New tricks for email profits…

Last week I touched upon the details of an insightful Q&A we published in the latest issue of the Internet Income Detective newsletter.

Nick Laight talked to me all about email marketing and the secrets of his ongoing success with engaging people via email.

If you haven’t checked it out, you should get hold of a copy by taking up a trial membership here.

Lots of you are keen to learn more about email, and so this week, I thought I’d put on my practical head (although I’m always quite practical – as a mum of three young kids!) and take a look at some of the steps you need to take to get yourself set up as an email marketer.

There are lots of tools that allow you to not only communicate with your users timeously, but also to take away the need for manual labour.

In this week’s email I’m going to look at how you can use new easy email technology and techniques to get people whose email address you capture and turn them into someone who will buy something from you!

Choosing a provider

The first step should be to find a good email service provider (ESP).

There are dozens of them out there, but when choosing one, it’s important to ensure they have some crucial functionality: split or A/B testing; the ability to segment your list by both demographics and behavior, with no or very high limits on the number of fields in your ‘database’ (don’t be put off by the term ‘database’ – it’s just the word I’m using to mean ‘collection of email addresses and other details about people); and the ability to track performance and events and send triggered emails.

You also need to ensure they have a team dedicated to getting your emails delivered.

Major ESPs like Adestra, Email Vision and eCircle can do all of this.

These high-end providers all have very similar functionality and, in the end, the decision may come down to support.

When choosing an ESP, it’s worth talking to some of their current clients to find out what the support is really like; it can vary wildly – and in price.

All of the ESPs are highly competitive and it’s easier than you might think to negotiate costs!

The welcome series

Welcome emails are the one type of autoresponder email that pretty much everyone is already using.

But there is no need for a welcome email to be a solitary campaign.

People who join an email list will almost always be at their most willing to buy from you when they first join your list.

However, users expect the welcome email to contain some rather dull text confirming their membership (especially if the subject line reads ‘Welcome to blah blah blah’) and often ignore it.

To make the welcome email work harder, you should include a great offer along with a few warm words from your editor, or give them a gift and a reason to start looking forward to getting your messages.

The welcome email can be followed up by a series of emails. This is your chance to ensure your new subscriber gets the strongest editorial and marketing copy while they are fresh on to the list.

The series should follow the same pattern as the emails they will receive later (for example, an email newsletter every Monday and a marketing email on every second Thursday).

The temptation might be to treat those joining your email lists as softly as possible at first, to win them over before trying to sell. You need to test to pitch it right, but in my experience, it’s better to front-load your series with strong offers.

To make your autoresponders work even better, try segmenting the list based either on their demographics or source. For example, you might have different email series split by gender or interests, or even the topic they searched for when they came to your site.

Ideally, this segmentation should continue for the duration of their life with you.

Best behaviour

If you want to be properly sophisticated, you need to start responding to your readers’ behaviour and using your email system to find out more about them and responding accordingly.

For example, you can alter the frequency with which you send emails depending on how responsive they are.

People who never open your emails should be segregated before they mark you as spam, and emailed very occasionally to try to reactivate them.

Those who love receiving your emails can get more!

Some businesses use preference centres to ask recipients how often they want to receive messages.

You can also separate out readers depending on what they open and click. For example, some ESPs allow you to categorise or tag links in your emails; you can then target anyone who regularly clicks on links about a particular topic because you know that’s what they are interested in.

You can also trigger emails based around someone clicking on a special one-off link, for example, ‘Click here to learn more about this new product’, which triggers an email or sequence of emails about the new product.

In one of my old day-jobs – marketing ebooks for sports professionals over email – I used this technique very effectively, in ‘warm-up’ campaigns where we offered a special discount to anyone who clicked on the link to find out more, then whipped them into a frenzy of anticipation by emailing them a series of messages leading up to the launch…

We even had people phoning us on the morning of the launch, asking when they would receive the sales email.

An increasing number of sites have started to trigger emails based on on-site behaviour (what people are doing on your website).

The basket abandonment email is the most common, where a short message is sent to anyone who put an item in their cart but didn’t checkout.

This technique can be used for any on-site processes where the user drops out, such as the registration process (as long as you get their email address first!) or an enquiry form.

Also a note on the importance of A/B testing: all of the above techniques and ideas should be A/B tested, either through splitting your list and treating them differently, or campaign by campaign.

You can even use multivariate testing if you have a sophisticated system and enough traffic/activity to make it worthwhile.

The days of being able to simply build a list and hit it with manually crafted emails are behind us.

But by adopting some clever but simple techniques, email can be a more powerful tool than ever, especially if you integrate it well with your website.

With the rise in social media, email may be changing, but there is still a great opportunity to make it work for you.

If you want me to cover this further in future emails  (it sounds technical, but once you’re signed up to an ESP you’ll come to realise it’s all easier than it sounds!), feel free to get in touch with me.

This article first appeared on Internet Income Detective. Read more and comment here