5 Key Questions and Focus Areas in Email Marketing for Small Businesses

Social, local and mobile marketing are changing the way content is delivered to consumers. With animated images, countdown timers, live social media content and rendering for different screens, email marketing has become fancy too.

While small businesses usually find it easier to adapt to the changing digital marketing landscape,  they also need to balance speed with limited budgets and do not always have the insights from bigger agency partners.

With the limited budget and resources, might it be sensible for small business to re-evaluate where to focus on some of the key email marketing areas?

Here’s looking at the 5 key areas in email marketing – D.E.L.T.A.:

1 Design
2 Email Content
3 List
4 Testing
5 Analytics

1. Design
More and more emails are being viewed on mobiles and smartphones. Coding your emails for mobiles and tablets is already becoming a norm.

There are various posts and articles on how-to code the emails for mobiles, one of my favorite one is here.

Key Questions: What percentage of your email views are from mobiles? How has that changed in the last 6 months?
Focus Areas: Can your brand communication make do with skinny email templates? Could a good mobile ready email template, that has room for small images serve your purpose?

Here is how the twitter emails look:

But you might say, that’s twitter, it’s inherently a 140-characters content, isn’t it? Which brings us to the next point.

2. Email Content
Content is  the heart of your emails and often the most time consuming activity that gets completed only near the deadline.

Key Questions: What is the reason your emails exist? What type of email communication can suffice your need?
Focus Areas: Emails are scanned not read. At best you have 2 to 5 seconds for you to grab the reader’s attention. Can your brand communication make do with a twitter-like email that has highlighted words, bold headings, links that readers can quickly click-through if interested and large call-to-action buttons?

For example, CopyBlogger sends very short emails for their Internet Marketing for Smart People series. The email itself is pure text; it’s four to eight sentences long, with one link that takes you to a post, that’s all.

3. List
Every email marketer will tell you that you should segment the lists and send personalized content.

An event marketing company, for example,  may carve out a slice of data and create a list of past delegates who have opened the email last 3 times so that a special discount email can be sent to them.

While this is a great practice, unless this data is fed back into the central repository, it might remain as a hanging piece of knowledge in the email marketing vendor’s system.

Key Questions: How will your campaign data feed into your central CRM repository? What percentage of your email readers also are on your social media?
Focus Areas: Personalize emails with data from social media, past email and website behavior. More importantly, get readers to reply, irrespective of the list, or segmentation.

In most cases replying to an email gets you in the safe senders or contacts list and improves email delivery. If one of the metrics to measure readers’ engagement with your brand is email click rate, then replying is an even bigger sign of it.

4. Testing
Do you know which words in the subject line were “hot” last quarter? Is A/B testing a regular part of your email sending process?

Most standard email marketing systems have subject line and content testing features at no extra cost. This is one feature that should be your BFF.

Many marketers want to reach the inbox at a certain time, expecting that their marketing messages will be read at that time or near about the time the email lands in the inbox. However, readers’ habits are changing.

Since the time I have started recording TV programs I have hardly watched anything “live”. I record the ones I want and watch them at leisure. More and more people want to read emails at a time convenient to them and not necessarily when the email arrives in the inbox.  Some “star” it in the priority inbox, others “flag” it  while many, like me, file it in folders for later reading.

Key Questions: What time are your readers reading the emails? What words in the subject line are “hot” for your business?
Focus Areas: Is the frequency of email more important for your business than the time it was read? How often should your messages reach your audience so that it serves your brand better?

5. Analytics
Time spent on site, and number of pages seen by the visitors are not the typical benchmarks one sees in Email marketing.

My experience, in a B2B environment has been that readers who take the trouble to open the email in an increasingly cluttered inbox, click the links and visit the website, are highly engaged. I have seen them spend more time on the website than social media visitors. But this could be different for your business.

Key Questions: What are my key email marketing metrics? What email marketing benchmarks can I measure my campaign against?
Focus Areas: What percentage of your email list has never opened your emails? What does this mean for your business and how can you get these people interested?

As a digital marketer I understand the need of rendering the email in 10 different mobile email clients, but as a consumer I  very happily read the eight sentence text emails of CopyBlogger as well as the simple email feed of the long blog posts of Avinash Kaushik.

Sometimes the mere fact that so many options are available can overwhelm digital marketers. It’s important to step back and re-evaluate how best you can use the new opportunities and at what point they are needed for your business.

(This article was published on iMediaConnection.)


Digital Marketing – Some Thoughts

There a comes a point in the time, for every blogger, when his/her frequency of blog posts start to dwindle. This is not that time for me! I’ve just been busy! 🙂

Actually, I have been thinking of expanding this blog’s topics to digital marketing in general. I have a lot to share on topics besides email marketing (topics like short fiction and poetry – but that’s for another blog!).

Recently the nice people at  Customer Research Frontiers got in touch with me for my thoughts on digital marketing.

Here is the gist of my  mantra for marketers:

1] Own the CRM

I keep saying this at forums, presentations and seminars. What is the heart of digital marketing? It is not your SEO, SEM teams, its not your Brand communication strategy not even the user interface or content.

The heart of marketing these days is your CRM. Till the time the marketing department does not have a handle on this typically IT owned and operated asset, you cannot bring the best of integrated marketing to your brand. I would say that this is the start of all the best practices.

Who is your customer? What is his email address? When was he online last on your website? Which channels did he come from? Has he ever responded via phone? What is his demographic data? How many times has he read the newsletter? Did he ever use the promo code in the store? Has he re-tweeted anything? Is he an FB fan?

In my personal experience, I have received a an email about a store opening in my locality, read an ad in the local daily, and also received a direct mail. I have gone and shopped with my loyalty card in that store. The only way any of these activities can be measured if they are all fed back to some CRM database that connects my email with my loyalty card and POS data to the overall spends on the PR and direct mail.

The data about the customers is so huge and evolving so fast that marketers, IT departments and CRM systems, all need to keep pace with the market. It’s not a small feat. Its easy to get lost in the data, but slicing and dicing the data, segmenting the customer is where the insights will come from. Owning the CRM is a start towards getting more insights.

2] Eat analytics

Another best practice is to eat and breath analytics. Even simple website analytics can give excellent insights.

Take a simple example. I did an analysis on who are the most engaged audience on Juvlon’s  website  (I work with them). I looked at the amount of pages a person viewed on the website and the time spent on the website. I compared this amount for visitors coming from various channels, from social media sites, from blogs, from email newsletters and from display ads.

The people who came from our newsletter spent the most amount on the website in fact they spent about 30% more. For a person to share his email address, open the email, read it and click and visit the website – is no small task. More marketers need to respect the amount of time a visitor gives to you via an email channel.

3] Put a content team in place.

If you don’t have one already, it’s time you had a website editor/chief editor/content editor role in your organization. If yours is a clothes or fashion selling website get someone who can write and edit and understands fashion. If you sell plumbing equipment online, get someone who understands that. If you sell Cruise vacations online, get someone to write about the experience of a cruise.

This may not seem like a very “Integrated Marketing” related best practice, but what’s important is that you need to have the right content for the right channel. Where are you most likely to find your audience? Is Email a better channel for you or Twitter? Are the book readers more likely to be on FB or on LinkedIn? Which channel reaches out to what type of audience and what the readers look for differs. A tweet needs a different voice a newsletter more content, while a blog is far more time consuming – hence the content team.