Although it may not seem as shiny as some of its social media counterparts, email is an effective way to create community, help build a brand, and get results. Email marketing provides a chance to connect with your existing and potential customers. Are you ready to make email marketing part of your strategy?
Why Use Email Marketing?
With more than 4 billion email accounts worldwide (half the population—and counting!), email marketing has many benefits. It’s an opportunity to connect with your subscribers and develop deeper relationships with current and potential customers. It’s also a chance to increase sales quickly since you can reach a large number of people at once, and at a minimal cost. Often, you’ll pay a monthly fee for the email service provider (ESP), but that’s it.
For a small investment, you end up with a high return on investment (ROI): for every dollar you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of about $36. Email marketing is a fast (you can receive inquiries and sales in minutes!) and effective addition to your business’s digital marketing strategy.
Since email began as a platform to communicate and connect, it makes sense to use it as a way to build relationships and gain prospective customers. In fact, according to MarketingSherpa, 91% of US adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they already do business with. While social media platforms may cater to certain demographics and generations, email is a preferred method of communication for many consumers. Additionally, you’re bringing your product and information to people who have willingly signed up for it—who are already interested in what you’re offering!
Email marketing is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook or Twitter in helping your business acquire new customers.
Benefits of Email Marketing
Having an online presence is becoming more important as we shift to a more digital world. Email marketing is a key to keeping cash flowing into your business—especially if you don’t have a physical storefront. Some benefits of email marketing include building credibility, building your brand, and staying relevant by keeping your company or product at the top of consumers’ minds.
Email marketing is a great way to build your business. You can use it to help strengthen brand name recognition, share helpful and useful content, and establish expertise and leadership. You can speak in-depth about a topic or a product in an email in a way you can’t in a tweet. Email marketing is a great way to generate leads because you can reach the right person at the right time with the right offer.
Staying in regular contact via email helps keep your company or product at the top of consumers’ minds. When your subscribers are ready to shop, you want your product or services to be the one they think of, and email marketing is a perfect chance to do just that. Capitalize on those who have opted to receive emails. Use email as a platform to promote your business, product, or brand to people who have already shown they’re interested in what you have to offer.
Steps to Email Marketing Success
Now that you’ve decided to incorporate email into your digital marketing strategy, there are a few steps to take to ensure a successful campaign.
Build Your Email List
Before deciding what to send, you need to determine who to send it to. Begin by establishing an email list. This can be made up of folks who may have already been on a smaller email list of yours, people who are interested in your product or services, those you exchange contact info with face-to-face, or anyone who has asked for more information online.
First and foremost when establishing your email list: you need permission. It’s illegal to send emails to people who didn’t give you permission, so make sure you get it before sending anything out. There are a few ways to achieve this.
The first is method implied permission. This happens when someone hands you a business card and says, “let’s stay in touch.” This could happen at a tradeshow, conference, a networking event, or if someone reaches out about your products or services. That action implies that they are giving their consent for you to contact them.
The industry standard and most recommended type of permission is explicit permission. This is when someone fills out an online form to join or opts to subscribe to your email list.
The last method is called confirm permission or double opt-in. In this case, after a customer opts in using an online form, you send an email for them to confirm their subscription. It may seem counterintuitive to have subscribers opt-in more than once, but this method both ensures that those who are joining your list want to, as well as confirms that the email provided wasn’t typed incorrectly or fraudulently.
It should go without saying, but just in case: you can’t purchase an email list.
Ways to Build Your List
There are a few different ways to beef up your critical email list. Begin by asking on your website. Your website should include a request to join your email list on each page. You can hope people will subscribe without any incentives, but if you want to entice people to sign up, offer a discount on their first purchase. Providing something in exchange for signing up for the email list is more effective than relying on them signing up on their own.
In addition to having a request to join on every page, think about adding a pop-up asking visitors to join the list. This can be an effective way for increasing subscriptions.
Another method of adding to your email list is to start a loyalty program. Most of the time, when subscribers are offered something for free (such as points toward a gift, free downloads, a gift on their birthday, access to giveaways, free shipping, etc.) they are more likely to provide you with their email. People love freebies!
An important note: keep the request simple. Don’t ask for too much information. Often, people are more inclined to sign up if they don’t have to go through a big process or take too much time filling out a form. Asking for basic info such as a first name and email is all you need.
Finally, ask often and everywhere! In addition to the pages of your website, add an opt-in to your blog and other social media channels. Give people plenty of chances to join your list.
Use an Email Service Provider (ESP)
Once you have your list established (and hopefully welcoming more signups every day), it’s time to get ready to send your emails. But you can’t use a regular email platform like Gmail or Yahoo to send massive amounts of email. You’ll need an Email Service Provider (ESP) which can provide software to send emails to large groups of people.
