I recently sat down with DJ Kepler, our eMarketing manager here at Moving Targets, to get his take on how small and medium-sized businesses should utilize their email marketing for Valentine’s Day, how to learn from January’s results and why businesses need to connect with subscribers beyond the inbox.
Q: Valentine’s Day is coming up – how can SMBs capitalize on this with their email outreach?
A: Valentine’s Day is an excellent holiday to send themed offers. Need ideas? Restaurants can offer specials (a free dessert to share, BOGO cocktails, etc.) for this popular date night. Pizzerias can usually count on a good response by offering heart-shaped pizzas, a fun dinner for kids whose parents plan to go out for the evening. Car washes and auto repair shops can send a special about getting vehicles ready for spring or even an exclusive service package for subscribers’ favorite car-lovers.
Don’t be afraid to try out an anti-Valentine’s Day special either! There are plenty of people out there who loathe this so-called “Hallmark Holiday” and would be happy to take advantage of a deal that isn’t beating them over the head with romance.
Q: Last month, we talked about how January and February are a good time to try new email engagement tactics. How should SMB owners go about taking what they learned in January to optimize their experimentation in February?
A: Now that we’re a few weeks into the year, it’s a good time to examine anything new you’ve tried. Take a handful of emails from January in which you’ve branched out a little from the norm, and examine your open, click-through and redemption rates. Compare these numbers versus last year’s overall average.
While I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to test variables until you find what works best for your company and its subscribers, you must remember to compare your tactics on as even a playing field as possible before coming to any steadfast conclusion. Emails are super dynamic, so do a couple of analyses using all of the variables that influence your outcome before you declare a winner. Take things such as subject line, send time, offers, database segment and actual email content into account. It’s not apples to apples if you got a 40% open rate on a very niche email campaign versus a 10% open rate on one sent to your entire database.
Does that all seem overwhelming? Make a fresh start in February and resolve to engage in a smarter email marketing strategy. If you want to try two different subject lines, do an A/B split test to the same database (sent at the same time) to see which performs better. If you’re more interested in determining which offer gets the highest redemption rate, do another A/B split and make sure you’re sending to the same database (with the same subject line); only change the content within the email body. To get a really accurate idea of what’s working and what isn’t, it’s crucial that you only manipulate one or two variables at a time.
Q: Email automation services are growing and can save a lot of time for marketers, but their use may also result in less personal correspondence. How should companies go about finding a balance?
A: The more data small businesses can collect about customers, the more they can segment and personalize their emails, and the better response they’ll get. Because of this increased return, businesses will probably lean more and more on this type of outreach in the future. That being said, however, email marketing should never act as a replacement for good ol’ fashioned customer service.
There’s no debating that email is a key piece to any smart marketing strategy and is necessary to any business’s future. However, it’s important to remember that, for the most part, it’s a one-way street of communication that works best when it’s part of a larger strategy. The majority of emails don’t spark major conversations or elicit an onslaught of personal response, and they certainly aren’t an open social forum, so it’s crucial for companies to connect with customers beyond the inbox through other means too.
How can a small business successfully accomplish that? Make sure your email outreach is supported by an active social media presence. Even more important? Make sure you and your employees are engaging customers whenever you make contact, whether that be in person, on the phone or via email. Be friendly and inquisitive, helpful and interested. You want your customers to feel like you actually care about them as people and don’t just see them as an email address to market to.