When you think about the digital marketing strategy of your business what comes to mind first?
Setting up a facebook page? Twitter? Instagram maybe? Or even snapchat? What about mobile marketing? Affiliate marketing anyone?
The reality is that today we live in a multi-channel world. There are unlimited opportunities at your disposal on how you can market your business. Often this means that you need to adopt a multi-channel strategy. This can quickly become overwhelming when deciding which is the best digital marketing strategy to adopt in growing your impact business.
Today, we are going to look at why you should make email marketing the crown jewel of your digital marketing strategy.
You need to consider these elements when deciding on your strategy
By now you should be aware that our world is moving towards a digital economy very fast. And with the global tech giants such as Facebook wanting to expand internet access to every corner of the globe including remote villages, declaring it as a basic human right, the pace is only going to accelerate in the coming years.
What does this mean for your impact business? If you want to continue to operate sustainably and creating a positive difference you will need to acquire the skills to thrive in a digital economy. This means you will need to have a sizzling digital marketing strategy together to not only communicate with your employees, beneficiaries and strategic partners but also to drive the revenue that enables you to operate sustainably.
Before deciding on your digital marketing strategy you need to consider a number of different factors to give your business the best chance for success.
Understanding your audience is key and everything else should flow from the needs and behaviour of your audience. If you don’t understand the needs of your audience you are asking for trouble.
If you really understand your audience you should know where they hang out online. Are they hanging out on twitter? facebook? instagram? snapchat? mobile? These are answers you should know. Otherwise, find out!
If your audience mainly hangs out on facebook then it would not make much sense to focus too much on snapchat. Your efforts would clearly be wasted.
Another aspect you might want to consider is whether your audience would search for your product on google (e.g. best app for mothers) or whether you would need to consider a push marketing campaign to increase the awareness of your product and solution. Push marketing can often also involve directly interrupting potential clients in whatever they are doing. While this is often very effective, often it is also very intrusive.
For example, when you scroll down your facebook newsfeed and you see ads like the ones below then that would be an example of push marketing.
One of the most important factors in considering whether you should adopt a push or a pull marketing strategy really depends on the behaviour of your audience. Once you know what the behaviour is like (whether they would actively search for what you offer or whether they would need to be made aware of it) you can decide what is the best way forward.
Of course, if you have the opportunity you can combine a combination of both strategies to give you best results. We would actually recommend this option.
Another highly important element to consider when it comes to your audience is this:
Who owns your audience?
If you think you own the audience you built up on one of the social media channels like facebook or twitter think again. The rules of the game are determined by the big boys like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (which is now also facebook). If they decide to ban you just because they can, there is not much you can do about it.
A few years ago Facebook and other social media companies decided to dwindle the impact of organic reach on their platforms in order to encourage people and businesses to pay for increasing their reach through advertising. With a simple rule change like this, they can change the game for you and severely restrict access to your audience reach unless you invest money.
When somebody else calls the shots you will always be at their mercy so think carefully about how you approach building an audience for your business.
Your available budget is one of the key factors in determining what digital marketing strategy you can pursue. If you have unlimited budget available then you can do almost everything and be present on every channel that you like.
Sadly, for most of us this is not the case. This means we need to make some carefully evaluated decisions. And one of the most important factors in making that decision is our available budget.
Advertising on all of the marketing channels costs money. Some channels cost more than others. For example, if you decide to incorporate a pay-per-click strategy (can be on google or a social media channel) then you will need to have the necessary financial resource to do so. Also, the more competition in your market the higher those costs are going to be, because they will be competing with you for those much-coveted clicks.
Even so called “free” channels like inbound marketing have a cost attached to them as people need to be paid for the time invested in inbound marketing or the content that is produced in order for inbound marketing to have any effect.
