Email marketing is the cornerstone of many a small business marketing strategy, but it takes careful planning to make a success of it. In today’s article, I’m going to be taking you through the tasks to complete before you hit the send button, so that you can get your email campaign off to the best possible start.
1. Have a strategy in place
First things first, before you even think about sending your email campaign, it’s important to make sure it fits into a wider strategy – both for your email marketing and for your marketing efforts as a whole.
However big or small your business, a carefully considered email marketing strategy is crucial to success, helping to ensure you’re sending the right content to the right people. Forming an email marketing strategy involves:
- Being clear about your goals and objectives – what do you hope to achieve from sending this email campaign? For example, are you aiming for a 10% increase in sales as a result of it? How will you achieve this – by sending a weekly email?
- Understanding your target audience – who is this campaign aimed at? What are their demographics, and which stage are they at in the buying cycle? What kind of content are they going to be most interested in reading?
- Building a good mailing list – consider how you’ll grow your mailing list, whether that’s by lead generation ads on Facebook or asking customers who’ve bought from you to subscribe to your email newsletters (keeping legislation like GDPR in mind)
- Planning your content – what will your campaign look like and what kind of content will you send? How many emails will people be sent as part of it, and what does the sequence of emails involve? Which platform will you use to send it, and when will you send the emails?
Read more in this article on six steps to creating an email marketing strategy.
2. Manage and organise your mailing list
A well-thought-out mailing list underpins a successful email campaign. For a start, you’ll need to ensure you’re only sending emails to people who’ve given their express permission for you to do so, in order to comply with GDPR legislation. You’ll also need to maintain your mailing list, removing email addresses that bounced back last time and duplicate addresses, reviewing addresses with typos, and so on.
At this stage it’s worth thinking about segmentation, which involves breaking down your mailing list into smaller chunks based on different criteria – for example, one list could be for new customers, while another could be for customers who’ve bought a certain product from you before. This allows you to send tailored content that’s more likely to appeal to the recipients.
If you’re serious about email marketing, you might also want to think about setting up A/B testing, which lets you split test your campaigns to see which version is most effective. For more on this, take a look at this article on why you need to be A/B testing your email marketing and how to get started.
3. Keep measurement in mind
As with any marketing activity, you’ll be needing a way to measure the success of your email campaign so that you can see whether your efforts are worth the investment.
To do this, you’ll need to build in a way of measuring your email content before you send it. If you’re using an email marketing tool such as Mailchimp, you’ll already get campaign insights such as percentage of email opens, unsubscribe rates and so on.
Another simple way to build measurement into your campaign from the start is to use markers – known as UTM parameters – in any URLs you use in your emails, which will then show up in your Google Analytics. This will show you how much traffic has landed on different pages of your site as a result of clicking links in each different email or email campaign (and how much revenue has been generated, if you have an e-commerce set-up).
Read more on measurement in this article on seven ways to measure email campaigns.
4. Personalise your content
Personalisation is an important part of making your email campaigns a success, with one study showing that personalised emails deliver 6 times higher transaction rates. A basic way to do this is to use the recipient’s name in the email (and/or subject line), but there are lots of other ways to personalise email content.
We’ve already touched on segmentation, and this is another good way to deliver personalised content to your readers – for example, sending emails tailored to particular groups of people based on interests or preferences they’ve expressed, or based on their location. For more advice on email campaign personalisation, here are six ways to personalise your emails.
5. Write a great subject line
A compelling subject line can mean the difference between someone opening your email and engaging with its content, or simply deleting it without opening it. Research suggests that as many as 47% of us decide whether or not to open an email based on its subject line, so before you send your email campaign, think carefully about your subject lines.
These should be snappy enough to grab their attention, intriguing enough that they want to read more, and relevant to the email’s content so that they don’t feel misled when they open it. There’s lots more on this subject in this article on how to write the perfect email subject line.
6. Edit and proofread
Your email campaign needs to look professional, and content with errors won’t give a good impression to customers or potential customers. Before you get ready to hit send, it’s therefore important to make sure you’ve carefully checked each email to ensure it’s polished, and edit it where necessary. Here are some things to look out for:
- Sense check – does it all make sense and add value? Are there any parts that might confuse readers?
- Length – readers are likely to be pushed for time, so you should keep emails short and snappy. If your emails are looking long and rambling, you might want to edit them down
- Call-to-action – make sure there’s a strong call-to-action to let readers know what to do next. Keep these short and sweet – ideally no more than four words
- Errors – proofread carefully, looking for typos, misspellings (including UK versus US spellings) and grammatical errors
- Formatting – check that everything’s formatted consistently, from fonts to bullet points
- Links – check that all links included in your email are working correctly
It can be helpful to ask someone else to have a read of what you’ve written, as a fresh pair of eyes can spot things you may not do if you’ve spent a while working on it.
7. Set the sender and ‘reply to’ address
Your email is likely to arouse suspicion among recipients – and potentially their email providers’ spam filters – if it’s sent from a generic free email address.
That’s why it’s important to make sure that your email is sent from a professional address from your own brand domain. The same applies to the ‘reply to’ address you set, which is the address where any email responses to your campaign will be sent. Here’s more on why you should use a branded email address for your business.
8. Send a test email and view it from different devices
Always send the email(s) to yourself as a test so that you can check everything’s working as you expected before sending it out to your mailing list. This will also allow you to conduct a final check that it’s formatted correctly, that images download as they should and that links in the email are working.
Don’t forget that recipients of your email could be viewing it from any number of different devices and operating platforms, so be sure to view your test email from as many different places as possible: Android and Apple smartphones and tablets, as well as laptop and desktop computers.
And it’s not just your emails that should be optimised for mobile. While you’re at it, also make sure that any landing pages you’re pointing readers to are mobile optimised and check how they display on different devices as well.
You don’t have to click send straightaway – email campaign tools will let you schedule your email so that people receive it at the time of day of your choice.
You’ll want your email to land in people’s inboxes at a time when they’re most likely to open it, and this will vary depending on your target audience. Think about the best time of day for your demographic – are they likely to be more engaged in the evening or at weekends, for example? Or would during business hours be better (for B2B content, for instance)?
Taking the time to work through each of these steps will help give your email campaign the best possible chance of success. For even more great tips, have a read of this guide to email marketing for small businesses and learn more about how to reach and engage your customers with email marketing.
Rachel Ramsay is a freelance copywriter with a background in digital marketing. She's written copy for clients ranging from the United Nations World Food Programme to The North Face, and particularly enjoys working with lifestyle and travel brands. In her spare time, she volunteers for Guide Dogs and flies light aircraft and helicopters.Read full profile