Lead Digital Developer
Posted on April 4, 2016
Email entered the scene back in the nineties and life hasn’t been the same since. As the internet has grown, a whole host of companies have developed new and more specialised tools for messaging between friends and co-workers, but the fact remains that email is still an essential tool for internet usage. How would you be able to sign up for anything if you didn’t have one?
With email likely to stay a fundamental part of our work and play for the significant future, it makes good sense for businesses to continue to use email as a marketing tool and to grow your capacity to use it better.
At Talisman, we’ve spent the last ten years helping businesses to make email marketing work well by broadcasting emails, designing them, and giving advice on how to improve click-through and open rates.
We’ve found that businesses tend to write and send emails at different levels of complexity and skill. What types of email does your business send? Are you using them to their maximum potential? And could you move to the next level?
1. The basic email
We all need to communicate with co-workers, business partners and clients. Email communication has massively reduced the amount of written letters and internal post we have to deal with and facilitated near-instant responses to questions and the exchange of electronic documents.
If anything, it’s made communication a little too easy. Although email is generally considered to be less formal than a written letter, we still need to be mindful of who we’re writing to. The style and tone of our email can say a lot about us and our business very quickly, so long before we start sending more sophisticated email marketing messages, we need to get this one right.
2. Basic email marketing messages
Email clients also allow us to send generalized email messages, targeting a group of people rather than just an individual. Maybe we have an event we’d like to invite people to or a new product to showcase. It would take too long to contact people individually, so sending a group email seems sensible.
We could send out a basic email, of course, but in amongst the daily churn of email correspondence, we decide it would be good to send something that looks a little different and is more likely to catch our readers’ attention.
A picture or two might help set the tone, and the fonts, colours and sizes might be altered to highlight important details. These can all be achieved quickly and easily through the use of rich text formatting in your email client (e.g. Outlook, Mac Mail, Gmail etc) and can look fine, as long as you don’t overdo it.
3. HTML email marketing messages
The next step comes when we decide to send an email broadcast to a much larger group of people. We might know they have an interest in what we want to say, and we want to make the most of that. Maybe we want to publish an email newsletter about our business successes, promote a special offer, or advertise an exhibition we’re running.
We could stay within our email client and send our communications as before, but with larger email lists, some unhelpful things will start to happen. First, you’re going to receive lots of out-of-office replies and undeliverable messages that will begin to clog up your inbox. Not a problem when sending to a few people, but now we’re working on a larger scale, it’s going to get annoying!
Not only that, but we’ll have no idea how people are interacting with your email. Did it even do anything?
Tracking the result of emails is the key to their overall success and the success of your future events and campaigns. You need to know what works and what doesn’t.
How many people opened your message? How many clicked on the links and which link they did click on? Did they sign-up for the event or order your product? All this information will help you change what you do next time and make sure your emails actually achieve something.
To do all this, we need to move away from your email client and use something a little more specialized. Using email marketing software like dotmailer, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or ExactTarget can help you:
- Manage a database of email contacts
- Automatically send out emails to those contacts
- Analyse the results of the emails you send
Equally important, email marketing software can offer a link to recipients to unsubscribe from your emails so you don’t fall foul of anti-spam legislation. Letting your email marketing software take care of who does and who doesn’t want to be contacted makes it easier to keep track of who’s still receptive to your messages.
4. Custom-built emails
Email marketing software builds email using HTML and CSS – the same markup language we use to create web pages. This provides us with an opportunity: using coding, we can add sophisticated design elements to our emails and create branded marketing material that really grabs attention.
Unless you have the experience yourself, you’ll need someone skilled at writing HTML and CSS to build the email for you. Some services do provide email building editors for anyone to use within the marketing software itself, but you’ll likely find you still need some professional input. HTML emails are notoriously tricky to get right, as we highlighted on our blog recently.
None of this needs to be a barrier, however, as long as you plan your email campaigns ahead of time.
It’s very unlikely that you’ll need to design and build a new email every time you have something to say. The same design and layout are likely to work over and over – you’ll just need to change the content.
That’s when templates come into their own. By getting a professional to design a template that allows specific areas to stay the same and some to be editable, even someone with very little knowledge of coding will be able to make changes and produce stylish emails.
This helps massively in reducing costs and, once the template is made, in saving time. The template will be ready and waiting for you to bang out brilliant emails time and time again.
Summing it all up
Unless you only ever have one-to-one conversations with individuals or small groups, every business will benefit from having email marketing software on their side. It can look after your customer data, store a library of email templates that you can quickly access, amend and send, and, best of all, show you how well your emails are performing.
If you’re not sure how to use email software well, ask! Emails are here to stay, and your marketing will likely rely on them for a long time to come. Why hold yourself back when small changes could make a big difference?