Digital has grown at a phenomenal rate over the last few years. With more and more channels appearing at our fingertips, the ways we can reach our desired audiences are widening into new and creative ways.
As technology develops, the status quo and older methods are being challenged. It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase ‘email marketing is dead’ but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Email marketing continues to stem the tide and remains one of the leading marketing tools for communicating with audiences directly, standing out against the dominant social channels for its ability to deliver the personalised experience that consumers desire from brands.
The latest data tells us that 99% of consumers will check their emails at least once a day – for many, it’s several times a day. Meanwhile, a recent survey by HubSpot shows that 77% of marketers say they have seen an increase in email engagement over 2021/22.
As a result, optimising your email marketing output is considered essential to any marketing strategy – not just for your conversion and sales marketing but also for storytelling and brand awareness.
With lots of factors to consider when thinking about your email strategy, it can be challenging to know where to begin. In this blog, we’ll cover the key areas to implement if you want to drive positive results and see a return on investment.
Set email campaign objectives
Just as with any marketing channel, the first step boils down to outlining what your key performance indicators (KPIs) are and answering one important question: what represents success for you and your business?
To help with this, it’s a good starting point to follow the SMART framework:
Identify that one thing you want to achieve with email marketing and underpin it with several performance markers. As an example, let’s say you want to drive more traffic to a particular product page. This is the single target that you’ll be working towards and what you’ll be creating content to achieve.
You’ve got your specific target, now let’s put numbers you want to hit against it as these numbers will represent campaign success. Using the previous example, that could be increasing traffic to a product page by 50% and increasing product conversions by 25%.
As with everything, it’s always important to be realistic with your goals and measurements. When starting out, it’s best to start small and grow progressively, tracking your improvement along the way.
The best approach to marketing is when all of the digital touchpoints are unified together and working towards a single or set of objectives (we’ll touch more on this later on). Whatever your specific goal is for email marketing, it should marry up with your wider targets and work alongside your existing channels to maximise results.
Your campaigns should have a start and end date. This will help with your reporting, especially if your email account is synced to Google Analytics, so you can track the results of your campaign over a set time and report accurately.
Think about integration
To get better results, use email campaigns in conjunction with other digital and offline marketing activities.
Integrate your email strategy with your overarching marketing strategy and highlight how different tactics will support each other to tell your brand story.
To give you an overview of the different communication channels and tactics you’re using alongside emails, such as your website, PPC and social media, create a marketing calendar in Excel, like the one below.Download the template from the source: Smart Sheets
Choose the tools that are right for you
There are a lot of options available when it comes to choosing the right email processing system (EPS) for your business.
For example, Klaviyo is seen as the leading eCommerce email tool, while MailChimp is often the primary tool for a mixture of brand awareness and sales activity. Other choices include Dotmailer and Infusionsoft.
The prices across all of these platforms will differ as well depending on your requirements, marketing budget, the size of the database you want to work with, and options for marketing. A lot of these tools do have a free basic package but this does mean that a lot of the effective tools, like segmentation and design, are limited or unavailable.
Once you start implementing the campaign, other tools can make your work more efficient. Here are a few:
- Subject line analyser: Touchstone
- Cliché spotter: Cliché Finder
- Content checker: Lyris
- Spelling and grammar checker: Reverso
- Image resizer: WinSoftMagic
The process for collecting data
You’ve chosen your tool. You’ve got your objectives. Now, we need a clear and easy process for collecting data and getting customers to sign up for our email marketing activity.
First of all, decide where the best place is to ask your prospects for their details. This decision will be informed by your customer personas and where they spend time online. Some tactical options you may want to consider include social advertising, paid media and your website.
For the latter, you could incorporate:
- Pop-up box – a message that is triggered on arrival to the website homepage, highlighting your email channel and asking them if they want to sign up.
- Landing page – create an always-on landing page that consumers can access on your website that contains a sign-up form.
- Purchasing – a great tactic for acquiring new customers is to offer the opportunity of signing up for your email activity just as they are completing a purchase. Incorporating an offer or a discount makes this an appealing option.
- Blog signposting – if you are running a blog, provide links to your email marketing, highlighting that if your reader found the content interesting they can have similar content sent directly to their emails by signing up.
Next, think about your message and what value you can provide to your brand’s audience.
To increase your sign-up rate, offer something in exchange for their information. It can be a discount code, a voucher or an industry report. This way, you take control of the conversation and every time your company name pops up in an inbox, it’s more likely that the email will be opened because some sort of benefit is expected.
Tip: don’t offer your promise on the immediate page after the sign-up page. The email should contain the benefit. It’s also a good way to check that the email address they’ve given you works.
Build out your segmentation and content journeys
Research shows that segmented emails outperform emails that have been circulated to an entire database. Why? Because they are sending content out that is specific to their customers’ interests.
No matter what kind of business you are, there are ways to break up your database, splitting it out to make sure they’re receiving a certain type of email depending on the segment you assign them to. Gender is a good example of this. If you’re a clothing brand, it is likely that you will split the content your customer sees depending on gender.
While the below examples are dependent on the type of business you are and the service you provide, they are all options for how your database can be segmented:
- Purchase behaviour
- Content preferences
- Stage of the sales funnel
- Information collected via surveys
Once you have your data, you will naturally see how this can be split out. Having this will help show what type of email content you need to be creating and how your campaigns need to be tailored to meet your audience’s expectations and characteristics.
Relevancy is key to email marketing. It can mean the difference between a conversion and an unsubscribe.
