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Email marketing

    Email marketing

    Email marketing can be a very cost effective and powerful way to reach your customers and encourage them to buy your products or services. Through email marketing you are able to send relevant messages to your customers by segmenting your marketing list and tailoring your messages based on customer preferences. Email marketing also enables you to react in real time to customer actions eg if a customer has abandoned a transaction mid-process you can email them to offer an incentive to complete that transaction.

    Your email marketing messages can be monitored and analysed to gage how well your email campaigns are performing. This data can help you identify changes you can make to improve the effectiveness of your email marketing messages.

    There are also legal aspects to email marketing that you must comply with such as data protection.

    This guide covers best practice advice to help you maximise the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns and also ensure you legally comply with email related regulations.

    Advantages and disadvantages of email marketing
    Marketing your products or services by email can be a fast, flexible and cost-effective way of reaching new customers and retaining existing customers.

    Email marketing can allow you to create targeted and personalised messages. This can help you to build meaningful relationships with your customers. It can also improve response rates to your direct marketing campaigns.

    However, it is important not to overuse email marketing. Receiving marketing emails can irritate people if it is irrelevant, too frequent or unwanted.

    Organisations are required to comply with various data protection legislation, including The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Enforcement action may be taken against any organisations that do not comply with their obligations under PECR and GDPR and substantial fines may be issued and contractual liability may arise.

    Advantages of email marketing
    The benefits of email marketing include:

    Permission-based – your marketing list will be made up of people who have actively chosen to receive emails from you. Customers who are genuinely interested in your products and/or services are more likely to engage with your business.
    Flexible design – you can send plain text, graphics or attach files – whichever suits your message best. A choice of design options gives you scope to convey your business branding.
    Scalable – email marketing can be used to reach large audiences or smaller targeted lists.
    Personalisation and segmentation – with email marketing you can personalise messages. You can also segment your marketing list, so that your customers receive messages from you that they are interested in – this will help boost their engagement with you.
    Shareable – it’s easy for people to forward and share your email content, building your reputation by word-of-mouth or viral marketing. This may help influence new customers to become followers of your brand.
    Conversions and increased sales – if you have a new promotion people can click on links and follow your call-to-action immediately. Email marketing is also effective at every stage of the buying process. For example, you can influence someone to choose your product, nurture the customer relationship post-transaction and also encourage future purchases.
    Measurable – you can evaluate the success of a campaign by using web analytics software. You can easily test different copy, subject lines and designs to see which is most effective. This allows you to optimise future campaigns.
    Benchmark – you can compare your results against others in your industry. There are many free email marketing benchmarking reports available – you will find these by searching online. Benchmarking data can help you to evaluate and prioritise improvement opportunities.
    Test before you send – A/B testing of subject lines, calls-to-action, personalisation, email copy, images or messages ensure your email content is as effective as it can be before you send it.
    Less intrusive – unlike telephone marketing, recipients can read your message at a time that suits them.
    Cost- effective – the costs of email marketing can be much lower than many other forms of marketing. There are no advertising fees, printing or media space costs.
    Environmentally-friendly – email marketing is better for the environment than direct marketing by postal mail because nothing is printed.
    Time-saving – through automation you can trigger emails to be sent to customers based on an action they have performed on your website – eg. send a welcome email when a user signs up to your website, or issue an email offering a discount incentive if user abandons an online shopping cart. Once you have developed a template you can reuse for numerous email campaigns.
    Real-time marketing – through email marketing you can connect with customers in real-time. Using automated triggers, such as website activity, recent purchase or shopping cart abandonment, you can reach the right audience, at the right time, in the right place and with the right offer.

    Email marketing list opt-ins and opt-outs
    There are two types of procedure that can be used when signing up a new subscriber to receive your email marketing messages – single or double opt-in.

    Single opt-in for email marketing
    Single opt-in is when a person provides their email address and simply indicates that they would like to receive future emails from your business e.g. when a customer signs up to your email communications.

    Double opt-in for email marketing
    Double opt-in involves following-up the previous step by also sending the subscriber an email with a confirmation link they must click on to complete their sign up to your email marketing list.

    Double opt-in is not a legal requirement, but is often considered best practice – as it eliminates the risk of someone having their email address registered by a third party. Also, instructing a subscriber that they need to respond to your confirmation email should prompt them to retrieve your email – which may have been redirected to a ‘junk’ folder by their spam filter.

    Pre-ticked opt-in boxes are banned under the GDPR. You also cannot rely on silence, inactivity, default settings, or your general terms and conditions, or seek to take advantage of inertia, inattention or default bias in any other way. The best practice is to provide an unticked opt-in box, and invite the person to confirm their agreement by ticking. This is the safest way of demonstrating consent, as it requires an affirmative action and positive choice by the individual to give clear and explicit consent.

    Segmenting your email marketing lists
    Email marketing is more successful if it focuses on people you know are interested in what you’re offering. Customers who have willingly signed up to your email marketing list are more likely to want to read your email messages. People are easily annoyed when they receive an email that is irrelevant to them and they are likely to delete marketing messages – or spam – from your business without reading them. They could also decide to unsubscribe from all your marketing email communications.

    For example, if you’re running a special offer on computer hardware, it will be more effective if you promote it only to people responsible for buying IT.

    Segmenting your email marketing list
    Once you have built up a database with customer details, preferences and interests you can then segment your email marketing list to targeted groups of customers. Segment your customers based on the target markets in your marketing strategy. This makes your messaging more relevant and can increase open and click rates which in turn can lead to increased sales.

    Some characteristics you can use to segment your lists include:

    geographic location
    previous buying behaviour
    job title
    job function
    industry they work in
    For example, you could segment your email marketing list on postcodes or areas of interest if you are promoting an event in a particular area. You could also segment your contacts into ‘persona’ groups based on their demographics and send targeted messages about products that may be of particular interest.

    However, to process the data in this way you must ensure that you comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), namely that you have a lawful basis for processing the data in this way and have complied with all other data protection compliance requirements.

    Build your email marketing list
    It is illegal to send unsolicited email messages except in limited circumstances. If customers have consented to receiving information from you in the past, ie opted in or signed up to your email marketing list, you can send them information on other things you think they might be interested in.

    However, you must give these people the option to opt out of or unsubscribe from receiving any further messages from you. Read more about email marketing list opt-ins and opt-outs.

    Using incentives to get email sign ups
    People are more likely to sign up to your email marketing list if you give them a useful incentive. For example, you can offer special services or discounts on selected products to customers who sign up for your email updates. It’s even more effective when you make offers available exclusively through your email marketing. You can then be more confident that recipients will check for the latest email from your business.

    You can also offer things like exclusive online content and entry to competitions in exchange for email sign ups.

    Capturing customer data for email marketing
    There are a number of ways, both online and offline, how you can capture customer data to be used for your email marketing lists. A common method is to encourage email sign up through your website. It’s always worth highlighting the benefits of subscribing to your email service and providing an online form to register.

    You should make this process as quick and as easy as possible for the customer by capturing only a small amount of data initially eg name and email address. You can then follow this up with an email where a customer can inform you of other preferences or areas of interest. It is also best practice to inform customers what they will receive by email and how often they should expect to receive your emails.


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