Consumer services businesses should utilize email marketing to personalize communications and automate processes. The best way for you to utilize email marketing is to create newsletters and automated email sequences. It’s also very important to segment your audience based on where they are in the customer journey in order to send the right message to the right people at the right time.
Sender Address & Name
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits in your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email according to their personal preferences. e.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails (or mark it as spam), for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing account. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Most customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Business Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name or Name from Business Name. However, insurance agents and similar professionals may be the exception to this.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
Choosing an Email Marketing Platform
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate your business’s email marketing program. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, Mailerlite, SendPulse, or SendinBlue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform and start creating and sending emails and gathering subscriber emails. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
Collecting An audience
Consumer services businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, they should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address. This includes lead magnets and sign-up forms on your website, appointment creations, and account creations. The key is to segment prospects and customers so you can send them different email content that relates to their unique needs. This helps you better serve them wherever they are in the customer journey.
Lead magnets encourage people to subscribe to an email list. Subscribers give up their email address, and in return, businesses give them a lead magnet, such as an ebook. The format of the lead magnet will depend on the business’s services and what their customers could benefit from having. Nowadays, people guard their email addresses, so businesses use lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for their marketing emails. If a subscriber is willing to do that to receive the lead magnet, they are already interested in that business.
Other lead magnet ideas you can utilize include:
- Assessments or quizzes
- Guides or reports
- Financial calculator
- Resource List
- Calendar or Planner
- Tutorial (PDF or video format)
- Strategy session or consultation
Email Creation & Design
Newsletters can be used by consumer services businesses to maintain contact with customers, stakeholders, and partners. These are often used on a monthly or quarterly basis to keep your audiences in the loop about your business. The content included depends on the intention of the emails themselves. Each email must have a purpose; if an email does not have a purpose for your business and a benefit to your audience, it does not need to be created and sent.
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or use a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out.
Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Depending on the business and services offered, your business will want to showcase long- or short-form content within your emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email. If an email’s purpose is to provide a transactional purpose, such as confirming an appointment or sending a digital receipt, the content should be very short. If an email’s purpose is to provide an informative purpose, the content can be longer.
For example, a Welcome email with a lead magnet can be short, but a financial advisor’s year-in-review newsletter may be longer.
Automated Email Sequences
Automated email sequences (also called sequenced email campaigns, email automations, and drip campaigns) are ideal for consumer services businesses because you can create them in advance, turn them on, and they automatically send to your subscribers.
Automated email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based. Time-based emails are scheduled in advance at a specific time. Each email in the sequence is sent at a specific time interval. (For example, email 1 is sent immediately after a subscriber is added to the list, email 2 is sent one week later, email 3 is sent one day after that, etc.) This type of sequence is ideal for sending onboarding sequences to inform your new customers how your business works, what they can expect when working with you, and recommendations after your team performs the requested services.
Trigger-based email sequences are based on triggers, meaning when a subscriber opens an email or clicks on a specific link within an email, they are “triggered” to receive a specific email based on their open or click (or lack thereof). These triggers show your subscriber’s behavior, so it helps them see more relevant content based on their actions and preferences. Trigger-based sequences are often more complicated than time-based sequences because they offer more options within the sequence, but they deliver a more unique experience for each subscriber based on their behavior. Emails can also be sent based on non-activity. By delivering a more relevant user experience to your subscribers, open and click rates, and purchases or appointments are likely to increase.
Common uses for automated sequences are lifecycle emails, such as:
- Welcome sequence with a lead magnet
- New account confirmation with information on how to “get started” (also called an onboarding sequence)
- Account anniversary
- Lapse in activity
- Upsell opportunities
Email sequences take the prospect or customer on a journey to better understand the business and services provided.
The length of an automated sequence depends on the content included in it. And the content in the sequence depends on the customer or prospect journey. Based on what they need to know, you can determine what content to include and link to, and how many emails to create.
Tip: Each email should have one call to action, so let your calls to action determine how many emails you create. Or, if you have one call to action for most of your emails (perhaps after a lead magnet), then allow your content to determine the number of emails.
The key is to integrate your other communications assets into your email marketing efforts. Use your ebook, for example, as a lead magnet on a landing page on your website. Then, in the first email in the sequence, give them the ebook as a download. From there, take them on a customer journey using your blog articles, case studies, and other content.
Tip: Creating fresh content is not necessary for your email marketing. Instead, repurpose other content, such as blog content. Your customers will appreciate the guidance in their inbox.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Email Design: When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your subscribers is a great way to personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments can be as simple as “prospects” and “customers” or far more complicated. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
Segmentation ideas for consumer services businesses include:
- Stage in customer journey
- Services used (e.g. home insurance vs. renter’s insurance)
These segmentation ideas can help you target the right people with the right messages at the right time. For example, an insurance agency may provide their clients who have renter’s insurance tips on how to buy a house (with a CTA to download a checklist that includes “call us to update your insurance policy” on it). To further personalize it, they can include housing market information for their state. Then, based on who downloaded the checklist, the agency could reach out again to see if those clients needed more assistance, such as a realtor recommendation (this is an intent-based recommendation; see Partners in Foundation). That same insurance agency wouldn’t want to send the same information to their clients who are already homeowners.
A/B Testing: Creating and sending content to subscribers isn’t enough for consumer services businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and appointments. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email/name
- Call-to-action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more appointments? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the other 80% of the audience.
Testing should happen frequently and, if possible, for every email sent to increase conversions.
Note: Some email automation platforms, like Mailchimp, don’t offer A/B testing for lists that have less than 10,000 subscribers. This is because they recommend a test group of 5,000 subscribers each. (Mailchimp also does not offer A/B testing on their free plan.) However, if your list is small, you can still A/B test sequence to sequence or newsletter to newsletter. Just remember to only change one thing for each (except the content, of course), and test each change for a few campaigns rather than just one.
Personalization: Personalizing emails starts with using the subscriber’s name in the email and continues by using the user data to personalize each subscriber’s emails in an effort to improve their customer journey. For consumer services businesses, this means sending customers the right message at the right time based on where they are in the customer journey. This is why segmenting your audience is so important.
This also means recommending services in an email after they received a similar service that is relevant. For example, a financial advisor who offers debt management may want to recommend emergency funds planning after their clients’ debt is managed.
Email Scrubbing: Even with consumer services businesses, subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists. Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t will be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit the business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a small business can manage these processes in-house better because they know their customers.
Resend to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase the performance of campaigns with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
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