Just to give you the heads up – this post is part 1 of a 2-part comprehensive guide to ecommerce marketing for Productpreneurs. (You can find Part 2 over here.)
As a Productpreneur selling physical products online, one of the highest-impact marketing strategies you can have in your toolkit is email marketing.
And believe me, when you master the art and science of using email to generate sales on your website, you will always be able to make money.
So in this mega blog post, I’m going to go into detail about how you can learn and implement this highly effect sales-generating strategy in your business.
If you’re keen to grow your sales online working smarter, not harder, then read on…
There are three ways to grow sales online:
- Increase the number of customers,
- Increase the average transaction value, or
- Increase the number of transactions per customer.
And what is the one thing those three have in common? Customers.
In order to increase sales and grow your business you HAVE to have a customer-centric focus – and the best thing about a solid email marketing strategy is that it can focus on all three areas simultaneously!
Obviously to execute on an email marketing strategy you need to utilise some technology (my email marketing application of choice is Infusionsoft, but there are plenty of options out there).
And whilst you’ll need to integrate your application of choice to your website shopping cart in order to make the most of these sales-generating email marketing strategies, at the end of the day your emails will only be as successful as the content you put into them.
Think of email marketing almost like sending your peeps a little ‘love note’
If you’re in business for the long haul then you can’t devote your entire email marketing schedule to asking and taking all the time. Only asking for the sale is the fastest way to burn out your list. You’ve also giving value to your audience as well.
So email marketing is about building relationships – showing not just how much you want to impress your customers (be like the date, telling their best stories and funniest jokes!), but also how well you understand them by delivering up content and offers that are perfect for your audience.
(For more information about how to figure out what content and offers will be perfect for your audience, you might like to check out my previous post which is all about the Customer Buyer Journey.)
If you approach email marketing like this, you’ll be vastly more successful:
- You’ll create better promotions that sell more products.
- You’ll nurture your email subscribers more effectively, leading to increased sales over time.
- You will tailor your emails more precisely to the different needs of your customers (segments of your database), which also results in increased sales.
Email marketing is no longer about broadcasting the same special offers to your entire list all the time. This approach is just not that effective anymore – it’s the fastest track to training your list that your emails are largely irrelevant to them, making them feel spammed. Not cool.
There’s a lot more to email marketing for eCommerce stores and Productpreneurs who sell online than simply sending a weekly email! (Check out my free worksheetto help you construct better email marketing campaigns.)
OK let’s get on with some how-to’s then shall we?
Part 1: The Perfect eCommerce Email
The From Name
The ‘From’ name is the name that appears next to the email address. It looks like this in your inbox:
…and this when the email is open:
Unless your personal name is your brand name then it’s better to go with your brand name. I know for me personally, I get so many promotional emails and half of them are from people whose names I don’t know, so I just don’t open them.
Secondly, as MailChimp discovered in a comparison study, if your email subject line identifies the company name as well as clearly describes the subject of the email, your open rates can improve by 50-70% compared to those that are vague, cute or otherwise unclear. But rather than using up characters in your subject line – include your brand (or company) name as the ‘From’ name.
But further to this, take a look at both of these examples – these two both stand out in my inbox, and I think it’s because they’ve injected a little bit of personality and a few warm and fuzzies (hugs, kisses and hearts anyone?).
The From Email Address
A really, really BIG no-no is to send your marketing emails from a ‘no reply’ email address! Don’t make it harder for your customers to get in touch with you by forcing them to click through to your website contact us form.
All this serves to do is to make people feel unwanted and unwelcome, like you don’t want to talk to them. Nine times out of 10, people won’t bother – instead, they’ll go and shop elsewhere.
So, dead obvious solution here – send it from a real email address and encourage people to hit ‘reply’ if they want to ask you a question!
The Subject Line
Let me ask you – what is the point of having a huge list of email subscribers if no-one opens your emails?
As advertising guru David Ogilvy once said, “On average, five times as many people read the headline as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
The same goes for emails – the subject line is your heading.
And it’s been proven over and over again – if there is ONE part of your marketing emails that you should spend the MOST time finessing – it’s your subject line.
Check out this graph that illustrates the impact of split testing subject lines compared to other split tests, such as time of day sent, call-to-action and so on.
Bottom line is, don’t spend hours fussing over your design, time of day, or call to action. Spend most of your time crafting a highly enticing subject line – you want it to grab people’s attention fast, and increase their desire to click through and find out more.
Avoid Sales-y Words
As much as we know that scarcity or fear of missing out is an incredibly powerful tool for generating sales, there are a couple of big problems in using words such as ‘Free’, ‘% off’ and so on.
