Email should be one of your most important marketing channels. Why? Because email marketing is affordable, offers big returns - up to 4300% according to the Digital Marketing Institute - and helps you reach a large audience. But how do you create a sustainable email marketing strategy? Find out here.
Want to start creating a successful email marketing strategy today? Fantastic idea. It’s relatively easy to set up and can be used for every business… as long as you keep modern best practices in mind. Follow these nine steps for a rock-solid email marketing strategy.
1. Build a contact list
To send emails, you need recipients, which means you need to build a contact list first. Web forms are an easy and popular way to get contact details: place them strategically on your website to ask for customers’ email addresses in exchange for content that might interest them. Downloadable price lists or brochures, newsletter subscriptions, … they can all work, depending on where you place them on your website.
Of course, people have to be on your website to drop their information in one of your forms. Broaden you net: create specific landing pages and use paid advertising to promote them.
|The term landing page is sometimes used for any single web page that a visitor "lands" on as the first entry point to a website. But from a marketing perspective, there's a more specific definition: a web page that is purely meant to capture a visitor's details and uses a form to do so.|
Example: A plumber promotes his services online with different landing pages for each service, ranging from drain cleaning to bathroom installments. Based on the search query they entered, people will get to see the matching landing pages as advertisements in the search results. When they click on the ad, they can request a quotation in exchange for their contact details.
Also think about offline sources to gather lead information. What about gathering contact information during a live event? Chat with interested people and ask if you can add them to your mailing list. Or maybe you have partners or other people in your network who have large email lists and are willing to promote some of yours.
2. Get permission to send emails
Lots of companies send emails to people who don’t want to receive them: having no permission or spammy messaging aren’t a good start of building a sizeable email list. When people subscribe, answer questions they might have, like:
- What will I get in return when I give you my email address?
- How often will I get your emails? Are you going to spam me?
- What kind of email content can I expect? Will I get discounts?
You'll find it's much easier to get someone to commit to your email list if you clearly state what they'll be getting in return, and when. Honesty truly is the best policy here.
What about business cards?
According to the new GDPR, if someone gives you their business card, that counts as an opt-in to be contacted. So officially, you can add their email address to your mailing list. However, some would advise against it since it’s more of an ‘assumed’ permission that could be regarded as impolite.
3. Send your first email
When it comes to the first email you send to a new contact, it’s no time to play hard to get. When someone subscribes, you have to send a follow-up email immediately. Use an auto-reply that gets sent to every new subscriber to introduce yourself and manage expectations by explaining what a new subscriber can expect and when.
4. Live up to expectations
Deliver what you promised in that first email. Mix your messaging to keep your emails interesting, but think about what your customers expect: newsletters, for instance, aren’t the best place to pitch your product or service. Instead, they provide a better opportunity to further the relationship with your reader: if you promised to share useful resources, send educational content, not product discounts. Agreed on a monthly update? Send an email once a month - no more, no less. Live up to the expectations you’ve created.
5. Get your email address whitelisted
You might’ve already noticed that a lot of promotional emails never reach people’s inboxes. Instead, they die a slow death in the spam box. Getting whitelisted is the most effective way to ensure your emails get delivered properly. Asking people to add you to their contacts or address book is the easiest way to prevent your emails from being blocked.
6. Gather data about leads (but don’t scare them off)
More information on your leads means you know them better so you can serve them better. Use web forms and talk face to face to leads and customers to capture information about them. However, you don’t want to be asking too many questions all at once: if contacts have to put too much effort in signing up, chances are higher they’ll back off.
Integrate your CRM with your email lists to collect valuable data, such as contact demographics (age, occupation, location, … ) or how they interact with your email marketing content (have they opened and clicked through your email, did they contact you afterwards?).
|Tip: When meeting someone for the first time, it’s highly unlikely you’ll reveal every detail about yourself immediately. Otherwise, people will think you’re quite weird. It’s the same in marketing. That’s why the term progressive profiling was coined: instead of asking for all their details at once, you progressively gather more and more information over time so you don’t push them away.|
7. Segment and personalise
Gathering contact information is essential in order to send highly-targeted emails: individualised email messaging, individualised landing pages and behaviour-triggered emails are the most effective tactics when it comes to email personalisation. Segmenting on gender or location can already improve the subscriber’s experience. You could also create unique emails with personalised recommendations based on previous purchases: a custom offer can increase sales conversion rates up to 25%.
How scary is personalised marketing?
Does using a person’s data for marketing make you some kind of frightening Big Brother? Actually, no: reports from e-commerce software Monetate prove that most consumers aren’t really bothered by it and willfully let personalisation influence their buying behaviour.
Here’s some examples of proven email personalisation methods:
Segment your database based on similar demographics or behaviour. This way, you can create targeted messages for specific audiences.
8. Optimise your emails for mobile
According to research from Litmus, almost half of all emails you send are opened on mobile devices. That’s why you need to invest in a responsive design to ensure that your email looks great, no matter on which device it’s read.
- Convert the design of your email to a one-column template for an easy mobile fix
- Enlarge the font size for improved readability
- Make the call-to-actions clear and easy to tap
- Use clear and concise copy
- Add spacing: this also improves readability
Additionally, good email marketing tools offer options to show you how an email will look on mobile devices.
9. Analyse how your email campaign performs
You don’t need years of marketing experience to assess how your email campaign is doing and optimise accordingly.
Track three basic metrics at all times:
- Open rate:
Discover whether people want to receive your emails. If the open rate is low, it means your email is deleted right away and you need to work on creating more compelling subject lines - or re-evaluate if you're not sending your subscribers stuff they never signed up for in the first place.
- Click-through-rate (CTR):
Maybe people do read your emails, but don’t take action. A low CTR means your message is not tailored enough or just doesn’t work. Improve the copy, create a more enticing offer and make sure call-to-actions are clear and eye-catching.
- Unsubscription rate:
If your unsubscribe rate is high and you're sure your audience opted in, then you might have promised something that you actually didn't deliver.. Try to learn why and when people are leaving: do you send too many emails? Aren’t people interested in your offer? Is your message to sales-y?
Dive into your analytics and re-work every email that doesn’t deliver the expected results. Try to optimise only one aspect at a time (for instance: the copy, the call-to-action or the headline) to uncover the problem and achieve better results.