Here is the crux. So many businesses try to be present on too many digital marketing channels all at the same time. You see them on facebook, twitter, snapchat, LinkedIn and running after the latest trendy channel. (ok RAR is kind of guilty as charged as on this one, as we too are on facebook,twitter etc. but at least we know which channel is the crown jewel in our strategy)
But how many social innovation businesses really dominate their channels? Not many. Their approach is too scattered. There are probably a few reasons for this:
As a result, not much thought has been put into creating a sizzling digital marketing strategy
Not understanding that if you truly want to dominate one channel it takes skill, dedication and commitment, because each individual channel is a universe unto itself
Too many believe that if you have a marketing person on your team then you can do everything. Epic fail!
In order to really drive your business forward in an increasingly digital economy, you must be aware of your capacities and the skillset that you have within when determining your digital marketing strategy. And if you do not have the necessary capacity and skill then it is essential to know which one is worth building.
In order to maximize the impact of any digital marketing channel it requires skill. So, while most people are able to send an email, not everyone can execute a successful email marketing campaign to grow a business sustainably. In order for your business to grow this is what you need.
This does not mean you should only be present on one channel. But make sure you know which digital marketing channel is the crown jewel in your strategy and really dominate that one before complementing that one with others.
This leaves you with two options. Either you recruit someone to do digital marketing on a particular channel for you or you will have to learn it by yourself how to do it. There are plenty of resources for doing so. For example, the email marketing software we use here at Rise Africa Rise, GetResponse , offers plenty of valuable video tutorials on how to get the most out of their programme. Below is an example of a video tutorial on marketing automation.
Whatever decision you make in this regard, make sure to think about the capacity and skills at your disposal when determining your digital marketing strategy.
Time is one of the most valuable resources we have at our disposal. That is why our aim should be to optimize the way we use it as much as we can. In an ideal world, this means we would adopt the digital marketing strategy that would give us the quickest return.
This is especially true if you are a new social enterprise or offer a new product/service. Then you want to let your audience know about it as quickly as possible. Unless you have significant resources you may not have the luxury of taking a few years to build up a strong brand that allows you to drive sustainable revenue.
So when thinking about digital marketing strategy, it is useful to think which channel enables you to build an audience and find customers the quickest? If a particular channel takes years to build a following it is hardly worth pursuing.
One of the great benefits of digital marketing compared to traditional off-line marketing is the ability to track user actions. Today it is possible to track nearly every user action online. For example, in email marketing you can analyse not only how many people have opened your emails but also how many have clicked on a link within the email and purchased something.
In contrast, if you are handing out pamphlets in a busy market there is no way for you to find out how many people actually read your pamphlets or took any action as a result of it. You can only guess.
While any digital marketing channel offers the ability to track users behaviour not all of them have the same capabilities. That is why you should determine what behaviour you would like to track and then evaluate whether the channel of your choice offers those tracking capabilities.
One of the keys to scaling your business is to engage in frequent strategic communication with your audience to inspire loyalty and grow your business through regular transactions.
That is why it is so important that you think about what you do with a potentially new customer, strategic partner or beneficiary after they have engaged with your business for the first time? After all, you made a great effort to get their attention.
That is why when deciding on your digital marketing strategy you should think carefully about which channel offers the easiest way for a new customer or audience member to return to your business.
If you do not collect their phone number or email address what is your plan to re-engage them? Are you planning to inform them about new products or services through a facebook update? A tweet? Anything else?
Making it as easy as possible for new audience members and customers to return to engage with your business is really, really important. Give it some serious thought on how you plan to achieve that.
Ability to read
Depending on your audience this is a really important factor to consider. If you are serving a rural population where globalisation has not taken root yet, then you may find yourself serving an audience that cannot read.
Then you have to ask yourself what the implications are for your digital marketing strategy? You will hardly be able to tweet about your amazing business, because if they cannot read chances are slim that you will find them on any digital marketing channels. Audiences that cannot read and have barely been exposed to digital tools also have a completely different mindset. Keep that in mind.
In that case, you really may want to adopt a strategy that centres around video, voice messaging and increasingly virtual reality. As mentioned above, the acceleration towards a digital economy is under way and with it the penetration of mobile devices and access to internet is on the rise.
