By Jennifer L. Schiff , January 12, 2011
Despite the rise of social media marketing, email marketing is still alive and well. And, experts say, if you want to truly optimize your small business marketing, you need to use both methods. Indeed, one of the biggest small business marketing trends predicted for 2011 is the integration of email marketing with social media.
What other email marketing trends and tips will be hot in 2011? To find the answer, Small Business Computing asked leading email marketers Constant Contact and Campaigner. Here’s what they had to say.
The Top 7 Email Marketing Trends and Tips for 2011
1. Integrate Your Email Marketing with Your Social Media Campaigns
2010 was definitely the Year of Social Media Marketing. And that trend is not going away anytime soon, said both Eric Groves, senior vice president of global market development at Constant Contact, and Melanie Attia, the product marketing manager at Campaigner. But rather than signaling the death knell for email marketing, both Groves and Attia see social media as a way for small (and midsized) businesses to extend and enhance their email marketing.
“I think that we’re definitely going to see a continued symbiosis between social media and email,” said Attia. Both she and Groves see that as a good thing.
“We highly recommend that companies always link to their social media properties, such as their Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter pages, as well as blogs, [in their email marketing campaigns],” said Groves. “With social media only growing stronger, we’re starting to see more companies using email to drive a conversation within social media.”
Groves added that it’s important to link to your company’s social media pages. It encourages the conversation, and it gives your customers easy ways to engage with you. “And, even more importantly,” said Groves, [they can] share your content with their networks.”
Similarly, you can use social media sites to target and add new subscribers, thereby growing your email marketing lists and reach, said Attia.
2. Make Your Email Marketing Campaigns Mobile
The proliferation of mobile devices should definitely influence your email campaign strategy. “Because so many people now read their email on mobile devices, it’s important to keep in mind their experience when creating your email campaigns,” explained Groves. That means keeping images small and not using too many of them — and keeping text short and to the point.
Attia also offered the following mobile email marketing tips:
Use a single-column layout
Put your logo and call to action at the top of your email
If you offer subscribers the ability to click through on a link from their mobile device, make sure the page they’re directed to is also mobile-friendly. Many content management systems offer mobile displays that turn on automatically when they detect a smart phone browser
Use smart contrasts that read well on small screens. Black fonts on white backgrounds work best
Use white space and bullet points to make your emails easy to read
Have a text version available
Have a link at the very top of your message that allows subscribers to “view online” if their phone doesn’t display your email correctly.
3. Engage Readers (instead of having a one-way conversation)
If you want to get people to read your emails — and respond to your calls to action — you need to engage them, right from the subject line. Lure them in with a question, contest or promotion.
“2011 is going to be all about engagement,” said Groves. “It’s not enough to push your message out as a one-way conversation anymore. Social media has redefined the way consumers interact with brands, and brands need to respond with two-way communication.”
According to Groves, you can create a two-way dialogue by asking your readers to answer a question or to take part in contests on Facebook — or on your company website. Also consider offering readers special discounts or trackable coupon codes.
4. Keep Content Brief and Focused
Make sure you provide compelling, concise content. “As I like to say: be brief, be bright, and be gone,” said Groves. Campaigner’s Melanie Attia advised “use short, punchy action verbs, like click, call, read and buy.” She also recommended having a single objective or focus as well as a clear call to action, instead of trying to accomplish multiple things within a single email campaign.
5. Don’t Go Overboard on Images or Design
You want to project your brand, but if you include too many graphics (or audio or video), readers can get overwhelmed and ignore your message, according to Attia. “Simplicity is the key,” she said. Groves added that graphics and video can add to the experience, but they don’t trump well-written content.
That doesn’t mean your email campaigns should not be attractive. Just be judicious in your choice of graphics, making sure they enhance your message instead of detracting from it. And instead of embedding video clips, provide links instead.
6. Plan Ahead for More Effective Email Campaigns
Ideally, your campaigns should correspond to holidays or down times to capture more sales. Before you launch your first campaign, map out your email marketing plan for the whole year, advised Attia. “It doesn’t have to be very formal. Just map out how many emails you plan to send and determine the key moments in your business.”
For example, can you use seasonality to your advantage? “Most retailers make between 30 and 40 percent of their yearly revenues between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Attia. “And Valentine’s Day is coming up. Is there something you can tie into that? There’s also Easter, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. You can tie all of these events into your business.”
Conversely, your business could benefit from a little email marketing during its slow times. You probably know from past years when your busy and quiet seasons are, so plan your email marketing campaigns accordingly.
7. Track Campaigns to Determine What’s Working and What’s Not
Use tracking or analytics software to determine which email campaigns succeeded and which ones failed — and use that information when crafting your next email campaign.
In addition, “using a combo of link tracking, post-click analytics and coupon codes should continue to be popular in 2011,” noted Attia. “Being able to calculate exact ROI is what makes email marketing and direct marketing such valuable ways to advertise. Retailers are the first to appreciate the value of email since it directly translates into sales.”
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to SmallBusinessComputing.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping small and mid-sized businesses.