It’s 2013. Do you know where your email marketing campaign has gone? Hopefully it has evolved into a powerful integrated marketing communication tool for your business rather than a monotonous chore that you do just to satisfy your marketing budget (C’mon, you know many of us fall into the latter!) The fact is that many small businesses don’t realize how an email campaign can make a difference in the performance of their overall online marketing strategy. And if you are one of those small businesses that doesn’t have an existing database of customers or clients – then you need to start building that database now.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty and technological details of an email marketing campaign, let’s just focus on the basics. Let’s face it. Everyone has a budget. An email campaign can be very effective with a small budget, but we all know that a larger budget grants you more bells and whistles. That’s not the point of this article, so let’s stick to the basics of an effective (and affordable) email campaign:

  1. Make it Simple.
    People are visual. Great imagery in an email might be eye-catching, but is not necessary. There are plenty of email marketing services out there (MailChimp, Constant Contact, Exact Target, etc.) that provide user-friendly email templates so you can drop in content, images, and links where you want in the email. Keep the content of your email simple, with just snippets of articles or other info that entices viewers to click to “read more”. If you are announcing a special offer or contest, include a call-to-action that prompts them to click, share, sign up, or whatever is required.
  2. Make it email marketing
    The amount of mobile phone users is increasing every year, and Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in November 2012 that 53 percent of mobile phone owners use smartphones. Pew also reported that 85 percent of all U.S. adults own a mobile phone, more than 50 percent of mobile users read email on their phones, and 88 percent check email on their phones every day. Bottom line: Optimize your email for mobile. Chances are your customers will open the email on their phone before they ever see it on a computer screen.
  3. Make it Social.
    Add your Social Media icons to the email template – like you do on your website (you do have them displayed prominently on your website, right?). You can even send an email announcement to your customers that you are now on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Encourage them to “Follow” you, “Like” you, or “Pin” you.  You can even offer an incentive, such as “Like” us to receive 10% off, or save more when you have your friends “Like” us too!
  4. Make it Clickable.
    It’s fine and dandy to want to send out a monthly or quarterly email newsletter to your customers and clients with the latest industry news, company events, promotions, products and services. However, make sure there is a reason to click to a landing page on your website. Don’t just link to the Homepage, but rather link to the page most relevant to the topic of your email message. Like an online ad, the less clicks it takes to get to the desired content (and call-to-action), the more effective your email campaign will be. You may have a good open-rate percentage, but your clickthrough rate may be low.
  5.  Make it Trackable.
    Since we are on the topic of clickthrough rates, we should talk about email performance metrics. The basic metrics tracked by email services as MailChimp are open rates, bounce rates, clickthrough rates, number of emails sent, opened, viewed and unsubscribes. Other metrics that should be tracked are the URLs clicked within the email and even the clickstream of the users clicking the email (which ties in your website analytics). This will help you track conversions. For instance, you may want to add parameters to a URL unique only to the email. Once the email is sent out, you can view the referrals and visitor path on your website coming directly from the email. This will help you track conversions so you know the email campaign is working. These conversions are the desired actions you want users to perform (sign-ups, downloads, etc.).
  6. Make it Reliable.
    Communication with your customers and clients is the key to a long-term relationship. Keep them informed. Keep them feeling special. Be consistent so they know when to expect your emails. Depending on your business, a monthly or quarterly email may be all that’s needed to keep your brand top-of-mind. However, if you offer weekly discounts or promotions – you may want to segment these more frequent emails to your most active subscribers.

I hope these basic email tips will help you improve your current email marketing strategy, or help you start up your first campaign. Before you attempt to send out any emails, first make sure you have a database of customers and clients who have opted-in to receive company communication. Then, be sure to scrub your email lists to improve bounce rates. Scrub. Rinse. Repeat. Do this after every email blast and you are on your way to managing a successful campaign.