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A couple of weeks ago, we asked our clients to submit their New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. We saw a trend emerge almost immediately. Many of you, including PictureIt Creations, said that one of your main resolutions was to focus on email marketing.

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Apparently mastering email is the SMB equivalent of losing ten pounds. And the best part? It is way more effective than the average fad diet. According to research from the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has the highest return-on-investment of all organic channels. In fact, companies generated an average of $40.56 of return for every dollar spent on email marketing.

How does that relate to kittens? Well, if you run a pet store, keeping in touch with your customers means they’ll buy more cat nip and that will most definitely result in happy kittens. See, perfect justification to use that picture of kitten in a mailbox. Even with that motivation, we know investing the time to get email marketing right is a lot easier said than done. So we compiled a quick guide chock full of great tips to get you started, including how to build your email list, create content, design your mailing and measure their results.

Getting Started

Often times, the most daunting part is finding and committing to the right email marketing platform. Many of our clients in our community forum prefer MailChimp and Constant Contact for their simplicity, ease of use, nicely designed pre-formatted templates and affordability. However, if you find yourself needing more advanced functionality and email analytics, email tools like Mineful, may be a great option.

Syncing your email provider with your Bigcommerce store

Once you decide on your email marketing platform, it’s time to sync it to your Bigcommerce store. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to sync MailChimp with your store as well as a step-by-step guide for syncing with Constant Contact. Both apps can be integrating in just a couple minutes. If you find yourself needing a little extra help syncing your email provider, stop by and ask questions in the email marketing section of our forum.

Creating signup forms in your store

As soon as you are ready to roll, it’s time to create and optimize your email signup forms. One of the biggest pitfalls many new store owners fall into is not figuring out where to put their email sign up forms for optimal conversion. At the very least, you should have an email sign up form in these three sections:

  • Store Homepage
  • Checkout Page
  • On your blog, if you have one

We would also encourage you to run some basic A/B tests, using a tool like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer to determine the best places to put a signup form on your store as well as testing form fields, headlines and button colors.

Creating Content For Your Emails

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As Scott Stratton, who wrote the best-selling book UnMarketing, said, “The best way to get your email opened is to write content worthy of being opened.”

Whether you are creating a weekly newsletter, a discount email or a personal message to your customers, the content of your email is king. What you decide to put in your emails will be the number one driver in if people will decide to continue subscribing and reading your content. That’s why it so important to focus on writing something that delivers value for your email list first and foremost.

Email tone, messaging and frequency

  • Write the content in an authentic and conversational tone. Think about what you would rather read, an email written in the first person from the store owner in a conversational and authentic tone or an email in third-person corporate speak?
  • Create interesting, compelling subject lines without being misleading.
  • Keep your emails short and to the point with only one or two main calls to action (CTA).
  • Use a pre-formatted template that works well on both mobile devices and desktops.
  • Be consistent not only in your tone and messaging, but also in how often you send it. If people can come to expect that you send one email each week and the content is always on the money, they may actually come to look forward to receiving your emails. With everyone’s inbox being constantly cluttered, that’s when you know you have hit the email marketing gold mine.

Growing Your Email List

Small businesses can often get discouraged when they spend time setting up everything right and they don’t have 5,000 subscribers right off the bat. Just like with social media marketing, it takes time to build a quality list of email subscribers. If you want to supercharge your list, there are a few interesting ways you can attract new subscriber.

Tips to scale quicker

  • Do contests and giveaways that are exclusive to email.
  • Offer free valuable content like white papers and ebooks. Gina King of Veppo has scaled her email list tremendously by giving away free white papers via an email sign-up form displayed prominently in her store.
  • Run Facebook, Linkedin and Adwords Campaigns to solicit new email sign ups.

Common pitfalls to avoid

Even with these tips, it is easy to get to impatient when your efforts are working but not moving the needle as quickly as you need them to. However, no matter how tempting these methods may seem, don’t fall for any of these common pitfalls.

  • Don’t add people to your mailing list without explicitly asking for permission. Mailchimp makes this process of permission marketing easy with their seamless double opt-in process.
  • Don’t be that guy or girl, who adds all 500+ of their Linkedin contacts to all their email lists. All this shows is that you don’t respect and value their business connection and time enough to “ask” them before sending them countless emails of your newest business venture.
  • Buying random email lists — that have nothing to do with your niche or industry — to pad your subscriber numbers.

Measuring Your Email Campaign Effectiveness

Of course, when you are spending all this time creating email content, it’s vital to measure and put benchmarks around it. Some of the most common metrics SMBs can use to measure their email campaign effectiveness are:

  • Open Rates (how many people open the email)
  • Click-Through Rates (how many people click a link inside the email)
  • Total Referrals (back to your store)

While open and click-through rates vary by industry and even company size, a good benchmark to strive for is a 30% open rate and a 3% click-through rate. If you have any questions around how your store specifically stacks up with others, we would encourage you to post your questions and comments in our community forum. We’ll dig deeper into these metrics and how to leverage them to build your business  in our next blog post on email marketing.

Key Takeaways

  • Research and identify what email marketing provider best suits your business’s needs.
  • Add email sign-up forms in key touch points on your site, like the homepage and checkout page.
  • Focus on creating content that delivers the most value to your customers and/or potential customers.
  • Write your emails in an authentic and conversational tone.
  • Create and giveaway valuable content, such as white papers and ebooks as a “hook” to get more email signups.
  • Track, measure and analyze the open and click-through rates for all emails that you send.

No matter if you are just dipping your toe in email marketing or a seasoned veteran, we invite you to join the conversation and post your email questions or thoughts in our large community forum. Log in here, the kittens will love it, we promise!

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