The Ultimate Guide To Email Marketing For Beginners

E-mail marketing puzzleEmail can be a great, cost-effective way of promoting your product or business and is considered the modern way of posting an introductory letter to your customers and prospects.

But is it really that straight forward? It is if you break down into steps what you need to do.

First you need to consider where to get your contact lists, which basically falls down to one of three choices:

1.  Buy your data

You can buy contact data from providers such as Experian or Thompson. These services are now offered online where you can easily select the type of data you require.

Experian allow you to choose from a number of factors to help narrow your criteria down to the types of business you want to deal with, including:

  • Postal/geographical region
  • Number of employees
  • Yellow pages classification
  • Job function (such as senior manager or buyer)
  • Not registered with telephone preference service

Once you’ve selected and paid for this data using their website, you can download your contacts in spread sheet format ready for your mailshot. The prices for these services are very reasonable.

2.  Harvesting Data

This is a completely free way of getting contact data and involves using search engines to find companies you want to target. A simple program such as “Target email collector” uses popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo to locate company websites and records contact details such as email addresses and phone numbers (display on the websites) whilst it runs.

The process only takes a few minutes but it does have downfalls:

  • Many organisations use generic email addresses on their websites (such as sales@ and info@) so there is little chance of your email getting to the right person or decision maker
  • Other companies will be doing this so your targets will get lots of junk mail
  • It will only collect data that it can find – if your target company doesn’t have a website or contact details on its website, the data can’t be collected
  • Many mail sending providers such as mailchimp prevent you from using this type of data
  • The success rates for using harvested data are usually very low.

3.  Registration information

If your own website has a facility for customers to register or sign up, there is a good possibility that you can use this data to contact your customers for marketing enquiries; provided that your terms and conditions (that your customers agree to during the sign up state that you might contact them in the future) permit this.

Using your registration data you could consider sending exclusive offers, content, white papers, latest news, videos and tutorials. You should create a reason for customers to give them your details and reward that faith with compelling content and build loyalty.

Registration data also has the advantage that your customers have agreed to be contacted and have already expressed an interest in your product or service by registering. However registration contacts will only include those people that have registered for your site in the first place.

The basics of a marketing email

Just as you would do for a letter, you need to figure out what you want to say and how you need to say it. There are some important themes that you may want to consider:

Personalisation

The more personal you can make your email feel to the reader, the more chance of success of them actually reading it. Try to avoid starting off with “FTAO:  Managing director”. Do some research to try to find out who you need to write to in an organisation if you don’t know already.

Identification

Try to relate to your customer and understand what matters to them. Knowledge of your customer’s marketing sector can really help with this.

Delivery

What your product is (at its simplest) and the problems it solves

Elaboration

Overview the key features of your solution

Customisation

Can your offering be tailored to suit your customer’s needs?

Price

Consider stating prices carefully, but if you can offer a free trail or sample it might be worth including.

Graphics and formatting

Up until a few years ago, almost all marketing emails included heavy formatting with pictures and were designed to look as much like web pages as possible. However, many modern mail clients including Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook won’t always display pictures automatically so it’s really important to test your emails to see how they look with pictures being disabled. Many mail providers such as yahoo, gmail and Hotmail offer free accounts so you can easily test how your marketing email will look.

It’s worth considering that many people now use mobile devices for reading email which have further implications for emails with heavy graphics, particularly on smaller screens.

As a rule, it’s worth sticking to basic text formatting such as bold, italics and font colour if you’re unsure.

Reviewing your finished email

Once you have written your message, send it round a few people such as colleagues and contacts to get their opinions. If you have existing customers, it might be worth asking them what they think of your message.

I’ve completed my email, shall I just perform a mail merge with office and word?

I would carefully consider the ramifications of doing this before you hit send and I would not send out mass emails from your own email address or company mail system. Spam filters are very clever and if they detect many of the same email coming from the one company mail system or email address, there is a high probability that you could get a high spam score, meaning that your emails will go straight into a junk mail folder or not be delivered at all.

Spam filters share data between different email providers all over the world. By sending out mass mailings from your own account, you run the risk that you could permanently classify all future emails you (or your company) sends, regardless of nature, as spam.

