While there is a wide range of marketing channels businesses can use to connect with current, and potential, customers, few are as advantageous as email. Whether it is to try to increase sales or simply boost your brand image, email marketing provides businesses of all sizes with an easy outlet for reaching their target audience.
Part of the popularity of email marketing is that nearly everyone now has at least one email account that they check regularly. Research shows that 99 percent of consumers check their email on a daily basis, with the average user checking it across devices and locations at least 20 times per day.
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In addition, the return on investment is significantly higher than many other marketing tools. Data shows that email marketing has a $40 return on investment, compared to just $22.24 for SEO, $19.72 for internet display ads, and $2 for banner ads.
As the general manager for email marketing software provider Constant Contact, Jonathan Kateman has seen the benefits that come from targeting customers via email. In his current role at Constant Contact, Kateman is responsible for the company's business strategy and its advancement and execution.
We recently had the chance to speak with Kateman about email marketing and how businesses can use it to their advantage. In addition, we were able to ask him some rapid-fire questions about technology, his career and advice he has received over the years. [Interested in email marketing services? Check out our best picks.]
Q: If you are just getting started with email marketing, where should you begin?
A: If you're serious about email marketing, you should work with an email marketing service provider. It's the only way a small business can leverage email marketing automation and segmentation to effectively deliver messages to large groups of contacts.
Businesses also benefit from the professionally designed email templates, email list growth tools and tracking features that help determine if the email campaigns are having the desired effect.
Q: What are some the best ways to build up your email marketing list?
A: Most businesses have some existing contacts to start an email list, from customers that you already have a relationship with, to business contacts you email with on a regular basis, to supportive family and friends. If you are starting from scratch, you can start by adding an online sign-up form to your website and encourage your social media followers and loyal customers to sign up or use a sign-up form on your Facebook business page.
Facebook Lead Ads are a great way to find new customers by targeting people who are likely to want to know more about your business. Constant Contact integrates with Facebook Lead Ads so users can automatically import new leads to their email lists and send an automated welcome email. It's an easy, targeted and affordable way to grow your list.
Of course, once you grow your list, you need to segment it so you can send the most relevant information to your contacts.
Q: How do you know if your campaign is successful?
A: Email marketing doesn't end with a send. You will want to track your open rate, click-through rate and unsubscribe rates, working to improve them over time. If you want to see real results from your email marketing, you need a strong understanding of how each email performs so you can make improvements and learn more about your customers and subscribers.
Spending a few minutes in your email reports will tell you valuable information like who opened your email, who clicked on specific links, and what information was the most interesting to your readers.
Q: How often do you recommend sending emails to your subscribers?
A: There's no hard and fast rule. It's really a matter of looking at your metrics so you can learn from what you've already done. Looking at the past performance of your emails will help you determine what's working and can also shine a light on any problem areas that exist. The next step is to put a schedule together that will help you reach your business goals.
With an email marketing platform, you often get autoresponder functionality, making it easy to set up an email series for similar customers, like contacts in the same area or customers who attended an event, and even segment contacts based on the content they click to create more targeted lists and send more relevant emails.
It's important to have a scheduled mailing that readers can depend on. For most businesses, this will be an email newsletter with updates and relevant news from your organization. But you'll probably need to reach out to your audience with more timely messages to help you reach your goals.
For example, a restaurant that wants to fill tables each week may need to communicate on a weekly basis to share information about specials and let customers know about any special events. And a marketing consultant who wants to increase traffic to their website may have a weekly update, where they link people back to their company blog. Just be sure, as you experiment with different sending frequencies, to track your results by monitoring your email reports.
Q: What is email automation, and how does it benefit businesses?
A: Email automation is a game-changer for small businesses, freeing up time typically spent on marketing to focus on other areas of their business. From automatically sending welcome emails to new email subscribers, to annual birthday and anniversary emails, to a continuous series of emails to contacts, automation helps a business deliver relevant information to the right audience at the right time. With Constant Contact, you can even schedule emails to automatically resend to non-openers using a new subject line.
Q: What are the design elements all email marketing messages should contain?
A: Branding is critical. A business needs to create a consistent look and feel throughout every customer interaction across a variety of platforms, from in-store to online. This can be a challenge for small businesses, but Constant Contact makes it an easy one-step process with branded templates. A user just has to enter the URL for their website or Facebook page, and our template builder pulls the logo, brand colors and social media links into a couple of different template options to choose from. Of course, with half of email opens happening on a mobile device, it's also critical that your email templates are mobile-responsive.
Q: Should small businesses have a different email marketing strategy than those of large enterprise organizations?
A: An email marketing strategy should be driven by business goals, typically increasing revenue, regardless of the size of a company. And the fact is, affordable and intuitive automation and segmentation tools are leveling the playing field, so a small business budget can support a successful large-scale email marketing strategy. Email marketing is the great equalizer.
Q: What piece of technology could you not live without?
A: My Bose speaker. I have a rather loud voice, so I rely on the Bose speaker that I keep outside my office to ensure my conversations stay private. Plus, I get to listen to Bruce Springsteen and The Kinks in between meetings.
Q: What is the best piece of career advice you have ever been given?
A: Hire right. Great people are the most valuable asset a business can have. Smart and capable individuals who are passionate and motivated to solve a problem can accomplish anything.
Q: What's the best book or blog you've read this year?
A: I may be partial, but the best blog I've read is Constant Contact's Hints and Tips. It's an amazing resource for small businesses seeking marketing advice.
Q: What's the biggest risk you've taken professionally? Did it pay off?
A: Earlier in my career, in a move that was very out of character for an individual focused on driving innovation, I arrived at a company that was having issues with its existing product set. I shifted significant focus from new product development to address customer problems that were emerging with the existing product line. As is often the case, focusing on our customers and their needs paid off. We resolved the product issues more quickly than expected with the focus put against it, and when an economic downturn followed, we grew our market share by 2-3 times due to the demand for our quality offerings.
Q: As a leader, what's the biggest challenge you face?
A: As a general manager of a great business with many capable and innovative individuals, making sure we keep the organization aligned and focused on the needs of SMBs is the great challenge and opportunity we face. Success and growth can often lead to businesses becoming removed from the customers they are trying to serve. We prioritize making sure we remain closely connected with our customers and understand the challenges they are facing.