Marketing your products or services by email can be a fast, flexible and cost-effective way of reaching new customers and retaining existing customers by encouraging repeat website visits.
Email marketing can allow you to create targeted and personalised messages. This can help you to build meaningful relationships with your customers. It can also improve response rates to your direct marketing campaigns.
However, it is important not to overuse email marketing. Receiving marketing emails can irritate people if it is irrelevant, too frequent or unwanted.
Organisations are required to comply with various data protection legislation, including the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Enforcement action may be taken against any organisations that do not comply with their obligations under PECR and GDPR and substantial fines may be issued and contractual liability may arise.
Advantages of email marketing
The benefits of email marketing include:
- Cost- effective - the costs of email marketing can be much lower than many other forms of marketing. There are no advertising fees, printing or media space costs.
- Permission-based - your marketing list will be made up of people who have actively chosen to receive email communications from you. Customers who are genuinely interested in your products and/or services are more likely to engage with your business.
- Flexible design - you can send plain text, graphics or attach files - whichever suits your message best. A choice of design options gives you scope to convey your business branding.
- Scalable - email marketing can be used to reach large audiences or smaller targeted lists.
- Personalisation and segmentation - with email marketing you can personalise messages. You can also segment your marketing list, so that your customers receive messages from you that they are interested in – this will help boost their engagement with you.
- Shareable - it’s easy for people to forward and share your email content, building your reputation by word-of-mouth or viral marketing. This may help influence new customers to become followers of your brand.
- Conversions and increased sales - if you have a new promotion people can click on links and follow your call-to-action immediately. Email marketing is also effective at every stage of the buying process. For example, you can influence someone to choose your product, nurture the customer relationship post-transaction and also encourage future purchases.
- Measurable - you can evaluate the success of a campaign by using web analytics software. You can easily test different copy, subject lines and designs to see which is most effective. This allows you to optimise future campaigns.
- Benchmark - you can compare your results against others in your industry. There are many free email marketing benchmarking reports available - you will find these by searching online. Benchmarking data can help you to evaluate and prioritise improvement opportunities.
- Test before you send – A/B testing of subject lines, calls-to-action, personalisation, email copy, images or messages ensure your email content is as effective as it can be before you send it.
- Less intrusive - unlike telephone marketing, recipients can read your message at a time that suits them. Customers can also update their preferences if they would like to receive different messages from you or unsubscribe if they feel they no longer want to receive your email communications.
- Environmentally-friendly - email marketing is better for the environment than direct marketing by postal mail because nothing is printed.
- Time-saving - through automation you can trigger emails to be sent to customers based on an action they have performed on your website - eg. send a welcome email when a user signs up to your website, or issue an email offering a discount incentive if user abandons an online shopping cart. Once you have developed a template you can reuse for numerous email campaigns.
- Real-time marketing – through email marketing you can connect with customers in real-time. Using automated triggers, such as website activity, recent purchase or shopping cart abandonment, you can reach the right audience, at the right time, in the right place and with the right offer.
Disadvantages of email marketing
Some of the potential problems of email marketing include:
- Spam - commercial email or 'spam' irritates consumers. If your messages aren’t targeted to the right people, the recipient may delete your email or unsubscribe. You need to make sure that your email marketing complies with privacy and data protection rules, and that it is properly targeted at people who want to receive it. The 'click through rate' for untargeted emails is likely to be very low. See email marketing and privacy law.
- Undelivered emails - poorly designed emails may not get delivered. Emails that use certain spam keywords or characters in the subject heading or content of the email, eg £££s, FREE, click here, are likely to be filtered out by email software and internet service providers. If you don’t keep your marketing lists up to date, you will find incorrect email addresses mean your messages won’t reach the right person.
- Design problems - your email must be designed so that it appears as it should across multiple devices and email providers. You may encounter a trade-off between design and functionality. Some people opt to receive text-only emails, consider how your message will look if this is the case.
- Size issues - files need to be small enough to download quickly. Emails containing many images may take too long to load, frustrating your audience and losing their interest.
- Resources and skills – for a successful email campaign you must ensure that you have the right copy, design and marketing list. If you don’t have the time or skills in-house, consider outsourcing some of these elements.