While your audience may not learn how to read over night (and if they are elderly probably will not learn it anymore), with mobile penetration you will at least be able to reach them through video and voice messaging.
Why should email marketing be the crown jewel?
Given all the different available channels you are probably wondering why email should be the crown jewel of your digital marketing strategy? It is a good question to which we believe there are some good and compelling answers.
To create a strong and prosperous Africa which is at peace with itself we need to create organisations and businesses which are self-reliant. We need to put the times in which Africa relied on aid behind us.
This requires that we build organisations and social businesses that are no longer dependent on donor funding. Instead, our businesses need to create products, solutions and services that are so compelling that people are happy to part with their money for them. That is the way to become self-reliant and free ourselves from the donor relationship.
With the transition to a digital economy under way, Email marketing can become a powerful enabler of self-reliance for many impact businesses across the continent. There are a number of different reasons for this.
In 2016, only 28% of Africa’s 1.2 billion population has access to the internet. This number is expected to significantly increase in the coming years and decades with the emergence of new technologies that will simplify internet access. Hundreds of millions of our fellow Africans will then be able to join the internet. This means that the number of email addresses should also grow significantly in the future.
Unless a disruptive technology comes along that will kill email, the majority of those users will need to get an email address to organise their activities on the net. Even though the death of email has been proclaimed with regular frequency, think about where really important and confidential online information is being sent to?
Have you ever received confidential information from your bank to your facebook inbox? On whatsapp? What about a tweet? What about when buying online (e.g. airline ticket) do they send your payment confirmation anywhere else than to your email?
Hardly. After all, even the mighty Facebook uses Email to stay connected with their users.
Even the mighty Facebook uses Email to communicate with their users
Email may not be the sexiest tool and certainly not the most innovative in your digital marketing strategy. But there is one reason why it has survived since the dawn of the internet.
According to the Director of the African Philanthropy Forum and former McKinsey consultant Ndidi Nwuneli a social innovation in Africa needs to meet 6 factors in order to successfully scale. As she lays out in her latest book Social Innovation in Africa the following are the factors that enable successful scaling:
If you think about it, email meets at least 5 elements of this model. Not only does it leverage technology and is low-cost (more on this below), but it is fairly simply to use and you can measure the impact with today’s tracking capabilities. With the rise of Big Data and Internet of Things the measurable impact capability will only grow to even include measuring off-line impact. And of course, email allows you to engage with your community in a very powerful way.
Now let’s evaluate some of the major advantages that email offers:
The benefits of email
You own your audience
The benefits of email over other marketing channels are many. One of the most important ones is that you own your audience.
You can access your audience whenever you like.
You can create a series of automated emails to welcome new subscribers or onboard new customers. This can be a very effective way to engage your audience and build a relationship.
Check out the welcome email series from Andela, a company that identifies the top 1% of tech talent across Africa to help companies accelerate their growth. This company also managed to secure $24 million from the Zuckerberg-Chan initiative so one can imagine that they know a thing or two about building a digital business.
If they are using email to grow their business, this should mean something. In the first email below, they let subscribers know what to expect and link to a webinar on how to build a distributed tech team which is presumably of importance to their target audience.
In the next email Andela direct subscribers to an article that featured their company in the Wall Street Journal where one can learn more about the company, its philosophy and how it is run.
They continue their welcome series with an email giving their subscribers tips on how to find and retain top developers. Again, this is something their target audience would be highly interested in and given the company’s focus on finding Africa’s top 1% tech talent this is a great way to market their business.
By being helpful and solving their customers problems, Andela is using email to build trust and build their brand through repeated emails.
Whereas you can count yourself lucky if you reach between 5-10% of your followers on social media through organic reach, it is not uncommon to get open rates of 40% with emails. This means if you have a message to share your impact is likely to be bigger than through any other channel.
The best thing about email is that you own your audience. If Facebook, snapchat or whatsapp decide to put hurdles in your way to reach your customers (like dwindling organic reach), there is nothing you can do about it. And if they decide to impose certain terms that you may feel uncomfortable with there is nothing you can do about it.
