OTW 045 - The benefits of email marketing for e-commerce companies

In this episode of On the Winbox, Marc explains what the keys benefits of email marketing are for an e-commerce company. He also shares some advice for what you can include in your campaigns. 

If you have any email marketing questions that you'd like answering then make sure you send us your questions via our social channels:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WinboxLtd #WinboxWinners
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WinboxLtd/
Website: http://www.winbox.co/

I did the HubSpot Email Marketing Certificate, and here’s why you should too!

At uni, my life was consumed by further reading and a constant sense that there was always something else I should be doing to study towards my final marks. When I graduated, I did so with a huge sense of relief that I would never have to spend my free time further educating myself again. I would get a job, do my work, go home and focus my attention on other things. Down time is important, but learning is also about developing and bettering yourself. In my role at Winbox, I look after a client’s campaign and then analyse what worked and what didn’t. I have the skills and expertise to make sure our clients’ marketing makes an impact in a big way. But by developing my existing email marketing skills I could then, in turn, develop our client’s campaigns and better them into an even more engaging piece of marketing for their clients. Not only did it make sense to get myself certified, but I actually never really lost that itch to keep on learning and developing my marketing skills.

So a few other reasons as to why I did this certificate are as follows:

  1. HubSpot are, arguably, one of the biggest sales and marketing platforms out there. They know their stuff, they’re trusted and they're respected. If you’re going to get certified from anyone, it might as well be them.

  2. I put together the email campaigns for our clients, why wouldn’t I want to make sure that I’m following the best practices and therefore getting the best results for clients?!

  3. It took up an hour of my day for a couple of weeks, if that.

Marketing is a huge part of business, market yourself badly and it can have detrimental implications. With GDPR only a year away, not following best practices can be a huge price to pay, €20m in fact. The HubSpot certificate looks at how you can be compliant with your data, and what the best practices are to follow. Also, a lot of what was covered in the course are things already implemented in the Winbox process, so whilst completing it, it was a little extra reassurance from HubSpot that we were doing things the right way. Thanks HubSpot!

If you’re doing email marketing yourself, or are outsourcing it and just want to brush up on what it’s all about, then I’d highly recommend this certificate for you. I’d also be more than happy to answer any questions you might have on the certificate so please reach out in the comments box if you’d like to know more.

Email marketing for the financial sector: Red flags and golden eggs

Adestra’s 2016 Email Marketing Industry Census reveals that 22% of financial services firms have a team or individual dedicated specifically to email marketing - and that 65% of businesses in that situation rate email marketing’s ROI as excellent. It sounds great - yet Adestra also reports that despite delivering higher ROI than any other form of marketing, including SEO, email isn’t receiving a correspondingly high budget share or take-up. Around 28% of companies actually restrict their spend on email.

When we dig down, we can understand why. Compliance regulations for the financial sector are notoriously strict. We’d normally suggest avoiding direct promotions, instead adding value for your readers by demonstrating best practice or offering tips for resolving a situation - but that’s giving advice. Giving advice creates compliance issues which make this kind of content marketing challenging, at best.

This doesn’t mean email marketing doesn’t work for the financial sector. It means we have to get creative.

Golden eggs - what works?

Opinions on news are an excellent workaround. The compliance rules exist, in part, because financial services jargon isn’t easy for the lay reader to understand. You can, however, explain what the news means to your subscribers without offering advice on what subscribers in specific situations should do.

Industry round-ups are also good - you’re bringing together the news that matters to your audience, which they might have missed, but you’re only presenting it - not offering advice on what they should do with it.

Communication with your compliance team is still key, but only to make sure that you don’t stray into giving advice at all - it’s a check-and-avoid process rather than a full vetting.

Financial services can often feel faceless, lacking in personality. An address from the head of the business or a specific team member personalises the content you send, attaching a name and face to a routine communication. It also ticks a basic box of email marketing - making the customer feel like someone’s taken the time to contact them personally.

Finally, there’s automation. A personalised email related to the subscriber’s own policies and prior purchase/interaction behaviours. If they have a policy coming up for renewal, or they’ve asked for a quote and done nothing with it, or if there’s an option for cross-promotion (savings accounts to current account customers, targeting email openers and inviting them to download a banking app), a well-crafted, human-seeming email can wing their way with minimal effort from you.

