Some consider it low-tech, but if it works (and it does—still), who cares?
By Andrew Joseph
Some people, when considering ways to market their flower enterprises, are old school—newspapers, magazines, billboards, fliers and pamphlets while others believe the more “new-school” way of promoting via digital ads, blogs, vlogs, websites and social media platforms, for example, are the way to go. Truthfully, each works in its own wonderfully mysterious way—although effectiveness can vary by target market. The goal of each marketing format is to promote a business and its products and/or services to consumers and to incentivize purchasing and loyalty among those consumers.
Email marketing, which has been around for more than 40 years, is sort of halfway between the old and new schools. Here are a couple of fun facts: 1) The first electronic mail was sent in 1971 by computer engineer Ray Tomlinson from one computer to another on ARPANET, the forerunner of the internet, and 2) the first email marketing blast was sent in 1978 by Digital Equipment Corporation to 400 of the company’s computer customers. It resulted in $13 million in sales, which is equivalent to around $60 million in today’s dollars.
Back to today. Although it’s been around for decades, email marketing isn’t dead, states Hailey Hudson, writing for DirectLync Insights, notes that 69 percent of businesses still use email marketing today (Content Marketing Institute, 2022). “This marketing method is still a highly effective tool for both increasing engagement and revenue among current customers and acquiring and retaining customers. However, many businesses are making mistakes with their marketing emails, which means [they] might not see good results from [their] efforts.”
Hudson notes the following statistics about email marketing in support of her contention that it’s not going anywhere soon and, in fact, will only continue to grow.
• The number of email users worldwide is estimated to be 4.3 billion, and that number is expected to grow to 4.6 billion by 2025 (Statista, 2021). That’s more than half of the world’s population!
• 333.2 billion emails are sent and received every day, and that number is expected to increase to 376.4 billion by 2025 (Statista, 2021).
• Marketing emails have an impressive ROI: In general, businesses can expect an average return of $36 to $40 for every $1 they spend on email marketing. (Litmus Software and Omnisend, 2022, respectively). Eighteen percent of companies who use email marketing achieve an ROI that’s greater than $70 for every $1 spent (Omnisend, 2022).
• Email marketing is more likely to drive sales than social media marketing, and it’s a fast, personal and direct way to reach customers.
MailChimp, which, among many other things, provides email marketing platforms for general business consumption, states that email marketing can be a softer sell to inform customers on your email list of new products, discounts and other services and to educate them on the value of your brand or keep them engaged between purchases.
Benefits of Email Marketing
So, what are the general benefits of email marketing? There are six of them.
1. It is permission based. Once people give you their email addresses—which you can get by simply asking for them—people have provided permission to receive emails from you, which means there’s a good chance your emails will be opened and looked at.
2. It is a “return-business” opportunity. Email marketing provides a way for your flower shop to continue dialogue with customers, which helps them become repeat customers. We’ll explain this in more depth later in this article.
3. It is cost effective. Everyone loves a bargain, and email marketing is certainly less cost-prohibitive than the other forms of marketing such as print, television, radio and most digital platforms. We’ll provide a few examples of digital platforms shortly.
4. It offers opportunities for segmentation and personalization. You get to control just who sees your marketing—unlike with broadcast or print advertising. If you have more detailed information on your customer base, you can streamline your marketing based on a customer’s location, gender, age and more. By creating personalized content, you can add specific calls to action (CTAs) and insert recommended products based on each customer’s activities, preferences, lifestyle and needs.
5. It offers a great return on investment (ROI). Email marketing is great for small businesses that have budget constraints. It is a low-cost form of marketing, and it typically produces a high ROI. As mentioned earlier, Omnisend says businesses can expect an average return of $40 for every $1 they spend on email marketing. Similarly, Litmus Software puts that number at $36 for every $1 spent, based on its survey of more than 2,000 businesses. ROI varies from industry to industry and business to business, but our experts suggest that retail florists can reasonably expect an average return of at least $25 for every $1 they spend on email marketing.
6. It is measurable. With email marketing, you can track the effectiveness of your email campaigns via metrics and analytics. You can track the number of “sends” versus “opens” and see if there were click-throughs to your website or other links. In addition, you can see if renewed contact with your flower shop was due to the messaging via a code. We’ll get to more on that, too.
