Email marketing is a powerful way to get the word out about your managed service business. But it needs to be done professionally, not as an afterthought or as something that could be misconstrued as SPAM by customers. By following some simple guidelines, provided here by ClikCloud's founder, the time spent on putting together a well crafted missive can reap rewards for your MSP in increased sales as well as brand recognition.—Jennifer Bosavage
With the popularity of social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, many say email marketing is dead. However, in today’s competitive climate for managed service business, successful companies must do both.
Here's why: It takes up to six marketing “touches” to get a managed service suspect to qualify themselves as a managed service prospect. Examples of marketing “touches” include: telemarketing call, Google search, white paper download, Facebook “like”, an email open or a click on your email marketing newsletter.
Marketing via email will help you get more from other marketing activities, reinforces your brand and provides another vehicle to get your message out there. Let’s face it, everyone absorbs information in different ways. Some may unsubscribe to your email, while some will open and “read more.” Some will actually click through to your offer. Not only is email marketing cost effective, but it also lets you educate your customers and prospects on the benefits of managed services and other thought leadership topics, while staying “top of mind” when they need IT support the most.
Email marketing can get the phones to ring. However, you must tread carefully and consistently if you choose to market via email. Here are some steps to help you get the most from your email list.
• Understand Your Email Marketing Objectives
Email marketing helps an MSP nurture its customer and prospect list by educating the customer about thought leadership and best practices for small business IT (e.g. blog article on cloud computing or white paper on remote backup). This also helps to inform prospective customers about customer wins and company capabilities. Additionally, email marketing adds momentum to your marketing campaigns for webinars, seminars, free offers and other lead generation programs.
• Select the Right Tools
Many email marketing tools automate everything from the management of your lists, to analyzing the results of your campaigns. The right tools will also automate execution of the campaigns. Selecting the right tool will help you maintain best practices for listing building and how to avoid SPAM. Software as a Service (SaaS) subscriptions from Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and Vertical Response are worth a look. Any of those services will help ensure you have a proper opt in, subscribe/subscribe links, footer disclosures and other email marketing compliance features.
When evaluating marketing tools, consider list integration with your CRM or PSA application. Also, consider ease of use for generating campaign templates. Some tools come with extensive libraries of templates for newsletters and campaigns, however, they may be difficult and complicated to customize. Find a tool that fits well with the skills and systems unique to your company. Typically, price is based on the size of your list and the frequency of messages sent each month.
•Give Yourself Time to Implement
Don’t wait until the night before you planned to send your first campaign or newsletter to plan it out. Give yourself some time to get your lists in order, add the opt-in features to your website, brand your newsletter and campaign templates with your company logo and color palette. Make sure to link all your company’s social media pages to your newsletter and campaigns. Many email marketing tools not only take feeds from your blogs, but will feed your social media sites from your newsletter too.
• Build Your Lists
Start your list with customers and prospects that you have done business with and communicated with before. You can get additional contacts by asking your existing base for a referral. You can also “opt in” new subscribers from your website. Many packages automate this process and will also let you segment your lists by group, so you can target your campaigns better (e.g. customers vs prospects). Add your email address to the list along with other customer facing employees so everyone gets messages as part of your base.
Give your email subscribers a chance to acknowledge that it is OK to send email to them. Consider notifying your customers that you are starting a newsletter, or ask them if they are interested in receiving offers from your company. I recommend against sending to “purchased lists.” Play it safe and practice permission based email marketing.
Email to real email addresses (not sales@, info@ or support@). When in doubt, opt these types of emails out. If you get “black listed” for SPAM you may be prevented from sending necessary emails to your clients, such as, ticket status, invoices and other operational information. In addition to having your email server black listed, you also run the risk of violating federal laws such as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. Besides, if you have a good clean list of real contacts you will get better results from your campaign. So make the most of your time and effort and ensure you start with a clean list.
What to Include in your Newsletters and Campaigns
If you blog regularly consider summarizing your weekly or monthly blog excerpts in your newsletter. I like to have a “more” link back to your site to encourage click through rates. You can also include a summary of news, recent customer wins or even a “message from the president." Consider including a featured service, special offer or trial, white paper offer or event calendar. It is a good idea to send event reminders or educational offers in between your newsletter each month.
Avoid the SPAM filter by excluding words such as “free” in the subject line and text. For example, offer a Network Health Check “at no cost or obligation” instead of a “Free Network Health Check”. Excessive use of CAPITALIZATION is also discouraged. Some spam filters pick up characters like “$”. If you stick with thought leadership topics, like business continuity planning, migration to the cloud, PCI or HIPPA compliance, you will support your objectives to nurture your base through education.
Set up both HTML and text versions of your templates. There is nothing worse than getting an email full of “click here to display the image”. Make sure your email politely downgrades from HTML to text by including alternate text for header and other key images. Many email marketing tools provide your email subscribers the option of changing their preference for HTML email to text. Supporting both will improve your open rates.
Test your Campaigns
Before you send out to your base, send a test email to yourself. Test and retest until your campaign is perfect. Make sure your emails come from a real sender (e.g. your_name@your_company.com). Also concentrate on how your subject line displays in your email reader. You have approximately 30 to 40 characters to get it right for most email readers. Put the important stuff up front. Consider subject lines like “Your_Company_Name: SMB Technology News” or “Migrating to the Cloud Webinar”. Combining your name and company affinity with educational topics helps position you as a trusted advisor and supports your brand. In addition, it will increase your open rates to ensure your message is read.
• Track the Results
Make sure to keep track of key statistics. Track how many opt outs you receive per send and your open/click through rates as a percentage of total sends. Every time you send a campaign you will have opt outs. The more you send out the greater the percentage. Plan on 1 percent per send. Your open rates are a sign of the quality of your list and the quality of the subject line. If you have a permission-based list of customers and prospects that you built roughly 20 percent to 30 percent will open and read your email each month. Expect 3 percent to 5 percent of your base to click through (either read more or respond to an offer). Most email marketing tools provide this type of tracking. Review the results each time you send. Consider tracking email results on your Web site too. Many Web site analytics packages track email referrals so you can see how many page views, time spent on site and lead conversions you get from your email marketing activity.
In summary, set your objectives, pick the right tools, plan your implementation and track your results. The incremental cost of email marketing to your customers and prospects is a small investment that can pay big dividends. Email marketing will drive traffic to your site and make your phones ring, thereby helping you grow your IT managed practice.