No one can deny the importance of email in modern business communication. Every day, there are millions of emails sent from companies to customers, from customers to companies, from suppliers to retailers, from employees to their managers and from one co-worker to another. For many businesses and individuals, email has become the primary means of engagement and communication. According to a report by SalesForce, 91%  of consumers use email at least once a day.

There are several reasons why email is an effective communication tool as compared to other forms of communication:

  • It’s fast. Email are sent and received in real time, whether the recipient is a few doors away or in another country. And because the message is sent in real time, it streamlines the internal and external communication, thus making it faster and easier to transmit and disseminate any important information. The continuous flow of important and relevant information makes employees and executives more efficient and productive. It also enables fast responses to any business issue within or outside the organisation.
  • Record keeping. All e-mails received are stored in the user’s inbox unless moved to another folder or deleted. All email services offer a “search” function and filters that make searching and email tracking fast. Email also creates a virtual paper trail which is more efficient as compared to printed documents physically filed in a drawer.
  • Affordable. Email is one of the cheapest ways to communicate in business. Small businesses can take advantage of free email services like Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail, while medium to large companies can invest in a dedicated email server as an affordable option together with their own intranet system. Using email also helps in resource sustainability because of its paperless nature.
  • Marketing. Email can also be used as an effective and efficient marketing tool. It allows companies to distribute and spread information about their products and services to existing and potential customers.

Email is alive and kicking, it’s the number one direct channel for personal, business and marketing communications. Email is thriving because of the tools, familiarity, flexibility and its universality. The rising popularity of smart mobile devices brings email to a whole new level. The only exception of email to be not accepted is unsolicited, commercial messages that come from an unknown sender or a SPAM email. As a whole, we can say that email is not dying, it is evolving.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing has become an essential form of direct marketing that uses electronic mail as a means of communicating commercial messages to a target audience. Any email sent to a possible or current customer can be thought of as one type of lead nurturing. Email marketing generally involves sending emails that contains business requests, ads, solicitations or sales which is meant to build brand loyalty, trust and brand awareness. Using email in marketing encourages customer loyalty and convinces current customers to make a purchase or get involved with your company or offer.

Today, there are 2 main types of email marketing:

1. Direct Emails

Interruption-based marketing or direct email involves sending an email with the sole purpose of communicating a promotional message like product catalogues or a special offer announcement. Businesses normally collect a list of customers or any prospect emails so that the business can send promotional messages to those emails. The business can also rent a third party company who can gather a list of email addresses.

2. Transactional Emails

This type of email marketing is commonly triggered based on a customer’s interactions with a business. To be qualified as a transaction, the communication’s first purpose should be to facilitate, complete, or confirm a transaction that the customer has previously said yes to. This type of email or transactional messages usually includes password reset emails, confirmation of order and purchases, status order, reorder and electronic receipts. The purpose of this email is to show information about the action that triggered the email.

Why Email Marketing?

Many say that marketers are very lucky today because the pace of innovation and the number of resources available to them is always growing. According to Venture Beat, 1,876 companies across 43 different marketing categories (SEO, social, video marketing, mobile analytics, sales enablement, etc) can take advantage of the many tools available on the market to push brand awareness. Of all the categories the report stated, there is only one that continues to persist over time and that is email marketing. For over a decade, email generates the highest return on investment for businesses. Experts have stated that for every $1.00 spent, email marketing will be able to return $38 in investment. It also gives marketers the widest reach of all the channels available to them. Many also believe that email marketing is the best bet for business growth despite the large number of other tools available in the market.

A personalised approach is what many customers want to experience and marketers have recognised this. For a marketing campaign to be successful and effective, marketers should exercise their ability to do more with less. Marketers should be able to connect and engage with their target audience in a highly personalised way while staying within budget. Any marketer that can do this will surely connect with their audience in a more personalised and meaningful way.

Many marketing trends come and go, but email remains one of the most powerful channels available to the modern digital marketer. Why is this the case?

