Top 10 tips for effective e-mail marketing

By Robyn Levin, President
R. Levin Marketing Group

The Internet is still the most underutilized advertising medium compared to traditional advertising and marketing. Many professionals are missing opportunities due to a fear of technology and the misguided idea that they won’t reach their clients through the Internet.

You can use media such as e-mail, blogs, online PR, podcasts, webinars and social media to grow your business. This article focuses on the benefits of e-mail marketing and how to improve your results.

Many companies are increasing their online marketing budgets to be closer to their target market. Think of your own behavior. How often are you online? How do you react to e-mails that capture your interest? Would you sign up to attend an event, download an article, or watch an online video? I would, and I bet you and your clients would, too.

If you are not using e-mail marketing, here are three reasons why you should consider it:

  • Ease of use
  • Measurability
  • Cost-effectiveness

E-mail marketing is one of the easiest and most cost-effective tools at our disposal. It’s measurable, so if you’re ROI-conscious, this will pay dividends. You can quickly tweak your program while you monitor the results, which you can’t do with direct mail, radio, TV or print ads.

Two of the easiest ways to increase your business are through referrals and repeat business. E-mail can improve consistent communication and build better relationships — the keys to building your business. Marketing is all about getting the right message to the right person at the right time and, according to a recent survey, e-mail marketing is now getting better response rates than direct mail. So, how do you get started and/or improve your results?

1. Build your in-house list

According to Forrester Research, it’s 20 times more effective to send e-mail to an in-house list than to rent or buy a list. If you are just starting out or want to expand your list quickly, here are some ideas to expedite the process. Make sure you add your e-mail sign-up form prominently on your Web site, all printed material, flyers, ads, direct mail and even on your voice-mail. Encourage people to sign up receive and your news. Make a flyer for live events or seminars showing folks how to join your list or ask them to drop their business card in a bowl so you can sign them up.

Put a subscriber box on your Web site, preferably on the top right so it is clear and visible. Make the form brief, simply asking for their e-mail address and name. I attended a recent interactive marketing conference and heard that 57 percent of people will say “yes” and subscribe to your list if you ask them to.

This method has worked well for one of my financial services clients. We added a sign-up box to their Web site and after four months, they had more than 400 new subscribers/prospects. One hundred new leads per month was a big jump for this client and we now market to this list every month. This is very effective for brand building and strengthening relationships.

I’ve purchased lists in the past to help promote webinars and seminars and they were very effective. If you buy or rent a list, just be careful to purchase from a very reputable company.

2. Segment your list

The perfect time to get to know your audience is when they sign up, as they are most receptive at this point. Ask a few questions to better qualify your subscribers and create separate interest lists. You can segment them by investment objectives, time horizon, size of portfolio, degree of risk tolerance, age range, geographical area and whether they want to schedule an appointment with you. Limit these questions to three or four at the most. Later, you can e-mail specific offers to these special interest lists.

Most e-mail service providers offer tracking reports so it’s easy to measure the results of your campaign. One powerful technique to increase response rates is to resend to those folks that read your e-mail, but didn’t respond to the call-to-action, such as a link to download a white paper, e-book, special report, listen to an MP3 or register for a seminar or Webinar. This list tracks recipients who are interested, but may need a little push. I often send another e-mail to these folks if I’m promoting an event and this frequently leads them to take the next step and register for the event.

3. Create compelling content

Successful marketing means communicating regularly with your clients and prospects and a monthly online newsletter will help you succeed. Newsletters help you commit to a regular schedule and stay in front of your audience. Why not advise your readers about an upcoming seminar, Webinar or other timely news while you’re at it? This is very useful for cross-promoting timely information.

Obviously, you need to create an interesting e-mail, and if you’re promoting a seminar, you must think strategically about placing call-to-action links in the e-mail. These links can be used tracked and measured to test your campaign. You probably already have content you’ve written or clips from your Web site that you can use.

Opinion is divided on whether to send a text version or html with graphics. Graphics look better, but sometimes e-mail clients like Outlook may default to block images which will affect your open rates. You can get around this by putting basic code, called “alt tags,” in the images that will show text describing the image. If for any reason the image doesn’t open, your text will still show inside the box. I use html e-mail and seldom have a problem with delivery and open rates. If you want more help with this, contact me using the forum below.

Tip: If you do include graphics, keep them small and avoid putting them at the top of your e-mail. I send monthly marketing tips to my subscribers and use an html format to make it more appealing.

Remember, brief is better . Keep your letter short, but provide links inside your e-mail if you have more content.

4. Include a surprise bonus in the thank-you e-mail

Include a surprise bonus item in the e-mail to thank prospects for registering for your newsletter. Your subscribers are most receptive to you at this time, so leverage the opportunity. You may include an MP3, an article, a white paper or something of interest that pertains to your topic. We gave an MP3 of the Top 12 FAQs about non-recourse lending with IRAs as a bonus item for my bank clients. Subscribers are interested in this subject so we give them an unexpected bonus. Use your thank-you letter to give something free rather than promotional. There are better opportunities to promote your company in future e-mails.

5. How to choose the right e-mail service provider

About four years ago, I launched my e-mail campaigns with service provider Constant Contact and I still use and recommend them today. They are a great resource for low to medium volume. Some factors to consider when choosing your provider are ease-of-use, customer service/tech support, deliverability, security and price. Most e-mail service providers offer you easy ways to create an attractive branded letter. They will also collect and manage the names of your subscribers and provide tracking reports so you can measure the success of your campaign.

6. Subject line tips

You have about three seconds to capture attention, so the subject line is one of the most important considerations for e-mail marketing success. If they don’t like the subject, the rest doesn’t matter. Don’t use capitals, exclamation marks or the word “free” in the subject line. Try to limit your subject to 30 to 40 characters or less. Make your e-mail 80 percent educational and 20 percent promotional. Case studies also make great content.

7. Your “from” field is very important

Sixty percent of people decide to open an e-mail based on the “from” field, so be sure your name and company are clearly identified.

8. 3 easy ways to measure e-mail marketing results

  • Open-rate — How many people have opened your e-mail
  • Click-through rate — How many people clicked through on your links
  • Conversion — How many completed a call-to-action like downloading a white paper or signing up for an event

9. Timing is relevant

The time of day and day of the week that your e-mail is sent can drastically affect your results.

10. Forward to a friend

“Forward to a friend” is a powerful way to encourage others to market for you. While I was finishing this article, I received a telephone call from someone who received an e-mail a few months ago about an upcoming event that had my contact information on it. Financial planner and real estate investment advisor Dee Toledo called me to register for an upcoming seminar that was in the e-mail. Her CPA forwarded the e-mail to her, thinking she would be interested in attending the event, and she registered after we spoke on the phone. The forward-to-a-friend feature clearly works as a viral marketing technique, so make sure you include this in your copy.

In summary, e-mail enables you to automate your marketing and provide consistent communication with your clients about news, products, services, and events. When you provide quality content and education, you encourage your readers to forward the e-mail to others who may find it useful. Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways to build referrals and it’s easy with e-mail. If you have a printed newsletter, why not convert it to an online format and get started?