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ARTICLE MarketingApril 10, 2014

Email series, part 1: How to set up an e-newsletter

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Few marketing methods are more powerful than well-executed e-newsletter campaigns. But how do you do it correctly? This series offers step-by-step advice, starting with building a great email database.

Research shows that email marketing outperforms social media marketing in every way, including customer retention and customer acquisition. If you’re not already using this simple but powerful tool, or if you fear you’re not doing it as well as you could, now is the time to do something about it.

The first step is to build an opt-in email database, meaning you’re not emailing blindly from a purchased list but instead have a database filled with people who actually want to hear from you; people who are aware of your brand.

“An email database is worth a lot more than a social media presence,” says Samantha Hurst, Managing Director of Click Start Digital, a company that builds and sells web-based businesses and consults to online start-ups. “I’ve seen its success in other businesses and experienced it in my own.

“Much of the return business I experience comes from my e-newsletters. The newsletters keep my business and my offerings top of mind with customers and, when those customers are ready to buy, the emails serve as a reminder.”

Gathering email addresses

Hurst says an email or e-newsletter sign-up box should be placed prominently on your site’s homepage, along with an offer that makes sign-up worthwhile. “If all you’re offering is a regular e-newsletter, then you probably won’t be as successful as if you offer 15 per cent off their next purchase,” she says.

Other popular incentives include gift cards, special invitations to events, club memberships that offer ongoing rewards, and free e-books on topics of interest to the audience.

Also place the same sign-up box and offer on several of the site’s static pages. The more your visitors see the offer, the more likely they are to act on it, notes Hurst.

If your business produces offline marketing assets such as point-of-sale materials or brochures, the same offer should be made in prominent places within those products, with a URL or a QR code guiding customers to a registration page.

How much info to request

Some businesses use the original sign-up process to segregate their customers into various fields of interest. A pet store, for instance, might ask whether a customer owns a dog, a cat, or both. This way, the business’s future communications can target the specific needs of the customer.

But Hurst says to be careful of how much information you request. It is very easy for a potential customer to feel as if their privacy has been invaded and to simply quit the process and move on to another website.

“I mostly tell my start-up clients to simply ask for the person’s name and email address. More information up front can complicate things,” she says.

Bigger and better-known brands with more segregated markets are more likely to be able to get away with asking for more information as customers understand that it will ultimately benefit them and that they will receive information that is more useful to them.

How to manage mailing lists

Several cloud-based platforms such as MailChimp and AWeber are available to manage your email database. These powerful offerings can also help you to design emails and campaigns and send them to your database; to automatically respond to new registrants with the advertised special offer; and to analyse the success rates of your email campaigns.

Far easier and much more efficient and powerful than keeping your own spreadsheet containing subscriber details, these services can also help you track customer communication and analyse individual engagement with your business’s website and products. Customer lists can be segmented and targeted and automated emails can be triggered, based on the customer’s actions on your website.

Best of all, the use of these services needn’t cost a cent. MailChimp , for instance, begins as a free service for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month and is accessible via a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

E-newsletter success begins with an email database containing contact details of people interested in your brand, products or services. Get this part of the process right and it sets a strong foundation for powerful future communication.

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Marketing Email series, part 2: How to set manage structure and content

Marketing Email series, part 4: How to track and analyse email campaigns

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