How to Create a Promotional Email Campaign

Creating an email promotion doesn’t have to be a difficult task.  If you already have your email marketing list in place and your marketing calendar planned out, you’re halfway there.  Let’s look at what the next steps are to turning on the money faucet for your business.
For this example, let’s pretend you’re promoting a new line of Widgets from Brand X.  It’s Valentine’s Day (a big holiday for Widget sales), and you want to offer 10% Brand X Widgets (for a limited time, while supplies last) with coupon code BRANDX10.  That’s everything we need to begin.
Your email marketing platform (Constant Contact, iContact, Campaigner, Mailchimp, etc.) will have an option to create a new email campaign.  They will most likely allow you to choose from a set of pre-defined email templates.  However, it would be best if you had a custom template that you make and re-use for your emails so that all the correspondence that comes from your business is consistent and your customers know what to expect.
Your email template can be an simple as your business logo and a phone number on top, or you can also include links to your website and customer service hours.  Whatever you choose to include, keep the header short and sweet so that readers can get to the most important content of the email right away.
You may also choose to include a standard footer with links to your website.  This is likely the best place for links and additional information that are not as important as the promotion but necessary for your business (like legalese and disclaimers).
It’s important to note that people have no patience.  They just don’t read an email if you don’t get their attention right away.  We recommend creating one big compelling graphic with your promotion in big bold letters to be included as the very first thing in your email (under the short header, or possibly in place of it).  Use as few words as possible to describe your deal.  Remember that pictures speak louder than words, so don’t cover more than half the image space with text (under 25% would be ideal).
Don’t forget the call-to-action!  Whether it reads “Shop Now” or “Learn More” or even “Donate Today”, customers need to be told what to do next to take action.  You can’t assume they will know that they can click the image to go to your website (which it should absolutely do).
We recommend making this graphic about 600 x 600 pixels wide.  It will be easy to read in all email browsers (desktop and mobile), and you can also use that graphic (or a derivation of it) on social media.  Be sure to make a version of your promotion graphic for inclusion on your homepage as a billboard.  Consistency in marketing is key, and it’s important that your customers know that your email message matches the branding on your site.
To support your fabulous new main image, you’ll need supporting text just below it.  This can be your wordier explanation of your sale or description of the product or products that you’re promoting.
It’s up to you as to whether or not you’d like to promote other items, categories, or brands below this.  In our experience, it’s best to keep emails as short and to the point as possible.  With that said, if you’re running an ongoing promotion like free shipping over a certain amount, or a contest, it may benefit you to include a smaller section below the main promotion with a custom graphic.
Before you schedule the email to be sent, it’s time to test your email.  Send a test to yourself and open it on your desktop, and on your phone.  Make sure all the links work!
A great thing about using a professional email marketing platform is that you can schedule your emails well in advance.  That way, you can setup all your emails ahead of time and not have to scramble at the last minute to get them done.  Good-looking email graphics can take a while and go through a few revisions before you approve, so plan ahead with an email marketing calendar.
And that’s it!  You’ve crafted an effective email marketing campaign.   On the day you send it out, be sure to keep an eye on your site traffic and email campaign reports.

Planning Your Marketing Calendar

Having a fully planned out marketing calendar for the year is crucial for busy store owners.  You don’t have time during your busy seasons to sit down and come up with a marketing plan for promotions that need to go out on time.  Graphics need to be created, compelling text needs to be written, coupons need to be made and tested, emails need to be crafted, social media posts need to be coordinated – it’s a lot of work if you have a business to run as well.
If you’re not constantly interacting with your customers, they tend to forget about your brand and lose loyalty.  The best change you can make to get caught up on your marketing and stay in touch with your customer base is to first make a marketing calendar.  So where to begin?
If you’re new to making a marketing calendar for your business, a good place to start is by looking at all the calendar holidays.  Here is a free resource with lots of holidays listed:
Most retailers do promotions and sales based on holidays, such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and of course Black Friday (in the US).  If you’re an international retailer, you have far more holidays to choose from.
Decide what promotions to run on which holidays.  Emails with a “SALE” or a percentage off your order in the subject line tend to get opened more, so if you can run a sale on a holiday, do so.  The best coupons promotions are ones that run only for a limited time, to create a sense of urgency.
How often do you want to send emails?  Some retailers send marketing emails once a month, and some send them twice a week.  It all depends on your business.  If you are constantly getting new products and selling out of old ones, it’s worth it to email as often as you can.
You could fill an entire year with just holiday promotions, but what about during the off weeks, and what if you don’t have the margins to give discounts all the time?  You can always fill those weeks with specific category, brand, or product promotions.  Do you sell shoes?  Promote a specific brand of shoe.  Do you sell pool products?  Promote your selection of Pool Covers.  Got a great new blender in stock?  Tout the features of it.  Sure, you’re not offering a discount or special deal, but what’s important is that your message is getting out to your customers and you keep their attention so that when they ARE ready to buy, they know where to go.
You’ll need to make a spreadsheet to track your marketing.  For each row, include the following:
Title – A short title of your promotion that can also double as a subject line on emails.
Description – A short description that can be used for the content of your email and social posts for the promotion. You don’t have to include a wall of text that no-one is going to ready anyway!
Send Date – The day you intend to send the promotion
Coupon – Is there a coupon for this promotion?  Include the coupon code here for your reference.
Coupon Valid – Is the coupon valid for a specific set of dates?
Now that you have the structure of the calendar ready, work on filling out the most important holidays and sale days first.  Once those are set, find (or make up) other promotion days to fill in the gaps.
That’s it!  Take a step back and look at what you’ve accomplished.  With your marketing calendar for the year to come in place, you and your marketing team will know exactly what’s coming and be better able to prepare for it.  Some e-commerce platforms allow you to create coupon codes or time-sensitive discounts in advance.  Better to get those setup now rather than at the last minute.  You can always make adjustments later as necessary.

