Despite its old age, email marketing continues to defy odds and is still far from being labeled as a has-been marketing tactic.
Sure, it may not be as versatile as social media or as engaging as content marketing, but there are a plethora of reasons why any marketer worth their salt will tell you that emails are the go-to tactic for just about any kind of digital marketing project.
Today, we’re going to clearly demonstrate just how much of a positive impact the smart use of email marketing strategies can have.
What you’ll find below is a thorough guide to email marketing that will teach you a lot of things. For starters, it’s going to display just how strong of a marketing punch emails can have. Then it’ll show you everything that goes into figuring out ideal email marketing strategies and teach you about the best practices you should keep close to heart.
And, finally, this guide will teach you how to leverage emails in a way that will take your business to a whole new level.
While digital marketing is a constantly evolving industry, a single norm has been virtually unchallenged for the last few decades: email marketing is one of the most productive and cost-effective ways to drive sales.
How come this old-fashioned channel has stood the test of time? Well, if it had to be summed up to a single reason, it would all come down to email marketing’s ability to effectively convert prospects into customers and mold one-time buyers into loyal clients. This opens up amazing opportunities to build fruitful relationships with customers.
However, just like the case is with everything else in the digital industry, there are both good and bad ways to orchestrate email marketing.
Keep in mind that high-ROI email marketing is not about spammy messages or purchasing incoherent email lists other people put together with the sole purpose of selling it. No, true email marketing is about making real connections with people who want to hear from you.
How to identify these people, how to get their emails, how to maximize the effects of your campaigns, how to get the most out of them, etc. – that’s all covered in the text you’ll find below.
Before we venture any further, let’s start off on the right foot by making sure you are fully aware of precisely what quality email marketing can do for your business.
When it comes to email marketing and its ability to impact a business, it’s hard to argue with the numbers. Email marketing delivers a whopping return of 4,300 percent. Please take a moment to take that fact in. No other form of marketing has such a high ROI.
Unsurprisingly, this makes email marketing the most cost-effective form of digital marketing, something that only gets further emphasized with the fact you can automate the entire channel in a way that makes it fully self-operational.
Still not convinced about the impact of email marketing? Read on:
1 . A third of consumers prefer to conduct communication with brands via email
2. About 66 percent of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message at one point in time
3. 138 percent more money is spent by consumers who receive email offers than those who don’t
Last but not least, good email marketing is an ideal way to build a community of loyal customers, something every business should aspire to do. Think about it – when you build your list the right way, your subscribers become a treasure trove of potential revenue just waiting to be tapped.
Building your own treasure chest from scratch is what you’ll learn to do in the remainder of this text.
Email marketing starts at the same place as any other marketing activity worth your time – at the drawing board. That means that, way before you start thinking about sending actual emails, you should take some time to come up with an email marketing strategy.
And coming up with strategies starts with identifying a deceptively simple thing – what the goal(s) of launching the email campaign is.
When deciding what you want to achieve through the use of email marketing, try asking yourself the following questions:
1 . How do you want emails to help your business?
2. Do emails open up any new doors that were previously closed?
3. What will be your main KPI (Key Performance Indicator)?
4. Do you want to increase sales or build awareness?
5. What kind of relationships do you want to form with subscribers?
6. What kind of reputation would you like to build for yourself?
7. Who is the ideal subscriber for your email list?
8. Do emails fit in with your other marketing activities?
Answering these kinds of questions will go a long way when trying to decide what the ultimate goal of the campaign is. Keep in mind, of course, that goals may change or evolve over time, but having a clear-cut end-game can help a lot with staying on the right course.
Let’s say you want to start using email marketing to grow subscribers you will gradually transform into loyal customers. In that case, your goal might look something like the following: I plan to collect 500 relative email subscribers over the next 12 months by leveraging websites where my target audience spends their online time.
See what we did there? By including a numeric value, a due date and a general idea of how you plan on meeting that number, we’ve created a clear target to work towards.
