Email Marketing may be one of the oldest forms of digital communication, but it still reigns supreme when it comes to usage. Sure, there are newer methods of communicating with your audience and customers, like social media and live chat; but, with a user base of over 4 billion people, email is still the queen of marketing channels. There’s only one problem—how do you know how to build a successful email marketing campaign? Consider this post your Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing.
What is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is a way to connect with people who opt-in to your subscriber list. These are either people who have already purchased a product or service from you, or people who are interested in eventually doing business with you. It’s a way you can communicate directly with your audience on their schedules. In addition, because people check their emails daily, your email is likely to be viewed and read in a timely manner, unlike social channels where your message is swiftly lost in the chaos and algorithm.
It’s important to note that with email marketing you own a direct connection—unlike social media connections which can be quickly lost when the next new social trend comes along.
Email marketing affords you much more opportunity to personalize a mass message and hyper-target campaigns to specific groups of people in one email. Once the campaign is sent you can see who opened it and what they clicked.
Although email marketing is powerful, it’s not without challenges. You still need to be creative in order to stand out in a cluttered inbox. There are also lots of rules governing the use of email for commercial purposes, so make sure you are aware of these rules.
For a more in-depth information visit our blog, What is Email Marketing.
People are inundated with interruptions, pitches, and advertisements everywhere they look. Even if you think your email is special, it may be one in a million that lands in their inbox. So, remember where you are, use good manners, and take the time to create content you believe your subscribers will value.
Remember, you should always have their permission to send them emails. By law your email list must be built with a permission-based approach. Besides, people are more likely to engage or purchase if they agree to receive your emails, and less likely to report you as spam. Never purchase email lists, and don’t add people without their express permission to do so. Website forms inviting them to subscribe are a great option when it comes to express permission.
How Does Email Marketing Work?
In its basic form, an effective email marketing campaign requires three essential elements:
1. Email Subscriber List(s)
The basis of any email campaign is an active email list of current or potential customers. This valuable database should only include email contacts that have signed up to receive marketing communication from you.
There are many ways to build an email subscriber list. One of the easiest is to create a content marketing strategy involving a lead magnet (or offer). It must be something your target audience is interested in, like an e-book or guide, in exchange for their email address. Many businesses have more than one type of customer (we call these market segments) and therefore, different offers may be required to appeal to each segment. When you separate customers into specific segmented lists, it allows you to share relevant offers to each.
2. An Email Service Provider
Set yourself up with a trusted email service provider (ESP), also called an email marketing platform. An ESP is a software program that will help you efficiently organize and edit your email list, design email campaigns, send them out to your chosen audience, and provide analytics.
With an ESP, you can divide and organize your list based on the behaviour of your email subscribers, allowing you to tailor your messaging and personalize communication.
3. Clearly Defined Goals
Email marketing is a fantastic tool for reaching several business goals at once. A well-written email campaign can increase revenue, engage both current and prospective customers, and keep your business top-of-mind.
With these goals in mind, use your ESP and mailing list together to reach your brand’s potential.
First, we recommend segmenting your email lists according to subscriber demographics, industry, interests, or actions.
Next, create an email, or series of emails, designed to lead customers to a desired action (your goal).
And lastly, use your ESP to send emails and monitor the campaign automatically.
Best Email Marketing Strategies
To succeed with email marketing, you have to be strategic in the way you design your campaigns. Here are some of the best email marketing strategies you can employ.
Use the Right List Building Strategies
The success of your email marketing campaigns depends on the quality of your email list. To build such a list, you must use list-building strategies designed to attract your target audience. This is where a content marketing strategy comes in.
– Before you continue reading this article –
Register for Content Marketing EssentialsIf you’re ready to learn how to generate leads, build brand awareness, and nurture existing customers, register for our series of 10, one-on-one, virtual meetings with resident expert, OG Owner and Director, Lisa. For a limited time only, we are offering an introductory price of $999, so get started now! We look forward to working with you.
Practice Good Email List Hygiene
Another essential email marketing strategy is practicing good email list hygiene. Cleaning out inactive subscribers and email addresses that are no longer in use will ensure you have a good sender reputation, which ensures higher deliverability rates to your readers’ inbox. And since most ESP’s charge you a send rate based on the number of subscribers, why send to people who are no longer engaged or not likely to buy your product or service anyways, right?!
Keep Your List Engaged
Regularly send emails to your list to keep your subscribers engaged. Sporadic emailing could result in subscribers forgetting who you are, marking your email as spam, or unsubscribing. These will all adversely affect your conversion rates.
We recommend periodically asking your readers if there is anything specific they’d really like you to write about. Try to get them to respond with topics of interest, so your email campaigns become even more relevant and engaging in their eyes.
Write Great Subject Lines
Ensure that the subject line clearly defines the main focus of what’s inside, but also captures the reader’s curiosity enough to open it. Craft clever subject lines that are difficult to ignore. Use keywords, active voice, and personalize it whenever possible. Avoid using excessive caps or symbols, words that can have a negative connotation, or phrases that can seem spammy; they can trigger firewalls and spam filters that affect deliverability, blocking your email from ever reaching their inbox.
Create Enticing Preview Messaging
Short, snappy email preview text goes hand-in-hand with an enticing subject line. The text appears right below or beside the subject line, expanding on what the email is about, and further persuading subscribers to open it. Usually limited to a maximum of 140 characters, take advantage of this opportunity to get that email opened!
