Think email marketing’s outdated? Think again!
Despite the evolution of digital assistants, video and chatbots, old reliable email marketing remains an essential tool for businesses, with a better ROI than almost any other marketing channel.
But to get there, you need an effective email marketing strategy. Here’s how to build one in nine easy steps.
What You’ll Learn:
- Build an effective, segmented email list
- Write a killer subject line
- Design for the top of the scroll
- Personalize your message
- Write accessible emails for everyone
- Set expectations for new subscribers
- Find the right frequency for your audience
- Practice email hygiene
- Monitor email analytics and run A-B tests
1. Build an Effective, Segmented Email List
First things first: if you’re sending emails, you need a list of subscribers.
Collect more emails by making it easy to opt-in to your newsletters and other email communication on your homepage, using social media or even asking your customers directly for their email addresses if you have a brick and mortar location.
One of my favorite ways to do this on a website is through pop-ups. Though they often get a bad wrap, pop-ups are an extremely effective away of gather email subscribers on your website.
My personal favorites are the scroll-down pop-up (which fires after a user scrolls down a certain percentage of a page) and the exit pop-up (fires when a user shows intent to leave a page).
To maximize your sign-ups, try offering an incentive to your best customers: you could offer a discount or free gift in return for email sign-ups, for example.
However, make sure any campaigns or special offers are targeted to your ideal customers. Always put quality over quantity. After all, the ultimate goal of your email marketing strategy is to increase conversions, so you don’t want casual subscribers who never intend to purchase anything.
To do that (and gain more trust from your subscribers) make sure you outline exactly what kind of information they’ll be receiving and how often they’ll be hearing from you.
Here’s an example form Nomadic Matt that clearly lays out expectations.
Build out an audience that’s relevant and will be engaged with your brand. Whether they are current or potential customers, harness individuals that will create the biggest ROI.
The best way to do that? Through segmentation.
Targeted email marketing is simply the process of sending out more personalized emails.
And here’s the thing: it works. Really well.
Segmented email campaigns get 14.31% more opens and 100.95% more clicks than non-segmented campaigns.
There are multiple ways to segment your list, whether it’s through qualifying questions in your opt-in process, behavior on-site, or engagement over time. I go over email personalization and segmentation in detail in this article, and I highly recommend taking a look.
Finally, make sure that your email subscriptions are fully GDPR compliant.
That means that people sign up of their own free will (no automatic email subscriptions allowed), and give explicit consent to receive marketing messages from you. Don’t ever buy email lists, force people to subscribe, or sneak-subscribe them. After all, leads collected by those methods will never be top customers.
For more on the GDPR and how it affects email marketing, check out my full guide here.
2. Write a Killer Subject Line
Too often, subject lines get overlooked.
But the reality is you could have the most well-written, well-thought-out and relevant email ready to go, but it all means nothing if no one takes the time to open it.
That’s where your subject line. It’s a user’s first impression of your email, and it needs to stand out.
Always call out the reason why the viewer should be opening the email. Are you having a sale? Is something big happening with your business? Tell them the benefit in the subject line and keep it short and simple.
Well-written, engaging subject lines typically accomplish one of the following things:
- Provides a benefit
- Piques curiosity
- Includes an offer
- Capitalizes on urgency
- Appeals to someone’s humanity
- Tells a story
- Relies on humor
That said, be careful what you write in that area to avoid getting flagged as spam in the email. Do not ever use the following tactics:
- Writing in all caps
- Using special characters
- Using too many numbers
- Using spam trigger words like “free”
But here are a few things you can do:
- Personalize email subject lines and addressee names (this could improve open rates by up to 50%)
- Sprinkle a few emoji in the subject line. Just make sure they’re relevant, and complement the text rather than substituting it.
- Use action verbs and punchy language: “get”, “find out”, “grab”
- Use questions to intrigue the reader’s interest
- Quote statistics and engaging facts
3. Design for the Top of the Scroll
Almost half of all emails are opened on mobile in 2019. So you need to design email with mobile in mind.
That means a responsive design which will adapt to any device, screen size, and email client. And it means designing for the “top of the scroll”.
The top of the scroll is the area your reader immediately sees without having to scroll up or down. If you get the design right, you’ll have just enough space to display a good subject line, a strong image, and a single call to action.
Remember, today’s attention spans are short and unforgiving. Keeping the most important elements of your email above the fold will give the readers the information they need in as little time as possible.
4. Personalize Your Message
We’ve already mentioned personalization briefly – now let’s dive in with more detail.
You can use dynamic elements, also sometimes called smart tags, to personalize the content of your email subject line, addressee, and content.
There are some basic personalization features that you should use in every single email, like addressing someone by their name. That’s just polite, right?
