At the NECPA, email has always been an important part of reaching out to promote our Annual Meeting and Expo. In 2015 we employed a more aggressive email strategy than ever, sending over 15,000 emails to promote our regional show. Last year, our marketing campaigns last year resulted in the highest number of show pre-registrations in our history. We know email was an important part of that, and for that reason I want to make sure that all of our members are leveraging email marketing to reach out to their own contacts to boost their own sales.
With just these 5 simple steps, you can find more leads from both existing customers and new prospects.
1. Collect email addresses
If you don’t already collect emails from your customers, start doing it today. Whether they call in by phone, visit your website, if you meet them in person at their location, and even if they send you an email, you should be collecting all customer and prospect emails so that you can use them later. If you’re just getting started, you can use a spreadsheet to collect the names, if you already use a database for your customers, make sure you are completing the email field for every contact.
(PRO TIP: Make sure when you collect the emails that your customer knows you will be sending emails so that they can elect to be left off the list. Unwanted emails can result in “spam reports” that can cause negative effects to your email campaigns and domain.)
2. Create a plan
Now that you have email addresses, decide what to send to your audience. To do this, think about what would be interesting to them, and if necessary split up the names by their category of interest.
For example, if you sell to both commercial businesses as well as consumers, you may want to have a B2B (business to business) category and a B2C (business to consumer) category. Other category options could be the type of products/services they are interested in or how long you have worked with them.
Now that you have your list “segments” decide what would be interesting for each segment to read about. Newsletters that offer tips and ideas are usually very well received. You can also include new product information or special pricing promotions. Your topics should vary according to what your audience would be most interested in.
3. When to send your email
Deciding when to send your email should be based on your understanding of your audience and what information you are providing. Some lists (usually those offering news or limited-time special offers) will receive email every week and are opened and read each time. Other lists only want to hear from you once per month. Look at your list and plan to send as often as you think they will open it. If you find that they are not opening your emails (see #5 below), try sending a little less frequently.
4. How to send your email
When sending emails to a large group, you should always use an ESP (email Service Provider). Sending large numbers of email from your personal account (e.g. Outlook, Gmail) results in having your email account blocked by both the recipient’s ISP as well as your own (e.g. Comcast). You might be able to do it once or twice, but very quickly all your communications could be shut down.
There are many excellent ESPs available that are very affordable. I asked our own marketing provider for some recommendations. According to MaryAnn Pfeiffer of 108 degrees:
“If you aren’t planning to custom-code your emails, you want to choose a company that has templates you like. Also, look for a user interface that you find easy to use. My first go-to company for email is always MailChimp, I think their system is fantastic and flexible. Constant Contact and iContact are other popular options that many small businesses use. If you have a very large list, say over 100,000 names, AWeber or Infusionsoft is an excellent way to manage very large campaigns that are action-based.”
5. Measure your email's performance
One of the great benefits of using an ESP is the measurement of your email’s performance. All ESPs will tell you how many people opened and clicked on your campaign. They will also tell you how many emails “bounced” (weren’t deliverable) and who unsubscribed.
It’s vital to measure your campaign’s performance, since this information can help you to understand what your audience finds interesting. As you learn what they like to read about, you can offer more emails that they will open. The more they open your emails, the more they are thinking about your company making them more likely to contact you when they need a product or service.
I hope you will try to embrace email marketing this year and see what it can do for your business. We’ve had great success at the NECPA with our email programs, and I know you can too.