When you want to grow your brand or sell your stuff, email marketing is one of the most popular—and effective—tools around. In this article we’ll discuss how email marketing can benefit your business, and we’ll give you a few tips to help you get started.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses email to promote your business’s products or services. It can help make your customers aware of your latest items or offers. It can also play a pivotal role in teaching folks about your brand or keeping them engaged between purchases.
A brief history of email
The very first email was sent in 1971 by a computer engineer named Ray Tomlinson. The message he sent was just a string of numbers and letters, but it was the beginning of a new era of communication. Tomlinson was also the person who introduced the usage of the “@” symbol in email addresses.
In 1978, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp named Gary Thuerk used this new method of direct communication to send out the first commercial email to let people know about a new product. His email list only had 400 addresses, but the emails he sent resulted in about $13 million in sales.
By the ‘90s, the internet had become commercially available to the masses. The way people communicated with one another began to change dramatically, and marketers discovered that email could be an effective way to advertise. The emergence of marketing emails also ushered in the need for regulatory updates; the U.K.'s Data Protection Act, for example, was adjusted to require an "opt out" option for all marketing emails.
Advantages of email marketing
Email has become such a popular marketing tool for businesses partly because it forces the user to take some kind of action; an email will sit in the inbox until it’s read, deleted, or archived. But email is also one of the most cost-effective tools available, too. In fact, a 2015 study by the U.K.-based Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that for every $1 spent, email has an average return on investment (ROI) of $38.
Email marketing can help you build a relationship with your audience while also driving traffic to your blog, social media, or anywhere else you’d like folks to visit. You can even segment your emails and target users by demographic so you’re only sending people the messages they want to see most.
Tips for building your email marketing list
But how do you build an audience of people to send email to in the first place? There are a few ways, and all of them have to do with treating your customers right.
Don’t buy email lists. Many email marketing companies (including Mailchimp) have a strict, permission-based policy when it comes to email addresses, which means that sending to purchased lists is prohibited. Instead, concentrate on encouraging folks to opt into receiving messages from you. You could offer a discount on your customers' first orders when they sign up to your email list. Or maybe you can offer new subscribers free shipping on their next order—or give them a chance to win a prize when they join your list.
Be aware of national (and international) email regulations. Make sure you adhere to any applicable laws in your area, like the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States, the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union. The regulations are based on both your location and the location of your subscribers, and it’s your responsibility to know which laws apply to you.
Use email to have a conversation with your customers. Email is a great marketing tool, but it can help your business in other ways, too. Consider taking the occasional break from your regular marketing content to send out surveys, tell you customers how much you appreciate them, or just say hello. Not only does it give your audience a chance to provide you with valuable feedback, but it also allows them to get more insight into the person behind the business.
Only send when you really need to. Once someone has trusted you with their email address, don’t abuse that trust. Flooding your audience’s inbox with superfluous emails will cause them to lose interest or unsubscribe entirely. Focus on sending them relevant, engaging messages about the stuff they like, and they'll be loyal for a long time to come.