We contacted two providers of business solutions for retail florists to get their unique perspectives and advice on email marketing in our industry. Art Conforti, PFCI, president of Bloomerang Solutions in Sarasota, Fla., is a second-generation florist with more than 35 years of experience in floral retailing (Beneva Flowers). Ryan Freeman is president of Strider, an online-marketing services provider with offices in Wilmington, Del., and Toronto, Ont., Canada. His family’s five-generations-old flower business, Martin’s Flowers, in Toronto, was founded in 1898. Both Conforti and Freeman agree that email marketing is a fantastic tool for flower retailers, but they each have slightly differing views on its implementation.
As noted in Benefit No. 5 above, a 36x to 40x ROI is the average for email marketing campaign, in general. Conforti agrees that email marketing can provide a great ROI but suggests that florists can expect an ROI in the range of 25x to 40x. “Whoever puts in the time reaps the rewards,” Conforti says. “Email marketing does take some effort and requires more than a simple message. You have to provide a reason for consumers to not only open your emails but also act on them.”
He continues by noting that timing is everything. For example, retail sales for florists in January are typically slow. “People have just spent their money at Christmas. They are sick of seeing offers such as $25 off a single purchase in January, so this type of promotion won’t generate many orders, and it might result in customers requesting florists to remove customers’ contact information from their email lists.”
Conforti’s solution is a December promotion that hits prospective customers while they’re still in the giving spirit rather than when the post-yuletide hangover arrives in January. His plan involves sending out an email marketing message every week in December—just one per week. “During Week 1, provide the best offer of 20 percent off, but have the offer end on the nearest Saturday,” he advises.” For Week 2, the discount is 15 percent; Week 3 is 10 percent; and Week 4 is no discount—but the messaging is that there’s still time to shop.”
Conforti recommends that, within the emails, florists include codes for customers to use—ones that are easily understood by the flower shop staff who may be taking orders on the phone, in person or online. “Develop codes that denote the year, expiration date and store number [if you have multiple locations],” Conforti explains. “That’s it. That way, you can better determine not only which discount to apply each order but also to which email blast customers are responding.”
Neither Conforti nor Freeman recommends using your business email to send out the marketing to customers, saying, instead, that you should always use a third-party company. Many companies offer free or relatively inexpensive options for sending email advertising to small-business subscriber lists. For instance, SendPulse offers a free option that includes sending up to 15,000 marketing emails per month to a maximum of 500 email contacts. Similarly, the previously mentioned MailChimp offers a no-cost option that includes sending up to 2,500 emails per month to a maximum of 500 contacts. Note that these free options include just the basic services in email delivery; SendPulse, MailChimp and other companies all offer more premium email marketing services for relatively low fees, which are dependent on how large your email list is, the total number of emails you send per month and any other specific needs you may have.
Conforti also advises that if you send email marketing via a third-party company, “Neve use your own email or password. The password could get stolen and then your email hacked. Why invite trouble?” Instead, he recommends creating a separate email address and password exclusively for your business emails when dealing with a third party. Google (Gmail), Outlook (Hotmail/Live/MSM), AOL (AOL Mail), Yahoo! (Yahoo! Mail), iCloud (iCloud Mail) and Mozilla (Thunderbird) are just a few of the many companies that offer free email accounts.
The Value of Value
Conforti says that you need to cull your email list only after a year, to qualify it. Freeman adds, “The quick and dirty way is to remove people based on metrics; for example, anyone who hasn’t opened the most recent five emails sent to them or who hasn’t clicked through to your website.”
But, just because someone hasn’t responded to your emails doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still give them another chance. Freeman notes, “Ceate a list of people who haven’t opened your emails, and send them a targeted message using a direct appeal in the subject line. Tell them they are about to be unsubscribed because they aren’t reading your emails and that you don’t want to continue to bother them if they are no longer interested in receiving your emails. Give them the option to confirm their subscriptions and interests.”
So, how frequently (or infrequently) should you send emails to customers? We don’t want to pester people so that they hit the unsubscribe link.