Once you have the right goal in mind, you are ready to start plotting about how you should go about reaching it.
As you plan your tactics from top to bottom, you first need to consider the target audience you hope to reach. Understanding your ideal customers will help determine the best ways to connect and communicate with them, as well as reveal where you can go about finding them.
And, more often than not, attracting people to become a part of your email schemes starts with providing them with great lead magnets.
A lead magnet, also often called the opt-in bribe, is something you give away for free in exchange for someone’s email address. More often than not, lead magnets are digital materials like PDFs, audio files or videos. However, they can be absolutely anything you want, but the important thing to keep in mind is that, whatever it is, it has to provide value to your visitors, and for free.
Some of the most popular lead magnet examples out there are:
1 . eBooks
2. A sheet of tips or resources
3. White papers
4. Case studies
5. A webinar
6. Free trials or demos
7. Free samples
8. A free quote or a consultation
9. Quizzes (or, more specifically, detailed results of a quiz)
10. A coupon
11. Templates ready for use
Of course, nothing’s stopping you from thinking outside of the box and coming up with something other than what we listed above. Just keep in mind that every good lead magnet needs to meet a few criteria, other than providing as much value as possible for free:
1 . You want your lead magnet to be easily consumed: Always remember what the goal of a lead magnet is. They are only effective when the audience actually wants them, which means that they can’t be 300-pages-long manifestos.
2. It needs to be relevant: If you’ve done your homework, you won’t have trouble coming up with a lead magnet subject that intrigues your prospects.
3. It has to be immediately available: People on the internet are in love with instant gratification, so your lead magnet should become available to them as soon as they give you an email to work with.
No matter how you slice it, an engaged list of relevant subscribers is the key to having success with email marketing. Remember that it’s never just about how many subscribers you have – it’s about interacting with the right people who are interested in what you have to share with them.
Obviously, if your email list is full of people that have no real interest in you, your email campaigns will fail to deliver as there will be no one of note on the receiving end of your messages.
So, since relevant subscribers are the lifeblood of your email marketing, how do you make sure that they are finding the right people for your business? Like with coming up with good lead magnets, this too comes down to having developed buyer personas. By understanding what your audience needs, you can create compelling offers that entice more people to sign up to your list.
When someone relevant comes across your brand, it’s up to you to find a common connection and offer them something that kicks off the relationship. This is the core formula for growing the right kind of subscribers:
1 . Know what your audience wants.
2. Create offers that they will like.
3. Make it easy for them to subscribe.
These three steps are the basic foundation around which you can build any subscriber-hunting strategy.
Of course, you’ll still need to engage people at the right time when they are most likely to share their email address. The golden rule is that the best time to ask people for their email is when they are highly engaged with your content. This is where quality content marketing comes into play. When done correctly, you can easily transform your site into an email list-building machine!
For example, your blog is a great place to grow your list. If readers are captivated with your content, they will want to see more. Place a sign-up form at the end of each blog with a strong call-to-action, allowing readers to connect while you are top-of-mind.
This leads us to the next piece of the email marketing puzzle – making sign-up forms that do the trick and turn traffic into subscribers.
Sign-up forms are used to collect emails from visitors who wish to subscribe to your list and receive emails. Keep in mind that these forms can also be used to obtain other information, like name or geographical location, which gives sign-ups a wide array of strategic opportunities.
In most cases, sign-up forms are placed in the header or sidebar of a website page, or they can be placed inside pop-up boxes that display over a website.
Creating a good sign-up form is the first step to building an email list. Unfortunately, it often proves to be the most challenging aspect of an email marketing strategy. How come? Because you are expected to convince your website visitors that your emails are worth signing up for.
This, as you can probably imagine, is not the easiest thing to do.
