Rachel Klaver is a marketing strategist, specializing in lead generation and content marketing.
OPINION: If you ask almost anyone what they think of brand emails, they’ll tell you they don’t like them. Responses range from “I’m getting too many” to “They’re spamming me.” It’s easy to conclude from the responses that email marketing is a waste of time for busy e-commerce business owners. If you’re going to do it at all, common sense would suggest as little as possible and hope for the best.
If you dig a little deeper into the people who tell you they hate emails and ask them, “Are there any emails you like to receive from brands?” most will agree that there are. My husband, Rod, who ironically helps our clients set up email marketing for their businesses, is not a fan of email. It will unsubscribe from most. Unless, of course, it’s a golf or fishing store. Then he’s quite happy to open his fair share of emails.
The problem isn’t that people don’t like email. The problem is that most of the emails we receive aren’t sufficiently relevant to our needs, or to the brands and businesses we don’t have a lasting interest in. As an e-commerce business owner, your job is to create emails that are as targeted as possible, as timely as possible and relevant to your target customers.
What happens is that too often the fear of offending or upsetting your email list keeps you from sending emails very often. When you send them, you often have a lot to say, which makes emails long and complex. The recipient hasn’t heard from you in a long time, so they can’t remember why they received it, or they now feel disconnected from your business. It makes sense for them to ignore the email or unsubscribe.
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Like most people, I get a lot of emails. When I talk to retailers, I often give the example of several brands that I like. Some of them email me every day. I don’t open every email, but sometimes seeing their name reminds me that I like their products. Eventually, I remember enough that I have to open an email and click on it to get a peek. Because they grab my attention more than other brands that email me sporadically, I tend to come back to them again and again and again.
This week on the MAP IT Marketing podcast, I asked one of our marketing strategists, Tracey Smith, to come talk about email marketing. She has her own successful e-commerce business and uses it as a testing ground for ideas that she then shares with our e-commerce clients.
She managed to grow a healthy six-figure e-commerce business with a mix of organic posts, paid ads, and lots of email marketing automations in seventeen months. “I spent the first six months focusing on automating emails, making sure my website was optimized and I had really good search engine optimization. My first month trading official was April last year,” she explains.
Before you jump into email marketing, it’s important to spend some time making sure your website converts well. For her, that meant investing a lot of time to make everything work. “Either you pay with your time or you pay someone else to do the work. It was a lot of work trying to set it up, but taking the time before I got into it completely made it easier to grow.
When we talk about email marketing with business owners, most think we’re referring to a regular newsletter. This can be a monthly (sometimes even weekly) email sent to everyone on your mailing list. Smith built his email marketing in a very different way. “I’ve created marketing automations, with emails that automatically go out based on customer behavior. If they’ve made a purchase, they’ll receive a certain email. If they’ve purchased something that will be sold out , they will get a reminder in so many weeks. If they continue to visit a particular page of the website, I will send them an email regarding this type of product. And I use what is called conditional formatting so that be personalized for each person.
One of the benefits of this type of email marketing is that emails keep coming, even if you’re busy. “It takes a while to create a campaign-style email that everyone gets. And you might not send it to people when they need it. Rather, it’s about sending them something that meets their needs, based on their behavior. explains Smith.
She is, for Smith, the one who best serves her clients. “It’s about getting sales. Sure. But if I send you a reminder before your product sells out and I have a link to your product, I make it easier for you to remember and repurchase. I help you. It’s one less thing you have to worry about. “
Smith recommends thinking about the entire customer journey when planning your email marketing. Part of that is changing your mindset from “this is how I’m going to sell to my customer” to “it’s not my job to tell my customer how to buy from me”. Much of Smith’s automation and systems are designed to give people as many different ways as possible to make a purchase so they can choose their ideal method.
At the start of the journey, Smith has two ways to grow his subscriber list. The first is with the free shipping offer on signup. The other offers a free gift, a downloadable resource related to his business. “I was looking the other day and the email they get after this download is one of my highest earning emails.” The key is to make sure the free download or giveaway is something people want and feel they are receiving great value from. This builds trust in you as a brand.
Smith also uses email marketing for the following steps:
A welcome sequence for both new subscribers and new customers. These talk about who she is, her business and offer the option to return to the website to purchase
A post-purchase email. This generates more sales, but also builds trust around delivery times and helps eliminate problems with wait times and unexpected delays.
A “How she could do better” email request, anticipating issues and verifying the experience was positive.
A questionnaire to check if they are satisfied with the experience. This integrates with their email marketing platform (Active Campaign, which we consult for), and if they give it a very positive result, then they are invited to review it on Google. Any low result receives a personal email from Smith to fix the issue.
Automation of consumable product replenishment
Cross-sells and up-sells for popular related products, at set times (you can condition these to particular products or ranges)
Internal automation. Smith uses internal marketing automation that sends him a note if a customer’s order has been delayed due to inventory issues. She is then able to drop them a line and avoid any trouble sooner.
Effective email marketing can help increase your customer lifetime value and sell to people who have had experience with you before. It costs you a lot less over time than constantly attracting new customers, which means you get both higher sales and better profit margins.
Whatever you do, Smith recommends watching carefully when people open emails and when your ideal customer is most likely to be in the mood for shopping. For his company, it’s Sunday afternoon. For others, it might be lunchtime, and still others, 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. This helps if you plan to send campaign-style emails to segments of your mailing list.
If your question after reading all of this is still “How often should I email people on my list?” Smith has some advice for you. “If you give them what you want them to hear, you can email them every day. If the message is disabled, it will become spam. The trick is to send them what they want, when they want it. To do this, you need to think about marketing automation.
Rachel Claver owns Identity Marketing, which works with businesses to create the strategy they need to better tell their story to the right people. Listen to his weekly MAP IT Marketing podcast – created to help small business owners learn more about marketing.
Identify Marketing is a content partner with Stuff for specialized small business information. Find Rachel’s events here.