Gini Dietrich

Using Email Marketing

By: Gini Dietrich | June 2, 2010 | 

Communication and marketing via the web are quickly becoming one of the more powerful tools in business today. Because of its global reach, its efficiencies, and the ability to make it work for you while you sleep, the Internet is more effective than any of the traditional tools we’re accustomed to using.

Enter the enewsletter, or email marketing. According to The State of Retailing Online 2009: Marketing report, 89 percent of retailers cited email as the most successful marketing tactic overall. The benefits of email are just as great for B2B businesses. According to, email marketing delivers sales at an average cost per order of less than $7, as compared to $71.89 for banner ads, $26.75 for paid search, and $17.47 for affiliate programs.

A friend of mine, Jon Buscall, who is a PR pro in Sweden, recently wrote about things to consider when using email marketing in your business. Before beginning an email campaign, he suggests creating goals to measure the following:

* Conversion rate
* Open rate
* Traffic
* Click-throughs
* Increased sales

All of these can be measured through Constant Contact (or your newsletter vendor of choice) and Google Analytics.

If you’re just beginning a new email campaign and don’t have a benchmark, then your goals should be a percentage of the industry standard to get you started. Google “your industry + newsletter open rate standards” and you’ll find articles that give you standards for your industry.

Now you’re ready to create content for your email newsletter. One thing to keep in mind: The content must be valuable to the recipient, or you’ll miss your conversion and open rate goals. This is not about you. This is about the value, credibility, and thought leadership you bring to the people in your database.

Your content should do the following, according to a survey completed by MarketingSherpa:

* Provide links to relevant content;
* Provide the ability to navigate from within the email to more detailed content;
* Highlight key words and points; and
* Provide well thought-out and organized thinking.

Let’s explore what each of these means.

1. Provide links to relevant content. I’m a big believer in karma and that, if you scratch others’ backs, they’ll do the same for you. Just like I’ve done in this article, find content that supports your thinking and link to it so your readers have additional content to read, listen to, or view. Not only will it make you visible to those you hope to influence, it will add credibility to your own thinking and will enhance your search engine optimization.

2. Provide the ability to navigate from within the email to more detailed content. This is where I recommend you use your website and/or blog. If you have a blog, use one of the newsletter widgets to pull in your most popular posts for the past month. This automatically teases with a few sentences and provides a link directly back to your blog. If you don’t have a blog, send people to your home page by creating links that direct to it.

3. Highlight key words and points. It doesn’t matter how educated your audience is, people spend an average of 96 seconds scanning something – whether it’s emails, blogs, newsletters, or articles—to decide if they want to invest more time reading. Grab them by drawing the eye to important words and phrases to intrigue them just enough to want to read more.

4. Provide well thought-out and organized thinking. All of your content should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. It should have clearly delineated sections with headlines and, in some cases, subheads. And it should be cleanly formatted so it’s easy to read quickly.

No matter how educated your audience is, you should always write at an eighth-grade level. Not because your audience reads or thinks at that level, but because people are consuming a lot of media and they don’t have time to dig through your heady topics or 15-syllable words. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS!).

The same MarketingSherpa survey shows that people don’t care about:

* Interactivity;
* Graphics;
* Advanced customization;
* Less content;
* Advanced delivery timing; and
* Social networking links.

Focus on the basics, get them right, exceed your goals, and then add bells and whistles.

What else would you add?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Gini, thank you for continuing to provide such rich resources to those of us trying to jump into all these communication channels on our own. I have had my email campaign on the back burner for months. These specific keys may just unlock the binds of indecision that seems to keep me from forward progress. You’ll know I’ve succeeded and you’ve created a star pupil when you see something that meets all these objectives arrive in your in box soon…well…before the end of the quarter…third quarter is, of course, the quarter to which I refer.

    Thank you!

  • I love a good email drip campaign. Make me anticipate your emails the way I anticipated each new episode of Lost, and I’m yours. Consumers know your email is designed to sell them something — better make it compelling!

  • It’s hard to argue with numbers, especially conversion and clickthrough rates. There is no denying that email campaigns are successful if pulled off correctly, however I was presented with an interesting point while discussing landing pages the other day. A fellow on the other end of the wire reflected that with so many people doing landing pages or sales pages that require an email address and name in exchange for the inevitable “free” offer, we might be approaching what he referred to as “email auto-responder hell.”

    After pondering this for some time it occurred to me that I receive 45 emails each day (on average) that are automated as part of some professional newsletter, sales letter, etc. I delete the majority of them before even opening… and I don’t think that I am the only one.

    My concern is this: With so many companies out there engaging in email campaigns (especially auto-responding emails), could we be approaching critical mass soon when this process is rendered useless?

  • Curtis, it’s a great thought, and one I think about all the time. When we do our newsletter, we spend an inordinate amount of time making sure it’s value-driven and provides something of us to our readers. I, like you, delete an enormous amount of automated newsletters, but as I think about it, it’s because they all sell wares. They don’t provide me useful tools or tips. I think that’s the driving force: Think marketing vs. sales.

  • One of the major challenges to this method is competing with the large volumes of other emails the target audience is already getting. With some other marketing methods, there is a more captive audience.
    The marketing email needs to show it’s differentiating value immediately at first glance, otherwise it’s too easy for them to hit the delete key …

  • I was thinking about this today funnily enough after listening to the latest Ductape Marketing Podcast, which took up the whole issue of email marketing.

    I find the most successful strategy comes through using a lot of the (great) tips given above; however, it’s also a case of delivering emails that don’t actually look like direct marketing. With one client I’ve found we get much beter results avoiding heavy html mails that “look” like adverts. Reading multi-columns in email isn’t second nature to a lot of people.

    In a focus group we ran we discovered that a lot of people just wanted great content, delivered as if it was a personal email to them in single column like “normal” mails.

    I guess the bottom line is test and tweak to see what fits with the customer.

    • Interesting, Jon. We just sent our first newsletter (in seven months) today and, though it’s chock full of information, it definitely falls into the multiple column family. I wonder how we could deliver the same content, in a normal looking email, that didn’t seem overwhelming?