The frequency of your emails should largely depend on how much content you have available to share. People don’t mind frequent messages as long as they are informative. In fact, according to research conducted in 2021 by Constant Contact, a popular email marketing platform, 99 percent of email users check their inboxes daily, and 61 percent of consumers like getting weekly promotional emails.
“People don’t mind frequent email messages as long as they are informative,” Freeman states. “They don’t always have to be about the ‘sale,’ even though it is at the core of everything you do.”
As an example, he mentions Pupford, an online dog training and nutrition advice company. Pupford sends emails almost daily, and 90 percent of them focus on a blog post written during the previous three to four years. These are helpful articles for dog owners, so their engagement is strong.
“Some online florists send several sales-focused emails a week,” Freeman adds, “but that’s mostly ‘spray-and-pray’ marketing based on very little segmentation or audience understanding. Most brick-and-mortar retailers can do well with two to four emails per month. The key is delivering value so that people will continue to open and read your emails.”
As for developing lists dependent on segmentation, Freeman shares that flower and plant buyers are different from typical e-commerce shoppers, who typically purchase for themselves and, therefore, shop according to their own needs, so it is easier to build a profile from that. “Flower buyers are most often buying for others and may choose an arrangement, plant or other gift based on a recipient’s preferences,” he explains. “That’s why it’s helpful to do reminder marketing for known occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and holidays for which customers have purchased before.”
Value. Both Freeman and Conforti agree that email marketing requires value—or else it won’t work. “If you push garbage, they’ll unsubscribe,” says Conforti. “No one wants your overstock, but they do want great-looking arrangements at a good price.”
Developing Email Marketing Campaigns
What should florists promote with email marketing? Products, services, in-store events/workshops, etc., or should it just be brand building?
“So many retailers get this wrong,” Freeman points out. “A high percentage of email marketing is ‘Buy X right now; it’s Y percent off.’ That’s a fast track to diminishing returns, but it’s also tempting because it’s so much easier than actually being interesting. I recommend that 50 percent to 75 percent of your marketing emails be informational, with 25 percent to 50 percent being sales focused.”
MailChimp identifies four principal types of email marketing campaigns.
1. Promotional emails. Promotional emails advertise a company’s products or services, often by promoting sales, discounts, seasonal events, in-store events and so on.
2. Product update emails. These emails inform customers about new or updated products.
3. Digital newsletters. Digital newsletters are regularly sent to inform customers about the company by providing interesting articles or relevant news.
4. Transactional emails. These emails are typically triggered by a customer action. For example, if a customer buys a product, they may receive a confirmation email or a follow-up email that asks for their feedback.
When are the best days and times to send your email marketing messages?
The answer is going to vary from shop to shop, based on each shop’s clientele, but in general, Conforti suggests Tuesdays. “Many florists spend Mondays filling weekly standing orders, receiving and processing flowers, and so on, so they are more likely to have time on Tuesdays,” he notes. “However, most people in the marketing world have long believed that Tuesdays are the best days to send emails and get responses, so Tuesdays have historically been heavy email days. The bottom line is that you have to test emails and monitor your open and response rates to determine what days and times produce the best results among your specific customer bases.”
Freeman notes that it was popular 15 years ago to make bold predictions about the time of day and the day of the week while assuming certain behaviors of the email recipients. “The only sure thing about timing is that if you’re not testing, you’re not trying,” he emphasizes. “Try different times, and test different ideas. If you have a time that works for you, send to 80 percent of your list at that time as a control group, then send the rest at a different time, to compare. What works for one small business or customer segment might not work for another. While one client base might be more corporate, another may comprise stay-at-home or work-at-home customers. Shift work, working from home and the ‘always-connected life with a smartphone’ mean that the old rules are out the window.”
The bottom line is that there is no one clear answer to questions about the best days and times to send emails. Adobe Marketo Engage states that, in general, Tuesdays still seem to yield the highest open rates, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see the most conversion and revenue growth to emails sent on that day; Thursdays tend to be the highest money-making days for emails. However, as stated before, this will be dependent on the industry and the behaviors of a specific audience. The best way for you to determine which days will deliver optimal results for your audience and particular goals is to run multiple send tests. And don’t be surprised if Tuesdays don’t work well for your emails.
