Everyone has an email inbox. It’s the one media you know everyone uses virtually every day. But with all the hype around social media you might think that the power or relevance of email in the coatings industry has diminished. It hasn’t. There’s hardly anything in sales and marketing more cost effective, easier to track, easier to measure, or more direct than an email with a purpose. That said, the medium has also matured and advanced in many significant ways. Not the least of which is the understanding savvy marketers have gleaned from how people deal with their inbox. So my “rescue” premise is this: when we understand the barriers to getting our messages thru, we can leverage all the valuable benefits of email to grow our businesses.
Here are five insights with clues from latest research in the science of email marketing:
1) Start with clear intentions
You may not have a new coatings product, but you don’t want to be forgotten. A newsletter, a bulletin, or a special offer could help you keep in front of customers. But first, decide what you want to achieve, and ask how will email help you reach that goal? Do you want more manufacturing jobs, referrals and leads (lead generation)? Or do you want to be remembered as the go-to for industry information and coatings solutions (brand identity)?
INSIGHT: Know what you want to achieve. Understand how sustained email messaging will help you reach that goal.
2) Understand your target
Most business people are virtually tethered to their email. They have computers in their office, their home, and carry a Smartphone, with fully functioning email software, in their pocket. But new research reveals almost 90 percent do not have separate inboxes. They accept both business and personal emails to the same inbox.
INSIGHT: There’s more proof that marketing to B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to consumer) isn’t very different. So treat your business customers like the consumers they are and they’ll probably respond better.
3) Hone your list
A full 60 percent of users, however, will give out a separate email address. It’s a kind of safety net to make sure they really want the relationship. If you’re starting with a list you suspect is old (they’re now saying 2 is old in email years) begin with a message that reminds them how they first got on your list. Invite them to offer feed-back or resubscribe (with their real email address). Assure them of your good intentions. Don’t view them as a number with an “@” sign and they will likely return the favor.
INSIGHT: Clear intentions and regular maintenance guarantee low bounce-back (emails that don’t make it to first base) rates. Make your content something they want and customers will make sure you have your list right.
4) Strive to be familiar and trusted
We all get junk in the form of spam as well as stuff we just don’t want. Recipients scan for the familiar as a first line of defense. We’re very cautious to avoid any unknown “incoming.” If you embark on a campaign, you could be tempted to mask your personal identity and use a more convenient “from” name—one that your customer may not recognize. Unknown senders are hugely suspect, they can kill your “open rate” (the number emails that get opened). Subject lines are the next clue we scan for. Messages sent with spammy words in the subject line like “free” and “rewards”; excessive exclamation points (!!!); and subject lines set in ALL CAPITAL letters, only guarantee a place in junk mail.
INSIGHT: Get past their spam filters first. Make it easy for your recipient to recognize the sender and trust the subject and its content. If you have their address with permission (an absolute must) you should already be building on a relationship and maintaining a familiar link.
5) Be there for the big opening
It’s possible to get everything else right and still miss your target, simply because you pushed “send” at the wrong time of the day or the week. Busy people get lots of mail. Your concern is with two basic measures of success 1) “open rates” and 2) the “click thru rates” (the ability to motivate the reader to take action, usually by clicking a link within the email). A major research study recently revealed that click thru rates skyrocket on Saturday and Sunday! People tend to adopt rituals to maintain their inboxes. Weekends offer the best quality time available for what they believe is an important task.
INSIGHT: Timing is everything and your results may vary. Experiment to see when your customers are most likely to open your email. Ask them directly or use an informal survey.
Your customers are only an email away. You have the opportunity (and the technology) to regularly communicate the value and relevance of your business in a very cost effective manner. I hope these observations help you navigate some of the common hurdles and avoid some potentially serious missteps.
I welcome your comments, questions or more discussion.