Red flags - what doesn’t?

Guidance works. Advice doesn’t. Guidance is an overview of what's available, in strictly generic terms, whereas advice relates to someone's own circumstances and is covered by compliance regulations. Guidance is "here's some information on various types of investment", whereas "here's some information on various types of investment and the best type for different types of people" would be advice. Bottom line? Avoid specifics - even imaginary specifics.

Beyond the content itself, there’s a practical issue that needs addressing. Email marketing content is often ghost-written by people who can write a good email, but aren’t necessarily experts in the field they’re writing about.

We avoid issues here by ensuring that our writers get a good brief. The brief we hand to them has to identify the topic, why it matters to your business and to your subscribers, and what spin you’re putting on it. It also has to clearly frame the content tilt - the content your business can write that no other business can.

Ultimately, your business exists to solve problems - your email marketing briefs should be aimed at them too. Doing so in this indirect style while still offering value is a challenge - but a challenge is an opportunity for your business to show its capability.

To see what email marketing can do for a careful financial services firm, read about our work with Richard Higgs, founder of Wealth West Medical.

OTW 043 - The differences between cold and warm email lists

In this episode of 'On the Winbox,' Marc updates us on his charity cycle success and explains the differences between cold and warm email lists.

If you have any email marketing questions that you'd like answering then make sure you send us your questions via our social channels:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WinboxLtd #WinboxWinners
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WinboxLtd/
Website: http://www.winbox.co/

Email lessons from ecommerce: Repeat purchases

57% of email subscribers spend between 10 and 60 minutes a week looking through marketing emails. 69% of purchases by US adults are influenced by email marketing. Consumers use coupons or discounts that are emailed to them. Email is 40 times more effective than social media in acquiring customers.

The message is clear: when it comes to ecommerce sales and repeat purchases, email marketing is hugely influential.

We’ve been working with ecommerce clients for the last 12 months, and the needs, wants and preferences of B2C email marketers are very different to those in the B2B world.

Here are the four key things we’ve learned.

1. Make it regular.

In B2C ecommerce, the more frequent the emails, the better.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to what “regular” means, however: for different types of business, it could be monthly, fortnightly, weekly or even daily.

In the US in 2015, a survey by MarketingSherpa showed that 91% of people do want to receive promo emails, with “at least monthly” and “at least weekly” being the most popular choices.

In our experience with ecommerce brands, subscribers want to receive product emails - galleries of products that will give them inspiration for their next purchase, alongside competitions, offers and insights. While monthly emails are optimal for some of our B2B customers, we have tested both fortnightly and weekly options for our B2C brands - with weekly coming out on top for effectiveness.

Every industry, company and subscriber is different, though. While you may still be testing to understand your optimal frequency level, it’s worth telling subscribers roughly how many emails to expect and how often, so they can make an informed choice to sign up.

2. Combine three types of content.

While frequency is important, so is the message: there’s no point sending out weekly emails if you’re repeating yourself.

Our experience has led us to create three different types of mailer for our ecommerce clients, and the combination of all three has been hugely effective.

Transactional mailers, such as product showcases and sales mailers, highlight our clients’ key offerings to their customers - a popular choice for B2B and B2C campaigns alike.

A regular monthly or weekly newsletter gives you the chance to share updates with your customers and prospects, making them feel like part of a community which receives all the  important updates, offers and news.

The third mailer type is automation - automatic emails triggered by an event such as cart abandonment, or by a specific date, such as birthday emails. We find that sending an email two weeks before the customer’s birthday with a discount code or freebie keeps it separate from the numerous “on-the-day” emails that they’re likely to receive, and makes them feel special.

The value in sending these three mailer types is in driving repeat purchases - but in order to do so, your recipients need to want these emails. Email opt in is vital (especially with GDPR on the horizon), and personalised mailers based on previous behaviours and purchases can improve the response. Which brings us on to relevance...

3. Keep it relevant.

What makes ecommerce email subscribers open, click, and buy? Relevance.

