There is a lot of buzz around social media, but email still remains the #1 online activity. Email is a preferred method of communication used by a wide range of demographic segments and decision makers who are not active on social media platforms. Compared to some other mediums, it offers better list management, segmentation, automation, reporting and analytics.
Basically, email gives you room for creativity without the 140 character restriction.
In spite of all these advantages, few marketers know how to use email to its full potential. When people ask me for advice on their email campaigns, I tell them to revisit the whole process and to focus on the following areas: subscription point, compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act, list administration, content strategy, and marketing automation.
People provide their email addresses to receive something valuable in return. You want to capture their name as well so you can personalize emails using mail merge.
In order to increase your email subscribers, my recommendation is to target the right visitors at the right time with the right message. I like to collect email addresses based on triggers and geo-targeted visits. Instead of asking all your visitors to subscribe to your email lists, you should ask only the ones who are not already subscribed or who visited specific web pages.
Compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act
Subscribing people to your promotional mailing list without their permission is not okay. All email campaigns must comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, which means your subscribers have to opt in.
In addition, the CAN-SPAM Act states that you can’t use false or misleading senders and subject lines, that you must clearly identify yourself, and that you must give your contacts the option to opt-out and honour their request if they do so. For more information on the CAN-SPAM act, please visit the Bureau of Consumer Protection website.
You should maintain your own opt-out lists outside your email tools. In case you are getting new data or you are changing email systems, you always want to check against your opt-out list to make sure unsubscribed contacts don’t make their way back in. The same practice should be applied to your bounce list, because there is no point in re-adding these people to your mailing lists.
Always check for duplicate email addresses and de-dupe email tracks against each other. For example, the leads you are nurturing should receive a completely different message than your existing customers. You don’t want the same person to receive emails from different tracks or, at worst, to receive the same email twice. It will hurt your brand.
List segmentation allows you to put people in different buckets, so you can target them differently. An apparel boutique would want to present a different selection of items to their male customers than to their female customers.
The golden rule is to present personalized messages that bring value to the reader. Different strategies should be tested on a monthly basis, and content should be adjusted based on which strategy shows better engagement. You can’t just blast the same message into the crowd on a recurring basis and expect a positive response from your audience.
A mix of both text and image CTAs works best. Many email programs do not display images right away; they prompt the reader to accept viewing images from unknown senders. This is a security feature to protect the reader from inappropriate content, and that is why I advise against heavy use of pictures. Your message must be communicated through an appropriate combination of both text and images.
You can make informed decisions about your content only if you know how to interpret your results.
All email tools allow you to see who opened the email and who clicked on what links. A high open rate indicates a strong sender and subject line, while a high click-through rate indicates engaging content. Receiving an email from John Smith is not as strong as receiving an email from “John Smith, CEO”.
To increase your open rate, I recommend you test different subject lines. Most email tools will allow you to do an A/B test. They will send Subject Line Version A to 10% of your list and Subject Line Version B to another 10%. Based on the results, the system will then automatically use the best performing subject line for the remaining 80% of your list.
People clicking certain links become your leads because they expressed interest in certain parts of your content. It is very cost effective to follow up with a telemarketing campaign targeted at only the people who clicked specific links, as opposed to calling everyone.
Can an email sending tool generate leads automatically? Unfortunately the answer is no, unless you are using marketing automation.
The real advantage of email marketing is drawn from the benefits provided by all in one marketing automation systems.
With marketing automation systems, content can be automatically adjusted based on visitor behavior, geography, and context. Landing pages, forms, and surveys should all be working together in sync. For example, when someone registers for an event, you should follow up with an email containing the agenda and location details. As well, reminding webinar registrants 15-minutes beforehand via SMS results in a significant increase in attendance.
Email tools track links clicked within the email only; they are not able to track further steps visitors take on your website. This is one of the main advantages of marketing automation tools. Having a history of all pages visited, content downloaded, and emails received gives you the power to understand all touch points. Understanding all touch points allows you to better map your customer’s journey in the buying process.
Predictive marketing capabilities let you understand the differences between your customers so you can anticipate what they will want to buy before you launch a promotion.
Whether you simply want to send out a newsletter or go beyond and get into advanced marketing automation practices, it is good to know what features are available for email marketing campaigns. In the end, it all comes down to what you are trying to achieve and how are you going to use it to your advantage.