How can I use email marketing to promote my business?

Your question

I have been using email to keep in touch with customers and also to get more sales, but the emails I have sent out so far have not seemed to have made any difference. What am I doing wrong, and what can I do to get a better response?

Our answer

Email can be a really effective tool to generate new and repeat business as it is low-cost and easy for small businesses to manage. There are lots of tips and tricks to getting a good response rate, but it is also important to test new approaches and keep your communications fresh.

What does your current email data tell you? Are customers opening the email but not clicking through? Are you optimising the message for mobile viewing? Your data can shine a light on the specific improvements that you could make.

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In the meantime, here are some general pointers to getting the best response rates from your email marketing.

1) Plan your content in advance

Email marketing works best when it is part of an integrated marketing plan. Consider using other marketing such as Adwords, Telemarketing or Social Media Marketing to compliment your email communications.

It’s a good idea to decide how often you want to send emails out, and what their subject matter will be. Don’t promise a monthly newsletter if you either don’t have the content for it, or the time to write and sent it. Use our free Newsletter planner to plan your email communications.

I’d recommend using Mailchimp for your marketing emails as it is free, easy to use and has a host of features that will help you improve your email marketing. It’s easy to design beautiful emails that are also mobile optimised using a free Mailchimp account.

2) Target your emails to your customer segments

Your existing customers will need a different tone of voice than people who have never heard of your business, so decide who you are targeting with your emails, and consider sending two versions of each one.

You may also want to personalise the emails more by sharing information, or highlighting products that are going to be more relevant to different segments – for example if you are introducing a new range of clothing each season you might want to target men and women separately.

Schedule your message for a time when your audience are going to be receptive to your message, so think carefully about when to press ‘send’ to optimise your response rates.

3) Use a friendly ‘from’ address

The sender’s email address is one of the first things a recipient will notice, so chose something friendly, or your name. How many times have you seen emails from ‘noreply@…’? A friendly ‘from address’ will help to make a good first impression and make it more likely that your email will be opened.

4) Subject lines are important in getting your emails opened

The subject line of your email is the key factor in whether or not your email will be opened or not.

You need to entice your recipient into opening the email to find out more by giving them a good reason to click on the email heading. What would your audience find useful or interesting? An offer? Tips or ideas? What will encourage your customer to click on your email rather than the many others they have received?

Be aware of ‘stop words’ which are likely to send your email straight to the spam or junk folder and not even be seen. There’s a really useful list of stop words in this article from Hubspot.

5) Make your email copy easy to read

People are time poor, so make your text easy and quick to read. Get to the point quickly, telling them what is in the email and what’s in it for them. Keep your message to 50-125 words, use headings, some bold highlighting and Plain English.

Remember to include a link to your website, your address and social channels to make it easy for customers to respond. Buttons work really well in emails, so highlight your offer with a nice big button. Mailchimp provides easy integration to a range of ecommerce solutions, so your email promotion can link directly into your online store.

6) The legal bit

While this won’t have an impact on your email response rates, it should be noted that all companies in the UK must comply with the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations if you are collecting, processing and using data.

I know this may sound daunting, so I have compiled a list of key resources and an email marketing checklist for you.

The most common breach of the DPA that I regularly see is people putting all their addresses in the ‘to’ field of an email rather than the ‘bcc’ field. This means you are sharing customer data with others and you could get into trouble for this.

Again, Mailchimp makes compliance easier by hiding all other data, by including your company details on all communications and also by handling unsubscribes for you automatically.

7) Analyse, test and learn

Always send a test email before you broadcast it out to your list. This will allow you to check for problems with formatting, copy errors or broken links.

If you’re using Mailchimp you can check the status of your campaigns easily to find out the open rate and click through rates of each message. You can even test one email against another to see if a different subject line or image makes a difference to performance.

Use what you have learned next time you send out a message and your email marketing performance is sure to improve month on month.

Download our free Email Marketing Planner and check out our Email Marketing Checklist to make sure you are marketing within the law.

Answered by our marketing agony aunt Roisin Kirby from Refresh Marketing. Let her know of any marketing questions you need help with by joining her on Facebook.