Oxford College of Marketing Tutor and owner of Heads Up Marketing, Sue Ollerhead, looks at why email marketing is still an important tool for businesses today and provides some tips on improving performance.  

The statistics speak for themselves; with 2500 billion email users around the world, email marketing now plays a key role in every stage of the buying cycle.

Let’s face it, us marketers are never off duty, continuously scrutinising every campaign that we see. But, just spend some time thinking about your last high-involvement purchase; the chances are that email popped up many times along the way to nudge and squeeze you further down the conversion funnel.

Despite our unpredictable weather, I took the bold step of holidaying in the UK this summer. So with my curious consumer hat firmly on, I decided to conduct an informal study into the part that had been played by email throughout my research, buying journey and overall experience with a very well known UK Holiday Park brand.

37 emails later, back from my trip and fully recharged, my mini research project cemented the views of the many digital marketing industry experts who are predicting no slow-down in the growth of this channel.

Throughout, I was struck by how much my expectations had shifted. Without realising it, I too now expect a truly seamless process through email; from money off vouchers to booking confirmations, online check-ins to activity bookings and a convenient direct link to provide a review. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Responsiveness, out of hours provision, mobile access…just some of the reasons why customer service now relies so heavily on email. It’s clear to see the endless opportunities here for automation and resource optimisation. But as the lines increasingly blur for marketers, where should email marketing fit in with the tactical element of our plans? How do we adopt a meaningful approach that charts a clear path to conversions and increases return on investment?

To an extent, of course, it depends on the resources available to your organisation. Your budget, the size of your team and levels of expertise will shape your strategy. Set-ups usually range from a dedicated in-house squad to one member of staff working with templates, outside agency arrangements and everything else in between.

If you do manage your email marketing in-house, there’s a number of email software tools on the market that will streamline the steps you need to take and well position you to execute professional campaigns. From content to links and ensuring that your emails render on mobile devices, these solutions have it all covered and range from free services for low subscriber numbers, to more costly platforms that power millions of emails on a daily basis.

As with all campaigns, email marketing must begin and end with your objectives. Perhaps you are looking to drive traffic, boost sales or increase loyalty? Whether you are targeting new customers or repeat business; a set of SMART, clearly defined email marketing objectives that are linked to your overall campaign, marketing and business objectives, can help to keep you on track.

Not too long ago, Facebook forked out $19 billion for WhatsApp for the value of their data alone, and this brings us to the importance of your subscribers. The way that you gather, grow and manage your database is critical to success. Remember to fight that all-too-natural instinct to grow your list relentlessly; it’s better to have a smaller engaged list than a huge amount of recipients who do not read or respond to your messages.

Next up; don’t underestimate your savvy subscribers and declare your business a spam-free-zone. They’ll demand behaviour that is data protection compliant and content that is targeted towards them – with zero tolerance. So keep on top of changes in the law, practice good list hygiene and pay attention to their needs and preferences so you can segment your list on an on-going basis. Draw them into your story with what they want to hear about, be honest and authentic, and you won’t go far wrong.

One great advantage of email is the insight it provides into your customer behaviour. Listening, monitoring and measuring a suite of metrics from open rates and click throughs, all the way through to social shares and the day of the week that works best, is always time well spent. It may mean the difference between an enquiry and an eye roll when your email hits their inbox. Various patterns emerge and insights will take shape over time so stay with the bigger picture and you will take strides towards optimising your efforts.

It’s true what they say; you don’t know what you don’t know  – so test everything. From subject lines to layouts to pricing and personalisation, tests will help you to release messages with confidence and build results from a solid foundation of data.

Finally remember that email is not is a magic bullet. People, preferences and the world are all changing, so keep your finger on the pulse and this weighty channel can pack a punch for you. Stay focused with a directed approach that is linked to your overall strategy and your efforts will soon pay off.

If you want to find out more about how you can maxmise your success with email marketing, why not sign up to our short online course in Email Marketing for only £99. To find out more and book your place, contact us today on enquiries@oxfordpeg.com or call +44 (0)1865 515255