Your best bet is to try and convey the benefit of your lead magnet, so your website visitors will feel like the effort of subscribing to your email newsletters is worth it. You can do this by making sure your sign-up form has the following components:
1 . An enticing headline – Your sign-up form’s headline must clearly describe the big benefit of your lead magnet.
2. Helpful description – The description accompanying your sign-up form needs to be brief, clear and to the point. If there’s a lot to communicate, consider using bullet points to help the reader’s eye quickly scan through what you can give them.
3. Visually-appealing images – Try to include an image that easily catches the reader’s eye, ideally that of the lead magnet itself (like a mockup of your eBook, for example).
4. Simple form – Remember the purpose and the context of your sign-up form. You certainly do not want to ask for too much information at this point, so don’t try to get anything more than a first name and email address.
5. Compelling subscribe button – Use a contrasting color for your subscribe button, so that it really pops out on the page. Also, use non-generic copy that compels people to click right away.
As we mentioned, sign-up forms are usually found in headers or sidebars, but you can also use the pop-up format. The problem with this kind of sign-ups is that they interrupt the user experience in a big way, as they’re just about the worst UI-UX thing you can do to someone visiting your website. However, certain studies have proven that pop-ups work fairly well, increasing conversion rates by over 30%.
So, how can we use pop-ups without utterly ruining the user experience? Simple – use pop-ups in a way that minimizes interruption. For example, set the timing of when the pop-up arrives in order to give visitors some time to read the content before triggering a form.
Alternatively, you can try to use an exit pop-up, a strategy where the form pops up at the moment the visitor leaves the website. Another worthwhile option is to rely on a sidebox pop-up to do the job as that way you won’t cover important content with a sudden form.
Whenever you opt for a pop-up form, keep a close eye on your analytics to ensure the pop-ups aren’t negatively affecting your time-on-site, page views or bounce rates. If there’s any indication that the pop-ups are the root of problems, go back to using basic sign-up forms.
If having quality subscribers is one part of the email marketing equation, then the other piece is generating valuable content for your subscribers. And generating this type of content starts with identifying precisely what your target audience considers to be “valuable” content.
Think about what your subscribers want to get out of the emails you deliver to their inbox. What could blow their minds? What could be worth their time? What could prove your merit to them, while also making sure they want to hear more from you?
Obviously, answers to these questions are all extremely relative and will vary radically from service to service and product to product. Keep in mind that, if you are struggling with figuring out what constitutes value in your subscriber’s eyes, you can always ask them via a survey of some kind.
Nevertheless, remember the golden rule of assembling valuable emails – good email marketing shouldn’t make people feel like they’re being marketed to. Subscribers want to know that you have their best interests at heart, and that should clearly be reflected in the content you send them.
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the importance of email subject lines. They are the first (and, unfortunately, too often the last) point of contact with the readers and, as such, they have the ability to make or break your campaign. Thus, you can’t afford to have them be anything less than perfect.
Among other things, remember that the subject line has a tough job to stand out from hundreds of other emails in your subscriber’s inbox.
Since email marketing is one of the most private forms of marketing communication, that personalized note should be clearly displayed in the subject line you put together. There are many ways you can personalize a subject line and make a stronger connection with your readers. For example, you can insert your reader’s name into the subject line, refer to their geographical location, highlight your reader’s interests, etc. There really are no limitations here.
You should also make your subject lines relevant to the recipient. You want to clearly communicate something that the reader either really needs and/or wants. That means no cliched phrases or clickbait, so resist the temptation of using them as these kinds of subject lines will tear your campaign apart if given a chance.
All in all, the best subject lines make a promise that’s fully delivered in the remainder of the email. If your email fails to meet the expectations set by the subject line, your bounce rate will skyrocket.
The true beauty of emails (and perhaps what scares marketers the most) is that you can literally communicate anything in any way you want. The creative possibilities are borderline endless, but there are some core foundational elements that all great content shares, email or otherwise.