Mornings may be the best time of day to send marketing emails: 10 a.m. typically ranks highly for open rates in a number of sectors, according to Marketo. However, while many people tend to open emails the most in the mornings, sending emails in the afternoons may also yield good results for your business—again, depending on the demographics of your customers. Sometimes, it may make sense to send emails in the afternoons—between 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.—when people are checking their inboxes as they’re gearing up to finish their workdays, as well as early evenings when people are at home checking emails before switching off for the day. The best solution, again, is to test a range of days and times and see how your audience responds. For more on this topic, see the “Best Days and Times to Send Emails: General Advice” sidebar on Page 00.
What should your messaging look like?
Both Conforti and Freeman agree that providing value is key.
Conforti believes that “less is more” when it comes to promotional emails. Have nice imagery, short copy and that’s it. “Value is something that is relevant to most customers,” he suggests. “You must offer products they are interested in and that are relevant to their lifestyles. But it must include a good offer. The offer is everything.”
Freeman concurs, adding that people will act on your campaign only if there is an appealing offer—as well as a call to action. “Telling consumers that flowers are on sale does nothing,” he says. “Telling consumers to click a button to automatically redeem a coupon for free delivery is more likely to get a response. The call to action should spell out the benefit; ‘Click Here’ doesn’t cut it.”
In today’s email marketing, interactive emails are the way forward, writes Maryam Mohsin for Oberlo, a drop-shipping app built by Shopify. According to research by MarTech Advisor, an international source for marketing technology news and research, adding videos to your emails can increase “click-through” rates (clicking to open an email) and “click-to-open” rates (clicking on a link within an email) by as much as 300 percent. “Your emails should create user engagement, and adding videos does that,” Mohsin notes. “Progressive email marketers also include sliders, collapsible menus and GIFs to make their emails more engaging to customers. Also, make sure that all of your interactive emails are optimized for mobile devices.”
Of critical importance in getting people to open emails are subject lines, as are sender names. Freeman states that an email’s subject line and sender name will determine if someone opens the email. “Some brands might do better with ‘Brandi@BFloral’ as the sender name while others might do better just using the company name.” Test subject lines and sender names by monitoring your click-through rates to see what types and formats perform best, and search the internet for more advice on writing effective subject lines; you’ll find lots of useful tips, advice and data. MailChimp provides some tips online at eepurl.com/dyikT9.
Research conducted by Yes Marketing/Data Axle, an email marketing consulting firm and service provider, shows that emails with personalized subject lines generate 50 percent higher click-through rates, so it is worth customizing your greetings and subject lines to include individual names when you send emails. It that’s too much of a task, try personalizing your emails with a topic of interest to your subscriber base.
While emojis in subject lines have an impact, studies show that the impact could be positive or negative. Freeman suggests that if your brand is more traditional or if your email list largely comprises older consumers, the usage of emojis in your email subject lines could be off-putting for your recipients. However, if your email list is separated by ages, emoji usage could be intriguing and enticing to younger consumers.
Both Conforti and Freeman agree that it is time well spent to come up with good subject lines. If they’re not good, no one will open the email, and, if they’re awful, you could get filtered as spam. One tip is to avoid ALL CAPS; some people consider all caps to be shouting, and they also can cause your email to be perceived as spam by the receiver’s spam filter. Conforti also advises to never say “Save $5”—or any other dollar figure—as an offer in a subject line.
What kind of click-through and click-to-open rates should you expect?
As of December 2022, Constant Contact states that the average click-through (open) rate for delivered emails across all industries 34.51 percent, and the average click-to-open rate (clicking on a link within an email) is 1.33 percent. These figures vary slightly from industry to industry and from month to month, as Constant Contact examines the data from more than 200 million emails its users send every month.They also vary depending on the type of device a recipient uses, the type of email campaign, the type of offer made, quality of subject lines, audience demographics, and even the email provider used (Gmail nets the highest click-through rates, by far, followed distantly by Outlook/Hotmail/Live/MSM and Yahoo! Mail).