Additionally, an ESP offers hosting for images and stores your contacts. It also provides advanced features to run your campaigns like segmentation, which allows you to send tailored emails to different audiences. Personalizing your email based on recipients’ interests will lead to more sales. ESPs also allow for automation, tracking, and reporting which is important for overall strategy. They can also help with subscription management. ESP’s can offer options to unsubscribe, which is not possible from a personal email.
Another bonus offered by using an ESP is creating an email template. You can send polished and professional branded emails using an ESP rather than your regular email. Create a template using your brand colors that line up with your existing marketing strategy. Using that on an ongoing basis will help keep you on brand. Another advantage of using a template through an ESP is you can update it with new content and pictures but the template will remain the same.
Identify Your Goals
As with all digital marketing across various social media channels, setting goals can help define your strategy. When deciding on your email marketing strategy, ask yourself what the goals of your campaign are.
If you’re more focused on nurturing relationships, the content of your emails will be different than if your biggest priority is selling. You’ll also want to think about your target recipients. Does your whole list need to receive every email, or will you create different emails for different segments within your larger list?
Think about your messaging strategy. Is the purpose of your email to inform and/or simply provide information? Are you launching a promotional campaign? Are you hoping to make sales based on the email?
Consider what action you want someone receiving your email to take. When they open your email, do you want them to buy something? Sign up for something? Be more informed?
Thinking about these questions and knowing what your goals are for your campaign will make it more successful overall.
Create Dynamic Content
Now that you’ve nailed down your list and identified your goals, it’s time to make some compelling content! Unlike other forms of marketing where everyone who visits your page is seeing the same image and/or reading the same text, you can vary your email marketing content depending on the user. This can work to your advantage because you can tailor messages to specific groups.
Using your ESP, you can create all kinds of automated emails and set them up to send automatically based on someone’s actions. For example, you can create welcoming and onboarding emails (if someone signs up for your email list on your website), emails to send if someone leaves an item in their cart (we’ve all received one of those!), personalized offers and recommendations (on a subscriber’s birthday), as well as transactional messages, re-orders and renewals, and even special notes for engaging inactive users.
Other content you’ll create for your email marketing campaign will be mass emails to send manually to your whole email list. They’re not automated, because they don’t require the user to take action to receive one. This kind of content includes sharing information about a promotion or offers, getting feedback or sending general surveys, and user policy updates. Other types of content for email marketing can include company newsletters which keep your brand or product at the top of your customers’ and potential customers’ minds and informs and educates your audience.
Sending an email to your entire list can be helpful when you want to inform your audience about sales, events, special promotions, or product launches. Email can also be a great way to receive feedback, by asking for comments or sending a survey.
Make a Sending Schedule
Timing is everything! Use analytics to determine which days of the week and times of the day people are visiting your website and/or opening past emails and schedule your messages to arrive then. Creating an email marketing calendar and scheduling emails to send when you know your subscribers will be most likely to open them will help with brand awareness and boost engagement.
Types of Email Campaigns
There are a variety of different email campaigns to use depending on your goals. Let’s break them down.
The welcome email is just that: an opportunity to greet new subscribers. You can set up the welcome email to send automatically when someone signs up for your list. One of the most frequently opened email types, a welcome email is a chance to connect right away with a new subscriber who has expressed interest in your business, product, or brand by signing up for your list. In a welcome email you can introduce yourself and your product more fully, offer a discount or a freebie and provide opportunities for your newest members to connect with you on other social media channels as well.
The goal of a nurture campaign is, again, just what it sounds like: to nurture the relationship between you and your customers or followers. These personalized emails are largely based on behavior and user engagement. You want to make people feel comfortable and want to do business with you.
We’ve all been there: you’re browsing online, putting items into your cart, and either you get distracted or you decide not to buy at that moment. Whatever the reason, when someone adds an item to their cart and leaves the site without checking out, an abandoned cart email can help provide a reminder they left something there. With the average cart abandonment rate around 70%, it behooves companies to have an automatic email in place to send when folks abandon their cart. Since these customers are interested in what you’re offering and are closer than others to buying something, you can use abandoned cart emails to guide them back to completing that purchase.
In email marketing, segmentation refers to the practice of targeting relevant users and only sending certain emails to certain people. Use analytics to determine demographics, location, engagement or donation levels, past purchases, interests, or any other categories that can help create distinctions within your list. In this way, you're not sending every single email to every single person on your list. Not every person on your list will have the same interests or desires. Segmentation allows for more personalized emails, decreasing your unsubscribe rate because you’re targeting relevant users.
According to MarketingSherpa, marketers lose 25% of their email list each year. A re-engagement campaign is aimed at those who have not gotten in contact with you, connected with your company, or opened an email for a while. The goal of the campaign is to re-engage customers and entice them to buy something or to become more active consumers again. Often, including a deal or a discount can help sweeten the prospect of returning more actively to your company community. If they truly are not interested, it’s better to remove them, since often you pay to keep them on your list. You want to have people on your email list who want to be there, not who are being annoyed by your emails or by your brand.
