Marketing your business? Don't overlook the humble email

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Marketing your business? Don't overlook the humble email

Despite all the fuss about over social media, email marketing is alive and well.

Trying to extrapolate overseas survey findings into the local situation is always risky, but a recent survey conducted by US-based email marketing company BlueHornet caught our attention.

You can obtain the full report (registration required), but here are some key observations and recommendations.

• 59 percent of respondents said marketing and advertising emails do influence purchase decisions, and more than three-quarters of those said they buy products or services from such emails at least once a month. But just over a third said that the purchase is made offline, so it might not be easy to capture the relationship between email and sale unless you can identify customers at the time of purchase, eg through a loyalty program or by offering to send receipts via email instead of printing them.

• Subject lines are important, but don't rely on rules of thumb: test different ideas to see what works with your customers.

• People check their email frequently and throughout the day, so when you send may be becoming less important. But if you are going to test the effect of sending at different times, be sure to measure the desired outcome - is it to drive traffic to your site, or to make a sale?

• Get the frequency right. The most preferred (43.8 percent) frequency was weekly, but almost a quarter said they liked more frequent emails, so this is another thing you should be testing. But don't send out emails for the sake of it - save them for when you have something to say that's relevant to the recipients.

• Personalise the emails according to what the recipient has purchased (online and in store), their browsing history, and the personal information they have given you. The trick seems to be to provide the degree of personalisation customers expect but without appearing creepy. More than half of the survey respondents said they expected companies to notice their birthdays, which suggests offers such as "come in for a free coffee on your birthday" are welcome. But beware: 'free gift with minimum purchase' offers were among the least preferred types of offer.

• When someone clicks the unsubscribe link, all is not lost. You can change their mind by offering to email them less frequently or with more personalised and relevant content (this can be as simple as letting them choose among categories such as 'special offers' or 'monthly newsletter'), or by providing a way to suspend emails for a month or other period. BlueHornet calls this "opt-down, not opt-out."

• Make sure your emails display correctly on mobile devices. If not, over 40 percent of recipients will just delete them. And if the goal of the email is to trigger an online purchase, your web site needs to be mobile-friendly as well.

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