In some industries, click-through (open) rates of 25 percent to 45 percent are standard, and click-to-open rates (clicking on a link within an email) of 2 percent to 3.5 percent are common. Dave Chaffey, Ph.D., cofounder and content director of Smart Insights, an online digital marketing platform, says that he prefers to examine click-to-open rates because they show engagement with the copy and creative.
Conforti shares that when Bloomerang examined its December 2022 data, it found that the company’s retail florist customers were getting click-through (open) rates of 25 percent to 30 percent, and their click-to-open rates averaged 4.5 percent. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw those metrics,” he exclaims. “Unfortunately, I don’t think enough people in the flower industry understand just how powerful email marketing really is—and these numbers prove that.”
For the retail flower industry, Conforti concludes that, in general, a good email campaign will result in purchases from 4 percent to 5 percent of the recipients. Four percent of 1,000 emails—that’s 40 orders. And remember, as Conforti mentioned earlier in this article, be sure to include a code in each email so that you can determine the success of each email campaign and learn what works and what doesn’t.
How to Create Engaging Emails
1. Nail your subject line.
Like a good newspaper headline, subject lines are designed to capture readers’ imagination and get them to read on. Keep them short and punchy, and put the key details to the front of the sentence. This will ensure that your audience can read your subject lines on different devices. MailChimp recommends no more than nine words or 60 characters.
Subject lines should be relevant, specific and gimmick free. Use keywords and phrases that are of particular interest to your target audience. Be honest about the contents of the email and avoid clickbait techniques. The subject line is often all it takes for a potential lead to discard your email as spam before opening.
Personalizing each subject line is another useful technique to help your audience feel you’re talking to them directly.
2. Use clear, engaging language.
Throughout your email, subject line and calls to action (CTAs), make sure to use actionable language and active voice. Motivate your audience to act, not be acted upon. Write in the second person voice (referring to the reader as ‘you’) and discuss benefits, not features. Perhaps most important, make sure your writing is clear.
3. Hone your CTAs.
CTAs are essential to your emails. It’s important to have them clear from the very beginning, so make sure you have a good idea of what you want to achieve with your message before you start. When it comes to writing CTAs, action, benefits and brevity are essential. Your audience should be compelled to ‘View deal,’ ‘Sign up’ or ‘Visit sale’ in as few words as possible.
If you write emails in HTML, you can make your CTAs stand out with a button or box. According to research by Campaign Monitor, these have far higher click-through (open) rates than non-button alternatives. The same research also uncovered a 371 percent improvement from single CTAs to multiple calls to action. Choose just one CTA per email.
4. Format in HTML.
Creating a HTML email is a great way to bring graphic design into even the most workaday emails. You can incorporate graphics, GIFs and videos into your email template to bring them to life. However, proceed with caution: An email fully loaded with video and animation may look great, but you might encounter problems with loading and delivering your message. What’s more, too much content can negate from the message itself. For simplicity and accessibility, it’s always good to include a plain text version, too.
Courtesy of Adobe Marketo Engage
EMAIL MARKETING TIPS
by Hailey Hudson, DirectLync
Email marketing isn’t dead. This marketing method is still a highly effective tool to use in 2022. However, many businesses are making mistakes with their marketing emails, and this means you might not see good results from your efforts. Here are three of the most common email marketing mistakes and how to fix them.
1. Not Looking Professional
Your marketing emails need to look professional, reflecting the authority and credibility of your business. But if your emails contain grammar or spelling mistakes, use too many stock images or have a poorly designed visual structure, they may look amateur or even downright scammy. Fix these mistakes by teaching yourself about email design. Even if you aren’t a graphic designer, there are plenty of free courses and free email editors out there that make it easy to learn the basics you need to know. This will help you design more attractive emails, using creative stock images from places like Freepic, Flicker and Unsplash. (For more sources and tips, visit optinmonster.com/places-to-find-images-for-better-conversions.) When you’re through designing, carefully proofread every email. Use tools like Grammarly to make sure your copy is perfect. And send yourself a preview so you can view the email on desktop and mobile, to make sure it’s responsive on any device.
