What’s the number one online converter of prospects to customers?

Social media? Nope. Facebook and Twitter are fantastic for raising awareness of your business, building an audience and generating engagement, but they aren’t as effective as this (seemingly old-fashioned) medium for conversion rates.

Paid search? Wrong again. Used intelligently, paid search campaigns can generate a fantastic sales return, but this marketing stalwart has got them beat.

So who’s the king?

Email.

A 2015 study found that 79% of agencies and 66% of companies rated email as the marketing channel that provided the best return on investment (ROI).

Email finished top overall in the poll, ahead of, well, everything else, including paid search (cited by 61% of agencies and 63% of companies), content marketing (62% of agencies, 58% of companies), mobile marketing (38% of agencies, 35% of companies) and social media (35% for both). Only SEO was rated more highly by companies.

Here’s the thing: speak to most organisations about email and they’ll tell you that, yes, of course they use it. They’re sending and receiving emails all the time. But there’s a big difference between the everyday use of business email and using email for business. The former is a communication medium, but the latter is a very powerful marketing and sales tool that is an essential part of modern digital marketing.

Sure, Instagram might be cooler. Facebook might dominate the headlines. And Google might make billions of dollars from search. But when it comes to generating new business, none of them are as effective as email.

Specifically: the email newsletter.

If you’ve been in business long enough there’s a good chance you’ve sent an email newsletter in the past. Possibly several. Maybe you saw a return, maybe you didn’t. if it was the latter, you probably got frustrated and stopped sending out newsletters, writing it off as something that no longer works. But like all the best digital marketing tools, to get optimal results from an email newsletter campaign there are a series of best practices, rules and guidelines that need to be followed.

1. Get Serious About Email Marketing

The emails you send at work are all managed by a software client, such as Microsoft Outlook or Google’s Gmail. These are perfect for everyday use. But to send campaigns, you need to invest in a dedicated online email marketing solution. Not only will these services allow you to send huge numbers of emails at a single click, they provide template support for design, list management, reporting and analytics.

Bottom line: you cannot do serious email marketing without signing up for an online email marketing solution. At Identity, we like MailChimp, but other companies are available.

2. Don’t Share News

What? It’s called a newsletter, right? What else are you supposed to write about? Here’s the problem with news: it’s out of date as soon as you’ve shared it. If your newsletter goes out at the end of January, telling people what happened at the Christmas party is the fastest way to get them to click on the “unsubscribe” button. It turns a newsletter into a snoozeletter.

Instead, write about what’s coming. What’s on the horizon at your business? What new products and services are being launched? What events are you attending? What customer successes and case studies can you share?

Most people sign up for newsletters to receive information. Keep them informed about developments and strive to make all content interest and relevant.

3. Design A Really Good Email Template

The look of your newsletter should be consistent month to month and it needs to look good. At the very least the design should be clean and elegant. It needs to capture the reader’s attention and retain it. As above, online email clients such as MailChimp have a huge number of off-the-shelf templates that you can use and customise, but you still need to have a good eye to make your newsletter really zing. If design is not your bag, it’s worth spending the money on somebody who really knows their stuff.

4. It’s All About The CTA

The call to action (CTA) is the focus point of your newsletter. It’s the one, main thing that you want the reader to do. For example, clicking on a new product image to go to that page on your website. While your newsletter will likely have multiple stories, the call to action will go right at the top and be given all of the attention, both in terms of design and placement.

Without a clear CTA, readers will be unsure about the next step. Give them too many options and you’ll lose them to choice paralysis.  Whenever you’re building a newsletter you need to figure out its primary goal, and that is what takes pride of place. Everything else is secondary, and flows around it.

5. Analyse, Analyse, Analyse

To get the most from your email marketing campaigns it’s essential that you take the time to analyse the data after each send. This should include monitoring basic metrics such as newsletter opening rates, clicks and website traffic, but also forwards, unsubscribes and bounces.

How does your data stand up against industry averages?
Is that CTA getting all the attention it deserves? If not, how could you better position the CTA image or change the wording around it for next time?

Is something else getting more clicks than you expected? Why – what can you learn from this?

Really delve into the data and analyse who exactly is clicking on your links as this is a great way to generate a list of leads for your sales team.

Finally, unless you’re losing huge numbers of people with every send, don’t concern yourself too much with unsubscribers. Think of your email list as a samurai sword, constantly being refined and improved. It’s far better (not to mention more economical) to have a small or medium-sized email list with high engagement rates than a huge list where nobody really cares. Focus on keeping your list subscribers informed and entertained and the rest should take care of itself.