Email is an effective online marketing tool for every business, but it's even more important for architects, interior designers, and other built environment businesses. Why? For one, built environment services are relatively high priced compared to most products, with a long courtship period stretching from initial contact to closing a sale.
During this interregnum, while your prospective client compares offers and talks with other companies, email marketing gives you the chance to stay on the forefront of your prospect's mind—by staying near the top of their inbox. You can use this time to build an ongoing narrative that showcases the services you offer and educates your potential client about their design options.
The reach of email marketing campaigns has only continued to increase. A Forrester Research study noted that some 11 percent of all online transactions could be traced to email marketing. Another report revealed the exponential increase of email opens from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets—including a 34 percent increase over a six-month period in 2011.
This means that email marketing does more than just reach out to your consumer when they're on their desktop. It can find them on the subway, at a coffee shop, and in their pocket. Next time you're in a crowded area, count how many people you see staring into their phones, proof of the reach of digital information and the untapped power of a great email marketing campaign.
Email Marketing Campaigns: A Few Options
You have several choices over how to structure an email marketing campaign, each with its own pros and cons. The familiar e-newsletter format has long been a standard of interior designers and architects. It's quick to put together because it usually uses existing content, with the goal to drive traffic back to a blog or portfolio of imagery, as well as broader brand-growing efforts.
Challenges of the e-newsletter include the difficulty of keeping your call to action readily visible, which is part of the broader challenge of effective newsletter design. What's more, these “post and boast” campaigns have generally been shown to be less effective then other types. Most people would rather read something other than a laundry list of your awards and upcoming projects.
Dedicated emails offer an alternative. In short, the email serves as a stand-in for your landing page and offers a single product or service. The goal is to convert a reader into a buyer right away. The biggest drawback to these emails is their sometimes spammy appearance and low conversion rates.
Skip the List and Keep a Schedule
Once you decide on a campaign strategy, you'll need to curate your email list. Maintaining and growing subscribership has long been a concern of email marketers. If you're just getting started, you can plan on losing about one-fourth of all subscribers by this time next year. The same will be true year in and year out.
While some believe that fewer emails will equal fewer unsubscribes, there's no correlation to support the idea. Your best bet is to be up-front with your subscribers and let them know how often they should expect to hear from you. Segmenting your email list is a great way to send targeted emails that your subscribers will enjoy, lowering your unsubscribe rate.
If you've thought about purchasing a list of emails from a third party, think again. Purchasing a list could fill your subscriber list with invalid emails and uninterested recipients. This can result in your IP address being blacklisted and keeps you from getting useful open and click-through feedback from your subscribers.
Track Your Progress with Valid Metrics
There are several metrics that will let you know how your campaign is doing. One of the most readily accessible but, perhaps surprisingly, least useful is the open rate. To track the open rate, your emails have a one pixel image inserted into them that is invisible to users. When they open your email, the image is downloaded and an open is registered—unless, like many servers, images are blocked and your recipient doesn't override the default setting. Further, an open rate shows you primarily how successful your subject line was and tells you nothing about your subscriber's reaction to the content. (Speaking of subject lines, make sure yours are engaging and representative of the contents of your email.) You may have built great expectations only to disappoint.
Click-through rates are a far better judge of your email's effectiveness. Your click-through rate is the percentage of recipients who clicked a link from your email. A click implies that something in your email drew the reader's interest and prompted the reader into action.
Your bounce rate reflects the quality of your subscriber list. An email “bounces” when it cannot be delivered. There are both hard and soft bounces. A soft bounce occurs primarily because an inbox is full or the recipient's server may be down. Usually, the message can be resent at a later date. A hard bounce represents an email address that is no longer active. Hard bounces can also occur if a recipient has blocked your address. Hard bounces are permanent, so weeding these on a regular basis is important for maintaining list quality.
Some Final Thoughts
Email marketing is a great tool, especially for built environment companies—if you use it properly. Long-standing myths, misconceptions, and ignorance from email marketers, however, have hamstrung many campaigns. Email marketing continues to be a dynamic world. Make sure you stay on top of the latest developments and trends for effective landing pages and list building. It's the best way to improve your return on investment and grow your design business.