August 25, 2009
There is no doubt that email campaigns, when well delivered, elicit a great response and, most importantly, increase sales. The Direct Marketing Association's 'State of the E-Commerce Industry Report' found that 66 percent of the 700 companies they surveyed increased sales last year as a direct result of email marketing.
The effectiveness of the medium however, has to be balanced with the continuing rise in the volume of emails people are receiving. Research group Forrester estimates that this year alone 250 billion emails will be sent to 250 million recipients. That's about three commercial emails a day per person.
At Extravision we've had years of experience of delivering email campaigns that are a cut above the rest and deliver great responses as a result. Below are a few keys to running a successful email campaign.
Campaigns should be planned strategically with a great deal of thought being put into who you need to reach in order to maximise your chances of generating a sale. When you've established this, the next task is getting their email address and there are a number of ways you could go about this.
In our experience one of the easiest is running a telemarketing campaign to obtain email addresses for your in house list as this always generates the highest responses. If you choose to use a third party list be aware that buying a list that contains email addresses is not recommended.
These addresses will undoubtedly already have been used many times over and the recipients will be being bombarded with commercial mails - the chances of getting a response from any of them will therefore be slim and the chances of getting flamed are high. Buy a list without email addresses and source them through a telemarketing campaign - we've done this time and time again and it works!
Although it takes more effort, personalising your campaign is probably the single most important thing you can do to get a good response. We all like to be treated like individuals; customers and prospects will respond well to the personal touch.
Never send out emails that look as if they have been sent by a faceless marketing department if you want to maximise your chances of getting a good response.
Think about who you want to talk to and who would naturally be the best person within your organisation to talk to them. When it comes to senior management or director level campaigns for example then the message should appear to come from someone at that level within your company. Rather than thinking about campaigns as B2B or B2C think of them as P2P - person 2 person, or even peer 2 peer.
As well as personalising who the message is from, the content of the email itself should be as personal as possible. Emails tend to be more chatty and conversational than other forms of written communication. Your content should be delivered in a style appropriate to the medium and not merely replicate the way you would approach a prospect via direct mail. Reading the email out loud is a good tip for making sure that it reads as if it has been written by a person not a company.
Probably the most important elements of your content are the subject line and first three lines of the email. The point of the subject line is to grab your customer's attention and compel them to open it.
Subject lines that tell the recipient immediately why you're writing and what it's about are obviously very successful as they suggest that there is useful information in the message. And, if you've targeted your message at the right people then the information will be well received and your response rate high.
What will prompt your customer to respond? Free offers can be effective in getting a great response - be careful how you use this approach though. Spammers often use bogus free offers and some people are going to be cynical about how free is free. The offer must be genuine and be something that will be of value to your customer - well written, information rich white papers can be powerful enticements in some cases.
The call to action must be email friendly. This basically means that the action you induce is a click - either a link to a landing page or the reply button. Even is the offer is good any other method of response will most likely fail.
The success or failure of an email campaign does not end once the message has been delivered. Even in a well researched list of email addresses there will inevitably be a number of bounces and unsubscribes to deal with - typically in the 20% - 30% range. Coping with these can be time consuming. Be prepared to deal with them, perhaps by using an automated email management system.
Replying to any requests for more information quickly is vital. Replies should ideally be sent within 24 hrs. If you feel that this will be difficult to achieve with your marketing resources then setting up an auto-responder confirming receipt can be a good stop gap measure, although it is still not wise to leave it too long before sending a more personal response.
If someone sends you an email it is because they are interested in your product or service. If you do not respond to them quickly the opportunity to turn that interest into a sale could be missed and a potentially loyal customer lost.
Getting the message right is by no means an exact science. At Extravision we always send a number of test messages to small sample groups in order to test the response before undertaking a mass campaign. A testing phase is generally to be recommended even if you do not want to compare the effect of multiple messages.
Although email campaigns are cheap to run this does not mean that mistakes won't cost you in terms of reputation. If the message isn't right, or the tone is inappropriate, not only will it deliver a poor return but it could do permanent damage to your brand.
With respect to timing, at Extravision we often get asked about the best day to initiate a campaign. The general rule of thumb for a business campaign is to avoid obvious holidays such as the Christmas period and Monday mornings and Friday afternoons.
Marketing by email is extremely cost effective and, with response rates of around 20%-30%, it's a medium that no sales or marketing manager should ignore. As you can see there is a great deal of thought and effort required in making sure that email campaigns achieve this level of response. The Extravision team are experts in making sure that this happens for our all our customers.
If you would like any further information, please email [email protected] or call 0161 817 2929
Posted by Paul Latham
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