Every so often someone announces that emails are dead. Oddly enough you probably receive this news via email from a marketing guru bent on changing the world. Despite their age, emails continue to be a vital part of inbound marketing and when used to their best effect produce results which continue to make other channels jealous.
Here are a seventeen email marketing best practices designed to keep your messages on the cutting edge, generate leads, deliver engagement and clicks in droves, and increase your MROI.
1 Take Your Time Setting Up Shop
Painting a house is ninety percent prep work and ten percent painting. Email campaigns are the same way. The more planning and strategizing you do the more effective your messages will be when you hit send. Making data-driven choices early in your set-up will pay off later when the emails go out.
2 Have a Clear Email Marketing Strategy
Even without automation tools, it is pretty easy to just dump your entire contact list on the “to” line and fire off a message extolling the benefits of buying your products. That is not email marketing. That is annoying. And, you run the risk of alienating the two types of people your organization needs; current customers and potential buyers. Don’t take your email efforts lightly. A quality email campaign requires a sound strategy, just like every other business development and sales tool you deploy.
Email campaigns serve various purposes. Which one you focus on depends on the needs of your organization and the strength of your lists. Here are just a few of the targeted goals great email campaigns have:
- Strengthen Relationships
- Build Credibility
- Boost Sales
- Reach Prospects on Every Device
- Increase Brand Awareness
- Generate Leads
- Attract New Customers
Once you decide the purpose of your campaign, the next step in developing a strategy is to choose the right type of email to send. Different types of emails stimulate assorted responses from viewers. Mixing up the type of emails you send is a cost-effective way to personalize your prospects’ user experience and to create lasting relationships with actual buyers looking for even more solutions from your organization.
Here are a few different types of emails used in an assortment of campaigns:
- New Content Announcement Email
- Digital Magazine or Newsletter
- Product Update Email
- Dedicated Send
- Event Invitation
- Social Media Send
- Confirmation Email Form Submission Kickback (Thank-You) Email
Using a variety of email types will liven up your communication and make your customer base feel valued far more than a standardized message sent on a rigid schedule.
3 Set Up a Workflow
Without workflows, you are not getting as much out of your contact database as you should be. A workflow allows you to match carefully conceived outreach to unique viewers who are primed and ready to act on the message you send. Obviously, customer nurturing is a primary function of workflows, but they can have a great impact on existing customers as well.
The ability to delight and engage buyers and to recommend additional products is a proven winner and can be achieved through thoughtful and timely messages. Automation makes workflows easy so don’t worry about having to sift through tens of thousands of contacts to decide who is ready for which email. Triggers based on your contact’s data allow you to send the right email at the best time.
Workflows can be as simple as an automated welcome email after subscription or more complicated such as sending targeted messages when a site visitor spends enough time on a certain topical page.
4 Always Segment Your List
It takes a lot of time and energy to build a quality list. But a list is only as good as the content you send to it. A surefire way to guarantee unsubscribes and alienate potential customers and ongoing business alike is to regularly send the same content to your entire list.
At any given time, your thousands of contacts are comprised of a diverse group of people with different needs and different relationships with your organization. There is no “one size fits all” message with enough flexibility to connect with everyone you have ever emailed. To get the most out of your contacts, you must segment your list according to the most appropriate data your CRM can provide. That means different content for recipients who resemble different buyer personas, prospects with different interests, and people in different lifecycle stages.
Using the data you have on hand will further personalize the buyer’s journey and allow you to collect even more and better information to use throughout your campaign. And, the metrics you use to track the effectiveness of each segmented outreach will jump off the charts when you start customizing your content in this way.
5 Only Write Compelling Emails
Not all emails are created equally. Some catch your attention immediately and never let it go. These are the emails customers read to the end and even save to come back for when they have more time. Other emails just don’t get it. They lay flat on the screen and are either immediately deleted or languish unopened until the recipient decides to clear out space on the email server.