  • Email provides a wider reach. You may say that social media is the most effective way of reaching customers and prospects. Facebook has over 1 billion users and twitter about 255 million, so it’s easy to say that social media has the upper hand in marketing. Yes, they are impressive numbers, but the true statistics about email are not as commonly known; the worldwide number of email users in 2013 was 3.9 billion. This number is expected to rise above 4.9 billion by 2017.
  • Email delivers the message. There are 2 reasons why email delivers messages effectively. Firstly, 90% of email gets delivered to the intended inbox while only 2% of your Facebook friends will actually see your posts. This is because Facebook limits the number of times posts appear on the News Feed, since Facebook wants to drive brands to their paid advertising options. Secondly, your email subscribers gave you permission to send them emails after signing up on the email list as compared to Facebook’s many direct pop up ads.
  • Email = conversions. Most marketers are totally focused on driving conversions and the ultimate goal of a marketer is to turn prospected customers into loyal paying customers. According to experts, the click-through rate of an email campaign is about 3% of the total recipients while the average click-through rate of a tweet is around 0.5%. That’s a big difference. This also means that you are also at least 6 times more likely to get someone to your website through your email marketing compared to Twitter. Email can also be measured if you integrate your email marketing into a specific CRM, marketers will be able to see how their email marketing impacts business deals and other campaigns.
  • Email = ROI. Because of email’s ability to drive conversions, it makes sense that email is an effective tool to drive back investment to the business. As mentioned earlier, for every dollar spent on email marketing there is a thirty-eight dollar return on investment. Email can deliver highly personalised messages because insights from customers are gathered, making emails more customer specific. Plus the use of segmentation and dynamic content ensures the content being sent is relevant to the individual recipient. This process encourages customers to click through and make purchases.
  • Open platform. The issue with social media  is that they are owned by 3rd party companies and marketers are at the mercy of these sites whenever changes occur. Email, on the other hand, is not controlled by any other party, but owned by the company that offers the email service.
  • Longevity. Email has been around for a long time, as opposed to social media platforms which come and go in terms of use and popularity. The first ever promotional email marketing was sent in 1978 to about 400 individuals. Email has evolved and is still largely relevant for business processes today. This trend has put advantage of business email into the hands of more users.

Email Marketing Is Not Dead

Some people believe that email marketing is already dead, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 73% of digital marketers believe that email marketing is essential and key to business growth. Furthermore, 59% of marketers are planning to increase and enhance their email marketing budget this year and in 2016. These trends show that email is still relevant and will continue to rise.

Image credit: filamentcontent.com

Image credit: filamentcontent.com

SEO and Email Marketing Relationship

Even with the emergence of many marketing channels like social media, mobile advertising, direct mail, database marketing and telemarketing, email marketing remains one of the oldest methods of digital communication and one of the most powerful in connecting and engaging with potential customers and loyal followers. Many 3rd party and in-house marketers state that email marketing and SEO are the best channels for placing your business in the top search results on many search engines and bringing back ROI. Many email marketing experts also believe the functions of both SEO and email are parallel in regards to goals, strategy, tasks and execution.

In email marketing, your business relies on an external or in-house executive/marketing team in creating and executing each campaign to drive conversions on the website, build the brand, create engagement and increase sales. In regards to SEO, its effectiveness relies on the ability of the clients or your own IT team, the design team and your agency partner to work together on implementing your strategies. How can email marketing and SEO be effectively combined to attract your target audience?

  • Take advantage of SEO best practices. When designing HTML email templates, you have to optimise the headline titles with H1 and H2 tags, subject lines, body copy and use targeted keywords as an anchor text when you link back to your blog or website. Always make sure you’re linking the most appropriate page for your site. Make sure the images you use within your email HTML do not exceed 600 pixels wide. Add ALT text tags to your email images with keywords so users viewing the email in text-only mode will be able to understand what the mail is about. Also make sure  that you enable the “view in browser” function at the top of the email message so that the users can still access the message even if they’re having some trouble with their email.
  • Adding canonical tags. This applies to email when you are posting an archive of blogs or newsletters to your website that are accessible to search engines.
  • E-newsletter archives. Create an archive library of all the published email newsletters you have sent. Make sure you include appropriate key phrases/keywords in the content that pertain to the topic on each of your newsletters along with title optimisation. Make sure to create a master archive by adding individual links to each newsletter on your site.
  • Mobile marketing. The increase in popularity of mobile smart devices has changed the landscape of communication and connection. Mobile search and online usage has increased the number of email account creations by 35%. Mobile-friendly emails and responsive design websites should be considered to capture this ever growing mobile market. Email templates should be updated to fit mobile devices. Responsive designs should recognise if the device used is a smart mobile device or a regular laptop or desktop. It should also automatically adjust the content layout of the page to display the content properly, enabling easy viewing and enhanced user experience.
  • Subject lines. In search engine optimisation, users often look for keywords by brand or a phrase that is associated with the product, thus search engines have to understand the topic of the page based on the titles and the content. Whenever you’re trying to write an effective email subject line, think of it as a meta title. The keywords used in your subject line should entice customers to open to email.
  • Video email. Embedding video in your email templates as a call to action to learn more about your product  will help in driving conversions and enhancing internet traffic to your website. Short videos of about 2 minutes long are enough. Try to add a text and an HTML version with a link to the video. YouTube is the obvious choice for hosting videos, but you can also expand your reach by using Vimeo and Dailymotion.
  • Use Google Analytics in tracking your email campaigns. Create a Google Analytics account to track your email campaign. This allows you to see your successes and aspects that require improvement.

