When social media became a big deal a few years ago, I have to admit – I put email marketing on the back burner.
It was so easy to reach and engage with fans on Facebook, I really lost track of how valuable an email database can be. But who doesn’t like playing around with shiny new social media toys?
Then Facebook began making changes to their algorithm that drastically decreased the organic reach of fan pages. It became clear that smart marketers needed to cultivate ways to reach their customers that they are in control of – namely, their website and email database. Social media platforms can (and will) change the rules at any time.
And for the record, I don’t think Facebook’s new “Pay to Play” policy is unfair. We know we have to pay for advertising in other mediums, why should Facebook be free? It was never really intended to be a non-stop commercial for businesses anyway.
Consider how often you check your own email. Probably first thing in the morning, and then several times a day, right?
Like social media posts, email campaigns should educate, entertain and/or give your customer something valuable – i.e. coupons or special offers. The trick is to not inundate your customers with crap.
How often should you email? Well, that depends on your business. Personally I think most businesses should limit mailings to once a week, but if you have something of value to send – go for it.
One of my clients is a small, locally owned restaurant group. When I took over their marketing, they had a loyalty card program in place which collected email addresses. Those customers were entered into the website for the card program, and never contacted again. Their other database was tied into their (very dated) website and emails were sent sporadically. Unfortunately, that list was not segmented by interest, so when they wanted to send an email to the volleyball players at one location, for example, the email went to everyone on the list. The service did not manage duplicate addresses either, so we had tons of them. Not good.
I started a Constant Contact account for them, merging the two existing databases. I was lucky enough to start with over 800 names.
I’m a big fan of Constant Contact, I love how easy it is to create great looking emails, plus the service manages duplicates and makes it easy for readers to opt out. They have a free trial and you pay based on how many active addresses you have on your account.
Disclaimer – I like Constant Contactso much I am an affiliate for the service
My plan was to send out a weekly email to everyone on the list with a really good coupon not available anywhere else. I wanted to make sure that people would open the email, so the offer is often for a free menu item, or free with purchase. I include information about upcoming events and promotions, but the constant factor is always a great coupon.
I began sending out the emails, and not surprisingly a lot of people opted out. That’s okay….you want people on your list who want to hear from you. I also set up lists by interest – our volleyball players, people who have booked parties, golfers in our tournaments. Clean it up and categorize your customers where it makes sense.
Four months later, I’m happy to report that I’ve increased their database to about 2500 names and our open rate averages around 34% (the industry standard according to Constant Contact is 19%).
Because we are contacting customers regularly, we’re filling up our events faster and we’ve got more customers coming in to take advantage of special offers and promotions.
Constant Contact offers a ton of great stats for your email campaign, so you can easily see what kind of emails perform the best for your business.
How did I do it?
- I added a sign-up app to our Facebook pages and told customers exactly what to expect if they signed up
- I added a sign-up form on our new website
- I created online contests (I like Woobox for this) that captures email addresses
- I created in-store contests to collect email addresses. For example, for Valentine’s Day I put a large clear glass jar filled with Hershey Kisses and decorated for the holiday in each store. Customers guessed how many for a chance to win the jar of candy plus a gift card for the restaurant. We collected hundreds of email addresses with this simple contest.
- I communicated with our employees why it was important to encourage people to sign up for the Rewards program, and that combined with the efforts of the managers resulted in more customers signing up.
Email marketing gives you terrific bang for the buck. If you don’t have not started building your list, what are you waiting for?