Sometimes the best “word-of-mouth” is the word you yourself put there.
For a businessman it’s the words typed into the subject line of an email, intended for potential customers.
Finding the right, catchy phrases can be the difference in making a sale or not. And nothing spells “delete” faster than nondescript, says Barry Coziahr, an expert who coaches others on how to make the best of email marketing.
Coziahr’s company, Response Targeted Marketing, has been doing marketing for about eight years and Coziahr himself has been involved in such research years longer.
His company, based in St. Louis, offers free and paid consulting services and marketing training and helps local businesses build websites, online marketing campaigns and more. He’s the local representative for Constant Contact, one of the largest online marketing companies in the world.
He travels the metropolitan area, talking about the relevance of email marketing and social media to businesses. He spoke recently about both topics in presentations done for the Small Business Development Center based at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
With Coziahr, one theme is a constant, and that is getting customers to talk about you.
“Advertising helps alert you to the product, but word-of-mouth helps close the deal,” he said. “Fourteen percent of us trust advertising. That’s a pretty low number. But 77 percent of us trust word-of-mouth.”
Successful email marketing is a combination of having a well-crafted email and a healthy email list of customers. But it’s also a matter of determining when to send it, how often to send it and what to say so that it gets people’s attention.
Regarding the latter, a business email should come from the person who is most recognized in your operation. The more personalized and recognizable, the better.
“If they know who you are, they won’t consider you spam,” he said. Do not use a return address of ‘info@’.”
An email address should contain a full name of the sending company, not an abbreviation.
The first two words of the subject line are most important.
“The first two words need to pull me along. Don’t do, “March Newsletter.’ That’s pretty boring.
They’ll hit delete. The job of the subject line is to get people to open the email,” he said.
If by opening that email, people further click through to various websites, the email’s job has been done, he said.
If you have a newsletter with multiple topics, you can pick one of them and craft a related subject line, or you can send separate emails with separate subject lines and see which ones get the most reaction.
“You can start to test to find out what the popular subjects in your newsletter are, with a little bit of your own home-grown market research,” Coziahr said.
In much the same way you can address when to send out emails and how often. Most businesses send out marketing email once a month.
“But, really, emails should be sent when the sender is more likely to want the recipient to take action,” Coziahr said. “You can rarely promote too early, but often people promote too late.”
Here’s how to find the best day for sending: Divide your mailing listing into three groups. Choose three days to test, send the emails and see which day yields the best response.
You can further determine the best time to send an email by using the same process.
Some businesses are worried they might annoy customers by sending out too many emails. Coziahr said “allowed frequency” depends on the subject matter, the amount of interest and the content.
Some companies make the mistake of assuming that certain topics will interest customers on their list. A customer who likes receiving emails about artwork, for instance, may not want to receive email about home decor. Yet, the company assumes the mutual interest — and gets a wholesale “unsubscribe” as a result.
He suggests that an email use a formula of 80 percent/20 percent, content vs. advertising for any business email sent to contacts.
Coziahr offers a free ebook, “60 Ways to Build Your List,” which covers many ways you can get the email addresses of potential clients, everything from the fishbowl for business cards at the front counter to a much more simple approach.
“Fifty-seven percent of all people will give up their email address if you just ask them. You don’t even have to have a good reason, but if you have a good reason that number goes even higher,” he said.
That contact list will then grow each time one of your clients refers one of your emails to someone else.
“Your new best friends are ‘forward’ and ‘share’,” he said.
There is a distinct financial reward for the merchant who discovers the right combo of email marketing and potential clients. The idea, after all, is to get them to buy.
“You spend a lot of time, money, energy ink and such to get a customer and you want to stay in their minds. A repeat customer spends about 67 percent more than a first time customer, on average,” Coziahr said. “By the time most people have purchased from you 10 times, they have referred up to seven people.”
He said the estimate on return for email marketing is $35-plus for every $1 spent.
Many people are influenced by recommendations actually listed on an email, but no matter the content the critical element is keeping the reader’s interest. People get a lot of email and marketers have a lot of competition. Somebody sees one email more interesting than another, and they’ll read it first and possibly skip yours altogether.
“It’s called the shiny object syndrome,” he said.
So when do you stop sending emails to a nonresponding customer? Customers don’t always purchase things in a timely fashion. Sometimes it takes years of emailing to get someone in the door.
“Keep them on the list forever,” he said.
It takes “seven touches” on the average for people to make a purchasing decision, he said.
Constant Contact offers analytics as part of its service, which allows a company to see who is opening their emails and what is interesting them. The service also gives the user the ability to pass messages along — the digital version of “word of mouth.”
Some other recommendations:
- Use social media as a list-building tool.
- Emails should have both images and conversational text.
- Logos are things you want seen first are best placed left and center in an email
- Key actions must be “above the scroll line,” similar to “above the fold” on a newspaper page.
- Make all images clickable and with text labels
- Don’t be afraid to go mobile, since half of Internet access is now through mobile apps.
Merchants should not be afraid to be a part of their own marketing. Coziahr suggests email marketing include photos of people, like staff.
“Once in a while, pull back the curtain, show them a little bit of your life or the life of your employees. Personalize it. People want to get to know you,” he said. “It’s all about brand awareness, making yourself known.”
For more information on email marketing, Coziahr welcomes questions at responsetargetedmarketing.com. You can find his next talk at www.constantcontactstl.com