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Keep your email marketing fresh: Study confirms it still produces results

email marketingResearch released in Monetate's Ecommerce Quarterly (EQ) report for Q1 2013 reveals that email is still an important marketing tool for businesses. According to data collected during the first quarter of this year, email is actually a larger driver of conversion than search.

The study examined over 500 million shopping experiences and found that email marketing converted more than 3 percent of the time, while search came in at slightly over 2 percent and social less than 1 percent. Search traffic overall is down from the same time last year, as people increasingly use targeted apps to do their searching from a variety of devices.

Blair Lyon, Monetate's vice president of marketing, believes that many businesses and service providers pay too little attention to their email marketing. The concept has been around for so long, it is easy to ignore or pass over for more shiny, newer things. But email is still far more effective than social media for actually driving sales.

Given email's strong performance in this study, firms should consider incorporating it into their marketing plans. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your newsletters:

1. Segment your lists. Segmenting your lists allows you to target prospects and connections that your firm would like to nurture in ways that most suit each group's needs. Using a similar format, build different series of emails aimed at different audiences, like new prospects and clients, and provide each with relevant information and resources. Prospects who have contacted your firm, people who you have met at seminars and people who have willingly filled out a form on your website are high-value contacts. Do not over send to any one list, but stay present in their minds.

2. Pay attention to subject lines. Emails with bad subject lines – those that are obviously spammy or give no indication what the newsletter may be about – are less likely to be opened, let alone read. Consider the amount of email you get on a regular basis. Do you read all of it? Chances are, some emails just go straight into the trash. Email newsletters with milquetoast subjects will likely share the same fate.

3. Keep mobile users in mind. The trend toward mobile does not show any signs of abating soon. Since people will continue to use mobile devices to check their email and perform other routine business tasks, your marketing must take these users into consideration. When laying out your newsletter, keep it simple. Use a one - or maximum two - column design that is programmed to be responsive when viewed on different screen sizes. Use graphics, colors and varying font sizes to clearly delineate different sections within the email. Give different layout elements room to breathe so that people can easily zoom and focus on areas of interest.

Thinking beyond design, remember that mobile users interact differently with their email than people on desktop or laptop machines. Studies have shown that much of what people do when checking their email on a phone is filtering. They do not read many messages but instead focus on deciding which are worthy of saving for later. Your job is to get past that filter. Offering useful content, grabbing attention with good subject lines and presenting it all in a well-designed, easy to read format will help get your emails saved.

4. Give obvious calls to action. This has been said ad nauseum, but a surprising number of businesses still make it difficult for people to understand what actions they should take – or make it difficult to take action at all by hiding their phone number in an unclickable graphic. When planning your email campaign, a major consideration must be determining what results you want to achieve. Whatever your goal, whether it is getting people to call, click a download link or fill out a form, make that action easy and explicit. People are unlikely to take the time to dig through your email for hard to find contact information.

5. Make your emails social. According to MarketingProfs, emails that contain social media icons can have up to double the click-through rates of those that do not. But while social may not be the driver of conversion that search and email marketing are, it is still a good way to build relationships and authority within your area.

Email marketing is not new or flashy, but according to this study, it still produces results. It is a low-cost, low-maintenance solution that can be a good addition to your firm's client outreach efforts.