First and foremost, you need to answer a few questions. What are you hoping to accomplish with this email? Without a clear end goal, your email content can easily drift all over the place. And the price of drifting away from the point is leaving your readers overwhelmed, confused or uninterested.
Needless to say, you can’t afford any of the three to occur.
Once you have a clear goal in mind, focus your attention on writing something that will help readers digest the main point of your email. Besides showcasing the value and being aligned with target audiences, these are three noteworthy characteristics good email body content needs to possess:
1 . Write in the second person, using pronouns like “you,” “your,” and “yours” to instantly put the focus on the reader
2. Go beyond the features of your service or product; instead, focus on the benefits of having access to it
3. Make the content scannable by removing dense paragraphs and adding images to break up the text
Finally, never lose sight of one simple fact: Your value is not in what you offer, but what’s in it for your readers. Make it crystal clear what is in it for the reader and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your email marketing goals.
You now know how to write effective subject lines and content that effectively communicates your message. There’s just one last piece of the puzzle separating you from completing your email masterpiece: a call-to-action button.
Simply put, the call-to-action button is the slam dunk of your email marketing campaign, a button that seals the deal and makes the entire campaign worthwhile.
Always use direct language when writing CTAs, and make sure that it’s easy to find even for people who only scan the email for a few seconds.
Keep in mind that the best CTAs do not function independently from the rest of the email. No, quality CTAs work more like the climax of a compelling story told by the content of your email. They are the part where the reader gets to decide how the rest of the story plays out.
And it’s your job to nudge them in the right direction.
Besides being aligned with other components of an email, it’s important to note that there are lots of different types of formats and layout options that affect the placement of your CTAs.
If you have a newsletter with multiple topics, for example, the CTA buttons should be clearly aligned with each corresponding section. On the other hand, for emails that have a singular focus with one CTA, the placement should follow the logical progression of the story, so the CTA button should be placed towards the bottom or to the right of the content.
Of course, it’s also extremely important where the reader is taken after he clicks on your CTA. Make sure that it’s linked to a landing page that complements the email content and continues the story to ensure a cohesive experience.
The most interesting part of call-to-action-buttons? People already know that you want them to click on it. It’s hardly a secret. The trick here is to let them know what is in it for them by highlighting direct benefits.
While certainly of vital importance, texts within your emails and how you structure them is not the be-all-end-all of email marketing. How you design your emails also plays a major role in determining the outcome of your campaign.
Why? It’s rather simple: visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text, and they have an instant ability to influence a person’s emotions. Both can drastically impact reader behavior, which is precisely why visuals accompanying your emails should not be underestimated.
Does that mean you need to be an experienced designer if you’re to make a successful email campaign? Absolutely not. But you will need to keep a few important email design rules in mind, all of which you’re about to learn here. These are the key email marketing practices you should keep close to heart:
1 . Use simple shapes and colors that align with your brand – Use a color scheme and image style that’s consistent with your branding, but also easy on the eyes.
2. Don’t use a layout with more than one column – Nothing clutters an email like multiple columns, and it makes reading an email on mobile devices a nightmare. Do not fall victim to this common pitfall.
3. Use images to break up chunks of text – Subscribers prefer short blurbs of information, something you can easily achieve by including images that clearly define different segments of your message.
As we said, nobody’s expecting you to be a pro designer when putting together high-converting emails. All you need to do when designing emails is not lose sight of your end goal, and structure messages in a way that removes as much clutter for the reader as possible.
If you’ve made it this far, you now know how to write and format great emails that convert at a high rate.
However, you may have also come to the frightening realization that quality email marketing takes a lot of hard work. Preventing you from falling into despair is where email automation comes into play, arguably the most powerful asset you’ll find in all of digital marketing.
Shortly put, email automation enables you to program when emails are sent based on behavioral, time-sensitive or other types of triggers. For example, instead of manually sending out a welcome email to everyone who signs up for your newsletter, you can set up a trigger that automatically sends a welcome email every time a new person signs up, pushing subscribers deeper down the funnel while you don’t have to move a muscle. Pretty cool, right?
