How to Advertise with Email
At pennies (or even less) per message sent, email is one of the most inexpensive and effective tools for promoting sales for a business. Why? Regardless of what some social media gurus might say, people STILL check their email almost every day, sometimes multiple times per day, increasing the chances that a message will be seen and read. But you must learn how to advertise with email properly to make it work.
Is Advertising with Email the Same as an Email Newsletter?
No! While email newsletters can be a key element on an online advertising strategy, they are not the same as advertising emails. Why? Because the goals for each are different.
Though they may contain some advertising elements, email newsletters are designed to keep in touch with customers. (See more about keeping in touch in Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, one of the selections in Best Books on Marketing.) Newsletters are also part of a content marketing strategy which draws people in by providing helpful and interesting information, tips and entertainment. Additionally, a newsletter that is simply an extended sales pitch will quickly be tuned out or even unsubscribed.
Advertising emails are designed to do one thing: SELL! Their intent is to provide special offers, discounts and product information, along with strong calls to action (e.g. "Click Here to Buy").
Buying or Building Email Lists
As discussed in How to Choose an Email Marketing Strategy, purchasing or creating an email list is the first step in any email advertising program.
Buying an Email List
Buying a list of email addresses is a possibility from list vendors. However, you run the risk of people not opening emails since they may not recognize an unknown sender's name. Worse is that messages could be flagged as spam.
List are purchased in the same manner as lists for direct mail by selecting various marketing demographic factors such as geography, age of prospect, hobbies or any other factors.
CAUTION! Many email broadcast providers strictly prohibit the use of purchased lists! Check their Terms of Service prior to uploading any purchased list.
Building an Email List
A company's email list is a primary business asset. Unlike social media follower lists, this list of subscribers will still be available if a social network changes dramatically or even disappears. Building this list should be a major goal of any sales and marketing efforts.
Take building this list one step further by segmenting it by product interest, type of prospect, geography or any other marketing demographics that are relevant. Depending on the email marketing system chosen, this could be done by sorting based on fields of information OR separate lists could be created for each type of customer.
Including only customers and those who have opted in or requested to receive information from you will help keep you out of the CAN-SPAM Act violation zone (Federal Trade Commission).
Word of Caution: Do NOT email from Microsoft Outlook or regular email accounts. Many email providers flag emails like this sent to hundreds of recipients as spam and they will be blocked. Use an email broadcast system such as Constant Contact, Vertical Response, MailChimp or AWeber.
Make 'Em Want to Be on Your Email List
Why would anyone sign up to receive advertisements by email? If polled, it's likely most people would say they don't want any more sales emails. But ask them if they would like discounts or coupons by email and they'll likely say yes.
This is a very important part of building an in-house email list. A suitable incentive must be provided to encourage people to opt in to receive advertising emails. Some effective incentives are:
- Promo codes for special offers or promotions.
- Discounts and coupons.
- Limited edition or availability updates, good for lists selling such items as collectibles.
- Free gifts, products or services such as a free dessert for a restaurant email list signup.
- Free ebooks, reports or other information of value.
Place a signup form or a link to a subscribe page prominently on every page of the business' website, as well as in every email broadcast. Include a "If you have received this email, from a friend, click here to subscribe to get your own offers." link in emails. Some email systems allow recipients to share these offers on social media as an option which can help spread your message to even more potential customers.
Top 10 Ideas for Advertising Emails
Once the email list is set up, it's time to start thinking about what should go into the advertising emails. Here are several possibilities:
- Coupons that can be printed and redeemed at brick-and-mortar locations.
- Discounts, freebies and sales promotions that can be redeemed online.
- New product announcements.
- Featured product of the month, week, etc.
- Seasonal specials and buying tips, e.g. holiday gifts, gardening supplies for spring.
- Event announcements such as grand openings, open houses or online webinars.
- Customer service updates such as changes to hours of operation, new phone numbers.
- Upcoming pricing increases with a "Buy Before Prices Go Up" offer.
- New sales personnel introductions, particularly for companies that have an outside or regional sales force.
- Announcements about updates and improvements to websites and e-commerce sites.
The Most Important Part of an Advertising Email: Subject Line
Regardless of how good the information in an email is, if the recipient is not enticed to open an email by the subject line, the information is not going to get through.
A good subject line is like a good headline for a press release or news story. It must provide incentive and pique curiosity. One of the best resources for learning how to write great subject lines is the advertising classic Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples. See more about the book in Best Books on Advertising.
Generally, it is recommended that the subject line be 50 characters or less since many email systems truncate the subjects to this number of characters. Having to pack incentive and curiosity in that small space can be a challenge! Consult a copywriting professional for assistance if needed.
How Often and When Should an Advertising Email be Sent?
While is varies by industry and campaign, emailing an advertising email much more than once a week can be very annoying to recipients. Plan on at least once or twice a month at minimum to start. Weekly would be ideal, especially during peak sales periods.
When to actually send the broadcast will depend on the market. For B2B (business to business), during business hours is recommended. For B2C (business to consumer) offers, ideal times can be all over the map, again depending on what is being offered and the market. It will take some experimentation with different days and times. Doing split A/B testing can help home in on the best broadcast schedule. The email broadcast services noted earlier offer performance reports on each campaign. Over time, a pattern of open and click through rates will help make scheduling more effective.
Once optimal broadcast days and times are determined, stick with as consistent a schedule as possible. For example, if Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m. in the target time zone is best, send broadcasts at that time every time. Recipients will begin to expect the emails and even look forward to them if the offers and information are valuable.
Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement unless otherwise noted.The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.
© 2013 Heidi Thorne