Relevance is sending the right email at the right time - not just sending a blanket email to your entire subscriber list because it’s Wednesday, or because you have news. It’ll improve the customer experience - which is key to repeat purchase.

Understand your audience: their preferences, their purchase history, their place in the sale cycle, the previous interactions they’ve had with you, the time of year, whether there are special calendar dates (either generally, or special to them) coming up that will help you to tailor your message, your timing and your approach.

For an ecommerce email to be truly relevant, you’ll need to segment your database and choose your strategy accordingly: daily emails sent to a database member who requested monthly communication will not be relevant, and nor will sending promotions for formalwear to a customer whose last purchases have been workwear items.

4. Focus on reporting.

There’s no denying that click throughs and open rates are important, but with ecommerce email campaigns, it’s far more useful to have a view of the purchase cycle in its entirety. This means not treating your CRM and your email database as two separate entities - instead, combine the two for the maximum possible insight. Consider asking a few extra questions at sign-up - age, location, gender, interests - to make segmentation even easier, and to use your CRM to capture a wealth of data.

Analytics can help you to understand who’s buying off the back of email communication, what they’re buying - and therefore how you can target them.  Past searches, abandoned carts and purchase behaviour all add insight for further campaigns and sales promotions. Following the sale from start through to finish will ensure that your email campaigns are properly focused - and therefore that repeat purchases will be more likely.

Retail email marketing is very different from B2B campaigns. Email is a huge driver of success: keep it regular, relevant and reported - with the right content. It may seem like far more effort than the odd tweet or Facebook post, but it’ll be worth it for the results.

Looking for a fully managed email marketing service? Find out more about what Winbox can do.

Re-engagement campaigns: How to win back lost fans

It may be hard for some young ‘uns to believe, but marketing was a big thing even before Tim Berners-Lee fired up the internet. Big, but different – it was very much a one-way street, focusing on conversion through memorable, attention-grabbing campaigns rather than long-term engagement. Fast forward thirty years, and thanks to well-crafted email campaigns, great content marketing and the power of social media, it is engagement that is the marketing gold.

Yes, it’s still important that your marketing campaigns grab attention – that’ll get you a tranche of email subscribers, but then what? It’s not enough to lob an email over the fence to them every week if they’re not even opening it and engaging with the content. However, it is natural that, after an initial flurry of engagement with your brand, their interest could lapse.

Let’s take a look at how you can re-engage with these lapsed subscribers, and discover why encouraging some of them to unsubscribe may not be such a bad thing.

It starts with data

Step zero in any re-engagement exercise is to identify those subscribers whose interest has waned. Crack open your campaign reports and focus on those recipients who haven’t opened your emails in the last six months or so. These are the people who need a carefully crafted message to get them back on board. But what to say?

Right now, there is a trend for ‘what have we done wrong?’ emails that tug on the heart-strings, either by tapping into memories of bad break-ups or presenting images of sad-looking teddy bears. There is no doubt that this can be effective, connecting with the recipient on an emotional level – particularly with judicious use of subscribers’ first names. However, it is important to make sure that the reconnection message fits with the tone and style of your business – if your newsletter goes out to CFOs at blue chip professional services firms, a Love Hearts-themed tear-jerker may not be your best bet.

Emotionally charged content aside, make sure that your re-engagement emails link through to your contact preference centre. Let them pick the frequency of the emails they receive and let them tell you what topics they are interested in. If your customers are regularly deselecting certain types of email content or subjects, take the hint and focus your efforts elsewhere.

And yes, let your recipients unsubscribe…

It’s good to let go sometimes

As well as being the polite thing to do, offering an easy way for recipients to unsubscribe can have a positive effect on your email campaigns. Your stats for click-throughs and opens are being driven down by recipients who are genuinely not interested in your product or service. Beyond the stats, a dearth of click-throughs can affect your sender reputation, as an ongoing lack of engagement could see your emails routed to the spam folder. By removing the unengaged, your efforts can be focused more sharply on ensuring delivery to those subscribers who will engage when the message, the content or the time is right.

If you really want to keep them on-board, there's no denying that bribery is also a powerful weapon. Nothing re-engages quite like free stuff, be it a money off voucher, free delivery, or other goodies. However, don't fall into a cycle where the subscriber works out that if she ignores three emails, the fourth one will be a voucher - this will do nothing for your open rates.

