How to Take Your Email Campaign to the Next Level

By: Nick Cafferky

So you finally have the robust mailing list that you’ve always wanted. Maybe it was a successful trade show, maybe it was great a social media campaign — but regardless of how it happened, it is a great start. But what now?

While it’s true that having an audience is crucial for your firm, coming up with what kinds of messages you want to send to your mailing list is a very important next step. Email campaigns work more often than you think. In fact, a recent study from YES lifecycle marketing shows that 68 percent of all consumers have made a purchase that stemmed from a brand email in the last three months – and YES, this does include professional services, not just products. That number is likely to continue growing too, as it jumps to 83 percent with Millennials, who are slowly becoming a larger share of the people making purchasing decisions.

There are lots of different angles to take in an email campaign, but none is more effective than a discount. Ninety-two percent of people find some sort of discount as an important driver to making a purchase from an email. How does that translate for us, in the AEC industry though? We don’t run specials on design services. The point is simply to provide an incentive to act NOW. Perhaps that is waiving a small consultation fee or throwing in an additional perk, it still accomplishes the goal of giving your potential customer a sense of urgency and the feeling they’re getting something extra.

Just behind discounts is the reputation of your brand, which is an important factor for 90 percent of people. Have you won any awards for your work recently? Your mailing list should know about that! Finish a kitchen renovation you are particularly proud of? That’s a great way to build up that reputation and brand awareness. But remember, be sure to segment your list. The whole idea of a mailing list is to get a singular message out to a large number of people, but the occasional message to a handful of potential customers with personalized recommendations can be a huge step in gaining that sought after brand loyalty.

Finally, one big way that you can use your email list is, establishing yourself as a thought leader. This is probably the most effective email marketing tactic for B2B firms. Whether you’re sending out a free guide, white paper, or a unique energy use study, it doesn’t matter; anything of value that you can offer will go a long way in building up the idea that you are THE firm  to talk to. Additionally, it makes the people on your list want to open your mail in the first place. After all, you are providing them information that might help their business.

Now, as for WHEN to send your emails, it will depend on your audience and the type of list you have. While past research from sources like mailchimp say open rates are best during the middle of the week and the middle of the day, this data may be shifting. Consider your list and the type of email addresses you likely have. With a heavily personal email list (perhaps of target residential design clients) you should be aiming for early in the morning or sometime in the evening. Because while most people are constantly monitoring email throughout the day, these two times are when people are more likely to open promotional personal messages. The closer to those times you are, the closer you’ll be to the top of their inbox when they are ready to open it. For professional communications going to a list of mostly work email addresses, it’s likely that mailchimp’s data still stands. Timing your emails wisely prevents you from getting lost at the bottom of the inbox, where you will likely never be seen. And after all of the hard work you’ve done just to get that email out, that’s the last thing you want.

I love white space too, but…please do something with your homepage

It still amazes me when I receive a list of firm websites from someone – and more than 50% of them are dysfunctional. Perhaps even more surprising is that I usually receive them as a list of aspirational competitors, top-notch designers, distinguished panelists, etc. Basically, “these are people that we look up to, so go check them out.”

One thing I see entirely too much of is completely useless homepages. Literally, the face for what could impact 97% of your client’s decisions is a barren wasteland of a screen with a cleverly placed firm name…maybe an address if you’re lucky. Fifteen years ago, as businesses were clamoring to “just get something up there” this might have cut it. But today, it’s a shot in the foot to architecture firms everywhere.

Regardless of where your architectural sensibilities fall on the form/function debate, your website doesn’t have to prove your point. Your homepage has a few seconds to impress people (to be read: potential clients) and convince them to hear or read what you have to say about design. USE IT. Here are five reasons why your homepage might not be doing its job.

  • The majority of traffic to your website starts at your homepage, unless you’re doing a great job with custom landing pages and marketing campaigns for your architecture firm. Keep in mind that likely 40% or more of that traffic “bounces” immediately from the first page they see. Translation: 40% of the people that came to your website saw your firm name on a blank page, then left.
  • If you have a one HTML page website with a bunch of Flash embedded circa the 90’s/early 00’s – you can likely assume that search engines see one page with very little (or no) info about your firm. That’s pretty much killing your firm in the SEO department.
  • Thumbnails alone don’t cut it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with using the images themselves, but if your homepage is 95% empty with a few images on the screen – the impact of those thumbnails has been diminished significantly by current monitor resolutions/sizes.
  • You may be unconventional, but most of your visitors probably aren’t. They need things like links back to your homepage and consistent positioning of nav. Hiding your navigation or making it difficult to stop a swooshing, sweeping, portfolio to see one project description won’t help even the most creative of clients realize how much they like you.
  • Last, but not least – don’t make people wait! If you have a Flash (shudders) or heavily scripted homepage that takes a few seconds to load for you, assume it takes much longer for a first time visitor to your site. This is because, depending on how your site is built, certain aspects are saved or cached to speed up your browser’s load on the next time around. Compound that with the fact that all of your homepage content is contained in that fancy animation and you have potential clients looking at a blank screen for several seconds.