Thought it was dead? Think again. The method of generating new business that my marketing company, TFA, has used the most consistently and effectively over the last ten years is email. Believe it or not, when done the right way, it can be one of the lowest cost/highest return ways to promote your business. We have seen huge returns from it over the years and you can too.
Everyone was doing it, then along came GDPR.
For far too long, we all had this acronym ringing in our ears. Now that the dust has settled, it is pretty clear how many people still don’t understand what GDPR means to them. I’ve even hard conversations with the ICO, who are policing it, where they couldn’t answer simple questions because they “didn’t know the answer”.
So, what does GDPR mean for email marketing?
It depends on two things – are you marketing to the public or other businesses? If you are marketing the public, GDPR is a bit of a minefield. You cannot send unsolicited emails to people unless they have consented to receiving them (e.g. filling out a contact form on your website or previously buying from you). Conversely, if you are looking to target people in companies, guess what? There is nothing stopping you provided you can justify your email is of “legitimate interest”. This is covered by Clause 6(1).f and, essentially, it states that business people should be able to contact each other and offer their services as they always have done, without restriction. In the content of email marketing, this applies to any email address for a company or individual. The only caveat to this is that, should they ask not to receive further emails, you are expected to respect their request and blacklist them from future communications.
Now, despite this being the case, I have seen many companies emailing their lists and asking their contacts to opt back in. Not only is this unnecessary for B2B but most don’t and it has considerably reduced their lists. Worse, I have seen some literally trash their email marketing lists through fear of punishment by the ICO. My view – the ICO is interested in the giant, deliberate and persistent offenders breaking the rules, not small businesses. If you make an honest mistake, they will tell you and give you the chance to put it right. Don’t panic like so many have; that panic has cleansed the playing field for the rest of us.
That’s GDPR done – we really needed to cover it, especially the misconceptions surrounding it.
How to create and send emails that will win new business.
This section is going to be a top-level crash-course. There are a few crucial rules to making email marketing succeed:
- Acquire good quality, targeted data.The first thing you’re going to need is a list of email addresses. You can either build your own list or buy it in. For the most part, we buy list data in from data brokers because it’s the quickest way to create an accurate, targeted list. You can specify exact criteria for who you want to target; for example, business owners and company directors of hotels, restaurants and pubs within 50 miles of your office turning over at least £500,000 per year. Depending on which broker you are buying from, and how much you are buying, the cost per email address will vary from 5p to £1.50+ so it can be very expensive. Buy data right, get good quality at the right price, and it will be a sound investment for you. Excluding data bought for any clients, we spent £10k on data this year and have turned that investment into over £250k of new business – a 2,500% return doesn’t sound too bad, right?
- Use the right tools.We have built up an arsenal of email marketing tools that help us to design, build, test and send our emails. Tools such as MailChimp will enable you to create an email and send it to up to 10,000 contacts completely free, which will suit many businesses. If your list is substantially over this number (ours is 140,000) then, to keep your costs down, you will need to look into email sending apps such as SendBlaster and mail servers (e.g. MailGun, Elastic Email and SendGrid) . Do your research and find the right combination for you. Whatever you do, NEVER EVER send email campaigns from the same domain you use for your main emails e.g. yourcompany.com. If you do, you’re gravely at risk of being blacklisted and that can affect all of your email sending and receiving. Instead, I recommend registering a separate domain to ringfence your email marketing – such as mycompany-mail.co.uk – and sending through that instead. You will need to set up records on the domain DNS settings for your mail sending platform, which is a little more complex, but just follow the guides as it makes all the difference.
- Create killer, personalised content.When composing an email you will go down one of two routes: a heavily graphic email, like a flyer or B) a text email just like the regular ones we get every day. If you are going with option A, make sure you keep your subject to 4 words maximum and avoid symbols like the plague or you’ll end up in spam. I find the most effective subjects are things like “Meeting” or “Your Marketing Needs”. The golden rule; don’t write too much! Keep the content to no more than 3 paragraphs with a solid opening line and a solid “call to action” at the end like “Just email back to find out more”. Also, make sure you utilise merge fields to include their name, at the very least. What we find works even better is option B. You cannot beat an email that feels like it was written to you by another person so, if you don’t just go with option B, make sure you do that a week later as a personal (but automated) follow up. This way you get TWO bites of the cherry. You will always find you get substantially more responses to the latter option; be sure to have a good system for filtering out the wheat from the chaff and responding to inquiries really promptly.
- Timing & Deliverability.The best days for sending emails are Tuesday to Thursday. Many people have Friday off and people are usually catching up or are not in the best mood on a Monday morning. Test your email over and over to your own email address before sending it to your list. I highly recommend using mail-tester.com as part of this process as it will give you a score out of ten and tell you any delivery problems you should address in order to reach as many inboxes as possible and not end up in the spam trap.
- Following Up.This should be really obvious but we have found our results are as much as TEN TIMES better when we send out a simple, text-only follow-up email around a week later.
- Persistence.The sweet spot for sending emails is to do it no more than once a month plus possibly your follow up. If you do it more than this, you will get way more complaints and people wanting to be removed from your list. I have had clients do business with us over a year after receiving our first email and they often say the spacing apart was just right – not over-persistent and enough to be right place, right time. That is what you are aiming for with email marketing.
As with all my posts there is so much more to email marketing and we have developed our very effective techniques over 15 years.
This guide will help you but, if you need a partner to do it for you, TFA designs, writes and sends successful lead-generation email campaigns for a broad range of clients. Our pricing starting from just £750/month, so get in touch if you would like to see more new business opportunities coming from great email marketing.
Written for, and featured in Pulse Magazine