eCommerce Small Business

Tips For Successful eCommerce Email Marketing

by Guest Post

This guest post comes from our friends at ManageByStats

Quality engagement with customers doesn’t have to be difficult.  We’re all trying to achieve it, but more often than not end up settling for the idea that “contact” equals “engagement”.  We have a message our customers need to hear, we want something from them, we send an email and expect results. Over time we get used to, and come to anticipate, low response rates, single-digit click and open rates and, soon, with these lowered expectations, begin to consider what are essentially poor results a “success”.

The good news is quality engagement is possible.  It begins, however, not with more enticing offers or come-ons, but by putting the customer first.

Engaging The Customer

Email marketing is tough.  Customers tend to delete messages they aren’t expecting, or that aren’t from a trusted source.  The best, most compelling subject lines go ignored. Open rates are low yet, again, we find ourselves happy to get a small percentage of click-throughs.

How to elevate your expectations?

The answer, as is true for most successful activities, is with an investment.  The shift of view needed to make this happen could be summed up with the statement “Add value first.”  You may already operate with this philosophy. If so then you know the best approach is to think first of what you can do for your customer.  Make a fan, make a friend, and you’ll get a supporter and a buyer.

Putting it another way, your goal is to gain their permission.

Gaining Permission

Tim Grahl, who helps authors build and reach their audiences, suggests ways to do this.  He offers a strategy of:

  • Permission
  • Content
  • Outreach

All leading to sales.  The key is to gain the permission of your customers by providing valuable content they come to anticipate, making the delivery of later content much more likely to be received and, importantly, acted on.  By giving them value first, you create the sort of relationship with your customers that enables quality engagement.

Adding Value

It takes some effort, yes.  It takes an additional investment of time.  But if you’re finding ways to add value to your customer’s lives – without asking for anything in return – then you’re on your way to the sort of relationship that will pay dividends.  They’ll come to view you as a source of help. You’ll become someone they look forward to hearing from. Keep this objective in mind and you’ll see results.

Add value first.

Give till it hurts, the old saying goes.  Give them great tips, an eBook – anything that will help them in their lives, nothing that’s a request.  In fact, you might even avoid coupons or other such come-ons initially as, while that seems to be a value for them, it’s really just tied back to a sale for you.

Be selfless.  Build the relationship.  It may seem counterintuitive to the immediate sale, and in fact it is counter to the immediate sale, but you’re not after the immediate sale.  Your goal is to get ten sales when you might otherwise have gotten only one.

Getting The Email Addresses

Making contact requires good email addresses.  Services exist that can help you find real emails for a certain percentage of your customers, using available info like name and address.  You may also get real customer emails through response to product inserts, traffic on your company website, direct contact from the customer or other means.

As you gather real emails you’ll either want to use opt-in pages, or otherwise get them into some sort of service you can use for your email campaigns.  Services like MailChimp, Constant Contact and similar give you a way to create and send your amazing, engagement-generating emails.

Once you have real emails, you’ll next want to build a list.

Building A Mailing List

Remember, Content is King.  The way you build and maintain a list is with regular great content that keeps them interested and engaged.

Build your list on a gradient.  If adding to a mail service the following is one method.

  1. Take 100 real customer emails and add them into a new list.  Single opt-in … you are opting them in – you’re not asking them.
  2. Send them some great content.  Follow CAN-SPAM rules – which means include an unsubscribe link and include the name and address of your company.
  3. A few of them will unsubscribe.  A few may complain or report Spam.  But this is okay because it is very low volume.
  4. Next week add 100 more into the list.  You now have 200 minus the unsubscribes.
  5. Send them all some great, fresh content.  A few more will unsubscribe, which is good – you’re cleaning the list.
  6. Next week add 200 more into the list, and repeat with fresh new content.  Then 300, then 500, etc. – always with fresh content.
  7. The key is that the newly added number of emails added to the list is not too big a percentage of the subscriber total.  It is vital to keep the unsubscribes and spam complaints to a low percentage of the mailing.

Your goal, again, is great, engaging content.  This single point is what stops most marketers from building a viable email list.  The rest is just mechanics.

There are also rules to be aware of.

Doing The Right Thing

The CAN-SPAM Act is mentioned a lot, but few people actually have the details.  In fact many email marketers are only going by what they’ve heard, many times from other misinformed marketers.

The CAN-SPAM Act is there to protect the consumer, but that doesn’t mean it’s there to hurt the marketer.  It merely lays out guidelines for emails and requires marketers to abide by them. You may have heard of a “double opt-in”, for example.  This is not a CAN-SPAM requirement. If it was you’d never be able to legally email someone whose business card you picked up. Double opt-in, as it turns out, is a requirement of many large email houses, like MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc., but it’s based on their opinions and policy.  It’s worth becoming familiar with what is and what isn’t allowed. Obviously if you’re using a big email house you’ll need to abide by their rules, but there are other options for sending emails. Smaller companies exist that may not be so restrictive, and that allow you to act fully within the law (CAN-SPAM).

Knowing The Game

Bounce rates are something else to be aware of, and knowing the difference between a hard and a soft bounce can help you vet your emails.  A hard bounce is an actual bad email address. What’s called a soft bounce doesn’t mean the email is bad, and can include other reasons for delivery failure such as an outage, a full inbox, an error from an ISP, etc.  Keep that in mind when culling “bad” emails.

Finally, an observation.  Unannounced emails bring with them no waste, nothing physical like with unwanted paper mail, no dead trees in your mailbox, nothing to dispose of and yet, the emotional reaction that can go with unsolicited emails is huge.  Emails are deleted easily with a click, filters can be made – none of which you can do with paper mail – yet unsolicited emails can generate a disproportionate reaction in comparison. One thing is true: Being the email they don’t delete is a Holy Grail you can attain.

And you do it by making fans who want what you’re providing.

Better And Better

Adding value, helping – adopting this philosophy to stimulate engagement will take you far in building a legion of customers who actually want to hear from you.  Do that, and when it’s time to make the sale they’ll be there waiting, even eager, to hear what you have to offer.

Hopefully this got the wheels turning.  Thanks for reading.

About the Author

Dave McDaniel is a senior VP with ManageByStats.  ManageByStats is a suite of online software tools for Amazon sellers that includes tools for managing sales, customers, advertising and inventory, automated email notifications, email campaigns and reviews, feedback and keyword features.

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