Firstly, it’s highly likely words like these will be flagged by your recipients’ spam filter, causing your email to end up in their spam folder rather than inbox.
And secondly, it’s pretty hard to stand out from the crowd if you’re saying the same thing as everything else. Bear in mind that the average adult receives 147 emails PER DAY, so to cut through the noise you need to be different!
Mix it Up
As my clients and students have heard me bang on about until I am hoarse – people do not subscribe to email newsletters anymore. So please, please, do not call yours that OR have subject lines that are like a series – for example, ‘Newsletter update #58’ (and so on).
Similarly, don’t re-use subject lines or make them too similar to each other. Email programs and spam filters look out for things like this, so it can affect deliverability. Not to mention, being too same-same will not continue to capture the attention of your audience over time!
A few other things to remember with subject lines:
- Shorter is better (50 characters or less)
- Have you tried asking questions?
- Don’t be in a rush to promote something (no ALL CAPS, exaggerated promotional phrases, and go easy on the exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
- No click-baiting – if you mislead your audience once, they probably won’t forgive you…
- And use urgency, but if you over-do this tactic (like being always on sale), then that will be the shortest road to training your audience to wait to buy until your next sale.
Do you know what a pre-header is? This is the text that appears in your email inbox next to your subject line. Most people would read this immediately after reading your subject line, so it plays an important role in determining whether they’ll open the email, so you want to get it right.
Unfortunately, a HUGE proportion of business owners leave the words “View email in browser” as the only pre-header text! Not overly enticing, right?
Do yourself a massive favour – delete that line of text and replace it with something that makes sense to your audience.
OK so coming from a branding and design agency background myself, I used to think it was incredibly important to get quite fancy with the design – you know, make the promotional email look like a gorgeous digital brochure or catalogue. And while once upon a time this would have totally improved conversion rates, it’s no longer the case.
These days, when it comes to the design of your eCommerce marketing emails, less is more.
Less images. Less fancy design templates. Don’t over-style it.
On the flip side of the coin – if you send your email as 100% text with no branding elements altogether, it’ll probably get marked as spam because people won’t know immediately who the email is from.
But if you go too heavy on the fancy design – gorgeous images, animated GIF’s, heavily styled layouts – your email is also likely to be picked up by email algorithms and sent to the promotions tab or folder.
Striking a balance may feel a little like walking a tight-rope, but aim to keep it simple enough so that it has a somewhat personal feel, and fancy enough to get attention without triggering the promotions tab (or worse, the SPAM folder!)
What does your email look like when your email program settings set to NOT automatically download images – does your email make sense if the images are nothing but white space with a fine black lined border? What alt-text can you insert with your images so the email makes sense if that is all people can see?
Check out this example. You could be forgiven for not knowing who this was from! By the time it even gets to the point of the email, the audience is probably already lost. They’re not gonna scroll down that far to find something of interest.
Remember, people have an attention span shorter than a goldfish! And when you’re competing against an average of 146 other emails a day arriving in your audience’s inbox, you have to respect people’s time and get to the point quickly and clearly.
This example is better – makes perfect sense with and without the image.
Which brings me to…
We already spoke about testing subject lines, but it’s also incredibly important to test-send your email.
At the bare minimum send it to yourself – check which folder it goes to, try and be objective about how it looks in your inbox (subject line, pre-header text) as well as when you open the email up.
Plus, of course, as mentioned above, make sure you test how the email looks without the images downloaded!
When it comes to the text – sometimes known as the copy – try and keep it simple, friendly and approachable. Think about how you might present your product in person if you were selling face to face, and talk like that.
Focus more on clearly communicating your product promise in a way that makes your audience understand implicitly that it’s the solution to their need or want.
Hmm I get asked this quite a bit from my clients, but the answer is always ‘it depends’. Honestly, you will need to try different times out to test and learn for yourself what works best for your audience.
For my last business I seem to recall mid-to-late mornings on weekdays were great (right around the time my customers were putting their baby to bed for a nap).
Most emails are read within 4 hours of being sent, so think carefully about what your audience is doing around the time you send it.
One clue might be to check what day and time most of your orders come through your website – if they’re online and shopping at a particular time of day, that would be a good time to hit them up with a marketing email!
If you a Productpreneur who uses email marketing to drive sales through your website, you might like to grab my free email campaign worksheet.
As always, the success of any marketing technology or application will come down to your content strategy. The greatest email marketing program in the world will never make up for a terrible subject line or no follow-up.
I invite you to download my free email worksheet, which includes an email campaign template you can use to create your next email campaign.
No longer do you need to worry about what to put into your email campaign or how to follow up with your audience!