It seems to be a common perception that email is a thing of the past. This may be the case if you are thinking of email as a way to communicate with your peers and coworkers. With more efficient options like iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and social media (the list goes on), there is no need to send emails for simple conversations anymore.
However, this doesn’t mean consumers aren’t checking their inboxes — it just clears away some of the clutter and makes room for us marketers. Email marketing is a powerful tool for organizations to reach consumers and is expected to grow as one of the top tools in the marketing mix over the next decade.
Email marketing has historically provided a high ROI, and it keeps growing. The average company saw $42 generated for every $1 spent on email in 2019, and this is being noticed. Further, in 2019, 73% of companies utilizing email marketing rated their email marketing strategy as an excellent tool in their marketing mix.
With recent reports and data proving that email is in fact not dead, it’s no wonder we are seeing an increased focus on email marketing. And I’m sure you are thinking the same thing. Well, before you jump into MailChimp and start firing off campaigns left and right, you will need to create an optimized email marketing strategy. Keep on reading to see the steps to creating an email marketing strategy that will boost your ROI and help your business grow.
Find the Email Marketing Software Fit for You
To get your email marketing strategy off the ground, you will have to sign up with an email marketing software provider. This will be the central hub of your email marketing activity. Software such as MailChimp and Constant Contact allow you to house your list of subscribers, create and maintain email templates and content, send campaigns, and report on the effectiveness of your sends.
There are lots of options, and it may even feel like they are endless when it comes to choosing the right email marketing software. Each service has various features available that suit different organizations based on their size, marketing needs, type of business, coding knowledge, design background, and budget. Below is a list of the top players in the game right now, along with their pros and cons and who they may work best for.
- Ease of use — MailChimp offers prebuilt templates and a drag-and-drop email editor for adding content. This lets users design creative and professional emails without any coding knowledge.
- Versatility — If you have a design and development background, there is the option to create HTML templates from scratch, or add styles and inline CSS to drag-and-drop templates.
- Advanced Email Marketing Features — MailChimp offers many features that can help take your email marketing strategy to the next level, including AB testing, Email Automation, List Segmentation and Email Personalization.
- All-in-One Platform — In the last few years, MailChimp has grown to be an all-in-one digital marketing platform. You can now use the service to create and manage landing pages and websites, manage social media posts, place paid ads, and even create some traditional marketing assets such as postcards.
- Basic Design — The premade templates are pretty basic, leaving limited customization opportunities without knowledge of HTML and CSS.
- Limited Automation — While you have the ability to create essential automation sequences, there are better programs if you are looking for a robust automation campaign.
- Limited Integration — When it comes to integration with your website, MailChimp is pretty limited. This can be an issue when creating emails in response to eCommerce activity on your website.
Best suited for …
MailChimp is a very versatile system and can be used for businesses large and small, depending on their needs. The system is simple enough to use at small companies where the individual handling the email campaigns may be juggling a handful of other tasks at the same time. It also has enough capabilities that an individual whose sole responsibility is to focus on email marketing can make a big impact and create in-depth email marketing strategies.
- Ease of Use — Constant Contact has an easy-to-use interface with prebuilt templates using a drag-and-drop email editor for adding content.
- Additional Marketing Features — This software has additional features to ease your marketing efforts, including Event Management, Coupons, Automation and more.
- Limited Customization — While Constant Contact is great for those with no coding experience, if you are looking to code beautiful emails, you will have to look elsewhere. The ability to customize emails with HTML is very limited compared to its competitors.
- No AB Testing — There is no AB testing functionality, which can be a crucial tool when optimizing your email marketing strategy.
- Limited Automation — You can create simple automation sequences, but there are better programs if you are looking to take your automation campaigns to the next level.
Best suited for …
Constant Contact is good for smaller organizations that may not have the time and resources to invest in a robust email marketing strategy. Its ease of use will allow you to get the job done without spending too much time focusing on email creation and execution.
- Powerful Automation — The automation, segmentation and personalization capabilities of Drip surpass its competitors. You are able to make robust automation sequences using a visual automation editor.
- CMS Integrations — Drip has a wide variety of CMS integrations, so connecting your website and eCommerce activity with your email marketing strategy is easy and effective.
- Price — With power comes a price. Drip has a much higher price tag than many of its competitors.
- Learning Curve — With all of its automation and segmenting rules, workflows, and tags, it can take a while to learn how to use this software.
Best suited for …
Drip is a great option for organizations that are looking to optimize their email marketing strategy with powerful automation sequences. This also means you have to have an individual dedicated to executing and maintaining everything in Drip. Because of this, Drip is not typically suited for small businesses.
