Email marketing is basically a targeted mass-mailing that is done via email to your ideal customer base.
In order to attract new customers, introduce a new set of products or services to an existing customer base and keep your customers informed, ongoing communication is needed and email marketing serves that purpose perfectly.
Targeted Email Not Spam
Gone are the days when you could buy mega lists of 100,000s of emails in a spreadsheet from a provider, and then ping those email addresses your message without them having heard of you before (otherwise known as cold emailing).
If you do this, then you are considered a spammer and what you are sending is spam, bulk mail, unsolicited email, basically, the main enemy of all things virtue and life in general.
Instead you need to “build” your email list with the names and email addresses (at the very minimum) of the people who either already buy from you or you would like to hear from you.
Unsolicited email is just icky and now it’s very much against the law.
The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR) cover the sending of marketing emails and the legislation states that organisations must only send marketing emails to individuals if they have agreed to receive them, except where there is a clearly defined customer relationship.
So in short: only send emails to the people that gave you permission to receive them.
This means that when your email ends up in their inbox they want to open it and you’re not adding to the unsolicited digital noise we all receive daily.
Why Not Do It Yourself?
So why not just use your personal email to send emails to your list like your Gmail, Hotmail or company email account?
In the early days of email marketing, that’s exactly what people did.
They would gather all their emails into some primitive version of a spreadsheet (but this would need to be GDPR compliant these days!), fire up some mail merging program, hook it up to their corporate mail system and voila, thousands of emails were flying away.
Today, the scenario is certainly possible, but you would have to build some opt-in / opt-out system to make it very easy for your audience to unsubscribe (as this is also law) and you’ll have a hard time formatting your emails to appear attractive and look good when your user receives it.
I struggle to get my email signature to look good or having my images embed into an email that I send rather than being attached and the email appearing blank by the time the user receives it.
You’d also be hard pressed to find an email hosting provider that would let you do this enmasse.
Lastly, the process of sending thousands of emails and managing lists, subscribing and unsubscribing people is tedious and just plain annoying and you need to be hot on GDPR compliance to ensure that you don’t leave that spreadhseet of emails in the printer tray of your office and open to abuse by anyone who might want to steal that data.
The only way to do it is with a maximum degree of automation, or, the better solution – to outsource to a company that does it professionally and can recite all of the regualtion in their sleep and have you sleep well at night knowing that you are not annoying your email list and that their emails are safe.
What to look for in an email marketing company?
1. Automating Your Subscribe and Unsubscribe Requests
Many email marketing companies will provide you with exact HTML code you need to paste to your site to have a subscription form on your web site.
The better services also provide a link at the bottom of each email that enables subscribers to update their information or unsubscribe from a list, automating everything for you.
2. Personalisation of Emails
Another powerful feature of many email marketing services is the ability to use mail merge capabilities to personalise each email that you send.
The better services allow to have custom fields, additional to the standard first name and last name.
3. Bounceback Email Handling
Bouncebacks are emails that are sent to email accounts that no longer exist or are full, blocked, etc.
Essentially, you’ll get a response stating that your message did not make it.
All email list management software programs are able to manage subscribe and unsubscribe requests and send out messages, however without integrated bounceback email handling all the non-deliverable emails will be sent back to you, a rather big nuisance if your list is large.
Ideally, the email software you use will be able to manage your bouncebacks for you.
Whenever a bounceback is received, the software makes a note of the address and if another bounceback is received the email address will be sent to a list of dead addresses.
This remove capability is extremely important since if you continuously send out emails with many bouncebacks you may be blacklisted as a spammer and this is something you really want to avoid at all cost.
4. HTML Email
The ability to send out HTML emails has been around for quite some time.
Most email marketing companies support the ability to send out messages that include graphics and formatted text. This is surely something you’ll want to look for.
However, not all of your users have the ability to view email messages in HTML format.
This percentage is usually between 10-20%. Instead of seeing your aesthetically pleasing email they might see a string of meaningless code.
Using most email list management programs, these 10-20% of users will open up emails from you and be very inclined to call you a spammer.
To avoid this, look for companies that use multi-part MIME to send out messages. When you send an HTML email in multi-part MIME, users who do not have the ability to view HTML messages will receive the email in the usual text format.
So who should you use?
Do your homework, read reviews, eventually, make use of a trial account and see if it fits your needs.
There is a lot of choice out there:
…however to make your life easier, I can recommend starting out with Mailchimp if you’ve never used an email marketing tool before.
It has 12 million customers and a market share of 60% so you can assume that they have a good reputation (source).
Over 340 billion emails were sent from the platform in 2019!
They have the systems in place to ensure that your users have to give their permission before they can join your list and they protect your user data on their servers using 24 hour security and biometric scanners. To be honest all email marketing providers have this nowadays but it should make you feel secure and more importantly, that you’re not breaking any laws.
It has an easy onboarding system and email series to get you started, so all you should be thinking about is how to convince users to join your email list and what to write in your next email.
It’s also free up to the first 200 subscribers which is great for small businesses just starting out.
It also has one of the best animations ever of a sweaty chimp finger appear when you’re just about to send an email just to remind you to double check everything before you press the send button.
If that’s not convinced you then I’m not we can be friends.
I hope that has helped clarify the very basics around email marketing and given you some good legal resources to brush up on before you make the start.