With Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and more eating up all the virtual column inches these days, good old email marketing doesn’t get a lot of attention anymore. Everyone is so worried about whether or not they’re live-tweeting, self-broadcasting, and keeping up with all the other ‘shoulds’ of modern marketing that they forget to perfect their strategy on what remains one of the most effective platforms – email!
With the holidays just around the corner, now is an incredibly important time to optimize your marketing efforts – especially if you sell things online. Even if you don’t, email is a great way to bring people in to your physical store and keep your brand top of mind as people are filling out their holiday gift lists.
The good news for small business owners is that email marketing is only as complicated as you make it. For marketers at large companies, it can be a very intricate and data-driven endeavor. But small businesses can still reap huge benefits using quality email service providers like those from Vistaprint or MailChimp.
Whether you’re just getting started or have some experience with email marketing, a refresher on best practices can go a long way toward ensuring success this holiday season and beyond. Luckily, the folks as MailChimp have put together a great resource with 100 visual tips for holiday email marketing. It’s definitely worth browsing when you have a little more time, but for now, we picked out our top 15 favorite tips from MailChimp’s collection to help jumpstart your inspiration:
1. Set out with clear goals in mind. Before embarking on any kind of marketing tactics, you should always define what success will look like – otherwise, how will you know if you’re achieved it? Start by defining what your goals should be, and how you’ll measure them.
2. Include a clear call to action. If you don’t even know what you want your audience to do, how will they? Whether you want them to visit your site, buy a specific product, or like you on Facebook, choose a clear action that you want the email to motivate and make sure that stands out above all else.
3. Be conscious about anti-spam compliance. Not only is it just good business, it can also keep you from ending up in the junk folder or worse – getting blacklisted. Make sure you know the CAN-SPAM, CASL, and other requirements before you send out a campaign.
4. Drive traffic back to your physical store too. If you have a website where you sell some of your items, email marketing is a great way to make a sale. However, if you have a brick-and-mortar location, don’t forget to include reasons to visit you in person too. Give your knowledgeable sales staff a chance to form relationships and sell items that the customer didn’t even know they were looking for!
5. Thank your best customers. ‘Tis the season to make someone feel special…especially if that someone is one of your best customers. Not only do we want them to keep spending money with you, we also want to cement their relationship with your brand and encourage them to become an advocate for you with their social network. Send them exclusive offers, personalized recommendations, and other customized messages that let them know they are special to you.
6. Don’t forget to A/B test your content. Should you use an image, video, or mostly text to deliver your message effectively? Only you can answer that! By testing different types of creative while keeping other things the same (offer, subject line, message copy, etc.) you can determine the best tactics for you going forward.
7. Stack the deck with popular items. You already know what sells best in your physical and/or online store, so make sure you highlight it during the shopping season. Your learnings about your inventory all year long will tell you what is most likely to appeal to shoppers who are on the hunt for the best gifts.
8. Leverage your physical store to grow your list. Now that we know how powerful email marketing is, we know that it’s imperative that we form that connection with customers everywhere we encounter them. When someone comes into your store, whether they purchase or not, ask them to join your email list. Hint: call your list something like a ‘community’ or ‘insider group’ to make it more appealing!
9. Announce upcoming events. A great promotional idea for the upcoming season is to hold in-store events like trunk shows, after-hours shopping opportunities, special sales, or even promotions around Small Business Saturday. Give your event a consistent visual appearance and send out a few messages inviting and reminding your customers. If your graphic design skills are shaky, a tool like Pagemodo’s Post Designer is a great way to get a consistent, pro-quality look without anypa technical skills. You can create great designs from templates with modern fonts, icons, and royalty-free images, then just download them and use them for your email campaign (as well as on social media!)
10. Craft a great subject line. No matter how great your email’s content and imagery may be, it won’t convert your customers if they don’t open it. To encourage a good open rate, follow MailChimp’s best practices for great subject lines. They suggest you ‘tell not sell’ and let people know what’s in the content of your email right up front.
11. Create an editorial calendar. You know how much we love an editorial calendar here at Webs for all of our blog content. It’s equally important to keep a calendar that includes your email strategy as well. Coordinate the two and you’ll get campaigns that are greater than the sum of their parts. It will also help you stay organized and make sure you are ready well in advance as the holidays tend to creep up.
12. Deliver helpful content. Speaking of your blog, don’t forget to leverage it as a resource for sending out helpful, valuable, relevant content to your email list. Content marketing is all about providing the resources people are looking for so when they have a need, they will think of your brand first to fulfill it. Link to your blog from your emails and you’ll show your audience that you’re here to help them, not just sell to them.
13. Be aware of the message your ‘from’ address is sending. I can’t tell you how many time’s I’ve received an email from “donotreply[at]companyname.com” and been immediately turned off. Make sure your emails are coming from a recognizable address that your audience won’t find off-putting. Having a custom domain name is a huge help in looking professional and establishing trust.
14. Clean up your list periodically. Most email service providers allow you to add suppression lists or find users who rarely if ever open your emails. Whether they’re just disengaged or they’ve actively asked to be removed from your list, it’s imperative that you don’t bother these people. Not only are they not going to buy from you off your emails, they might not buy from you ever if you annoy them!
15. Mix up your messages this season. Remember that all year long, and especially October-December, your audience is being bombarded with messages that shout in all caps about the latest SALE they must not miss. Sure, you’re going to send out a few sale emails of your own, but make sure to also provide some inbox relief for them by sending non-sale messages like a holiday greeting, a thank you, or a helpful tip that cuts through the clutter.
Hopefully this list provides some actionable tips to help you along the way to a successful holiday marketing season. If you don’t yet have an ecommerce website, we’d recommend a Webs website package, for obvious reasons. If you want to read all 100 holiday email marketing tips, visit MailChimp’s original collection here.
About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Marketing Communications Manager for Webs and Pagemodo. Loves marketing, small businesses, whales (not necessarily in that order). Get more from Sarah on the Webs Blog, Pagemodo blog, and Twitter.