If you have an online business and you are not using it to build an email marketing list, then you are missing out on one of the most effective marketing channels at your disposal. In this article, we’ll explain why email marketing can benefit online businesses and give you some tips on how to start building up your email list.
Why email lists are beneficial for online businesses
For many online businesses, the initial impetus is to boost traffic and get as many visitors to your website as possible. Unfortunately, as your conversion rates will probably show, the vast majority of visitors will be transient browsers engaged in a spot of site hopping; only a small percentage of them will convert into customers.
Some of those transient customers, however, are potential customers of the future. If you can turn them into email subscribers, you have the means to bring them back to your site at a later date.
Once a visitor signs up, you don’t need to wait in hope for them to revisit your website; instead, you can target them with much more control by sending information directly to their inbox. You can promote new products, sales and other campaigns whenever you want, whilst keeping them engaged with interesting and helpful blog posts.
One of the other big attractions of email marketing is that it is free. It costs nothing to communicate with 5,000 email subscribers. How much would you have to spend in PPC fees to get that same information to the same amount of people? Even at 50p a click on Adwords, that would be £2500 and it might take some time to achieve. With an email list, everyone gets the message at the same time.
Should you use email marketing? There are many websites out there with hundreds of thousands of email subscribers. The potential can be enormous.
Essential elements for setting up an email subscriber list
In its simplest form, you need just two add-ons for your website: an email sign-up form and newsletter software.
An email sign up form, which most website templates have built-in, lets users subscribe to your emails or newsletters. It usually requires them to supply their name and email address which is then added to a mailing list in your website’s database.
Sign up forms can be simple, like ours which just asks for an email address, or they can be more elaborate. Many websites also use pop-up sign-up forms.
Newsletter software is the powerhouse behind your email marketing and good software will have many useful features. You can create automated newsletters which will arrange your latest posts into a themed, branded template and send them out for you. Once you have done the initial setup, it will do this automatically on specified days of the week or month without you having to create each newsletter separately.
In addition, you can create one-off newsletters advertising new products or promotions and send these to your customers. You can also set up an email campaign with a string of emails going out at regular intervals, this can be done as a follow-up to a sale in order to promote linked products. For example, if a customer just bought a camera from your site, you could send them an email a couple of weeks down the line promoting your digital printing service.
Some newsletter software also has inbuilt analytics which can let you know how well your newsletters or emails are working. It will tell you what percentage of emails were opened, how many were clicked on and whether anyone unsubscribed.
Perhaps one of the best functions of good newsletter software is the ability to create multiple lists so that you can add different users to different groups and use custom targeting for each. The ability to do this well may depend on the information you ask for during sign up or on using different sign-up forms on different parts of your website. For example, if you had a clothing website, you could have three different sign-up forms, one on menswear, one of womenswear and one on childrenswear – each creating a different email marketing list focusing on each of the three areas of your business.
How to increase newsletter sign up
Having a newsletter subscription form does not guarantee that you will get lots of people signing up. Whilst some visitors will sign up because they enjoy reading your blog or want to know more about your products or services, others will need to be enticed.
For many businesses, this means offering something in return for the subscription. This is often a discount on the first purchase or access to information (Sign up and get our free eBook!). The enticement can be anything: free samples of your products, newsletter updates, regular vouchers, etc. You can set up your newsletter software to take care of your offer – as soon as someone signs up, a confirmation email can be sent containing a discount code or a link to an online document which they can download.
Before thinking of what to offer, you should always look at your analytics and see which parts of your website get the most visits. Making an offer around these areas will often lead to the highest sign-up rates.
Choose a helpful web host when you use email marketing
When using newsletter sign-up forms it’s important that you choose a web host that can provide adequate security. Spammers and hackers will try to sign-up with fake email addresses in order to gain access to the back end of a website where they can do enormous damage.
If a website has a lot of email subscribers or intends to have a lot, then it’s vital to have a web host that can provide the capacity to store lots of user information and allow you to send high volumes of emails without affecting the performance of the site itself. You can send emails directly from your website or you can choose a software provider, like Mail Chimp, as a third party solution. Whilst some web hosts can limit the number of emails you can send from your website, you usually get to send them for free; third party providers allow unlimited emails to be sent, but they do charge for the privilege.
Newsletters and email marketing can be highly effective tools for online businesses. If you are intending to use them, check that your e-commerce hosting package provides the capacity and security you need and ensure you use good quality sign-up and newsletter software. You also need to think carefully about what you can offer your visitors in order to entice them to sign-up.
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