5 Steps to an Effective Email Campaign Strategy

By on October 13, 2014

Regardless of whether you’re an online or brick and mortar business owner, you need an effective email campaign in today’s business climate or you’re leaving behind dollars. What’s so great about an email campaign? It allows you to reach your customer, it gives you a chance to organically build up a relationship with them and it gives you the opportunity to receive feedback. When business go up for sale one of the common components of their valuation is the size, penetration and responsiveness of the business email list: that’s how important it is!

If you haven’t gotten started with your own email campaign strategy, or even set it up yet, don’t worry. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds.

Here are five easy steps for setting up an effective email campaign strategy now.

One: Choose Your Service

There are a variety of email services out there that range in price from free to upwards of thousands of dollars. When you’re just getting started, a great one to begin with is Mail Chimp. Why? It’s easy to set up, easy to brand and it’s inexpensive to start. All mail services, regardless of type, will charge more based on more subscribers, so as your list grows expect your monthly subscription costs to grow, too. For up to 2,000 subscribers on your list MailChimp is entirely free, so there’s no excuse for starting up an email subscription program today. For more on pricing click here.

There are a few more things to consider when setting up your service before you just sign-up with MailChimp, or any provider.

  • Will any part of your business now or in the future need email triggers deployed for your sales flow or user registration process? If so, check with your engineering team to see if they have an email subscription service provider that might be able to solve your marketing needs, as well as your user site subscription and/or shopping cart and sales needs. One of the biggest challenges as a small business is streamlining operations for maximum efficiency and minimal overlap. If you’re using SalesForce or another sales system or CRM system, see if they have a marketing component to their service or if they integrate easily with a marketing email program like MailChimp to simplify operations.
  • If the service is at the free level, does that require co-branding? Many email services will allow you free service but they will co-brand your newsletter to say, “provided by MailChimp” or “a service of Constant Contact,” etc. While that may be fine for your business model, ensure first what their rules are about co-branding. Some business owners don’t want that co-branding and are willing to pay the $10 or $20 extra per month to have the email service provider’s branding taken off of their newsletter.

Two: Decide On A Schedule

Think of your newsletter like having a child, once you’re committed to doing it, you have to be fully committed to doing it. A big mistake business leaders make is getting excited about the idea of a great company newsletter, than after the first few weeks or months of regularly implementing the newsletter they start to slack off. The decided upon date starts to push back and then disappear entirely. You will need to come up with a schedule and stick to it because your readers need to count on your consistency.

Here are a few ways to ensure that happens.

  • Assign the responsibility to a staff member (or VA). Don’t just make it “nice to have,” tie the regular, consistent deployment of your company newsletter to some specific person or department’s accountability and performance review requirements. When someone on your staff or your VA knows that this aspect of your marketing outreach is tied to their job performance, they’ll make it a priority to ensure it gets done regularly.
  • Decide on the day, time and frequency and stick to it. Most companies find that a bi-weekly newsletter schedule is just about right. That gives your staff the time to create the content and make it meaningful, while giving your readers enough of a consistent exposure to you to remember your brand, while at the same time not inundating their inbox with too much stuff. The too much stuff overwhelm of so many individuals is another important reason number four on this list is so important. But we’ll get to that in a minute. Further considerations for day and time are to consider that Monday’s and Friday’s are often holidays or busy days, so they’re best to skip when deciding on a schedule. Furthermore, consider your company time zone and your client’s time zone when deciding on your regular time slot. Earlier in the morning is better for west coast to capture their east coast customers, like early afternoon is better for east coast customers to ensure your west coast customers are awake when your message goes out.

Three: Create Your Template

Remembering how important consistency is for managing your newsletter timeless, you’ll want to apply a consistent format to your newsletter as well. This is achieved by creating a beautifully branded template in your email service provider to ensure that every time a client gets your company newsletter, they can tell that it’s yours from the set-up and branding. MailChimp has a very easy to implement template structure, or if this isn’t in your realm of expertise, many freelance designers on Fivrr or elance can create a master branded template for you that you can work off of for each newsletter. It shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars to have someone create the master, so if that’s time well spent somewhere else in your business then hire a designer.