2. Getting Off on the Wrong Foot
You know what they say about first impressions: You get only one. Because your welcome email is your customer’s first impression of your email marketing, that welcome email needs to be well-designed and expertly written. It also needs to do a few key things: welcome your readers and thank them for subscribing; serve as an introduction to your brand; and get readers excited about what’s to come. Welcome emails typically have an open rate that is at least three times the average email open rate, so consider slipping in some other useful—but brief—information you want your readers to know.
3. Forgetting About Mobile Users
Sixty percent of email opens take place on mobile devices. Failure to optimize your marketing emails for mobile viewing is a big mistake that could cost your business a lot of money. Make your emails mobile-friendly by keeping the subject line and body text short. Move your CTAs (calls to action) up earlier in the email, and use your pre-header text strategically, too. Finally, always test your emails across multiple devices to make sure they show up the way you want them to.
These are just a few of the tips you can use to take your email marketing to the next level. To make email marketing even easier, take advantage of the drag-and-drop email editor offered by DirectLync (directlync.com/features/email-marketing). Design professional-looking, mobile-responsive marketing campaigns with just a few clicks. Then schedule your emails to be sent.
Email marketing is alive and well in 2022, and when done right, it can boost your revenue like never before.
Best Days and Times to Send Emails: General Advice
By Megan Marrs
WordStream by LOCALiQ
These general email-send-time tips are widely accepted by the email marketing community. They are great when you’re starting off, but be sure to read on and see why they won’t always work.
• Daytime Versus Nighttime. While this one may be obvious, it’s usually better to send out your email campaigns during the daytime—when people are awake, not asleep. This advice, however, depends on the device. The standard midweek, mid-day timing makes sense for desktop users who are opening emails at work, but mobile users tend to be pretty active even late in the evening.
• Mad Mondays. The general consensus is that you should avoid sending out email blasts on Mondays. Why? People are already bummed out about the end of the weekend. They march into the office and are flooded with emails they’ve collected over the past few days. What’s the first thing they do? Delete those emails, of course!
• Weekends. Historically, weekends are the days when folks are out running errands and going on adventures. Weekends tend to have low open rates, so most marketers avoid them like the plague.
• Give Heads Up for An Event. While 23 percent of emails are opened within 60 minutes after being sent, some lingerers may not check out your email until a day or two later. To be safe, send out event-oriented emails three to five days prior to an event.
• Fan Favorites: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. These three days have traditionally been popular days to send email campaigns as email marketers seek to avoid the Monday angst and Friday’s itchy-feet. MailChimp confirms that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the two most popular days to send email newsletters.
That’s the Advice. Now Ignore It
The tips above are considered general best practice advice for email marketing. However, there are many, many situations that quickly challenge the classical suggestions above. Just take a look at our own WordStream data.
Best Time to Send Emails: Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Most email marketing articles would claim that 8 a.m. is too early to send an email newsletter, but it works great for WordStream blasts. We get click-through (open) rates of 25 percent and higher with this time.
Worst Time to Send Emails: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Many would claim that Tuesday and Wednesday mornings should be great times to send emails, but we’ve found that Tuesday mornings result in open rates of less than 5 percent while Wednesday mornings generate click-to-open rates of less than 5 percent. Our data shows that the status just ain’t always quo. There are several reasons why these old classic tips don’t mean squat in the end.
Beating the Rush
So, everyone agrees that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the best days to send out an email campaign. This means that you’re facing a ton of competition by sending out emails on the “recommended” days and times. If you don’t want your emails to get lost in the hustle, swimming upstream may be your best bet. Although Mondays and Fridays are generally not recommended, who is to say they won’t work for you? Understanding your demographics is the single most important thing you can do for email marketing success. They’re your audience; you should know their habits and cater to them.
The Ultimate Answer to the “When to Send an Email” Question
The answer to “What is the best time to send an email campaign?” is that there is no single “best time” to send an email; it depends on your audience. While there are certain days of the week and times that are generally recommended by the larger email marketing community, it is to refute those claims. The “mid-day, midweek motto” is a great place to start and should perform decently enough. However, if you really want to rock email marketing and send out your email newsletters at the very best time for optimal opens and clicks, you need to test! A/B test your send times like crazy. This is really the best way to find the perfect send time for your particular audience.