6 Personalization is Important
Using a customer’s name is the first law of brick and mortar retail and has been a hallmark of quality customer service for decades. Why? Because it works. But, it’s not enough anymore. Personalization really takes off when you include mention of a customer’s most recent purchase or interaction with your company. Introducing instant familiarity and an implied personal relationship is a powerful strategy that pays dividends and costs next to nothing.
7 Experiment with the From Line
As more and more customers become predominantly mobile, certain fields gain exposure. The "from" line definitely benefits from its prime real estate on mobile platforms. Take advantage of the free advertising on the preview screen and utilize this space to connect directly with your customers by using alternatives to a conventional business email address when appropriate.
8 Make Your Subject Line Great
The subject line makes or breaks your email. It needs to be catchy and concise. Intriguing yet informative. Less than fifty characters but able to stand alone as a message.
Avoid traditional sales words to stay out of the spam filter and use action verbs instead to energize the viewer and make them picture using your product. Smart marketers spend as much time crafting the subject line as the body of their email because they know if it doesn’t perform nothing else gets read.
9 Utilize Smart Content
Using the data you have diligently collected about your customers to send smart content that is uniquely applicable to the viewer is a great way to further personalize the email experience. By sending content in response to specific customer actions and created for specific buyer personas you will hit the mark more often with content the customer is looking for and values.
10 Include an Image/.Gif Only if Necessary (and make sure it works)
Yes, it is good to use images whenever possible to increase engagement with your content. Unfortunately, this rule does not apply to email. Only use images if you absolutely need one for the recipient to understand your message. Not all email providers automatically open images, so it is possible for a recipient to read your message but be recorded as not opening the email. This will skew your metrics.
It’s not a fun experience to take a chance on a marketer’s email that caught your eye with a snappy subject line only to discover the image they sent will take minutes to load. Avoid this trap and only send pictures when you must.
There is plenty of real estate on the main website for infographics and short videos if you need to express yourself artistically.
11 Insert Only One CTA (in synch with your intent)
The best emails are brief. There is only room to build to one call to action. When designed correctly your subject line will feed directly into your single CTA and marry perfectly with your landing page. Multiple calls will only serve to confuse the recipient and leave little room to develop your hook. If you have two great angles guaranteed to deliver, send two emails and double your chances for a click through.
12 Pay Attention to the Metrics
Let’s face it. Email campaigns are a lot of work. You should get as much out of them as possible. Paying attention to your metrics will allow you to learn from each round and make changes to strengthen your outreach. If you are not using this data, you are missing a golden opportunity for improvement.
13 Realize Opens are a Vanity Metric
Opens are important in their own way, but the differences in how providers treat emails skew the numbers too much for open rate data to be reliable. Use this metric as a gauge to show improvement when you make changes to elements of your message, not as the end-all be-all proof that you are the supreme email creator of the universe.
14 Track Clicks/Shares
The purpose of your email is to engage. There is no better metric to show if you are succeeding than clicks/shares. If you get a click through on one of your links, it means the message was delivered and the prospect is on their way to the next piece of content. Job well done.
15 Use Bounces to Clean Up Your List
You can pay attention to hard and soft bounces, but the hard variety is the one that needs looking after. A hard bounce means the address is no longer valid and your email was not delivered. When this happens, eliminate the address from your list. Otherwise, you could end up with a high percentage of undelivered messages, and that is never good.
16 Pay Attention to Unsubscribes
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Of course, you want to know how many people cut off all contact when you reached out with an offer. Don’t panic over the unsubscribe rate. Use it to measure increasing or decreasing email effectiveness and monitor quality control.
17 Do Something with Engagement
If you notice your latest email campaign is really reaching your targeted customers, don’t just stand back and admire your work. Do something with the engagement you just created by establishing aggressive workflows and moving farther into the funnel.
Emails play an important role in B2B Inbound marketing despite the constant reports of their demise. When they are set up correctly, include engaging copy, and are used to report data about your customers and prospects they are an invaluable tool and a worthwhile investment.