Timely, direct and effective communication is essential to the success of any startup. Email marketing fits the bill unlike any other marketing tool. The email channel has evolved beyond the typical e-newsletter. Now campaigns with videos, surveys and other rich media content give burgeoning companies the edge they need. It is also relatively inexpensive—something that is always important to a new company.
If you're launching a new venture or just looking to make the most of the email channel, use these five tips to make the most of your email marketing efforts.
- Devote time to your email marketing. Email allows you to create messages quickly, distribute them for pennies and see a possible return of $43 for every $1 dollar spent (that's the industry average, according to the DMA.) I say possible because effective email marketing takes forethought. Be prepared to invest some time in planning and executing campaigns. Sit down and draw up a calendar to plot your first few months—and keep an eye on the stats. You can always adjust as needed. Then, plan for a more thorough review of your program after six months or so. Dig into the response numbers to see what's working, what needs to be adjusted and what should be kicked to the curb.
- Build an engaged audience. Since no business wants to be stuck with a big announcement and no one to tell, you'll need to build a permission-based email list. You might think it would be easier to buy a list, but this can lead to complaints, poor delivery and even blacklisting—something a startup definitely wants to avoid. Create a strong signup form and link it to all your customer touch points (website, transactional emails, social media, sales counter, email signature, etc.). Tie your form to an automatic welcome email, and thank new subscribers right away. Studies have shown that these can net four times the average open rate and five times the normal click-through rate. Plus, you'll immediately cement a new relationship.
- Showcase your brand. Don't skimp on design. Maintain consistency with your branding components, including logo, brand colors and font. You want recipients to recognize your brand at a glance. Keep things simple. Inboxes are crowded so your email needs to make an impact right away. Lead with an enticing subject line, followed by eye-catching brand graphics and well-edited copy.
- Tell your story. As a startup, you likely have a lot to say, but have you put much thought into how to say it? Before you launch an email program, think about what information you want to get out there. More important, figure out what information your audience actually wants to receive. Take time to figure out the tone, voice and style that you want to use in your communications. Strategize ways to intentionally tell your brand's story to the right people at the right time and place. Don't abuse the inbox. Relevant, timely emails will perform much better than a hodgepodge of content sent haphazardly.
- Don't reinvent the wheel. Startups are notoriously strapped for time. Once you've developed your main story lines, figure out what content you've already got and reuse it. Email is a great way to share video, recycle blog posts and highlight product descriptions—all things that might have been created for other platforms. Conversely, consider posting email content to your social media sites to get more mileage. Plus, your casual social followers can read, click and become engaged email subscribers as well.
Megan Feltes is a content specialist at Emma Inc. (MyEmma.com), an email marketing and online communications company.