Email Marketing to Drive Revenue in a Cross-Platform World

A recent study found small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) ($1-50 million and less than 1,000 employees) are spending the largest portion of their marketing budgets on email marketing, not traditional media like print, radio and TV, and not social media like Facebook or Twitter. At 15%, email marketing is ahead of events and trade shows, person-to-person contact, print ads and social media (Local Media Innovation Alliance, “Email Delivers Dollars . . . . and Data).

But it is important to remember that today’s email is different than the blanket campaigns of the past. It’s precision marketing, not blasting. “It’s a campaign to market products or to market your customers’ products. It’s email marketing. It’s about collecting data. It’s about making money immediately and it’s about driving the relevancy of your property to crazy busy people” (Ruth Presslaff, founder of Presslaff Interactive Revenue).

Email Marketing and MobileIt is also a cross-platform world with mobile access to email on the rise. In March 2013, IDC surveyed over 1,000 iPhone and Android users between the ages of 18-44 and email ranked number one in use for 78 percent of respondents, ahead of browsing the web or Facebook. Presslaff commented, “When I want to sell a product, it’s email. When I want to reach a specific segment of my audience, it’s email.”

Sheryl Pattek, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research said. “Smart marketers work to litter potential buyer’s paths with actionable data to help solve problems. Then they devise ways to contact them when they are most open to receiving marketing messages.”

Local media and other companies that provide marketing services to SMBs have an opportunity to provide email and list rental services to customers. For example, newspaper sales staff can offer print advertisers access to email addresses they don’t have, which come along with permission to send messages, demographic data and a high rate of opens and engagement. As reported in the Local Media Innovation Alliance report, “Email Delivers Dollars . . . and Data,” The Salisbury Post is a 20,000 circulation daily newspaper based in Rowan County, North Carolina. Their growing email lists can now fetch $125 per thousand addresses from small clients looking to reach these high-quality targets. They charge $750-1,500 to build a contest for a client, an effort which takes one person 15-20 minutes.

Considering the high SMB adoption rate, the evolution of the tactic and the opportunity for providers, here are some email marketing tips for advertisers, as well as publishers and marketing services companies looking to help them succeed (seven by Karen J. Bannan that appeared in B2B magazine were incorporated).

1. Use the right tools. Email marketing services such as Constant Contact, iContact and MailChimp automate delivery and provide templates to streamline the technical aspects of sending email. Pricing is simple and ranges from $15 per month for up to 500 addresses to $150 per month for 25,000 addresses.

Typically, publishers and marketing services companies interested in re-selling services can earn from 15 to 40 percent of the revenue generated by their customers and get free use of the mail services tools for themselves.

2. Build your lists. Consider every point of contact with your audience and try to solicit opt-ins. Your trade show booth, product warranty registrations, Contact Us forms, contests or contend offerings are all venues to ask for email addresses and contact details. Integrate mobile into your acquisition programs. You can launch a simple campaign where subscribers can text a short code with “subscribe” and their email addresses. Promote email sign-ups on your social media accounts as well. Add Facebook and Twitter buttons in your emails and ask subscribers to forward emails and share them with friends.

In general, you should make it simple for viewers to join your list. Don’t force them to fill out lengthy registration forms. You can capture more information later by providing a discount, free consultation or something else of value in return, says the California Small Business Development Center.

Newspapers can develop contests or giveaways that encourage readers to provide their email addresses and answer a few demographic questions in exchange for the opportunity to win valuable prizes.

3. Do a competitive analysis. One of the best tactics for SMBs to build lists is to look at the competition’s websites. See who their customers are and target them. Typically, there will be case studies or lists/logos of clients posted.

Newspapers have databases all over the place, including circulation lists, advertiser lists, registered story commentators, submitters of calendar and other news items, community contacts and story sources. They are compiled by audience development managers (circulation managers), digital sales managers and marketing directors.

4. Capture more data. The best way to boost engagement is to send more targeted information but you need as much data as possible about prospects to do this effectively. Consider merging Google or other web analytics data with email databases, adding fields that show products users may have researched. Or you can include geography, short-term goals, keywords search and comments.