Keep Branding Consistent
Use branded colours that are consistent with your website and relevant images that are visually stunning. If you don’t have the budget for custom photography, there are many free custom stock websites.
Ensure Sends are Well-Timed
Drip emails that are sent as part of an overall content marketing strategy can be timed to deliver based on the reader’s clicks, opens, event attendance, and other actions. We also recommend testing out what days of the week and times of the day get the most opens and clicks from your readers, so you can refine sending campaigns at optimal days and times.
Talk about benefits, not features
Focusing on how your product or services can benefit your reader makes the copy more compelling.
Use Clean Design
Simple design makes the email visually pleasing, less distracting, and easy to read, but still continues to build brand awareness and a consistently positive brand experience.
Be Focused and Relevant
Know your audience. Use language that will make sense to them and avoid using technical jargon. Create hyper-targeted content by selecting appropriate imagery that resonates with your readers. For example, if your ideal client is mostly women, choose images of women using your product or service, so readers can visualize themselves using it.
Make It Easy to Read
People are busy. That’s why you should write your email copy so it’s easy to read and understand. Use short sentences and paragraphs, avoid technical jargon or complex words, and use bullet points to get to the point quickly.
Tell a Story
Stories are a powerful way to grab attention and get your message across. Plus, it just makes things a whole lot more interesting.
If you are a small business and not as widely known as the big brands, you have to try harder to gain your customer’s trust and show them you are here to help. It’s easier to overcome skepticism if you share testimonials from other customers who had a good experience working with, or buying from you.
Regulate Your Send Schedule
Email marketing is all about expectations, and it’s up to you to set them. If your call to action is strong, and your follow-up is consistent, then you can count on a successful email campaign.
Deliver on what you commit to. Don’t promise to send one email per week and then send them monthly — you’re setting yourself up for failure. And, on the contrary, if someone is expecting monthly updates and you deliver emails weekly, they are likely to be overwhelmed and unsubscribe.
In order to set realistic expectations, an introductory email is a good idea. For example, if someone subscribes via your online website form, you should have a welcoming drip email that automatically triggers and lands in their inbox, confirming the subscription and outlining what they can expect.
Don’t Start Selling Right Away
You don’t want your emails to come across as a persistent, one-sided sales pitch. While subscribers will expect sales content, it shouldn’t be all sales, all the time.
To run an effective email campaign, strive for a balance between sales and providing free, engaging, and valuable content.
How often you focus on selling will depend on your specific business and unique audience, but the expectations you set when customers were invited to subscribe should always be upheld.
As we talked about with custom email lists, tailor your sales pitch whenever you can to address your customer’s interests.
Write Great Content
The most compelling newsletter is one that seamlessly blends updates, insights, and occasional promotions. Treat your newsletter as a way to connect and further your relationship with current or prospective customers.
Use a friendly, sincere tone and personal messaging to share unique updates, offers and announcements.
Again, consistency is important. An unsuccessful newsletter is one that pops up unannounced (never manually add an email address if the subscriber didn’t agree to receive your emails), or one that your subscribers can’t recall signing up for, since a long time has lapsed between missives.
Both of these scenarios will often result in unsubscribes or spam designation.
To prevent these lapses, plan to send out a newsletter at least once a month. Remember that you are going for quality content and consistency.
Use Email Automation
The HUGE advantage of email automation is that you can plan and create the content in advance as part of a greater strategy. So as you plan your social media content calendar and ad campaigns, you can also be planning your email campaigns. That way all of your marketing touchpoints are working together.
Email automation also enables you to be productive during seasonal down times, and avoid being stressed and overworked during busier times. When everything is already set up in advance, it just works like a well-oiled engine. For our content marketing clients, we plan out a content calendar, including email campaigns, at least 2 months in advance, if not more.
Understanding Email Analytics
We can’t stress enough how useful email analytics are.
Gathered by your ESP, the top insights you should be paying attention to are: open rate, click-through rate, and unsubscribes.
Open rate, as it sounds, tells you how many people opened your email. According to recent MailChimp data, the average email open rate for the analyzed industries was 21.33%.
A lower than average open rate can mean your subject line is not enticing enough, your audience is unengaged, or you may be sending either too many or too few campaigns. Time to up your content value!
Your click-through rate (CTR), tells you how many people clicked on a link in your email. A low CTR can mean you missed the mark with your messaging.
Lastly, your unsubscribe rate tells you how many people have decided to leave your email list through the “unsubscribe” button.
Compare your unsubscribe rate to your opt-in rate. If you’re seeing a similar number, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy. If you’ve invited subscribers to join your list with messaging that doesn’t match the content delivered, you need to fix that disconnect.
Email analytics are an important tool to gauge the effectiveness of your hard work. Take the time to review and adjust your email campaigns based on your results.
Email Marketing Conclusion
If you’ve been putting off the creation of a simple email marketing strategy, or a full-on content marketing strategy, it’s time to re-evaluate.
Both activities can deliver huge returns for marketers willing to learn how to do it right. It doesn’t have to be too complicated.
First, remember it’s a privilege your readers are granting by giving their permission to receive your emails. Your emails are always just one click away from losing their interest forever, so be polite, respectful, and deliver value.
Always ask permission. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also a legal requirement.
Follow through with the promises you make. Provide people with what they’ve asked for and email consistently to meet their expectations.
There’s no formula for boosting email automation. It’s all about what works best for you, your branding, and your organizational values.Finally, once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start sending separate types of emails to different groups of people, ensuring the information they’re reading becomes a lot more relevant to them.