Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Email Marketing in a Down Economy at The Mainstreet Chamber

I attended "Email Marketing in a Down Economy" today, a Mainstreet Chamber Lunch & Learn session with Jeff Ferrazzo from ConstantContact, at Buca Di Beppo in St. Paul.

Jeff spoke for an hour and answered a boat-load of questions from entrepreneurs and business owners in search of the latest, best tips on email marketing.

Most of Ferrazzo's talk focused on email newsletters: what they are, what they aren't, and how to use them to build your business -- even in today's tough economy.

I've been selling via email since 1994, when I marketed one of the first ebooks on Usenet (there was no Web). So email marketing is a topic I was eager to learn more about. And Ferrazzo didn't disappoint.

Here's a summary of his seminar, based on my notes ...

First, what is email marketing? A professional communication piece with reliable information, sent to an interested audience.

On average, it takes 7 "touches" to build enough trust with prospects for them to buy from you. An email newsletter allows you to automate this crucial follow-up process.

On the other hand, some people will buy immediately. Good new? Not entirely -- these customers are probably procrastinators who put off buying whatever it is you sell until they had no choice. They will likely do so again and buy from somebody else when their need is again too great to ignore -- unless you stay in touch until their next purchase.

Here are best practices for monthly email newsletters:

  • Use an easy-to-read template that's easy for you to update each week/month.
  • Reinforce your brand by matching the color scheme and fonts to your web site; include logos and other related items.
  • Manage your subscriber list carefully -- bounces, removals, and complaints.
  • Track opens, clicks, and delivery rates (to know what works and what doesn't)
  • Segment your list into prospects and buyers; send different messages and promotions that are relevant to each. For even greater results, segment your buyers and target them accordingly, to move them along the sales continuum.
  • Good open rates for an email newsletter range from about 25% to 35%
  • Never assume your customers know everything you sell. It's not their job to remember. Educate readers about your entire product line before they buy from a competitor.

Key #1: Build your list with permission
  • How? Ask people to sign up via your service/sales calls, email signature, in-store guest book, trade show booths, and every page on your web site (not just the home page -- you never know where Google will drop off a visitor to your site).
  • Maintain permission by remaining a trusted sender -- remind readers why they are getting your newsletter, offer a one-click unsubscribe button, and don't email too frequently.

Key #2: Set your objectives for promoting, informing, and relating to prospects/clients
  • Promote: offers, discounts, coupons, etc.
  • Inform: provide value, educate readers, offer research, etc.
  • Relate: acknowledge individual readers (a contest or client of the month can work well), offer "insider" specials

Key #3: Choose appropriate format and frequency
  • Tip: we may not read newsletters at the same time as our customers do ... but we are not our customers. Test and track to find your best delivery time for opens and clicks. Ferrazzo found, after much trial and error, that 8:00 Saturday morning was the sweet spot for sending out his email newsletter. (I tend to have good luck with Sunday morning.)
  • 60% of people say the "from" line is the main reason they open an email. Depending on which has a bigger reputation with your readers, use your name (Sally Smart) or your company's name (ZYX Technology) in the from line. 
  • Tip: try to use both names, to brand both (From: Sally Smith, ZYX Technology).
  • 30% of people say the subject is the main reason they open an email. You have 30-40 characters (5-8 words) to work with. Telegraph an immediate benefit readers will get from opening. 
  • Avoid spammy subjects, like "HUGE SALE!!" (In my experience, adding "RE:" to the subject increases open rates, because the email appears to be a reply to something sent by the reader. Example: "RE: Thank you" Sneaky? Not if I have something of value to send.)

Key #4: Create compelling content that positions you as an expert
  • A simple link to a trade journal article (or your opinion on that article) can make you look like an expert in the minds of readers, because you're the one who told them first. 
  • It's not about you, it's about what you know. Your prospects and customers want valuable information. Find it, then deliver it to them. 
  • (Tip: Use Google Alerts to find news and blog postings each day that will interest your readers. In about 2-3 days, you will have MORE than enough material for your next email newsletter.)
Did I miss anything? Please comment below! 

And, because I practice what Ferrazzo preaches about offering "news you can use," I invite you to download my Free Report based on 17 years of marketing online and offline, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.


  1. Thanks for posting this! I found your notes very helpful Kevin!

  2. Keven, I couldn't make the event but also heard great things about it from several places. Thanks for your great reporting here as it is very useful.

  3. Thanks so much for the summary, Kevin! After reading these tips, I changed my default settings for the "from" to include my name as well as my business name.

    One question--did he mention what kinds of formats are "easy to read?"

  4. Diane,

    Email service providers like Constant Contact have lots of pre-loaded email newsletter templates that are easy to read. So do Aweber and Mailchimp.

    I've used Constant Contact and Aweber and like them both, FYI. Decide which price and features are better for you.

    You can also get a template done from scratch -- any competent web design firm should be able to design one for you.