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How can small businesses elevate their email marketing?

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Email marketing campaigns continually compete with alternative, even complementary communications vehicles, such as video and social media. While perceived as an aging marketing tactic, email is actually quite modern and sophisticated. A healthy blend of technology and classic marketing techniques can help small businesses achieve higher response rates and bigger profits. Consider these tips for your next campaigns.
  • Emphasize content quality. It is more important to send content-rich emails than ones only emphasizing a sales pitch. When your contacts receive helpful content, they are more likely to respond to offers. A gardening materials supplier that offers horticulture tips is in a great position to make a sale when prospects need seasonal planting materials. Identify email topics by listening to your readers—the people who take time to contact you are the most likely to become customers. Study their requests, questions, likes and dislikes. Create how-to articles—or even new products or services based on your customers' input—and they will likely remain loyal.
  • Apply readership analytics. Evaluate how recipients interact with your emails. Many email services include analytics tools that monitor how much time readers spend with your emails, if they are forwarded to colleagues and which landing pages are visited. Prioritizing your follow-up efforts for individuals who exhibit the greatest signs of interest can materially impact campaign results. For example, Chalaran Direct Marketing helps tourism services and entertainment providers in Barbados maintain a steady flow of business. The company uses a Sage E-Marketing tool to study open rates of its email campaigns to local hotels, and calls recipients who have opened an email multiple times or shared it with a colleague. Charlan also examines messages recipients do not open much in an effort to improve those offers.
  • Test methodically. Your emails may look good, have compelling calls to action and pass spam checks, but still exhibit weak open rates. You need to always be isolating and testing specific elements of your campaigns, which takes some time but really isn't difficult. Try one change at a time. Explore what days recipients are more likely to open your email. Divide your list and send each set the same email on different days to see if a specific day produces better responses. Next, determine what time of day people are most willing to open your emails. This could vary by industry or each recipient's role. Again split up your list and send the same email at different times of the day. When there is a specific day and time recipients are most responsive, examine your content. What subject lines gain the best response? Do recipients react more to graphics or text? Consider the placement of your call to action. Is one position more effective than another? Do recipients read lengthy pieces or quick bursts of information?
You never need to rest on one formula with email marketing. You have more flexibility than you may realize; use it to learn about your audience, to make improvements that help them and to improve your bottom line. Nicole Merrett is VP-CRM marketing at Sage North America (www.sagenorthamerica.com), a supplier of business management software and services for small and midsize businesses.
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