Obviously, email automation frees up an abundance of time, allowing you to focus your efforts on other fronts of your business. You write the email once and let the automation do the legwork and reach all your subscribers precisely when they need it.
Set it up right, and you can create automated sequences based on your subscribers’ actions and lead them all the way to conversion without breaking a sweat.
As a result of all of its benefits, automated emails tend to get opened a lot more than manually sent ones. As a matter of fact, according to studies performed by Epsilon, automated email marketing campaigns get 199% higher click rates than manual emails.
That’s why it’s safe to say that, if you’re not using email automation, you are missing a significant opportunity to engage your customers, deliver a better experience, guide subscribers through the funnel, retain them and, ultimately, take your business to a new level.
Giving you complete control over your automated campaigns, OutreachPlus can help you take great care of your customers by building authentic relationships with them. It’s a valuable tool to have by your side regardless of what campaign you wish to launch as OutreachPlus makes sure you are getting the absolute most out of whatever campaign you’ve got going on.
Still unsure whether email automation is right for you? Let’s quickly list out some other advantages and opportunities this feature provides you with other than guiding new leads through the funnel:
1 . Collect customer feedback – Email surveys are a great way to learn what your customers think about your services. You can use automation to trigger a survey email after a key event, such as a purchase or signup.
2. Promote pieces of content – Whenever you write a new blog post, case study or anything like that, an automated email can be sent to all your subscribers, driving quick and relevant traffic to whatever you published on your website.
3. Reach out on special occasions to build a bond – People love anniversaries and special occasions. Surprise and delight your subscribers by triggering an email on their birthday or send them a discount on their anniversary of becoming a subscriber.
4. Transaction emails – Automated confirmation or thank you emails go out whenever someone buys a product (or takes certain actions that warrant a response), making sure your customers feel appreciated.
Let’s be very, very clear here – in this day and age, email automation is no longer a luxury, but a marketing necessity.
It’s the best way to build effective campaigns and have sustainable growth, so make sure you include email automation in all your marketing efforts – rest assured all of your key competitors are doing the same.
The next important step to email marketing is adding elements of personalization to your messages, which happens to be another strong side of OutreachPlus.
Inserting personal information like names or locations in your emails is a cool feature, but personalization is only effective if it’s relevant to that individual, so it needs to go a step beyond adding the correct name. An email becomes genuinely personal only when you can address your subscriber’s needs with it.
This means that you want to tailor emails in a fashion that they arrive at a time your subscribers need them the most. Luckily, smart automation allows you to do exactly that.
Also remember that, for a true email personalization moment to occur, you need to come across as a relatable human, not a faceless business – that’s why a subscriber relationship built around trust and loyalty starts with you sharing your personality.
You also have to make sure your service or product is up to par with what your target audience needs – but that’s a broad subject for another day. As for the topic at hand, just remember that personalized emails tailored around subscribers’ needs is the best way to get optimal results.
Failing to properly segment your email audience is a common mistake that can drastically stagnate a campaign, if not outright doom it.
By definition, email list segmentation divides your subscribers into smaller groups based on various characteristics. Why should you do that? To help you deliver more targeted emails that lead to better campaign results.
Your subscribers have different interests, habits, and needs, so you obviously can’t optimally target them all with one and the same emails. You need to create separated lists of subscribers, subgroups if you will, and then create segmented email structures and strategies that best align with each individual list’s specific characteristics.
Once you increase relevance in this fashion, your open rates and click-throughs will go through the roof.
So how should you go about creating segmented lists? While you can certainly put in hours of work into figuring out which subscribers should go where, there’s a much more effective way.
Let your customers self-segment.
