While our business is building e-commerce sites for specialty retailers, we’ve prided ourselves on the fact that we don’t stop there. We make it our business to understand all aspects of the retail world, from soup to nuts. One area that has been a challenge for our retailers is email marketing. Unlike many of the big-boxed retailers, our retailers often don’t have the budget to hire someone to focus solely on their marketing efforts. They often have to find the time and come up with content on their own – while running their business at the same time.
For years we have been teaching our clients how to send effective email marketing campaigns and below we’ve compiled a list of simple rules for success.
The first question to ask yourself is, “What do I include in my email message?” Let’s get this out of the way immediately; I’ve found that it is generally a mistake for specialty retailers to offer a promotion or sale in every email campaign. Yes, including a coupon in your emails is a great way to increase your sales, but you need to be careful not to get carried away because it can be as addictive as crack. While you will see a nice bump in sales in the short-term, consumers quickly learn to wait for your next coupon before making their next purchase, which of course impacts your long-term profitability. Instead, our customers have found more success in spreading out promotions and making them random and unexpected.
Conversations with my clients always seem to go the same way at this point – they often seem at a loss because they feel like they have nothing to say or write about. This amazes me because we have great clients selling interesting and unique products. To get their creative juices going, I usually tell them a story about one of my clients who sent out a mailer about carving pumpkins. On the surface you might ask, “What does carving pumpkins have to do with selling goods online?” Everything! Not only did his customers absolutely love this mailer but it was a perfect fit with his business – housewares. The mailer was original, cute and showed off the personality of the owners; something that big-boxed retailers can rarely accomplish!
Next, I simply ask my clients about their products, brands or what they think the big trend will be this season. They have no problem answering these questions and they often glow as they talk about their designers and what they think will be hot this season. I sit back and listen and when they finally stop talking, I tell them they have just written a half dozen mailers. Really? Yes, really! Consumers are interested in knowing what you think, so use these emails to create a connection them!
For most retailers you can send out a mailer every week or every other week. We do have stores that are successful sending out emails multiple times per week, but you need to be sure it fits your demographic. In general, these clients usually have a younger customer base or sell products that are very trendy. If you fall outside of these criteria, then stick to every week or every other week – and if you follow the tips above, you’ll have plenty to write about.
I always advise my customers to be consistent with their mailers. Pick a day you want to send out your emails and stick to it. Yes, you can always send a special email right before, say Mother’s Day, but I would much rather see our clients send out an email on the exact same day and time. Why? Because the biggest problem with retailers, is well, retailers. Given their hectic schedules, it is easy to get distracted and the next thing you know, two months have gone by and no mailer has been sent. Instead, put it on the calendar and make sure it happens. You may want to write your next email campaign ahead of the due date so you don’t run out of time or get flustered thinking you have nothing to write about on the day it’s due.
Every single email you send out needs to be meaningful. Sending out emails without a clear message or meaning is frankly just wasting everyone’s time. I tell customers this all the time, but you’d be surprised how often emails are sent out with nothing more than a line of text, some products and really nothing of substance. Sometimes it’s hard to know what they are trying to say or promote. The take-away here: be thoughtful with your mailers and make sure your message is clear and understandable.
I recommend you stick to very simple HTML in your mailers and include at least a paragraph of text. If you follow these two simple rules your emails will have a far greater chance of making it past the various spam engines and into your customer’s inbox.
Finally, I suspect every email marketing program on the planet gives you the ability to test your mailer. Please use this feature to make sure your email looks great. Be especially careful with your spelling and grammar. One trick here is to read your mailer backwards, you’ll be surprised how many mistakes you’ll find.
Following these simple rules should help you improve your email marketing campaigns and in turn, your bottom line! And remember, as a specialty retailer, your size is not a liability, it’s an asset – relish in your uniqueness and creativity – and use that to send effective, successful email marketing campaigns.