Do you need an effective way to market to and communicate with customers and prospects? Use e-mail. It’s cheaper and faster than traditional forms of marketing. You can track the results of e-mails almost from the moment you send them out. And surveys show that e-mail is the preferred way for engineering, technical and industrial professionals to communicate with manufacturers, suppliers and service providers.

Whether you’re already marketing through e-mail or just getting started, put the following five action items on your to-do list to get better results from e-mail marketing efforts. For a more in-depth and detailed discussion, download the white paper, “The Industrial Marketers’ Essential Guide to E-mail Marketing.”

Action Item #1: Build Your List
Don’t let a lack of e-mail addresses hold you back from e-mail marketing. Instead, instill a culture throughout your organization of collecting customer and prospect e-mail addresses at every opportunity, keeping in mind that you need their permission to send them relevant e-mail:

  • Have sales and customer service representatives ask for an e-mail address when they speak with prospects and customers. Provide your team with a brief script that explains the benefits of your company’s e-mail communications, such as staying up-to-date on important announcements and new products.
  • Collect e-mail addresses on opt-in forms on your Web site. Opt-in means the visitor is choosing to provide their e-mail address to you in expectation you will send them relevant communications. Put a link to the opt-in form on every page.
  • Create an e-mail signature that your company uses in all outgoing e-mails, with a link back to the opt-in form on your Web site.
  • Ask for e-mail addresses on printed product registration or warranty forms and on forms you hand out at trade shows or other events.

Action Item #2: Use the Right Technology
You’ll need technology to deploy e-mail marketing. Here’s two ways to go about it:

  • Contact management programs offer software add-ons to create, send and track e-mails. Ask your vendor if they have a cost-effective solution to meet your needs.
  • E-mail service providers offer low-cost hosted e-mail solutions that include basic e-mail list management, creation, sending and tracking. They also can handle opt-ins and opt-outs from people who choose to receive e-mail from you or not.

Your decision about which way to go will depend on a number of factors including costs, internal resources and your company’s philosophy. Have your IT department help evaluate your technology options.

Action Item #3: Create Effective Marketing E-mails
Creating an effective marketing e-mail — one that recipients will notice, open, read and act upon — is an art and a science. Start by understanding and stating the objective of every e-mail you plan to send. This will help you define your subject line, message and call-to-action, which work together to determine the success of your marketing e-mail.

“From” line and “Subject” line — these two components let recipients know who the e-mail is from and entice them to open it. Identify yourself or your company in the “from” line. Use the subject line like the headline to a news story: to tell what the e-mail is about. Compel the recipient to open it by promising a benefit or valuable, relevant information. Read “The Industrial Marketers’ Essential Guide to E-mail Marketing” for examples of effective subject lines.

Keep the design clean — Don’t clutter up your e-mail with tons of text and no white space. Create a clean design that shows the recipient where to focus — on a key statement, call to action, or image. Break up long blocks of text into paragraphs of 3-4 lines. Use headlines and bulleted lists to separate content.

Write well — Good e-mail writing is often overlooked in a culture where we’re so accustomed to “dashing off” an e-mail to someone. But remember poor writing can hurt your credibility, brand and even sales potential. Keep these writing tips in mind:

  • Be specific and get to the point; use as few words as possible to tell your story
  • Don’t be too formal or stilted; write like you talk, in a conversational manner
  • Write short sentences
  • Don’t use complicated words when simple ones will do
  • Avoid jargon and buzzwords

Include a call to action — Remember your objective for sending an e-mail; this will drive your call to action, whether it’s to download a white paper, attend a Webinar, request a demonstration, or buy a product. In e-mail, the call to action most likely includes getting your recipients to click on something.

Place the call to action in several places throughout the e-mail. Word it in different ways, such as a button that says “Download white paper” or a text link that says “Discover three innovative uses for cantilever pumps.” Also, offer readers different ways to contact you, including links to forms, toll-free numbers and e-mail addresses.

Action Item #4: Test, Test Test
Why test? If you can test two subject lines and discover one gets 30 percent higher open rates on your e-mail, isn’t that worth it?

To test e-mail, you must send e-mail in HTML format and use a third party e-mail marketing service or your own internal software that tracks statistics such as e-mails opened and links clicked. Virtually all e-mail marketing services offer this capability.

The simplest form of testing is the A-B test. In this test, you split your list in two, and send half the recipients one e-mail and the other half a different one. The most useful components to test are subject lines, headlines/copy, offer/call to action, and design & layout. For better control, test one of these components at a time, and apply your accrued knowledge to the next e-mail you send.

Action Item #5: Send Relevant Content
Ultimately, your success as an e-mail marketer will come down to whether you send your audience relevant content that they look forward to receiving. Here are three ideas for sending relevant content:

  1. Send industry-related news and information that will educate your customers and prospects and help them do their jobs better. If you don’t have the resources to write original content, seek permission to reprint or link to existing articles written by others.
  2. Include interviews with industry experts or even thought leaders within your own company who have a valuable perspective on an issue important to your customers.
  3. Provide product usage tips, tech tips, and links to discussion forums and knowledge bases that customers will return to again and again for valuable information.

For other creative ideas on what content to send your audience, download your copy of “The Industrial Marketers’ Essential Guide to E-mail Marketing.”

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