A few things to consider when creating your template.

  • A Creative Brief on your brand. Deliver a brand creative brief to your designer so they know how to approach setting up your template design wireframe. What colors do you use? What fonts are associated with your brand? What kind of iconography do you use on your website or in your information brochures and how can you deliver those to the designer? Further you’ll want to deliver to them information about relevant sections of your newsletter.
  • Relevant Sections of your newsletter. Each newsletter is going to need a few consistent modules within it so that your readers always know where to go for the information your newsletter is providing on a consistent basis. Some important areas to consider are: what’s the name of your newsletter and how is that branded back to your business?; a personal summary and introduction to each newsletter is a nice personal touch and should include a photo of whoever is doing the intro –(hint: that should probably be you as the founder); where will the date go each week?; what social media links will you want included in your newsletter to your applicable socials?; what piece of original, new content will you deliver each week and where does that go in the newsletter?; any news about press coverage of your business or important announcements?

Four: Deliver Incredible Content

Content is king in today’s busy lifestyle. If you plan to use your newsletter to blast your clients about the latest sale or product you’re offering, you should stop reading this now and not have a newsletter. The purpose of the newsletter is to organically build a trusting relationship with your reader and to provide them with information and content that will really help their life. If your newsletter is constantly filled with sales, unless your Gilt Groupe or Groupon, you should probably not bother because people will unsubscribe. It’s perfectly fine to have a “featured product” or “featured sale” section of your newsletter, but ensure there are other great content pieces, original and new ones, that will help your clients and build credibility. That’s how you keep people on your list and grow your list to big numbers.

A few considerations on content.

  • How does what you do or what you provide help people? Write a new piece of original content for each newsletter to ensure you’re conveying that message. If you’re a gutter cleaning business, how are the seasons effecting when or how people should get their gutters cleaned? Can you tell stories of how gutter cleaning extended the life of someone’s house or roof during a storm season? Get creative with the help you provide and make it relevant to saving your clients time and money. Everyone likes to know more about that!
  • What’s going on in your local area? That can be a great way to loop in original content during a time when you’re short on human interest writing ideas for the newsletter. Talk about how your organization got involved in a local community event or charity and why. Discuss the industry you’re involved in at large and how it’s effecting the lives of the reader of your publication. Give real value and people will keep reading your content.
  • Consider the length. Most stories should be about 600 words or less and include a picture. However, never post the whole story in your newsletter. Rather write your original content on your blog and link to the blog story from your newsletter. Give a little summary teaser that’s compelling, and then ask people to click to the blog to continue reading. It’s a great way to build site traffic and provide content to those readers who want to know the full story.

Five: Opt-in Everywhere

Now that you have this amazing newsletter strategy with great content, a branded template and a regular schedule, how do you get people to sign-up for it? The key is to have your email newsletter opt-in everywhere on your website! The hardest part of growing an email list is those first 1,000 readers or so, but you can get creative on how you grow your list.

In addition to having your opt-in on your site and your blog, here are a few other options to help get the list subscription momentum going.

  • Promotions. People love to get something valuable for free, so if you’re a service provider or a product provider, consider doing a promotion for sign-ups. For example, if you’re operating a mechanic shop, every month offer to do a drawing for a free oil change to one new subscriber of the month. Another example might be to offer up a product related to your industry, like a free iPod for all new sign-ups to your newsletter if you’re a personal trainer looking to grow your business and list. Promotions are a great way to get new sign-ups, just make sure the value proposition pays off and your business can afford to give away what you’re offering without suffering financially.
  • A Great Guide. Another great strategy is to write, or hire someone to write, a helpful and informative guide that solves a problem for your niche market, and then offer that guide for free in exchange for opting in to your newsletter. This is a very common practice, just make sure that what you’re providing is actually of value to your clients and will help them. People will feel cheated if they provide you with their email address and you don’t provide a valuable solution or guide for their problem.

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Adam Toren

About Adam Toren

Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded YoungEntrepreneur.com along with his brother Matthew. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.