How to attract and retain customers with email marketing

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Email marketing works. Angela Munroe from Microsoft Devices talks to John W. Hayes, author of 'A Crash Course in Email Marketing for Small and Medium-sized Businesses', to find out how you can get the most from it.

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Email marketing is the most cost effective of all marketing tools. According to the DMA, the average return on investment in 2013 was £24.93 for every £1 spent. It’s been around a long time and, whilst it might not be as talked about as its younger social media cousins, it continues to deliver results. Earlier this year, Econsultancy’s 2014 Census of the industry showed that revenue from email marketing had increased by 28% in the last year.
John W. Hayes is something of a career evangelist for email marketing. I ask him how you can use it to maximum value for your small business.
Hello John. Firstly, can you tell how email marketing is different to sending emails to customers and prospects?
Everyday email is good at engaging an individual (or small group of individuals) in a conversation.
Email marketing gives you the opportunity to target a much wider audience with tailored campaigns designed to build brand (by sharing content) and drive engagement (such as generating a sale or a warm business lead). 
At what scale does it cease to be viable send these marketing emails from my normal company email?
Everyday email tools such as Outlook and Gmail are not viable email marketing solutions. For a start, they can’t track the effectiveness of your activity. And, however many emails you’re sending out, you need to know if they’re working. Even the most basic email marketing software will be able to track how successful your campaigns are in terms of opens and clicks.   
But there’s more to it than that. All email marketing messages must (by law) include a mechanism for your recipients to remove themselves from your list. While it is possible to do this manually, it’s labour-intensive and difficult. All reputable email marketing solutions automatically include an unsubscribe link in every email and manage the process seamlessly on your behalf. 
Should I manage email marketing myself or bring in the experts?
I believe email is very easy for a small business to manage in-house. If you can list a product on a site like eBay, you have all the skills you need to upload an email list, build an attractive email campaign (most email marketing software companies provide a range of ready-to-use templates) and analyse the success of each send.
So what email marketing software is best for small businesses?
It really depends on the nature of your business and just how sophisticated you want to get. Free services like MailChimp might appeal to tech-savvy business owners. Those looking for a little more support might prefer packages from companies such as iContact who help you to generate your lists and build and send your initial campaigns. 
The email marketing industry is highly competitive. I recommend you shop around and, whenever possible, trial the software before committing to buy. Be wary of long term contracts which tie you into a particular product.
What does email marketing do best?
Traditionally, email marketing is a retention tool. This means it is best used to retain existing clients and keep in touch with prospects. Because it’s much cheaper to retain an existing client than acquire a new one, email marketing provides an incredibly cost effective marketing solution when compared to more expensive acquisition marketing techniques such as paid search or traditional print or broadcast advertising.
However, with the advent of social media, it is now possible to socialise your email marketing campaigns by encouraging your subscribers to share your messages with their wider social networks. This has turned a traditional retention marketing tool into an acquisition channel (without the high costs normally associated with acquisition marketing).
Any potential pitfalls?
Don’t forget that email marketing campaigns should only be sent to people who have given you permission to contact them. Permission is granted via a previous sale, engagement or registration. Any campaigns sent without permission are essentially Spam. Spam is illegal and will damage your reputation.
So, for those not already active in email marketing, where should they start?
iContact have published an excellent, free starter kit which covers the entire process and will work with any email marketing provider. Download it here.
And for those who are already active, any top tips on how to maximise effectiveness?
Your campaigns should always be relevant, engaging and timely. This means targeting the right people with the right message at the right time. You’ll need to ensure your lists are carefully segmented and that your creative is clear and concise. Try to write your subject line in the same way as a newspaper editor writes a headline (meaning it should tell the full story) and make good use of real text (not graphics) in your body content.
How can we best support email marketing to help it deliver results?
I believe email marketing is the profitable component of everything else you do online to drive revenues.
In an ideal world, you’ll have the same people following you on social media as you will subscribed to your email list. As the name suggests social media is a social environment (like the pub or a café), a great place to engage people in conversation, but not a great place to pitch or sell. Email is a more formal environment, a place of work. It’s where you send proposals, job offers, invoices and receipts. People expect and welcome being sold to via email.
How will I know if my email marketing is working?
The analytics software that comes with all email marketing software will tell you how engaged your audience are with your campaigns in terms of opens and clicks. From here it is very easy to track sales, registrations, etc. via your standard website analytics tools (such as Google Analytics).
And finally, why do you think email marketing is so effective and so important?
It works because it’s built on permission. Your customers and prospects have chosen to receive your emails, so they’re perhaps the most engaged audience your business has. It doesn’t matter whether you have 10 or 10,000 email subscribers, these are the people who are most likely to place an order with you, so email marketing sells.
Email marketing will also help you retain customer for longer and build profits over their extended lifetime. New business from existing customers is more profitable than new business from new customers.
For more of John's thinking on email marketing, download his book, 'A Crash Course in Email Marketing for Small and Medium-sized Businesses'. You can also follow him on Twitter @john_w_hayes.
I'd love to hear about how email marketing works for your small business. Tweet me @AngelaMunroe and let me know.
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06th Aug 2015 10:41

A very good primer. Since the industry niche I'm currently working in doesn't really support client retention, because we're selling a one off service that people use once an year maybe, I'm using emails to promote content to broad audiences and start the conversation there.
Then my content continues it until the end where we might pitch a sale based on the particular piece of content.

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