small business concerns with email marketing

A research report conducted by Hurwitz & Associates and sponsored by Campaigner Associates on email marketing shows the widespread use of email marketing:

  • 46% of small businesses are using email marketing;  and 36% plan to start in the next 12 months.
  • Larger companies that have been in business longer are more likely to use email marketing than smaller, newer firms — up until they are 5 years old, when the trend starts going in the other direction as they look to deploy a broader marketing automation solution that incorporates email marketing.
  • On average, email marketing accounts for about 15-22% of the total marketing budget for companies that use it.

The study also shows that there are challenges, including:

  • fear that customers will perceive the email as spam.
  • fear that their messages get filtered out.
  • fear of poor response rates.

5 Tips For Email Marketers

Corey Eridon‘s Hubspot post, 8 Dangerous (But Common) Misconceptions About Email Marketing, addresses some of these challenges by sharing some of their insights about email marketing. Here are 5 key lessons:

1. How Do You Avoid SPAM Filters?

Although email marketers try to avoid certain words, particularly in the subject line like “Free,” “Cash,” “Quote,” and “Save,”  this practice derives from days gone by when email spam was more numerous. Since that time, spam filters have gotten far more sophisticated at identifying spam messages and senders, and look far beyond the email subject line. A test showed that the inclusion of the word “Free” did not impact the delivery of the email message.
To increase the likelihood of getting into inboxes, consider the importance of your sender reputation. Hubspot shares some good tips on “How Marketers Can Avoid Those Dreaded Email Spam Traps” and how to remain CAN-SPAM compliant.

2. Do People Who Opt-in Really Want to Hear From You?

Surprisingly, not everyone who opts in wants to receive your emails. Unsubscribes are not a reliable measure of whether your email contacts want to hear from you. Email engagement is also important. There are several reasons unengaged people fail to unsubscribe:

  • Some people may have opted in with a differing expectation of what your emails would be. After the first few emails, they lose interest, but may not get around to unsubscribing.
  • Some contacts read your emails but eventually become disengaged, and also don’t bother to unsubscribe from your emails.

The solution is to periodically monitor email engagement, attempt to re-engage those who aren’t engaged, and cleanse your list of those who don’t respond to the re-engagement campaign. Hubspot’s post here it here provides a process you can follow. It’s good to have unsubscribes instead of frustrated subscribers who just mark you as spam. A rate of generally under 1% helps you keep a healthy list

3. Is Email Just a Lead Generator?

While email is a is a nurturing tool  that helps to convert leads into qualified leads, it also generate net new leads? Because emails are often shared to recipients who are not on your list, you can include a lead generating call-to-action to create opportunities to generate a new leads. Including forward and social sharing buttons in your email messages, can be fery effective.

There are also cross lead opportunities, because recipients may only be subscribing to receive email notifications when you publish new blog posts, but haven’t opted in to invites to a webinar. Emails alerting them subscribers to a new blog post can also include a lead generating call-to-action, upgrading passive subscribers to leads.

4. Should Emails Be Highly Designed?

Benefits to sending plain text or simply designed emails include:

  • The recipient doesn’t feel like he or she is being marketed to. Tests conducted by Hubspot find that  certain email list segments show better response rates to these than to HTML messages.
  • It’s easier for the email message to render. The more elaborate the design elements the more potential loading problems there can be, and some may not render well or just take too long to load on a mobile device.

A good rule of thumb is to start simply, and test more sophisticated design elements incrementally for their impact on your conversion rates.

5. How Much Do Open Rates Matter?

The email open rate metric does not really tell you how many on your list actually opened your email. Email open rates are unreliable:

  • Outlook and increasingly other email clients block imges by default. An email is recorded as opened when an image in that email is downloaded, so blocked images do not record opens.
  • Mobile devices often default to a text format for emails in which images aren’t automatically downloaded, which will also result in a decrease in open rate.

Better metrics are clickthrough rates on the email’s calls-to-action, and leads generated from that email send.

While open rate isn’t a reliable email marketing metric to gauge how many people are opening your emails, it can still be used as a comparative metric to tell you what subject line people are more likely to open, for instance, so you can segment and compare the open rates