Why businesses can’t afford to ignore email
Guy Hanson outlines the steps start-ups and SMEs can take to ensure their emails don’t just arrive at their destination but also engage subscribers, build positive brand awareness and drive sales. Email has long been one of the most well-used marketing channels for small and medium businesses, with 81% of SMEs relying on email as […]
Guy Hanson outlines the steps start-ups and SMEs can take to ensure their emails don’t just arrive at their destination but also engage subscribers, build positive brand awareness and drive sales.
Email has long been one of the most well-used marketing channels for small and medium businesses, with 81% of SMEs relying on email as their #1 acquisition tool, and with good reason. Email is accessible, affordable and highly effective. On average, email programs generate $68NZD for every $1 spent and during the COVID-19 pandemic email has proven to be the most effective marketing channel at driving website traffic.
Despite email’s strengths and wide application among SMEs, one in four report that they don’t understand email deliverability, and small businesses are significantly less likely to report higher-than-average email ROI. This could be due to a number of reasons including SMEs having smaller teams with less specialised knowledge, tighter budgets (small businesses are more likely to spend less than 20% of their marketing budget on email), and only having time to achieve compliance as a minimum requirement, whereas larger teams have capacity to apply an additional level of best practice.
Fortunately, there are steps that start-ups and SMEs can take to ensure their emails not only arrive at their destination but engage subscribers, build positive brand awareness and drive sales — all critical elements in building a successful business.
Prioritise Data Quality
Firstly, small business owners need to understand that it’s not only the software that determines a successful email program, it’s also the data behind it. If an email program was a human body, data would be the heart. Despite this, Validity Inc.’s Email Deliverability Report 2020 found that data quality is the single biggest obstacle to achieving email deliverability (45%).
Poor data quality, such as missing or incorrect information or duplicates, is detrimental for a number of reasons. For one, subscribers don’t tend to enjoy receiving irrelevant content that doesn’t reflect their preferences or receiving double ups of all communications. In fact, these sorts of sloppy practices tend to encourage requests to unsubscribe, rather than click-throughs or purchases. Bad data quality can also contribute to a poor sender reputation, which mailbox providers such as Gmail and Outlook use to determine which emails are granted access to the inbox, how they’re ordered, and which end up in the junk folder or are blocked altogether. As you can see, the case for quality data is strong.
When it comes to email marketing, the most important data are customers’ email addresses, therefore it’s critical that these are kept up to date. The most efficient way for SMEs to do this is to verify all email addresses before hitting send. They can do this using a software solution such as BriteVerify which verifies addresses in real-time and corrects common errors such as mailbox providers being misspelt.
Data must also be properly collected, this means ensuring everyone responsible for data input knows what information needs to be collected and how it should be entered, including using consistent codes and abbreviations. Data needs to be securely stored and kept up to date by periodically asking customers and subscribers to confirm their personal details. Data management needs to be an ongoing activity that is prioritised by everyone who comes into contact with the data. Unfortunately, an annual review and spring clean won’t cut it.
Content is King
In addition to good quality customer data, strong content is key to a successful email program. In fact, email content is the second most important factor in determining email deliverability (44%).
You need to always be thinking of the customer first when it comes to content. What sort of information do they want to receive? Is it the latest product range, tips and hacks, free offers, helpful information, or videos? What are their priorities and concerns at the moment? Have these changed for any reason? If so, how can I provide them with what they’re looking for?
These questions are especially important to ask in sensitive times such as these. New subscribers who traditionally operated offline may have slightly different needs and interests to consumers who are online natives. Messaging and offers may need to be tweaked to reflect this. The last thing you want to do is risk upsetting or annoying your customers with irrelevant marketing material, or to be seen as capitalising on a crisis. Read the room and ensure your content is always relevant.
Be Mobile Focused
Pre-COVID, 60%of email campaigns were opened on mobile devices, compared to just 10% on desktop and 29% on webmail. These figures have understandably changed during the pandemic where there has been a distinct shift back to laptops and desktops, however the importance of mobile should not be overlooked. Over half of consumers report they have unsubscribed from a brand’s promotional emails because they weren’t optimised for mobile. And if you need any more convincing to prioritise mobile optimisation, responsive mobile designs deliver a 15% increase in clicks for mobile users.
If you’re struggling to know where to begin, try using a responsive email template. These allow you to quickly and easily format your existing desktop design to be mobile friendly, taking the guesswork out of trying to do it yourself. Senders should be mindful of image size, which consumes bandwidth for mobile users, and results in emails taking longer to load, risking loss of engagement as the reader gets tired of waiting.
Make It Personal
Subscribers don’t want to feel like they’re receiving mail from a robot – which is exactly how it can feel when your emails are consistently void of any personal or human connection.
Simply addressing the subscriber by name can boost open rates by 5.2%. Personalising further by providing discount codes that are relevant to the recipient’s needs and interests, acknowledging birthdays and milestones, or making relevant suggestions can increase open rates by anywhere from 11% to 55%. The impact this sort of increase in open rates has on purchases and return business should not be underestimated, especially for SMEs.
The stakes are higher than ever for start-ups and small businesses, but those that take the time to critically review and invest in their email programs stand to gain more engaged and loyal customers, increased sales, and a valuable advantage over their competitors.
Guy Hanson is VP Customer Engagement at Validity Inc.