If you grant the freedom of self segmentation to your subscribers, you will not only save loads of time for yourself but the end result will be more precise than any version of lists you can put together yourself. Create funnels that allow subscribers to “carve their own paths” – sure, all of the funnels will lead to same conversions, but how customers get there means the world to them.
For many digital marketers, much of the focus for any specific strategy can be found in the planning and execution phases. What too often gets pushed to the back burner, unfortunately, is the part where you review and analyze performance in order to make improvements.
Needless to say, going back to the drawing board is a vital part of running a successful email marketing campaign.
So how do you decide if the route you’ve taken should be reconsidered at some point? Well, all you need to do is take a look at email marketing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
By keeping a close eye on email marketing KPIs, you can identify opportunities to improve the impact of your campaign and increase the value you bring to your audience (and, by extent, to your piggy bank as well).
Here are the main KPIs you should review to determine whether or not your emails are getting the best possible results:
1 . Opens – This tells you how many people opened your emails and when they opened them. Your open rates can reveal various precious insights, including how compelling your subject lines are, what the best times to send emails are and data necessary for proper list segmentation.
2. Click-throughs – Click reports show how many times someone clicked a link in your email. This can shed valuable light on what types of content resonates best with your subscribers, as well as if you are making some structure-wise errors (bad placement of the CTA, for example).
3. Unsubscribes – Discovering someone unsubscribed from your email list can be hard to stomach. But it’s a great opportunity to explore the reasons why they made that radical decision, which can tell you exactly what you can do to bring them back or prevent others from leaving too.
4. Traffic – Traffic reports reveal how many subscribers are going to your website from your emails. This data will show how many subscribers are going to specific pages on your website, such as your blog or homepage, data that can help a lot when tailoring marketing strategies.
5. Sales – You can track the sales that result from each email you send. That lets you see how much revenue your emails generate, which, depending on the goal of your campaign, may even be the main KPI you should track.
6. Revenue per email (RPE) – Return on investment is an essential metric to track in any form of marketing, but it is a tricky one to nail down for emails. That’s where calculating revenue per email can be very helpful.
While you can use the aforementioned KPIs to improve your email content, don’t hesitate to ask your subscribers for their opinions too. After all, if your goal is to create emails that resonate with your subscribers, sending them an intriguing survey can indicate a lot of missed opportunities.
And if a suggestion made by subscribers seems like it could improve one or even two underperforming KPIs, don’t hesitate to try them out as soon as possible.
Email durability is the final thing we need to cover in this extensive guide – and it’s probably the most technical aspect of email marketing, but there’s no going around it.
As it turns out, email deliverability should be the first thing you take a look at if your campaign is suffering, as you need to make sure that the emails are actually making it into your subscribers’ inboxes.
Here’s a general breakdown of how email deliverability works: every email sender has what’s called an email reputation score, a score determined by a number of factors, such as how many emails you send, how many complaints you receive, your bounce and open rates, how many times you’ve landed in the spam folder, how many inactive addresses you contacted, etc.
If your email reputation score is low because of those factors, it can make it difficult for your emails to get to your subscribers – which is obviously a deal-breaker for any campaign you try to launch.
If you’d like to learn more about email deliverability, make sure to check out our blog post that goes more in-depth into the subject.
If you’ve been ignoring email marketing to this point of your career, we trust this guide has convinced you to at least reevaluate your strategy.
Hopefully, we’ve also clearly demonstrated that running successful email marketing campaigns is not an impossible task, but rather nothing more than a well-planned-out tactic that can have an amazing ROI if you do it right.
And staying true to what we wrote here will go far in making sure you perform your email marketing tactic the right way.
One final piece of advice – remember that you’re nothing more than a friendly guest in the inboxes of your subscribers. All of the emails you send are always just one click away from being deleted, which would take away your access to that particular inbox forever.
Be polite, be respectful, be patient and deliver value. And, as we said earlier, always follow through with the promises you make. Do that, and a bit of careful planning is all it takes for you to take your business to a new level.
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