Increase Conversion Using Email Marketing Best Practices

Social media and content marketing are two effective methods to promote your product or business, but email is the most mature channel for engaging and connecting with online consumers. There are many different ways you can boost your conversion rates by taking advantage of some email marketing best practices:

1. Your Email Marketing Campaign Should Motivate A Person To Take Action

Before anyone can choose to buy a product, there must be an evident want or desire for your product. For consumer products, desire is made up of two key factors – social trends and individual incentives. In the marketing world, “desire to convert” is created when customers or potential customers can see how your service or product can help them in gaining pleasure or fulfil some need. One way you can motivate prospective buyers is by using stunning images. Beautiful imagery in your emails will increase engagement and motivation to convert. This is useful if your business is in a visually-driven industry, like food and fashion.

2. Give Incentives For Customer Product Reviews

Studies have proven that case studies and product reviews give positive impacts on sales. Experts have stated that there is a 10%-12.5% increase in conversion rates on products that have reviews. A product with 20 or more reviews has a higher chance of hitting an 84% increase in conversion. However, gathering honest reviews is easier said than done. One way to get more reviews is to encourage customers with a competition-based incentive email. This works best when it is set up as an automated personalised email scheduled to be sent to customers a few days after they purchased or received their product.

3. Use A/B testing To Maximise Click-Through Rates

Ideally, you should A/B test every email that you send to your target audience, but in reality, it will take many man hours to do this. So you need to figure out which email will have the biggest impact on your bottom line and if they will have a higher rate of conversion and engagement.

Image credit: sjsassoc.com

Image credit: sjsassoc.com

4. Create A Dedicated Landing Page For Your Email Campaigns

While A/B testing is important, it is also essential to think beyond the email testing to the landing page. This is the place where your email really pays off. The messages on a landing page should coincide with the messages in the email. The marketing offer should be relevant and specific to the same offer stated in the email. The page should also have limited navigation or no navigation functions at all so that the visitor will not get lost in the different pages of your site.

5. Encourage Social Sharing

When you market your product, the primary goal is to make sure people know you exist on different channels. For this reason, you should encourage social sharing on your email marketing campaigns. Email messages that include at least 3 social share buttons showed a 55% increase in click-through rates as compared to messages with no social buttons. It is suggested that you don’t use the share buttons on the actual landing page because it can compete with your other calls to action. The “thank you” page is a good place to put the sharing buttons because they can increase awareness in this location.

6. Give Rewards To Your Most Loyal Customers

Celebrities would not be who they are without their fans, and this goes the same with businesses. A large proportion of revenue is usually driven by a small number of loyal customers and it’s only right to give something back to these loyal customers. You’re not buying their loyalty, you’re letting your customers know they are valued. You can show your gratitude and appreciation by giving gift card incentives or special offers.

7. Personalise Your Messages

Using the customer’s first name in the subject line or within the content is a simple but effective way to increase conversion rates. This means that you’re on a more personal level when you’re dealing with your customers and you’re reaching out, not just as a brand but as the people behind the brand. It’s also effective practice to segment your customers and email campaigns by targeting specific types of customers with the most relevant and compelling messages to encourage engagement.

Email marketing is as important as other marketing strategies in many industries, specifically if businesses want to strengthen brand-customer relationships. Understand and use it well and it will definitely boost your conversion rates.

About Author

Jon specialises in research and content creation for content marketing campaigns. He’s worked on campaigns for some of Australia's largest brands including across Technology, Cloud Computing, Renewable energy and Corporate event management. He’s an avid scooterist and musician.