In this case, you do not own your audience. Others own it for you and you will have to pay to access them to achieve any significant impact.
With email it is a different story. Sure, you have to pay for an email marketing programme and your marketing team (which you would also need to do if they were working with another digital marketing channel) but at least you own your audience and can access them at any time (unless you are a serious spammer and your spammer score is really high).
For us here at Rise Africa Rise, this reason was certainly one of the main drivers to make email the crown jewel of our digital marketing strategy. We believe it should be a strong driver in determining your digital marketing strategy too.
But there are more reasons why email marketing should be the foundation of your digital marketing strategy. As former McKinsey consultant Ndidi Nwuneli articulates in her latest book Social Innovation in Africa in order to scale successful social innovation across the continent one necessary element is that it is low-cost. Another one is to leverage technology. If you look at the cost of email you will realize that it is very low cost. For example, look at the pricing options by our email marketing software provider Getresponse:
Virtually any company can afford to invest $15 a month to start off with. And it comes with a FREE 30 day trial. The cost will only increase once you have an email list of 5’000 subscribers. By that time you will also have a much bigger audience from which to derive revenue. So your costs should only increase once your revenue does. That is the beauty of email marketing if you do it right.
As you can see from the comparison table below, there are, of course, plenty of other options you can choose from. In fact, this list barely scratches the surface of all the different possibilities that exist. However, the site toptenreviews only reviews the top 10 email marketing services that is why there are only 10 email marketing services listed.
As you can see Getresponse is placed in 5th position. Considering all the different email marketing services that exist out there, this just goes to show how good it is is.
The affordability of email was one of the major factors as to why we decided to make it the crown jewel of our own digital marketing strategy. And in our case, we feel Getresponse is not only affordable but also provides great value.
In comparison, pursuing a pay-per-click strategy would perhaps enable one to grow faster, but then you would also need to invest significantly more than with email marketing. If you do not know how to execute a pay-per-click strategy then pay-per-click can quickly eat up your financial resources.
With pay-per click you will need to pay every time somebody clicks on your ad. Even when a click only costs you $0.50 (and this is low) it can quickly add up to cost your business thousands of dollars depending on how much traffic you need. The advantage of email is that once you have somebody’s email address you can reach out to them as often as you like (but be careful not to spam) without having to invest additional capital.
Comprehensive user tracking
Another great feature of email marketing that makes it hard to beat is the fact that you can track user engagement and behaviour fairly easily. Most email marketing come with this feature built-in and provide you with highly valuable data that you can use to build your business.
For example, in our email software programme Getresponse we get provided a lot of valuable data about our email subscribers. We can see where they are based and how often they engage with our emails. Any business, whether focused on impact or not, can use this data to segment their audience according to behaviour and other information.
This means that you can send different emails to different parts of your audience. You could, for instance, create special email series or promotions for your best customers or for those who are on your list but have not engaged with your emails for a while.
The options are really endless and as such email represents a great tool to have at your disposal when you want to grow not only your impact but also your revenue and profit.
If you compare this to facebook or any of the other social media channels you realize how powerful this is. While facebook has probably the most sophisticated audience targeting options available, no other channel beside email marketing allows you to segment your audience the way email does. No other channel allows you to get such rich data about the way your audience engages with your business online.
Or have you found an option on any of the social media channels where you send a tweet or facebook update to only your most engaged members? Does any other channel give you the capability to tag a user with predefined attributes based on which you can then interact with that user? That is why tracking capabilities and the insights you can derive from that is so important to growing your business. And it’s hard to beat email at this.
One of the great benefits about email is that once you have somebody’s email address you can always reach out to them and entice them to return to your website or app.
In comparison to pay-per-click, you do not have to pay again and again to get somebody to come to your website or app. If you do not have an email list then in order to get in front of potential customers you need to pay either to be visible in google’s search result or to reach a bigger audience on one of the countless social media channels.