Rather than be too profligate, also consider making the lapsed customer work for their freebies - a smartly crafted three-question survey that unlocks the voucher or discount code could give you some valuable insights as to why they had previously stopped engaging. Just be wary of offering 'more freebies' as an answer to the question 'what would you like to see in our emails?'.

Everybody wins

However you choose to draw people back in, you are very likely to see results. Why? Because the re-engagement email is a personalised message. It shows people that you have not forgotten them, even if they’ve forgotten you. It’s also a win/win situation – if they re-engage, that’s great, as you’re squeezing more value out of your mailing lists, but even if they unsubscribe, you are purging your list and may well see an increase in your click-throughs and opens overnight.

A successful re-engagement campaign is the big attention-grab all over again, but with little effort required. That’s something your marketing forefathers would have killed for in the 1980s.

Re-engagement efforts are part of our fully managed marketing campaign service – find out more here.

OTW 042 - How to re-market to an old email subscriber list

Do you have an email subscriber list that you have not contacted in a while? In this episode, Marc explains how you can reconnect with this list and start sending relevant and engaging campaigns to them. 

If you have any email marketing questions that you'd like answering then make sure you send us your questions via our social channels:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WinboxLtd #WinboxWinners
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WinboxLtd/
Website: http://www.winbox.co/

GDPR: What to do with your current data

GDPR is looming. As of the 18th May 2018, EU data handling rules will change - and even though Article 50’s now been triggered, UK businesses that send emails to EU email addresses will still have to comply.

But what exactly is GDPR? We’ve written a more detailed piece on it here, but here are the essentials.

Businesses will need to let their email subscribers know exactly what their personal information is being used for, and will need written consent (such as an opt-in form) from a person before the business can market to them. This consent needs to be recorded, breaches of data security need to be reported - and any business that fails to comply could face fines of up to €20m or 4% of their global turnover.

Compliance may be time-consuming (for many, it’ll mean asking existing subscribers to sign back up to email newsletters), but it’s well worth it. Email marketing continues to top the digital marketing ROI charts: it’s a key growth driver for businesses across industries. There’s no denying that it’s important to be GDPR-ready - and there’s plenty you can do both in the long and short term.

Playing the long game

In email marketing, long term relationships are key: they’re your chance to develop a rapport with your customers and prospects, keep your brand top of mind, and build trust.

In the long term, what’s going to make new subscribers opt in - and persuade existing subscribers to re-opt in - when business users receive an average of 88 emails per day?

The answer, quite simply, is value. Talk to your subscribers and find out exactly what they want from your emails - what would make them indispensable, readable and clickable. Tailor your emails to subscribers’ needs (which may mean segmenting your database), and they’ll stay engaged, making them more likely to re-opt in when the time comes.

Value also means you’ll create more of a relationship of reciprocity (which we delve into here). By giving your subscribers something of value to them, they’ll be more likely to buy from you in the future.

Of course, value is nothing new - it’s standard best practice in email marketing, and it’s certainly our ethos here at Winbox. Use GDPR to boost your campaign performance.

The here and now

In the short term, consider your engagement levels. Your email analytics will show how many of your subscribers engage with each campaign, as well as who’s not engaged for a while.

Why is this important? To prepare for GDPR, you’ll probably need to ask your subscribers to re-opt in. If they’re not engaging with you, they won’t see that ask, and they could well be lost.

This may not be of concern: after all, are subscribers who don’t engage really subscribers you want? It may be, though, that they’re not in the market for your product or service at the moment, but will reconsider you down the line - if you’re top of mind.

GDPR requirements are an opportunity to target lapsed readers with a re-engagement (or winback, or re-activation) campaign. These campaigns are designed to turn inactive contacts into active ones - and also to free your mailing list of dead addresses. You’ll need to set an objective (such as targeting those who haven’t opened your monthly emails in the last six months, increasing clicks, targeting those who’ve not purchased in a year or more) and think about how to target them. A “we miss you” subject line with the promise of a special offer, a “do you still want to hear from us?” campaign? You’ll be able to measure open and click rates (as well as unsubscribe rates), meaning you’ll (hopefully) re-engage some, and know to drop others from your list. As a starting point, you’ll find some great examples of re-engagement emails here
 

The key to a great email list is quality, not quantity. Market to those who would at least consider buying from you in the future. By combining short term plans with a solid long term strategy, your subscriber base may be lower - but more engaged than ever.