Keep in mind, if data is king then content is queen. Data alone does not automatically guarantee relevant communications. Marketers need to pair data with context and content that is going to resonate with their audiences.

5. Think programs not individual messages. The objective is to create strong consumer communication experiences and build campaigns that tie together across messages to bring more depth to each and result in engaging experiences. Continuously nurture your customer relationships, helping them to covert and achieve brand loyalty. Rewarding customers with incentives and offers is just as important as winning back customers who are dormant or lapsed.

Newsrooms are getting into the act too and helping to deliver local content to readers who share their email addresses. Breaking news alerts are popular with sponsoring advertisers. There can be an element of fun as well, with “guess the date of the first snowfall contests” and more. Newspapers can ask readers for their birthdays and other special dates and sell a wide variety of local businesses the opportunity to target these diners, shoppers and travelers.

6. Use mobile wisely. It is important to design for mobile since consumers have the ability to open an email on one of almost 100 different screen sizes, according to Shawn Myers, VP of marketing for StrongMail. New approaches like responsive design help create templates that work with the dominant platforms used by consumers. Another recommendation is to prioritize and display only the relevant information and make it finger-friendly. You should also have optimized landing pages. You will drive better results from your campaigns if you remember that consumers value consistent experiences.

Simm Jenkins encourages us to be mobile marketers who just happen to be leveraging the email channel. He reports that K notice says the number of emails opened on a mobile device during the first half of 2012 overall rose to 36 percent. Ensure that mobile doesn’t just sit in the back of your head but greatly impacts all of your email markets.

Publisher Email Campaign LMIA7. Ask for referrals. Whenever you send emails, ask recipients for referrals. The most likely to provide them are customers who have used your product or service for a while. Anyone who recently purchased from you is also a good candidate. Give readers the option to share in various places, such as links and buttons in various places throughout the email.

8. Segment by profitability and look for similarities. Few people use their list of best customers to the fullest. Look at this segment as a whole and find commonalities. Is there a title, vertical market, geography in common? Have they performed the same action or responded to the same promotion? Once you find the common ground, you can search for other prospects that share the trait.

9. Append using social data. May social data appending services can look at the 100 most recent buyers, profile them and find patterns. If a majority of people who bought a product are members of the same LinkedIn group, you can try to join and promote to them or search for more people to target.

10. Use list verification services and platforms. It’s worth taking the time to run your database through services such as BriteVerify, FreshAdress and PowerData. More than three-quarters of deliverability challenges have to do with reputation. That’s why it is so important to keep your emails from bouncing, garnering complaints or hitting spam traps.

11. Send the right message to the right people at the right time. Create campaigns not only for each segment of your list (e.g., customer/sales lead, title, region, etc.), but also by how they interact with the content of your emails. For example, if someone clicks on a particular link X, they immediately receive Y communication. Provide value through your content and send e-newsletters, white papers, reports, surveys, product comparisons, how-to instructions, etc. Email at least once a month to stay visible. A newsletter is a good format for monthly distribution but you could send notices of sales or special offers bimonthly or even weekly.

12. Test and measure. Monitor which subject lines, content, design and frequency get the best results based on open rates, click-through rates and other measures.

Whether you conduct your own campaigns or provide the service to others, like all marketing tactics, email is not static. Marketers must continually evolve and advance strategies to stay on top of these trends and improve their results.

How have you changed your approach to email marketing? Do you have any great tips to add to the ones above?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

4 Responses to Email Marketing to Drive Revenue in a Cross-Platform World

  1. These are wonderful tips, Kelly! In regards to segmenting your list, put a simple question about work challenges or issues their company would love help with on the forms you ask people to fill out. You can then segment by general issue and send e-mails that offer different ways you can help.

    Thanks for the great read!

  2. Joseph Manos says:

    Kelly I enjoyed the post. Do you have the name of the Study or a link to the complete study?

    I would like to dig into the data further for a project we have underway.

    Thanks agin.

    • Kelly Glass says:

      Joseph, thanks so much for you comment. I would be happy to share but this is a sponsored study by the Local Media Innovation Alliance that Affinity Express supports, so you would have to contact the association directly to purchase it. If you have specific questions, I’d be happy to try and answer them.

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