Email Marketing: Tips for Getting Started

Tutorials & tips on eCommerce and Content Marketing.

Most ecommerce companies have an active email marketing program. But many new businesses do not.

In this post, I will review the basics of launching an email marketing program.

Build Your List

Growing a list of email subscribers is not easy. It takes time and effort. Email marketing is permission-based — recipients must subscribe. Entice subscriptions by:

  • Placing pop-ups on your site for visitors to sign up,
  • Exchanging something of value for a user’s email address, such as discounts on first-time purchases or a free item,
  • Hosting a giveaway or sweepstakes.

Place a prominent newsletter sign-up box on every page of the site. For example, Tight Knit Winery, an American wine distributor, has an obvious sign-up box on its home page reading “Join Our Mailing List.” Many email service providers — Mailchimp, MailUp, many more — supply sign-up boxes, as do free plugins.

Place newsletter sign-up boxes prominently throughout the site, as Tight Knit Winery does on its home page.

Email Service Providers

Choosing the right email service provider is vital. Capabilities, features, and pricing vary dramatically. It’s essential to match an ESP to the requirements you have for your program. Consider:

  • Database size. The maximum allowed number of email subscribers. Plan for growth.
  • Frequency. The number of email campaigns you intend to send monthly, quarterly, or yearly.
  • Base capabilities such as the ability to send automated (triggered) emails, dynamic content, and specific reporting or analytic needs.
  • Customer service. Guage how much assistance you will need to get started. Is support self-service, live chat, email phone, or something else? Is support free and unlimited?

Some ESPs offer free versions with limited features. MailChimp, for example, has a free entry-level plan. More sophisticated ESPs offer extensive automation and integrations with popular services, such as Google Analytics.

Search “email marketing providers” on Google for potential providers. Email Vendor Selection offers an extensive list, too. Avoid signing long-term contracts — you will likely change vendors as your email requirements evolve.

Develop a Strategy

Think about the purpose of your email program.

  • Is it informational only to update subscribers about the company?
  • Is it purely promotional to sell products and services?
  • Something else?

Each goal likely requires a different tactic. An informational campaign (where the entire update is in the email) is less concerned with clicks to your site. But clicks are paramount for an email promoting products and services.

Determine Frequency

When starting, one to two emails per week will likely provide sufficient info without being excessive. Email frequency for small businesses is often dictated by available staff — who can compose, test, and send the campaign?

Assemble a calendar a month in advance, considering holidays or significant events. In time, you will learn the optimum sending frequency by monitoring opens, clicks, and unsubscribes.

Create a Template

Email marketers do not need to know HTML. Most ESPs offer attractive, no-code templates to simplify the drafting process. Most of those templates are responsive, automatically adjusting to a reader’s device, a necessary feature since most subscribers open emails on their smartphones.

When crafting your first email:

  • Use consistent branding, colors, and appearance as your website,
  • Use clear, compelling calls to action, enticing a reader to click,
  • Include an unsubscribe link and physical mailing address.

Last year, I addressed ways to craft an email template with key conversion elements.

Start Emailing

Now the fun part: hitting the send button on your first email campaign. Once sent, statistics on opens, clicks, and engagement rates will quickly become available via the ESP’s reporting.

Want to learn more? Since 2010 I’ve addressed seemingly every email-marketing facet — subscriber growth, list hygiene, vendor selection, automation, deliverability, and much more.

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