Looking to offer value to your email marketing list, or create a re-engagement campaign to win over inactive subscribers? Contact us to find out how we can help.

5 things to think about before you start an email marketing campaign

Before you start your email marketing

The UK is leaving Europe. Should Theresa May simply shut up shop and leave the EU without planning how trade, freedom of movement and other economic factors will work in future?

Of course not. After all: without a strategy, British business and society post-Brexit simply wouldn’t function.

Email marketing is no different. Salesforce research stats from 2016 show that 80% of marketers see email as core to their business. It’s an affordable, measurable, highly targeted marketing tool with potentially vast rewards. Campaigns must be executed properly to generate ROI, however. With no plan in place, your longer-term campaign results may leave you disappointed.

Here are five things to think about before you hit the ‘send’ button.

What’s the point?

What’s the purpose of your email campaign? Do you have a single, clear goal (with a clear call to action in the email itself) – such as improving retention, increasing sales, generating leads, or raising awareness of what you do? If not, choose one clear aim, rather than a muddeld, catch-all message. The purpose of your campaign should be straightforward, linked to your overall business goals, and measurable. If you can’t measure your performance, how will you know when you’ve achieved success?

Once you’ve defined the purpose of your campaign, think about what winning will look like: not just after your first email has been sent, but after subsequent campaigns three, six and twelve months down the line.

Consistency is king

Consistency and commitment are key to marketing success. Think about the brands you regularly use, both in your work and personal life – why do you use them? No doubt your choice is based on trust, authenticity and convenience.

Take mobile phones, for example. You may have chosen EE as your network provider when you signed your contract, and been perfectly happy with the service they’ve offered. But now your contract’s coming up for renewal, and you’ve just received an email from Tesco Mobile with a great offer that’s too good to turn down. EE, on the other hand, have sent you nothing since your first engagement with them.

This is where commitment comes into play. If a customer has bought from you in the past and been happy, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll buy from you again. Checking up on them, staying in touch and keeping them top of mind could well mean that they’ll keep you top of mind when the time comes. Be consistent: commit to fortnightly or monthly emails to capitalise on your customers’ good experience and keep your brand top of mind.

Craft clear, compelling content

Every single email marketing campaign should offer value to its subscribers. Value is all about first producing content your customers will want to read, and what your business wants to tell them second.

What will your readers get out of opening your email? Does the subject line entice them to open rather than deleting without reading? Are they receiving something exclusive, and something that benefits them?

There are many types of content that you could include in your email marketing campaigns, from subscriber-only offers to free whitepaper downloads. What’s important is that the content is well-thought out, well-crafted and well-written: spelling mistakes and poor English could turn your readers off and could see your email headed for the spam folder.

GDPR is looming

The new EU privacy regulation known as GDPR is on its way: a change that will (despite Brexit) have a significant impact on small businesses who rely on email marketing. It’s never too early to start planning: make the necessary changes to your email marketing efforts now, and you’ll save both time and hassle down the line. Ensuring you have everything in place to encourage organic sign-ups and introducing a double opt-in process will stand you in good stead for GDPR’s arrival – and a high quality subscriber list as a bonus!

Who are you talking to?

Earlier we spoke about mobile phones - we’re assuming you picked yours because of great service, a low price and being able to choose the phone you wanted. We might be wrong, though. And if we’re wrong, there’s no way we could market mobile phones to you in a way that you’d appreciate.

So: how well do you know your audience? And how much of this knowledge is based on assumption as opposed to fact?

Many small businesses fall into the trap of assuming that, because a customer has signed up to receive email communication, they’ll automatically be interested in every single thing the brand has to say. This isn’t the case: rather than talking about what you’re interested in, think about what they’ll be interested in.