But you can do more. Check out this example of an email from Lyft to celebrate the end of 2018. Every single element in the email is based on the individual users’ behavior:
Think creatively about how you could add personalization to your email marketing strategy, from fun statistics like this to micro-targeted email marketing offers and smart customer service.
A lot of this goes back to proper targeting and segmentation. For example, if you target users based on website behavior, you can track which pages they visit, what products they click on, and which segments of your site they spend the most time with. Then, you can send personalized emails based on the products or kinds of content they’ve interacted with.
You can use the same strategy to send emails based on demographic or geographic information as well. Here’s another email from Lyft that personalizes the message using geographic info (clearly, Lyft is killing it when it comes to email marketing.)
5. Write Accessible Emails for Everyone
So you’ve written a great subject line, created a responsive design, and added in a few dynamic elements to make each and every one of your subscribers feel special.
But let’s not forget about the less flashy element of effective email marketing: accessibility.
Chances are, at least some of your readers use plaintext emails or screen readers. That could be for a variety of reasons, from personal preference to visual impairments. Regardless, it’s important that your email marketing strategy is accessible to everyone, no matter how they choose to read your messages.
Here are a few basic accessibility tips to get you started:
- Plaintext. Most email marketing clients let you view your email in its fully designed glory (html) and with all the fun stuff taken out (plaintext). Check the plaintext version and make sure the email still makes sense without images and design.
- Alt tags. You should already be using alt tags for all your other web content. Write a short, “alt” description for each image in the email so that if people can’t see the picture, they can still read what it represents.
- Information hierarchy. This is a buzzword that means organizing your message. Use header tags and formatting so that your email has a clear flow of information, and it’s easy for people to jump between different sections.
- Live text. Try to type text separately from images, instead of designing text as part of the image. Why? Because if all your text is wrapped up in images, then people with plaintext email or screen readers will never see it.
6. Your Email Marketing Strategy Should Set Expectations for New Subscribers
We’ve already mentioned how to start building your list. But if your email marketing strategy is successful, then you’ll be adding subscribers all the time!
That’s where welcome emails come in. These are automatic messages that are fired off whenever someone new signs up.
I can’t stress how important these welcome emails are. A study by Chief Marketer found that welcome emails have an impressive 60% open rate, and in most cases, your welcome email will have the highest opens of any email you send.
Use welcome emails to show new subscribers that you value their attention and set expectations for what’s to come.
Every welcome email should include two things:
- Tell them who you are. Introduce your company and remind people of the goods or services on offer.
- Tell them what to do next. Offer a simple call to action to get started. For new subscribers, that’s probably something like setting up a profile on your site, browsing your online catalog, or making contact with someone in your sales team. And as always, this action should be stated with a clear call-to-action (CTA).
Check out this example from Food52. They do a nice job of welcoming the reader, explaining the purpose and outlining the kinds of content the reader can expect, and telling them what they should do next.
7. Find the Right Frequency for Your Audience
Whether it’s once a month or once a week, sending emails at a regular time will keep you at the top of mind for your customers. If you wait too long without sending out an email, readers could forget about your business or potentially unsubscribe.
But by the same token, you can lose subscribers when you send too many emails.
Try experimenting with different sections of your email list, and see what gets the best response: once a day? Once a week?
8. Practise Email Hygiene
Even if your email marketing strategy started with an ideal list of subscribers, email lists do decay over time. It’s only natural. People lose interest, change address, miss a few messages, etc.
So it’s important to clean your email marketing lists regularly. Start by sending out a re-engagement email to anyone who hasn’t opened your messages for more than 6 months (you can segment this way through most major email software provides). Give them one last chance to get in touch.
You should keep these relatively short and to the point, but engaging enough that a reader will want to keep receiving messages from you.
If they open the email and take action, great!
If not, you might consider a follow-up email (or two) designed to reinforce the value of your product or service. If they still ignore it, then it’s time to unsubscribe them.
9. Monitor Email Marketing Analytics and Run A-B tests
Last of all? The same advice applies to your email marketing strategy as the rest of your marketing strategy. Monitor, monitor, monitor.
Watch that open rate and click-through rate. If you don’t have enough people opening and reading your email, it’s a waste of time. Trial and error is the best approach, see what works best for your brand and make the adjustments to get the most email opens.
If you have new ideas to try out on your audience, then use A-B tests to find out how they’ll respond. This is where you create 2 versions of an email, and send it to 2 separate segments of your audience. Whichever email performs better is the winner, and you can go on to send it to the entire list.
Wrapping Up How to Build an Effective Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing remains one of the best ways to stay in touch with your audience.
But an effective one demands a clear strategy. Use the nine steps listed above to build one that attracts, engages, and resonates with your customers.