it. All of that effort is then wasted.
Deciding which customers receive which emails is a way to give marketing messages relevance. Larger companies will use email to push multiple different products, updates and offers. Matching the message to the customer leads to higher sales and greater levels of customer satisfaction. Email marketing software makes it easy for companies to segment their email delivery based on criteria that they establish.
After an email campaign is sent out, it will be important to track and evaluate the success of that campaign. Pre-established metrics should be used to determine success or failure. If a campaign is not performing well, marketers can change the design of the ads, the products being emphasized, or the deals being offered. The flexibility of email makes it easy to implement changes quickly and inexpensively.