There are plenty of ways to do this. Customer surveys will give you feedback straight from the horse’s mouth. Talking to your customers and prospects directly will give you some great content ideas and make them feel special (especially if you promise a prize draw for respondents). Make notes of the questions you hear on a day-to-day basis – chances are, other people will have similar questions too.

Regularly review your email marketing analytics to see which elements of each campaign have given you the results you identified in step one: this will help you improve your campaigns further.

Email marketing needs more than five minutes to pull something together and hit send. Sure, you might get a few opens or a few clicks, but a defined strategy is essential for maximum impact. As with Brexit, proper planning will bring the most positive results for all concerned.

Looking for an affordable and comprehensive marketing solution (including well-thought out email campaigns) designed specifically for small businesses? Check out the Winbox Machine.

Which social media channels are best for your business?

web-design-1953128_640.jpg

Social media channels are a great way to effectively promote your business and engage with your customers. The different channels offer paid and unpaid methods of communication, can behave as online crowdsourcing platforms and are fantastic at increasing engagement between brands and customers. As a small business your marketing budget might be somewhat limited, so how do you know which social media channels are best for you to work with? Below we've dissected some of the most popular channels and explained what benefits they could bring to your business. 

Twitter

Twitter is a fantastic platform for both B2B and B2C audiences. It has excellent unpaid features, and can be used effectively as a customer relations tool – allowing customers to tweet in issues they're facing and have them handled quickly and efficiently by the company. Twitter offers the opportunity to 'retweet' content - which, if used, will help to raise the visibility of your company and increase brand awareness. Twitter also offers a paid 'promoted tweets' feature which will allow you to target the audience you want to see your advert based on: demography, interests and geography.
 

Facebook

Facebook is one of the most popular channels for paid online advertising – due to its targeting features, which help to make adverts placed on the channel highly effective. Facebook also boasts an 8-9% click-through rate on its adverts, making the channel popular with marketers looking to demonstrate ROI. It is in many ways best suited to B2C businesses, offering opportunities for engagement with customers across – direct messaging and posts. Facebook also performs as a search engine, allowing users to look up topics in the search bar – which can be a great way to attract new customers, through the use of keywords.

Instagram

Instagram is continually developing its offering, from carousel adverts, to advertising within its newest 'story' feature. The channel is best utilised by businesses that are highly visual, or ones that are selling a product, as you can click directly through the post to shop the item you want. Due to its visual nature, an investment in decent photography will increase the chances of success on your Instagram channel.

With so many channels to chose from, social media can feel like an overwhelming place to start. By clarifying your target audience and tracking which channels they invest most of their time on and following the information above, you should be able to work out which channels will best suit your business.

What type of content should I include in my email marketing?

AdobeStock_114201313.jpeg

Ok, so you’ve realised that when it comes to ROI (return on investment), email marketing is king. With a general return of £30 for every 80p spent and an ROI of 3800%, it’s a form of marketing you can’t afford to ignore. But it’s not as simple as sending out a quick email to your mailing list - the content is key. What you include in your email has to be of worth to the customer, engaging and coercing them into making a CTA (call to action), whether it’s clicking through to your website, buying a product or signing up for a service. Here are a few tips about the type of content you could include in your email newsletters. 

Blogs

It’s always a good idea to include links to blogs on your website. If you can tell interesting stories about your industry, ones that strike a chord with the reader, you will increase your position as the thought leader in your industry. Remember, your blog post doesn’t have to sell your product. If you’re writing content on something that has relevance to your market and informs your audience, you will be enhancing your brand awareness and prestige. 
 

Offers

Discounts and offers on your products and services are always a good way to catch a large audience’s attention. Whether you’re giving 15% off a product, or letting people have one month’s free service to a subscription system, tell them about it in your email newsletter. People love free stuff, so offering discounts and services to people is a great way to build relationships with your customer base. 

Personalise your email

Even if you have a large email database, you can still personalise your emails. Recipients know that an email from a company isn’t directed solely at them, but if your language is personable and friendly, it will stand a greater chance of making a connection. Add some humour and make it read as if a lot of thought has gone into crafting an email that’s warm and charming, rather than a cold, generic send that sounds like it was thought up in a few minutes.

For more social media, blogging and email marketing advice, contact us at Winbox today.