When it comes to email marketing, every second counts. You only have a short time to capture your customer’s attention and keep it. On average, it takes someone a third of a second to decide whether they are going to open an email, three seconds to see if there is something of interest, and 30 seconds to respond to the ‘call to action.’ The difference between losing and keeping a customer can come down to a matter of seconds. Business owners start to think that they need to pull out every trick in the book to keep customers; but in actual fact, all it takes is an understanding and appreciation of who your customers are and what they want.
According to Bob Ogdon, CEO of US-based email marketing company Switfpage, it’s all about trust. With over 31 years of experience in the multimedia market, Ogdon has seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. On a visit to Australia, he sat down with Dynamic Business Online to discuss his thoughts on email marketing best practises, social media and simple ways businesses can establish deeper relationships with their customers through targeted, personal and unique communications.
“The important thing to remember with email marketing is that you are creating a relationship with your customer through targeted and relevant information. It’s not about selling, it’s about educating the consumer about your product or service,” says Ogdon.
In today’s digital world, relevant communication is vital. Customers are bombarded with thousands of email messages every day, so you need to ensure that your message is the one that’s heard.
Imagine for a second that you are the customer. You are an avid music fan, very into the indie rock scene and have just subscribed to Music Monthly. You want to be caught up on the latest indie rock news, but instead you are fed newsletter after newsletter about Britney Spears and Lady GaGa. You get fed up and either unsubscribe or report it as SPAM. You then ask yourself why you took this action. The answer is: because the content wasn’t relevant. It didn’t interest you and wasn’t what you were looking for. Now, how long did it take you to make this decision? All in all, probably less than a minute. Now imagine yourself as the business owner. Apply what you have just learnt to your business offering. Ask yourself: is it relevant? Is it educational? Informative? Engaging? Will my customer want to read this? It all comes back to the ‘what’s in it for me?’ value proposition. If you are not giving your customer what they want, they will leave you; it’s as simple as that.
The biggest mistake small businesses make when it comes to email marketing, says Ogdon, is not sending targeted messages. “The biggest mistake we see from businesses when it comes to email marketing is that they just blast a bunch of noise to their entire database and send an email just for the sake of it. This is a sure fire way to get blacklisted.”
In order to avoid this, businesses need to do three things: segment the database, analyse the statistics and take the time to build an attractive message.
Segment your database
“The thing to think about is that the customer is putting their trust in you to give them what they need, to educate them and to give them information about what they are interested in,” explains Ogdon. “By segmenting the database, you can get a true appreciation of who is interested in what, and target them appropriately.”
This can be as simple as creating a sign-up form on your website with a variety of checkboxes for the users that allow them to pick what types of information they would like to receive on a regular basis, and then sending targeted messages based on that information.
Analyse the data
Due to the instantaneous nature of email marketing, businesses can get feedback from their e-newsletters within seconds of sending. It is for this reason, that businesses should closely analyse the response rates of each blast they send, says Ogdon. “It’s not just about getting people to come to your website and buy, it’s about figuring out who is the most interested and what they are interested in so you can take further action and build a relationship with them. That’s where the email marketing data comes in handy.”
According to Odgon, a lot of small businesses don’t realise the power of email marketing. They don’t take the time to find out what their customers are clicking on, what the open rate is, where they are going after they have clicked on a link; and as a result they start to send out messages to the wrong people who don’t want to listen.
Another mistake often made is the lack of personalisation in the email, says Ogdon. “Simple things like not including the person’s name in the email or not providing a call to action. These minor oversights can actually have a big impact.”
Build an attractive message
When it comes to email marketing, businesses need to take a little bit of time to build an attractive message, and then to test and measure that message, says Ogdon. This can include simple things like using image links as opposed to text link, testing out a variety of different headlines, moving around the positioning of the content, keeping it short and simple, putting a teaser in with a clear call to action, providing a value-add for the consumer in the form of a free e-book, or integrating social media.
“People are more inclined to open an email if it’s an image as opposed to a text link. This is because is creates an emotional attachment, it targets the emotional component of the brain, rather than the analytics component, and elicits a deeper response,” says Ogdon.
Utilise social media
Many organisations are also using social media to extend that relationship with the customer. Ogdon recommends businesses use social media as a sort of ‘value-add’ for email marketing campaigns.
“Because many people are bombarded with hundreds of email messages on a daily basis, more often that not, they won’t get around to reading an email. Social media can be used to supplement that and to get their interest,” explains Ogdon. “For example, a business is putting on an event, so they decide to send an email to their subscribers informing them of the event. But they find that the open rate is low, so they need another way to target them. So they turn to Twitter to tweet out the message and generate interest, then they set up a Facebook page about the event, with links back to the website for further information. All of a sudden, a large amount of buzz is being generated about the event.”
Email marketing is a medium that is proving its worth, delivering considerable ROI for many businesses. For little investment, it can be a fantastic way to generate new business and to build a brand – if used correctly.
Bottom line? “Engage with the customer, connect with them at every touch point, and deliver relevant information,” says Ogdon.
Ogdon’s top tips for email marketing:
- Make it relevant
- Keep it short and concise.
- Segment your database and send targeted messages.
- Provide a clear call to action and follow it up with the customer.
- Build an attractive message – using image links as opposed to text links can double click through rates.
- Use social media to complement your email marketing strategy.
- Analyse the data – find out what your customers want by tracking what they click on and why.
- Always ask questions – get feedback from your customers.
– Bob Ogdon is the CEO of US-based email marketing company Switfpage, a supplier of e-mail marketing services and marketing technology for ACT! by Sage. Bob was in Australia as a guest of Sage Business Solutions (www.sagebusiness.com.au) presenting at its ACT! by Sage seminar series in Sydney and Melbourne. The seminar series focused on best practice approaches to email marketing for small and medium organisations.