Top tip: create quarterly groups of “openers” and “clickers” to see who engages with your brand the most and which are your most valuable readers (another opportunity to get in touch with them with a reward). In addition, you might want to decide if you wish to re-engage or delete your inactive subscribers. Be careful though – the engagement rate depends on the nature of your business and industry. On this front, email marketing systems usually share data about how your business’ statistics compare to your wider industry.
Outline your content types
Now that we’ve got our objective and segmented database, it’s important to consider what types of content you need to create to achieve your measurables.
Many marketers only use email marketing as a sales tool. Yet, with its ability to directly communicate with the consumer, email is just as effective for brand awareness purposes as well.
Below are some examples of the type of content you can consider as part of your strategy:
- Newsletters – an approach that remains popular for sharing wider content, like blogs and media coverage. Newsletters remain the primary way of keeping your customer informed about what’s going on with the brand and for sharing useful tips and information.
- Sales – the preferred choice for marketers, this content usually focuses on providing discounts and raising product or service awareness.
- Testimonials – people connect with people and especially when it comes to products, consumers are making purchasing decisions based on reviews. If you have a great customer story that adds further weight to your product appeal, it’s worth including.
- Surveys – primarily built for engagement, email marketing surveys are a great tool for gathering data from your audience about your brand, product, service, or industry.
No matter the email type, the route to success is determined by your Call To Action (CTA). Every piece of email marketing should have one clear CTA to hone your audience’s focus, making it clear exactly what action you want them to take when they open your email.
Top tip: the latest data shows that branded emails have 10-seconds to capture customers’ attention and engage them. If you haven’t got your message and CTA across in that time, the likelihood is that your email will be cast to the trash pile or forgotten about.
The design and layout of your emails will help with this. Design a clean layout and decide on one clear call to action per email. EPSs such as MailChimp offer free templates that you can use, however you can design your own, too. The most effective layouts contain a catchy headline, followed immediately by the main body of the email. Logically structure your email and test it on different devices.
Most EPSs allow you to split-test different elements of your campaign. This is called A/B Testing, which allows us to build up a clear picture of what works for your audience. Test the subject line, the content, the sender’s name and email address and the delivery time to optimise your campaign for open and click rates.
Top tip: Creating a 12-month content calendar will help you build out your email strategy, particularly when it comes to key sales periods. As part of this, including key industry dates, holiday periods, and relevant national or international days.
Align email marketing with your other marketing channels
When you are creating email campaigns, you need to consider how this ties in with other areas of your marketing activity, like your website, landing pages, social media profiles and display advertising. The best results are seen when all of these channels are on brand and aligned on messaging.
The design and tone of voice of your landing pages, emails and website should follow your brand guidelines. This will make sure your audience doesn’t feel like they have left your brand space. Here are some examples.
Make the most of automation
The latest data shows that automated emails generate a 152% higher click-through rate compared to regular emails.
This can be as a welcome email that your customer receives on signing up or an abandoned cart email, reminding the customer of the items that have been left in their digital basket.
Implementing this automation will save a lot of time and effort in the long run, driving results and conversions with very little effort required for creating content as a result of a customer’s interaction.
Below is an example of how this journey could look:
- Customer signs up for email marketing service
- Email 1: Welcome email is triggered and lands in their inbox, containing a limited discount code as a thank you for signing up.
- Email 2: The customer does not open the email after 48 hours and so a prompt email is automatically sent.
- Email 3: A final reminder is sent to the customer, reminding them of the exclusive voucher that has been sent to them and is due to run out shortly.
The four-part journey above is a very simple yet effective way of engaging your audience at the beginning of the email journey and driving conversions through very little effort.
Metrics to track
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to understand the wider goal that you’re working toward and the KPIs that inform you whether your strategy is successful or not.
Most EPSs have clear reporting templates that can paint a clear picture over a defined period or even email by email. Below are some of the metrics that are reported on and what you should be keeping in mind:
- Open rate – the number of times your email has been opened. Most EPSs split this out between total opens but also unique opens.
- Click rate – which areas of your email have been engaged with? Are they clicking on the CTA you have set as part of a campaign? Most EPSs now provide an email map to show you exact numbers and percentages of what has enticed a reader to engage.
- Bounce rate – split between hard and soft bounces, these are the emails that have not landed in a customer’s email. There are several reasons this could happen: the email address may no longer be active or it may be too full to receive any more emails.
- Unsubscribe rate – the number of customers that have unsubscribed from your content. The higher the number, the more likely you need to re-evaluate what type of content you are sending out.
- Conversion rate (you’ll need Google Analytics for this) – has your email campaign driven revenue for the business?
Top tip: use UTM codes within your email to be able to track the activity in Google Analytics.
Legal factors and GDPR
We’ve saved this point to last but by no means is it the least important. It’s probably the opposite.
At its core, GDPR is empowering users when it comes to the collection and handling of data.
Privacy and data protection are one of the leading topics in digital marketing right now and are reshaping the way marketers engage with tools like email marketing. This is a trend that many of the world’s biggest companies are also now beginning to engage with. In 2021, Apple’s iOS15 update introduced new privacy features, which allowed people to hide their IP addresses, hide their location, and even hide whether they opened an email at all.
To add to the challenge, by August 2022, Apple held 48% of the UK smartphone market. If every one of those iPhone owners was to utilise this feature, it would dramatically skewer the data available to us as marketers.
Others will follow Apple as customers become savvier on the topic of privacy. When it comes to email marketing, it’d be our recommendation that you don’t begin until you fully understand email legislation and data protection.
For example, it is mandatory to mention your registered company name, postal address and contact details in your emails. Companies must ensure that their contacts provide explicit consent before an email is sent to them. It also demands a strict subscription service that protects the business but also allows customers to feel like their privacy is being respected.