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This article was written by Mitchell Terpstra, a member of the Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble content team. Entrepreneur NEXT is our Expert solutions division leading the future of work and skills-based economy. If you’re struggling to find, vet, and hire the right Experts for your business, Entrepreneur NEXT is a platform to help you hire the experts you need, exactly when you need them. From business to marketing, sales, design, finance, and technology, we have the top 3 percent of Experts ready to work for you.
Across many industries—but particularly for those in ecommerce—email and SMS marketing are two of the most effective marketing tactics. Why?
Compared to options like billboards and radio ads, they’re relatively inexpensive. This is especially true if you can design your own emails or write your own texts, making email marketing and SMS messaging a go-to tactic for upstart brands and businesses with limited marketing budgets.
Their content is also more likely to get seen—five times more likely than sponsored content on Facebook, according to one study. Most people tend to check their email at least once per day and phones multiple times each day, while they may go a few days without logging in to certain social platforms.
Their content is regarded as more important. Because email inboxes and texting apps are widely considered more “private” spaces than a Facebook or Twitter feed, people tend to view email and SMS messaging as more personal and relational.
That list of contacts is yours, with minimal interference as to how you can speak to them. Once customers volunteer their email addresses or phone numbers to you, you have a direct line to them, without an intermediary like Facebook or Twitter dictating constantly changing terms about how you may reach out to them. (Of course, annoy your contacts with unwanted messaging and they are likely to unsubscribe!)
And, best of all, emails and text messages tend to convert sales or achieve other desired outcomes at a much higher clip than social media ads. For example, links in emails are six times more likely to get clicked than links on Twitter.
This is largely because your email and SMS messaging lists are “warmer” audiences than those elsewhere. They have proven they are more receptive to your brand or organization when they were willing to offer their contact info to you.
All of the above is great news if you’re ready to take advantage of email and SMS marketing, but it can still be an exhausting enterprise. Make sure, from the beginning, that you’re ready to optimize your email and SMS marketing and make it as relevant as possibly by using the automation capabilities available to you.
This stat alone should prove automation’s worth: in a huge analysis of 50,000 global brands sending more than 2 billion emails and 1.8 million SMS messages during Q2 of 2020, automated messaging resulted in 26 percent of sales while only constituting 2 percent of total messages sent.
The other 98 percent were regularly scheduled promotional emails and they only resulted in 74 percent of the sales, meaning the automated messages were 17 times more effective. Below are some steps for getting started with automated messaging.
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Choose an automated messaging service.
There’s a plethora of email and SMS messaging software services online to choose from, though you’ll want to compare them for what they offer versus what they charge. They’ll differ in capabilities, learning curves and options for free and paid plans.
MailChimp is one of the most popular options for its user-friendliness and its generous “freemium” plan. Klaviyo is a favorite of designers. ActiveCampaign offers some of the most powerful automations and reporting. HubSpot, Constant Contact, and Sendinblue are other big players.
You’ll also want to consider how well the service integrates with your online store, blog or CRM; whether it can embed a sign-up form right on your site for collecting contact info; and how helpful and responsible the customer service team will be.
Go beyond the newsletter. Way beyond.
Periodic newsletters and seasonal, one-size-fits-all promotions tend be the first thing people think of when they start planning their email marketing. While those definitely have their place, automated messaging allows you to tailor your messaging and distribute it to customers when the timing is right, which is typically soon after they have taken a specific action on your website.
Purchase confirmations, tracking order info, birthday and anniversary greetings, customer-service tickets, and abandoned cart reminders are all types of emails and SMS messages that automated messaging can tackle. The mere thought of handling all these customer interactions manually is exhausting. Of course, you’ll have to create all these email or SMS assets upfront, but once created, they can be used again and again with only the relevant details, like order number or customer’s name, needing to be filled in.
And with an estimated 82 percent of companies already using some form of automated messaging, customers are growing accustomed to prompt, reactive messaging and those companies who aren’t using it are likely to stick out in unflattering ways.
Design your messaging ‘workflows.’
It’s when you start seeing beyond the one-off messaging situations listed and start thinking in terms of “messaging workflows” that automated emails and SMS messages really start to pay dividends.
An email workflow is a series of emails that work together to achieve a certain purpose, often getting the recipient to purchase a certain product or service. Your brand may have multiple email workflows set up, one of which gets triggered by a website visitor’s specific contact info, behaviors and preferences.
In the ecommerce world, a common email workflow will be triggered by an abandoned shopping cart, at which point a reminder email—e.g. “Forget Something?”—may be triggered to send. If no purchase is made within a predetermined timeframe, a follow-up email containing a discount code may be sent.
The point of email workflows is to work synergistically with your website, providing highly relevant content right around the time the customer is most receptive to it, thereby nudging them toward your objective and building loyalty in the process.
Speak specifically to key customer segments.
Beyond messaging workflows, another benefit of using automated messaging services is the ability to segment your contact lists for more targeted messaging.
Perhaps you may want to identify your best customers, whether by biggest spenders or most frequent shoppers, and send an email that rewards them for their loyalty or invites them to become ambassadors referring your brand to their friends. Maybe you want to find website visitors who haven’t visited your site in a long time and invite them to see what’s new. Or you may be holding an event and only want to send an announcement to customers within a reasonable distance.
Segmenting your contact list allows for a lot of interesting possibilities for tailoring content to your customer’s specific wants or needs.
Finally, a word about SMS messaging.
Clearly, emails and text messages are not the same.
While emails allow for more flexibility in design and messaging, text messages are much more limited. Keep in mind that, while many people prefer to see promotional content in their email inboxes, it might not be the same for text messaging.
Therefore, your automated SMS messaging should always follow a clear opt-in process and offer an easy opt-out, lest you risk angering customers who find your messages intrusive and come off as a spammer, damaging your organization’s reputation.
Finally, be mindful of time zones. Emails can easily wait until the next day to be viewed, but a vibrating phone in the middle of the night can be an irritating commotion.
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