A founder’s guide to digital marketing – How to use Email marketing effectively?

One of the great joys of starting Internshala has been the unlimited opportunities to explore erstwhile mysterious world of digital marketing. Not that I am an expert, but I wanted to write down the beginner’s lessons that I have learned in last 18 months for the benefit of the readers, many of whom are future entrepreneurs themselves.

In this 3 parts series, I’d document my experience of using Emails, Facebook, and Website Banners for marketing, starting off with Emails (or eDMs as many call them).

Before I jump into specifics of each medium; I wanted to share two general opinions regarding digital marketing that I have formed so far –

1. Despite the potential to be the most scientific marketing tool, digital marketing remains as unscientific (or may be more) as traditional channels such as print, TV, Radio, billboards etc. This could be due to lack of understanding among Marketing managers on how best to use it and also because there are no benchmarks, standard tools, frameworks that are wildly available (I may be wrong though!)

2. Having been on both the sides of the table, as a provider and as a customer of; I believe people should seriously stop treating digital as a ‘sales’ channel and treat it as a ‘marketing’ channel. What a website can do is to provide you with a platform to reach out to target audience with your product and services. Beyond that actual conversion depends a lot on quality of your ad (I have seen some really shitty copies) and your product; so stop blaming the website alone for poorer sales. Moreover, when we are willing to bet large sums of money on traditional channels (a decent size print ad in a national daily costs in lacs) without it being linked to conversion performance; why should one haggle on CPA (Cost per acquisition) model for digital marketing remains beyond me.

That said, here are my 8 lessons on Email marketing  to another website’s user base.

1. Understand the website and its users really well. Do not just go by the size of database, understand how relevant they are for you and how engaged they are with the website. Couple of things that you could do here are –

  • Sign up on the website yourself and look at daily/weekly/ad-hoc emails and newsletters that you get from them. This would give you a sense on how professional a team you are dealing with (Yes, a well designed newsletter with engaging content goes a long way), who else may be using their services, and whether their emails land in inbox or spam (a matter of life and death for email marketing)
  • Scan through the website to look for user interactions such as comments – these not only tell you about how engaged the users are (and hence how likely are they to respond to emails from the website) but also quality of comments is a good indication of whether the audience are relevant to you

2. From the service provider, understand a few key things really well, before signing the agreement –

  • Does the email database consist only of Opt-in subscribers (better engaged) or does it have an acquired list also (though not allowed but many websites  buy databases from various sources)?
  • How recent the database is? For example, if a ‘student’ signed up on a website 4 years ago and is still part of database; he/she may no longer be a student and hence not relevant for you if you want to target students.
  • What sort of delivery, open, and click through rates, previous email campaigns have seen?
  • Can the service provider send HTML emails and track  the delivery, open, and click rates? To my surprise I found that many can not.
  • Can the service provider customize the email for each user? “Dear Sarvesh..” sounds lot better than “Dear user…”

3. Keep a catchy (but avoid overdoing it) subject line. See if you have flexibility into choosing the ‘Sender Name’ that displays when the email lands in Inbox. These two factors combined can make a BIG difference to your open rate. Also there are certain keywords (lottery, prize, win etc.) that may make email appear spam to Gmail, Yahoo etc. – avoid those keywords in your subject

4. Avoid use of too many images in your mailer, or even worse having only an image as the emailer. Most of the email service providers block images from displaying in the mail unless user explicitly allows for it, so they are rather pointless. I prefer an HTML email without any image at all.

5.  Always, always, and always ask for a test email to be sent to you and a few of your friends and colleagues (having different email accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo! etc.) first to ensure that content appears fine, the links are working, and most importantly the mail is getting delivered in inbox.

6. Always, always, and always track click through rates of emails at your end also by inserting tracking parameters (utm_source etc.) in URLs in the email. Google has an excellent and easy to follow article on how to do this. This way you can truly measure the actual benefit of the email campaign and Cost Per Click etc.

7. Time your email well; do the burst on a day when your users are most likely to check their emails and are likely to have time to act on it.

8. Step 1-6 are time consuming steps and in my experience I have found many website owners either giving vague answers to some of the questions or I having to follow up way too much to ensure that every little detail is taken care of. For me these are tell-a-tale sign of how successful the burst would be. If you have a choice, staying away from any such website would save a lot of heartache later on.

Hope this is helpful. Please do add if you think I have missed any points, or any personal experience/learning that you would like to share in comments.

About author – Sarvesh is founder of Internshala and can be reached at sarvesh@internshala.com

Image credit – http://www.edukart.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/email-marketing-digital-amrketing-online-course.jpg

2 thoughts on “A founder’s guide to digital marketing – How to use Email marketing effectively?

  • August 24, 2012 at 2:51 PM

    Well said Sarvesh. Digital marketing is important for any industry. With the right content, the message can reach the target audience very quickly and efficiently. You can check the video by Infosys BrandEdge about digital marketing . They’ve simplified the digital marketing to a great extent.

  • August 24, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    @Arjun K M
    Hi Arjun,

    Thanks for sharing the link; looks like I have a lot of catching up to do in terms of where the world has reached on managing Digital Marketing :)


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