Are you using one of the most effective – and least costly – marketing tactics for your staffing company? While traditional direct mail sent through the U.S. Post Office can cost as much as one dollar or more a piece, email can cost as little as pennies, or even a fraction thereof. Email can be an extremely effective tool for reaching prospective employees and customers, as well as help retain existing customers and employees.
The Direct Marketing Association puts email marketing's ROI for 2011 at $40.56 for every $1 invested. The figure for 2012 is predicted to "fall" to $39.40, when email will account for $67.8 billion in sales. Although that includes both B2B and B2C figures, it still speaks volumes about the effectiveness of email marketing.
In fact, Forrester's late 2010 survey of US marketers found 88% of B2C firms and 71% of B2B organizations use email marketing. People are on board with email marketing because it works for a variety of reasons. Email marketing:
- Allows targeting
- Is data driven
- Drives direct sales
- Builds relationships, loyalty and trust
- Supports Sales through other channels
But if you’re not already email marketing, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why we’ve outlined Five Steps to Email Marketing.
1. It starts with your list.
Start with your in-house list of contacts as a basis for developing your email list. Work with your sales team to collect all of their email contacts into one database. If they are hesitant to share, it’s important to help them realize that an email marketing strategy that is focused, recipient-based and informative will help them to more easily start conversations with prospects and ultimately help them reach their sales goals.
Organic list building is best. Add sign up forms to your website on all high traffic pages. Also, consider presenting first time site visitors with an opt-in box for email sign ups. You can also test which areas work best by having signup boxes in different areas on the page. Have signup lists (or use tablet computers) at events or signs with QR codes linking to sign up forms. Use any contact with a customer or prospect as an opportunity to add them to your email list.
What about buying an email list? It’s not recommended. Typically, the lists are low quality and expensive. Plus, you may run into deliverability issues or be targeted as a spammer if these are names and email addresses that have not opted in to receive the types of messages you’re sending. While list building on your own can be a tedious, long process, it’s still the best way to build a quality list.
2. Content is still king.
In order to cut through the clutter of an email in-box, it’s imperative to deliver content that’s informative, relevant and timely. Maria Pergolino, senior director of marketing at San Mateo, California-based B-to-B marketing software provider Marketo, notes that, “B-to-B marketers have shifted their focus from promotional gobbledygook to educational content marketing.”
While high quality content may seem like a tall order, it’s oftentimes a matter of sharing your own industry expertise, answers to common questions, information on industry trends or posing important questions that impact your readers. It’s also important to make sure the design of the email is easy to navigate and doesn’t detract from your message. Make sure images support your copy and don’t confuse or distract from your message.
A recent Target Marketing article “4 Email Marketing Trends Seen in the B-to-B Inbox” cites a 2011 survey conducted by content curation platform provider HiveFive, which found that, “82 percent of respondents now use content marketing in their programs which makes it more popular than search marketing (70 percent), events (68 percent), and public relations (64 percent) and over two times more popular than print, TV or radio advertising (32 percent).”
With content marketing, the goal is to establish yourself as a knowledgeable, reliable and accessible expert in your field. If a potential customer doesn’t have an immediate need for your services, it’s a great way to keep your company name front of mind and in a positive light. When a business opportunity does arise, whom do you think they’ll call first? Their trusted expert, of course (at least that’s the hope!).
3. Making it into the Inbox (and getting read!).
You can have the best message with the perfect design, but if it doesn’t make it into the inbox or opened, you’re out of luck.
Make sure you’re testing your emails by sending them out to a small test group and viewing them on multiple formats (desktop vs. mobile vs. tablet, multiple email clients, etc.). It’s especially important to take into consideration how the email views on mobile devices. Smartphones are in the hands of nearly all businessmen and women, so it only makes sense to ensure that your message can be clearly viewed and read on those devices.
Also make sure you’re avoiding spam triggers in the text such as misspelled words, repetitive copy, attachments and forms. If your messages are repeatedly flagged as spam, you risk being blacklisted. That makes it very difficult to get any email messages delivered from your email domain.
Along with that, it’s imperative that you understand and follow the CAN-SPAM Act guidelines. The CAN-SPAM Act covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so it can be a costly mistake. Luckily, the guidelines are fairly simple, including:
1. Don’t use false or misleading header information.
2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines.
3. Identify ads as ads.
4. Tell recipients where you’re located (i.e. a valid, physical postal address).
5. Tell recipients how to opt out of future emails from you.
6. Honor opt-out requests promptly.
7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf, meaning that even if you hire another company to do your email marketing, you’re still responsible for compliance.
For more information on the CAN-SPAM Act, including frequently asked questions, visit www.ftc.gov.
4. Integrate your email marketing with other marketing efforts.
This one is pretty simple, actually. Make sure when you send out email campaigns, that the information included in the emails is also available on your website and other marketing channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Keep the message consistent.
This is especially important if you’re following rule Number Two in regards to content marketing and providing relevant, timely and informative content to your audience. By integrating the message across multiple channels, you’re increasing the reach of your message. You can also use that as an opportunity to build your email list through these other channels and allow readers to share information (with helpfully placed share buttons).
5. Monitor Performance.
Make sure you’re checking open rates. Also, pay close attention to which content and links are being clicked on (or, just as importantly, not clicked on). Don’t be afraid to segment your list and test different formats, subject lines, or even the lists themselves to see what performs better. The important thing is to not put your program on autopilot once it’s started. Continually watch your metrics to see where you can make the program work harder and more effectively.
Not sure if you’re ready to take the plunge and start an email marketing program on your own? That’s understandable. There are companies out there that specialize in helping you set up and manage simple email marketing campaigns, and lead you through the process. Constant Contact and BlueHornet are two such companies. You don’t have to start big — the goal is to just get started and then grow the program — and watch for great results!