This is just a small sampling of the email marketing software available. There are enough out there that selecting an email marketing platform could be a blog post of its own! Before we get lost in that topic, let’s move on to how to build and maintain a list for your email marketing strategy.
Build Your Email List and Keep It Clean
Once you have your email marketing service picked out, you can start building your list of subscribers. This process, called lead generation, can be done through tools such as sign-up forms, social media lead ads and importing contacts you may already have. Website visitors are not always eager to give you their information, so if you are struggling with low subscriber rates, try enticing your audience with an incentive.
You can offer a discount for your product or service, or give subscribers something else of value. There is an opportunity to get creative with this. For example, if you own a hotel in a popular tourist destination, offer a download of an interactive travel guide, or offer a free product giveaway.
In addition to getting email addresses, this is a chance to gain even more valuable information about your subscribers. This can range from generic demographic information (name, birthday, etc.) to information specific to your business (buying habits, preferences, interests, etc.). After collecting this information, you can create segments of your email list.
Email list segments are groups of contacts that meet specific criteria based on interests, engagement, eCommerce activity or more. This allows you to create more personalized campaigns that resonate with your audience. For example, if you own a sports equipment store, you can create segments based on different sports that your subscribers play and send them content tailored to that sport. Sending campaigns to specific segments has been proven to increase open rates, click-through rates and revenues of email campaigns. It can also help reduce unsubscribes, as your subscribers will see content that interests them.
Time to Get Creative
Your account is set up and your list is built. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get into the fun part — creating your campaigns. Don’t worry if you feel that creativity is not your strong suit: As stated earlier in this post, most email marketing software comes with a series of preloaded templates to customize for your business.
4 Tips for Designing Email Marketing Templates
When designing, keep these four things in mind to maximize your email marketing engagement:
- Make it responsive — You want to make sure that your email will display properly on phones and tablets. Make sure any images you use will be clearly visible on smaller screens. Most drag-and-drop email editors will automatically add code in to make your emails responsive. If you are creating custom code, you will need to be sure to add this.
- Test your template — Email clients such as Gmail, Outlook and Apple Mail all render email HTML differently. Because of this, you will want to test your template across different clients, devices and operating systems. Services like Litmus and Email on Acid make this easy to do by providing email previews in various platforms.
- Display your brand — Keep your brand guidelines in mind while designing emails. Use brand colors, fonts, imagery and logos so your template is familiar to your subscribers and represents your brand.
- Have clear and concise CTAs — To make your CTAs stand out, give a clear action so the user knows what the next step in their journey will be, and make them concise and easy to read.
If you are still stumped, browse around online and find some inspiration. Really Good Emails is an excellent resource for searching down email designs based on industry, type of email or even a color scheme. The great thing about digital design is that it is fluid, so if you decide to change your template later down the road, you can easily do so.
Create a Content Calendar
To optimize your email marketing strategy to its full potential, it is best to create a content calendar in advance. This is a calendar of your upcoming sends for the month, quarter or year. It will help you stay organized and make sure you are consistently sending emails out on a schedule. Your calendar can include many different types of email campaigns determined by your goals, what you have to offer and the content you have to promote.
3 Types of Email to Get You Started
- Newsletters — Newsletter emails can include many things such as updates about the company or products, blog posts that relate to your industry, videos, photos and more. Newsletter emails are a great way to provide valuable content to your subscribers while building a connection and keeping your brand top of mind.
- Promotional Emails — These are pretty straightforward. If you are selling a product or service, this type of email can be used to encourage sales. You can showcase specific products or a current promotion with a clear and concise CTA.
- Automated Emails — Automated emails are a crucial part of any email marketing strategy. These are emails that are set to automatically send after a particular action has been taken. Common examples are welcome emails sent after a subscriber joins, or abandoned cart emails after a user leaves the site with unpurchased items remaining in their cart.
Once you have your content planned out, you can drop it into your templates and start scheduling your campaigns to send.
Send, Report and Tweak
After you have sent your first email marketing campaign, you will be able to analyze its performance. This is the last step in executing your email marketing strategy. Most email marketing software will come with some type of reporting, but third-party tools such as Google Analytics may be used as well. The most common metrics measured are open rate, click rate and revenue.
Email reporting is important, as it will help you notice trends with your audience so you can generate insights on what works and what doesn’t. Once you have these insights, you can tweak your future campaigns and watch how that improves your engagement.
Creating and implementing an email marketing strategy is a large task to tackle. Could you use a hand? At The Brandon Agency, our fully integrated marketing firm boasts a team of email marketing specialists who can cover all aspects of your strategy. To get started with help ranging from a simple marketing analysis to a comprehensive strategy tailored to boost the performance of all of your email marketing efforts, contact us today.