Promoting your brand and its products and services through email has been proven effective time and time again. The problem is that it has also been proven to be a gigantic waste of time, energy, resources and marketing opportunity for advertisers. When you follow these five steps however, whatever business industry you are in, you'll be on the fast track to email advertising success.
STEP ONE: Know the Audience & the List
It should be obvious, but the quality of an email list is a significant determinant to success with email advertising. It is important to know the audience makeup (gender, geography and income) prior to advertising, but you can't just stop there. Those that routinely experience success with email advertising also explore how often mailings occur, when they are sent, where opt-in recipients were recruited from and a whole lot more. When you know why someone is subscribed to an email list and when they interact with it, you'll gain some important insights into what might motivate them to take action on your ad. What you'll also find is that when you know the audience you'll be sharing brand messaging with, solutions to the challenges presented in the four other steps begin to emerge.
STEP TWO: Set Modest Expectations
Click-through rates (CTR) of email advertising are historically quite low - they are in fact actually quite similar to traditional display ad campaigns in terms of performance. That's not the case in every instance however. An email list that was recently built or has more recently subscribed recipients may perform far better than an email newsletter that has been sent for years to the same recipient list - even though from the outside it may seem more trustworthy and established. The point is that the list owner should give you a click-through rate range within which you can set expectations - ideally, it's important to understand the trend (are ad clicks going up, flat-lining, or going down?). If the publisher or list owner can't provide this information, it's not likely they put much faith in their audience's interest or in their newsletters' advertising opportunities. Also consider the role that ad placement plays in expectations and know what you're buying and what you can expect for every dollar spent.
STEP THREE: Develop Custom Creative
Knowing the audience as we now do, and with some expectation of how our ads might perform, only then should you start developing custom creative (the actual ads). The best course of action is to first explore how other advertisers have used the digital space afforded them - are they using display ads or text alone or some combination. Hopefully you are subscribed to the email list that you're interested in advertising to - just review the past few ads and you'll have a good understanding of consumer expectations and how your brands' creative can excel that of others (are they using offers, showcasing a product or brand visually; what is their objective?). As always, abide by the guidance offered by the publisher in terms of creative format, creative length (if text ad), etc, and continue to test throughout your relationship with the list owner (see Step Five).
Marketers regularly attribute poor performance of their advertisements to the list quality. While that most certainly can be the case (and the reason that "Know the Audience & List" is the first in our five steps), there are some other issues advertisers should be aware of including overly high expectations and poor creative. Often, advertisers don't have proper tracking implemented, nor do they analyze the performance of the creative. When advertisers take the time to create custom landing pages (or track them accordingly), and then analyze the performance of those pages in relation to other landing pages on a site (from other channels or sources for example), they will have a better idea of why one ad outperformed another.
STEP FIVE: Repeat the Process
There's an important rule in advertising that digital marketers often forget. Advertising requires persistence - few consumers buy the first time they encounter an advertisement. Multiple impressions must be made before a consumer formally enters the sales funnel. Advertisers must first make themselves known to the consumer (awareness), must then establish some trust (credibility), provide some education (more credibility), and then make an offer - those are the four stages of advertising and it applies to display and search advertising as much as it does to email and even print.
Email advertising is as accessible as any form of digital advertising today. And the best part? The same rules apply. It's important to know your audience, it's important to have some expectations (so you can improve upon it), it's important to continually optimize creative, important to track, and finally, important to repeat the process.
Digital marketing executive with proven experience in all aspects of search engine optimization (SEO), performance-based advertising, consumer-generated/social media, email marketing, lead generation, Web design, usability, and analytics. - 20-year Internet marketing veteran, currently serving as the Digital Marketing Campaign Manager at Antenna Group (formerly Chicago Digital). - Former Editor-In-Chief of Website Magazine, and a regular speaker on Web technology digital marketing strategy - Author of several books on digital marketing Including Web 360: The Fundamentals of Web Success; Affiliate 360: The Fundamentals of Performance Marketing; Domains 360: The Fundamentals of Buying & Selling Domain Names, and SEO 360: The Fundamentals of Search Engine Optimization.