Tips for email marketing

Always sharing news with your customers? Or encouraging them to place an order? One-off emails will not help. What you need is email marketing. Applied Sciences lecturer in Digital Marketing at the Amsterdam University Leontine van Geffen explains what email marketing is and how it can benefit your business.

“Email marketing, like calling someone, is a form of direct marketing”, Van Geffen explains. The big difference is that customers on your mailing list have indicated they want to receive communications from you. For instance, by signing up for your newsletter (in Dutch) on your website. Before you start writing and sending emails, it is important to research the needs, wishes, and habits of your target audience. Next, you establish a strategy and create a plan to collect email addresses.

Write a strategy

In the strategy, you describe the objective, frequency, and target audience of your email campaign. According to Van Geffen, email marketing can serve any number of goals: “Acquiring customers could be a goal, but also increasing customer loyalty or collecting reviews.”

Choose a tool

A tool will help you design, schedule, and analyse emails. Some advantages of using a tool:

  • Most tools come with templates that simplify the design process. They are a great way to create a well-formated, eye-catching email without needing graphic design skills.
  • Tools let you send emails without even having to be available yourself. Schedule a day and time in advance and the tool will send your emails automatically. Make sure to pick a time that people tend to open their emails -
  • Many tools let you see which recipients opened your emails, as well as the links they clicked. Using this feature, you can figure out which layout works best and when to best send an email.

You may want to buy email marketing tools and software. Compare costs, user-friendliness, features (such as personalisation, for example), and privacy sensitivity before deciding.

Collect email addresses

“You can get an email address at every moment of contact”, Van Geffen explains. “Your homepage is a logical place where your customers can register for your newsletter. But also think about other contact moments, for example, an order confirmation after an online purchase. And make sure people can register when they place an order."

Choose a communication method

Pick a communication method that fits your strategy. Each objective and target audience requires its own message.

Dentists or garage owners, for example, could remind customers that their last appointment was a year ago.

Are you looking to encourage newsletter subscribers to place an order in your online shop? You could send a regular newsletter updating customers about your product range or an email featuring a special offer.

Keep your mailing list up-to-date

If you see that certain email addresses are no longer in use, remove them from your mailing list. “Tools will tell you exactly which email addresses to delete. This keeps the bounce rate (the percentage of emails that do not arrive) down.” If your emails have a high bounce rate, your customers’ email provider (like Gmail) may have classified your emails as spam. People tend to overlook emails in their spam box. If you have a ‘polluted’ list, your subscribers may never read your newsletters.

Experiment and research

Research which time slots have the highest open rate. To do this, send different versions or send emails at different times. “The open rate depends on many factors, like day and time, the sender’s name and email address, and the subject line", Van Geffen explains. "Are your recipients more likely to open emails on Monday morning or Saturday evening? Alternatively, experiment with using the recipient’s first name instead of their surname or putting an emoji in the subject line. Whatever you do, make sure it fits your business, product, or service. The end goal is to make your email stand out among the many emails that flood into your recipient’s inbox.”

Measure what works and what does not

“You want recipients to click on a link in your newsletter that will take them to your website," says Van Geffen. "The so-called click-through rate is used to measure how often this happens. The higher the click-through rate of a particular link, the more people clicked on it, visited your website, and potentially bought something."

Emails with a high click-through rate are usually clear and feature a tempting call-to-action. A call to action is a prompt to do something, like ‘Request now’ or ‘Read more’.

Do 5% of your readers click on your call to action? Then that is excellent. A 2023 survey by Email Benchmark showed that the average click-through rate is 3.04%. Conclusion? You can leave this call to action exactly the way it is. If only 0.5% of readers click on your link, experiment with changing the colour, wording, or location of the links.

Check the law

Your email marketing must comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). You are only allowed to email customers who have given their permission by opting in. Usually, visitors opt in to receive newsletters or emails by ticking a box. Your emails should always feature an opt-out too: an unsubscribe link. Finally, you are not allowed to ask for information that you will not use. According to Van Geffen, many small businesses still have work to do when it comes to opt-in and opt-out rules (in Dutch). If a recipient of your newsletter complains about this to the Dutch Data Protection Authority, you may be fined up to 4% of your annual turnover, with a maximum of €20 million. For a history of data-related fines in the Netherlands, visit the website of the Dutch Data Protection Authority (in Dutch).