This will obviously increase your customer acquisition cost and reduce the customer’s lifetime value. With email you can always reach out to them if you have news to share, a new product or a special promotion and it does not cost you extra to spread the message.
After you have gone through all the trouble to acquire a customer, don’t make life harder than it needs to be. Make sure you capture their email address and provide high-quality content to keep them happy and engaged.
Mobile has not just taken over your life. It’s everybody’s life and counting. If you have any doubts about the growing importance of mobile check out this infographic by GSM:
According to the 2015 GSM report on Africamore than 400 million new smartphone connections will be added by 2020, by which time the smartphone installed base will be north of half a billion. As social innovators and entrepreneurs we can use this to bring about economic and social transformation our continent so desperately needs. In Nigeria, for example, Mobicure has developed an mhealth app that allows mothers to monitor the health of their child using only a smartphone. At the time of writing, they now have over 14,000 app users. However, in order to keep our customers, users and strategic partners on board we need to keep them engaged. Otherwise, they lose interest. And it is hard to beat email marketing at keeping users engaged with the ability to reach out to them through automation, promotions, specials or competitions. Considering the undeniable importance of mobile it is crucial that your email marketing is mobile responsive. Especially in Africa, where a large part of our audience only has access to the internet through mobile. Luckily, most email marketing providers are mobile responsive nowadays. Below you can see an example of what a mobile responsive email looks like with our email marketing provider Getresponse:
The message is clear: Make sure your email marketing provider is mobile responsive. Otherwise, choose a different company to do business with.
The drawbacks of email
Like most things in life email has its advantages and disadvantages. Sadly, it is not perfect.
If email is your only digital marketing strategy to grow your audience then you will most likely require a very long time to grow the audience to any size of significance. For most business too long. In order for your email list to grow you need to drive traffic to your website or app through either Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Link-Building or some other ingenious strategy. In most cases, this takes time, patience and commitment.
Time is one of the big advantages of the Pay-for-click strategy (whether on google or on one of the social media channels) compared to email, because you can buy traffic to your website which will increase the speed at which your email list can grow as the number of visitors will increase too. Of course, it will require a bigger investment than just email too.
That is why if you need to find customers fast relying solely on email marketing might not do the trick for you.
One of the big drawbacks of email is that it is closely associated with spam. When we interviewed the co-founder of MOBIcure, Charles Akhimien we asked him what digital marketing strategy they employ. We noticed his answer did not include email marketing.
So we followed up and asked why MOBIcure was not using email marketing. Below is his answer.
We all have experienced spam before and know how annoying this can be. There is a good chance that your email inbox does contain a good percentage of spam emails which is big annoyance and waste of time. If people think your email is spam they will delete without even looking at it. Your email will go to waste.
That is why in order to eliminate the perception of spam amongst your target audience it is really important that you send high-quality emails that solve real problems for your audience and that they look forward to receiving your emails.
Closely connected to the above, is that your inbox is overloaded. Mostly this applies all the time. And an important contributing factor to this are spam emails which provide no value whatsoever.
Or do you remember when the last time was that your inbox counted 0!!!! unread emails? Hardly. Many emails just get deleted without ever being read. Most inboxes receive too many inboxes for a normal human being to handle. In order to avoid this, you will need to have a high-quality email marketing strategy in place.
The digital marketing landscape is forever evolving and changing fast. It is hard to keep up. This means that if you want to be successful you need to have a clearly defined yet adaptable digital marketing strategy.
Also, email is continuously adapting in tune with the wider digital marketing landscape as technology continues to evolve so making email the foundation of your digital marketing strategy will remain a wise choice for the foreseeable future.
And if you feel that based on your understanding of your own audience email is not the right medium for you, it is still recommendable to think through the various elements outlined in this post when determining what the best digital marketing strategy is for your business.
What is essential, regardless of what digital marketing strategy you adopt, is that you have one. The transition to a digital economy is well and truly under way and in order for your business to survive you cannot rely on strategies that worked in the 20th century.