A post-purchase email is one you set up to send automatically to customers after completing a purchase. It can be a receipt, as well as a chance to continue to build the relationship. For example, you can send a product review request, a survey to fill out regarding the shopping experience, referral information, product recommendations, or a chance to share what they bought. Continuing to nourish relationships with customers can lead to future sales.
Email Marketing Tools & Best Practices
Check out these email marketing tools and best practices to ensure you’re getting the most out of your campaign.
These days, analytics exist on just about every digital platform. Email is no exception! When you’re using an email service provider (ESP), you’ll have access to analytics. Use them! You can learn important details and information that can help you complete your goals. Knowing what your audience is interested in allows you to send emails with information they want to receive, not just to push your agenda. You can even see who is opening your emails and do A/B testing of subject lines to determine which subject leads to more people opening your email. Understanding what is relevant and of interest to your audience is crucial. Luckily, you can figure much of this out using analytics and by listening to consumer feedback.
How Long, How Many, & How Often?
Speaking of listening to your readers: it’s a delicate balance trying to figure out how many emails to send, how often to send them, and how long each email should be. Some companies send emails daily. Some opt for weekly, while others send them less frequently, like once a month. Use surveys, response forms, and analytics to get a pulse from your audience members to see how and when they want to be contacted. You don’t want to be forgotten, but you don’t want to be too pushy.
A general rule of thumb is to keep your email’s focus on relevant content, using about 20 lines of text. Make it short and sweet. Less is more! The same goes for links—don’t add too many or it can become overwhelming for the recipient.
In terms of timing, again, turn to your analytics to see when people open your emails. This can change over time, so keep checking on your statistics and adjust accordingly.
Turn Questions Into Content
Remember that your readers’ interests should always take a higher priority than your agenda. You want to create content they want to read, and that will keep them engaged. An important element of any company is responding to feedback. One of the best ways to create content for your email list is by turning questions into content. For example, if you receive a question like “can you compost eggshells,” repurpose the question into a “how-to” email such as “10 composting tips to minimize food waste.” If someone asks if your product will fit in their laundry room, your next email could be “organization ideas for a small laundry room.” If one person has a question, it’s likely someone else on your list does, too. Why not turn that into content to benefit your membership?
Use Images & GIFs
Looking for ways for your email to stand out and be more interactive? Think about incorporating images and animated GIFs into your marketing emails. The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words and email marketing is no exception. An animated picture takes that adage and makes it even more applicable. GIFs and images can grab the attention of subscribers, easily display your services and products, and sometimes get your message across in a more digestible way than text.
Include Calls To Action
Calls to Action (CTAs) are a critical part of email marketing. You can use CTAs in so many different ways, from collecting feedback (“complete this five-minute survey”) to encouraging a purchase (“shop our new collection”) to event planning (“register now”). There should be CTAs at various points in every email.
You can also use CTAs to encourage subscribers to follow you on your social media accounts (Like us on Facebook”) or add buttons to encourage sharing across platforms.
Stay on Brand
Using your company colors and aesthetic keeps your messaging recognizable and familiar to your subscribers. Using an email service provider makes it easy to ensure uniform branding across your email campaign. When the recipient is familiar with the sender’s name and product, they’re more likely to open the email. Keeping your branding consistent will make you a recognizable sender.
Optimize for Mobile
With 85% of users using smartphones to access email, it’s critical to optimize an email marketing campaign for mobile use. Choose a mobile-optimized template from your email service provider. Other elements that ensure your email will be optimized for mobile are keeping your message short and sweet and images small, using a font that is large and clear enough to be read on mobile, and adding buttons rather than links. Another great way to ensure your message is received as you intend is using a tool to test how it appears across various devices. Seeing a preview of how your email will look on desktop, tablet, and various smartphones will ensure your message comes across as beautifully as you imagine.
Learn Email Marketing
Noble Desktop also offers several courses in email marketing training. These classes are available in-person at Noble’s NYC location, or students can attend live online email marketing classes from anywhere in the world.
For a more comprehensive deep dive into email marketing and other digital marketing strategies, take a look at Noble’s Digital Marketing Strategies bootcamp, which is also offered as part of the Digital Marketing Certificate. The bootcamp is a 12-hour course that delves into the important role email marketing plays in digital marketing strategy. Students will complete hands-on projects and learn ways to succeed at email marketing, including how to build an email list, create a compelling campaign, and design effective emails.
If you’re not interested in taking a longer course but still want to learn, check out Noble’s free Intro to Email Marketing seminar. Another free resource available from Noble Desktop is its Digital Marketing blog, which has a wealth of informative articles about email marketing, including topics like Prospecting and Remarketing.