The Introductory Guide to Email Marketing
Email marketing. The term itself doesn’t evoke the excitement and passion that newer marketing concepts do.
It doesn’t sound sexy, I’ll give you that.
But my goal in writing this guide is to help you understand how email marketing is one of the most critical aspects of your business.
If you were under the impression email marketing was going anywhere soon, you’re definitely off your rocker. 59%of B2B marketers still believe that email is the most effective channel for generating revenue.
So why has email marketing been able to last all these years and what makes it so influential in how we connect with customers?
It’s time to dive in headfirst and learn everything you need to know as a rookie email marketer.
Past, Present and Future
37 years ago:
It has been 37 years since the first mass marketing email was sent in 1978 by Gary Theurk. To put that into perspective, email marketing is 15 years older than I am. And who are we kidding, 37 years is more than enough time for some major changes and improvements to be made.
Email marketing was around before social media, content marketing and any form of mobile digital marketing. It was the first step in being able to connect digitally with customers on any level.
While email started out as a communication tool for academic and business purposes it quickly moved into personal communications marketing. Smart marketers used the concept in the early days as a cost-effective, quick way to reach large numbers of customers.
What we have now:
Flash-forward to 2014 and email marketing was cited as the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention in the US.
What started out as plain text has turned into complicated visual displays with different offers, call-to-action buttons, videos and much more in one single message.
We have also changed how we handle email marketing. With the creation of email marketing platforms has come the ability to segment your audience into different groups based on their needs and what they value. Today 85% of marketers segment their email lists. This has transformed our ability to provide specific individuals with content they are actually interested in, making brand communication more personalized, unique and likely to be opened.
As of 2014, 66% of emails were opened on either a smartphone or tablet device, once again showing the evolving state of email marketing.
What about the future of email marketing? Where are we headed?
The future of email marketing is looking brighter than ever, so long as marketers are ready to adapt to personalized creation. Gone are the days of simply pushing out an email selling a product or promotion to your entire list.
The next couple years will see email marketing automation dominating the landscape and personalization reducing the number of emails each individual receives, while increasing the value in their inbox.
What is the Purpose of Email Marketing?
1. Lead Nurturing
Once you capture an individual as a lead you need to start a relationship. In order to convert that lead into a paying customer you need to build trust and authority through content.
A recent Harvard Business Review study found that 71% of qualified leads are actually never followed upwith. If you’re going to do the work to get a lead in the first place, you better make them count!
It’s like going to all the work of catching and reeling in a beautiful 15-pound salmon, only to leave it to rot in the bottom of the boat.
Once you’ve caught that valuable lead it’s time to show them your expertise. Email marketing is the perfect way to maintain contact, sending them educational content that helps to meet their needs or solve any problems they are facing.
Rather than asking for a sale right away you should be sending leads a series of well-timed emails to lay the groundwork of making them sales-ready. If someone became a lead by downloading an ebook they’re not necessarily someone you want to push to purchase your expensive software right away. They need to be coddled and cajoled into a paying customer. In fact, according to hubspot only 25% of leads are sales-ready (and I personally think that’s an exceedingly high number).
But what kind of emails should you send a fresh catch? (for the sake of continuing my awesome analogy)
The most important nurturing email you should send is the educational type. Send leads information based on what they’ve downloaded from you or signed up for in the past. While you should never have a sales focus, try to involve your products or services whenever possible.
An educational email doesn’t have to be a blog article. Consider the types of content you can send leads such as:
- A free ebook
- Educational videos
Educational emails are the perfect way to shorten your sales funnel and build trust among your leads.
One great way to communicate with leads is to figure out their pain point and set up a drip campaign, nurturing leads through a 3 or 4-part course. A drip campaign, named after the legendary drip coffee maker, sends emails to subscribers or leads over a set period of time based on their behaviours or needs. It serves the purpose of maintaining contact with leads and keeping your business top of mind.
You’re now well informed on the importance of email for new leads, but what about existing customers?
Email marketing is the must-have for customer retention. Think of it as the bait that keeps customers coming back time and again. Just because they’ve bought from you doesn’t mean you can just forget about them! They’re now even more crucial to your success.