Using a third party

There are a number of companies such as MailChimp and DotMailer that can send emails out on your behalf. These companies have agreements with the big ISPs and mail providers that will help ensure that your mail gets through and is less likely to get classified as spam. Furthermore you will run far less risk of your non-marketing mails getting classified as junk.

It’s worth looking at their pricing packages which often included a monthly subscription based approach or pay as you go.

Some mass mail companies such as MailChimp will not send emails out to contacts on bought lists, so it’s worth checking their policies before you sign up.

Mail service providers such as Dotmailer and Mailchip are great at showing you the open rates, click throughs and bounces so you can get a lot of useful information about your latest mail campaign.

Tracking the success of your mails

If you’ve got Google analytics or a similar service on your website to track visitors, you can make sure any links you put in your emails contain a unique query string so you can identify the source of the campaign that brought the visitor to your website. A query string is very simple. You can see an example here.

The query string in the example above is shown in bold and takes the format:  ?<key>=<result>.

Use the Google Analytics query string builder to help you generate tracking URLs for your email campaigns. 

Following Up

Where possible, it’s always worth following up your mails with a telephone calls so be careful not to send out too many mails at once as you’ll need to follow up your messages within a few days of sending them out.

Think about what you’re going to say when you call and try to ask the prospect what they thought about your eshot to get valuable feedback for your next campaign.

Conclusion

Email can still be a great tool for marketing, provided you’re aware of the pitfalls and you’ve tested before you send out large volumes, you should have little to worry about. I’d always recommend starting off small before commencing on large mailshot volumes so you can test the success of your campaign.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action 

How could you build your list and create an email marketing strategy to grow your micro business. Take some time to think about it today.

Neil Cavanagh

Neil Cavanagh is the owner of Xpress Data Systems Ltd. He has over 15 years’ experience as Chief Technical Officer in large organisations in both the public and private sector. Having recently launched CamisOnline, an online Business Administration and Management tool, Neil is actively contributing advice to help businesses thrive on the web.

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Comments

  1. I really disagree with buying a database being the first step in email marketing. I’m not ruling out the use of them completely, however I don’t think they’re appropriate for most micro businesses, and I suspect a lot of those names on the data base may be legal, but legal in the sense of already ticked opt in boxes. It’s a very different thing to an email marketing list built by a business where the people on it really want to hear from you. Frankly, a micro business can do itself a lot of harm contacting people who legally may have ‘consented’ but don’t give a fig, and don’t want to be contacted.

    Build your own list or research them very carefully if you want to buy one (say, one built from a similar business, although most of us wouldn’t be selling data because customers don’t like it, and with good reason).

    Fresh Eyes Consulting has lots of sound ideas about how to email market in a way that is much more likely to work and not give your business a bad name (and no, I’m not associated with him).
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..10 Tax Advantages of Working From Home: James Bond StyleMy Profile

  2. Buying data is just one of 3 methods that the article mentions of acquiring data for use in an email marketing campaign. It would take you quite a long time as a micro business owner to get the contact details of a few hundred new prospects which is why buying the data is preferable for some people.
    Registration information (whereby someone has opted in) is always the best, but you don’t have the registrations in the first place, you’ve got to start somewhere.

    We found it useful to buy the data as it gave us ideas about the types of business that you’d want to target and you can see what they’re about by looking at their website or by looking at a summary of their last accounts on sites like companycheck.co.uk.

    You need to think carefully about where you buy the data as there is a big difference between buying data from Thompson and Experian; Thompson don’t provide you with the email addresses and send the emails on your behalf (up to four times). Experian will just give you the lists in Excel format to you can call, email shot or direct mail by post as often as you like, naturally you’ll want to be careful to avoid pestering future prospects.

    From our own experiences, we found it better to just call the prospects directly and send those that were interested an email almost straightaway as many can’t remember or haven’t seen the marketing email. You only need to look at your spam or junk email box in Hotmail or gmail to see how many marketing messages it is stopping, regardless of where the prospect data originated.
    Neil Cavanagh recently posted..The Power of Purchase OrdersMy Profile

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