Growing Your Email Marketing List

Deciding to start Email Marketing is a great leap in the right direction.  Chances are, you’re starting off with a small email list of your current clients.  That’s great!  Now let’s look at how you can grow your email marketing list to make your messages heard far and wide.

Growing your email list is a constant struggle.  The average email list loses about 30% of its contacts every year due to unsubscribes, bounces, or spam reports.  This is on top of those who just stop opening your emails out of disinterest or just ignoring their email altogether.  For this reason, it’s important to keep your email list fresh and market to interested consumers often and as soon as possible.
The easiest way to grow your list is by putting a method to signup for it on your website.  There should be a signup button on every page of your website, including the search and checkout pages.  Make the signup link prominent on the home page.  There’s no reason anyone should have to hunt for it.
Further entice customers to signup by giving them a reason to!  People want to know what in it for them, so offering a list of reasons to signup is valuable.  Do you offer up to date product news or news related to your industry?  Do you run contests?  Most importantly, do you offer coupons in email?  (Hint: the answer to all these questions should be YES.)  Most email marketing programs offer an autoresponse to new signups. Offer a one time coupon for new signups, and watch your list (and sales) grow.
If you run an online store, you that customers enter their email addresses at checkout.  This does not imply that they are giving you permission to market to them, unless you specifically ask!  Be sure to add a checkbox (that’s checked by default) that asks if they would like to opt-in to receive special offers and discounts via email.  This will help your list grow while preventing spam reports.
Leverage your social audience to grow your list.  When you send out your regular promotions via email, you can also send out some of those same promotions via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).  When you do, be sure to include a link to signup for your newsletter.
A popular way to increase your list size is to run a contest or a survey.  For entering your contest or survey, offer a small coupon or potential prize drawing, and require an email for your list!
When you sell a product online, do you pack it yourself?  Retailers often forget that customers will read everything included in the box.  Send a thank you note that asks them to signup!  You can even include a QR code on your note that takes them directly to your signup form.
Popular email marketing platforms like Constant Contact have an easy way to allow your customers to signup for newsletters via text.  This allows you to include short line on your website that says something like “Text your email to 555555 to signup”.
If you have a physical store, it’s easy to put out a signup sheet, or leave a fishbowl for business cards.And of course, don’t forget to just ask.  If you’re on the phone or face-to-face with a customer, it never hurts to smile and ask for their email address.

Why you need to start email marketing today

As a business owner, you want to spend your marketing time in the most efficient way possible. Every second you waste licking stamps costs money, while you could be doing something else far more productive. Email marketing, when done properly, can be like turning on a money faucet.

It’s cheap

The most popular email marketing platforms begin their service tiers at under $20/month. Most charge per the amount of contacts you have in your database, starting at around 500 contacts, with higher amounts of contacts costing more. Many allow you to email your contacts as often as you want, so you can send an email every week without worry.

For comparison, if you were to send just one postcard to 500 contacts, at USPS bulk rate you would pay around 24 cents each (not including the cost of the postcard and printing), for a total of $120. There’s no trackable open or click rate from postcards, nor is there a way for the receiver to unsubscribe.

It’s effective

Depending on your industry, average email open rates hover around 20%, with a click rate of around 2.7%. If you maintain your list well and keep it fresh, you can get better than average results with minimal effort. In fact, according to a recent survey Acsend2, email is the most effective and least difficult digital marketing tactic in the toolxbox (as compared to blogs, seo, social media, content marketing, ppc, and more).

Think about your audience. These are real people who have either already bought something from you or are intrested in what you have to say (otherwise they wouldn’t have signed up for your list). You’re not taking out a billboard in hopes that someone sees your ad; you’re delivering your message directly to those who want it.

It’s easy

The most effective emails are short and sweet. You don’t have to write a novel, because nobody’s going to read it, especially on their phone. According to a 2013 survey on email opens by environment, 41% opened their email on mobile (a number that increased 30% over two years, and is growing). Users want to get the info quickly and move on.

You can plan out your email marketing strategy well in advance, and pre-schedule all your emails to go out on specific days. This way, you have plenty of time to design and approve compelling email graphics, make coupon codes, and plan for a rush of orders.

Making the choice to start using email marketing is an easy one. Deciding where to get started and how to plan for your first email is something to think through. If you need help, be sure to contact VenturaU for professional assistance with your email marketing campaign.