I know what you’re probably thinking. “My inbox is constantly swamped with email newsletters, there’s no way they can be that effective.” And yet the industry average open-rate of a customer email (for SaaS) is 15%. That’s double the click-through rate of a GoogleAd in the top spot, first page. Which would you rather be spending money on?
Retention emails may serve the purpose of offering customers a discount, thanking them for purchasing or asking for a product review. But they could also be educational content, giving existing clients more knowledge on a recently purchased product or service or strategy. No matter what the focus, the goal is to increase the lifetime customer value of every individual.
It sounds fancy but it’s really not. Email is the key information you need from your existing customers to maintain them as existing customers.
Think of what is currently in your email inbox and whether it would make you want to maintain a connection with the sender?
Looking at my own I can see an exclusive coupon code from a clothing retailer and a thank you gift from a beauty boutique I recently purchased from. Of course I also see a few useless promotional emails, but we can always learn from others mistakes!
While I probably won’t convert on the discounts in my inbox, they do an excellent job of keeping my mouse from scrolling over “unsubscribe”. You need to have a diverse handful of retention emails to keep your customers engaged and interested in seeing what you’re going to send next.
Testing, Testing, 123
Failing to test the emails you send to leads and customers is like depending on a single kind of bait or single fishing spot and never trying anything new. Who knows what you’ll haul up if you diversify a little?
Testing your subject line, copy length, copy tone, or time of day could result in hundreds if not thousands of additional clicks. So why wouldn’t you?
You need to find out what makes your audience “tick,” or in this case “click.” Consider all of the different elements of your email marketing campaign and decide which you want to test . When you’re testing, I recommend you only change one element at a time, otherwise you won’t know which element it was that impacted your email’s performance.
A few aspects of your emails to consider testing:
- The subject line (Duh)
- The headline
- The Length of the Body Copy
- The Content within the body copy
- The “from” name
- The day of the week
- The time of day
- The use of images
- The number of links
- The call-to-action (color, size, placement)
Several of these tests are only possible with advanced email platforms (body content, for instance). If you’re not quite there yet, you can split your lists in half and sending a control email to one and a variation email to the other..
Record all tests that you run on your email marketing campaigns and remember your lessons learned for the future. Your email audience will be unique and different from that of your competitors or the case studies you read about online.
The only way to figure out exactly what will make your audience open and convert is to test it out for yourself.
The way you phrase a sentence has a huge impact on the way it’s received. It’s like how you call a waiter over when you’re ready to order: Eye-contact and a smile will get you seen. A whistle and a finger snap will get your meal spat in.
None of that changes when it comes to email.
If someone’s inbox is filled with marketing emails, the tone of your subject line alone may make them decide to give it a glance rather than throwing it in the trash with the rest of them.
For your email marketing campaigns it’s crucial that you find a tone of voice that speaks to your target audience and stick with it.
There are a couple of things to consider when deciding what tone to use:
What’s your company age or culture?
What product do you sell?
What are the demographics of your target customer?
If you’re writing emails to women in their twenties or thirties, your email voice is going to sound a lot different than those going to men in their forties or fifties.
Only you can know what your audience like (likely after significant testing).
If you have different segments, you may choose to use different voices depending on who that email is going to. By writing in a tone that is relevant and valuable to your audience you are also building trust and allowing them to look at you as a person rather than a faceless corporation.
Let’s break it down with an example of an email from help desk software provider Groove.
Alex Turnbull, the CEO, uses a very casual and personal yet professional tone of voice. The way he writes Groove’s emails is targeted at their list of tech and marketing professionals and has the same tone as their blog articles:
Having emails from the CEO himself, stating that he would read and respond to all emails or even meet individuals in person, comes across as very transparent and personalized. He knows this is the type of personality and content that his readers love and what they will respond to down the line.
If anything, always remember that the tone of your emails builds trust, makes you unique, and allows you to influence your readers to engage with your business.
Email marketing is one of the best ways to drive traffic to your business through lead nurturing and customer retention. Even as we sit here in 2015, its one of the most effective marketing channels and is far from being extinct.
It gives you the opportunity to get your message to your list’s inbox while evoking emotions and building trust.
- Written by Claire Grayston
Claire is a digital content marketer at Wishpond. When not racking her brain for new content, you’ll find her hiking or snowboarding the local mountains.