Email marketing is a bit like Mark Twain – reports of its death have been much exaggerated!
In 2016, Econsultancy tell us that email delivers as much traffic as all social channels combined. And a 2015 report from the Direct Marketing Association shows up to 3800% ROI for the email marketing channel.
But statistics and reports are based on averages and/or best practice. For all the success stories, there are also companies out there who aren’t getting results. Email marketing isn’t as simple as just firing off a message to everyone in your address book any more. To get the best results, you have to get your head round a whole range of email marketing opportunities.
7 email marketing opportunities to drive better results
A simple newsletter may be how you start your email marketing, but it is not where you should finish up.
1. Build your own list
Third party email lists are available, but they don’t generally perform very well. The subscribers have no relationship to you – they’ve probably never even heard of you!
But it’s no good just asking people to subscribe. Everyone gets so much email these days, they need a really good reason to sign up. Try offering something:
- a discount voucher
- a loyalty or membership program
- a competition with a chance to win something (something relevant to your target market)
- a useful resource such as a how-to guide, e-book or template
2. Segment your list
Don’t just send the same email to everyone. Send different content to different people. Content specifically targeted at them.
- Gender. An obvious example is fashion. You’ll also see toy stores asking the age and gender of children so that they can segment by the child who will get the toys, not the email recipient him or herself.
- Age. Financial investment is a good example here. Twenty-somethings and those in their fifties have very different priorities and concerns when it comes to money.
- Location. If you’re running or promoting events, send only to those for whom it matters.
- Relationship with your company. Is the subscriber a customer or a prospect? Or a past customer? You may want to send different messages and offers.
- Industry. This may matter in a B2B context. Send different case studies or use cases, highlighting a similar industry to your prospect’s, and you’ll get more interest. Everyone wants to know what the competition is up to!
3. Personalise your email marketing
There’s a big difference between ‘Dear Bridget‘ and ‘Dear Subscriber‘ – but these days it’s only a wow factor if you get it wrong. (Ever received an email addressed to ‘Dear <first_name>‘?)
Or if you include the name in a graphic rather than in text. (Thanks to Moveable Ink for this example.)
Today, personalisation is less about knowing and using someone’s name, more about tailoring content to them.
- Online retailers like Amazon make recommendations to you based on your purchase history
- What about birthday emails, with a gift, voucher or other offer?
- Travel booking site Priceline sends ‘welcome home’ emails, along with a discount towards the next adventure.
There are more great examples of email personalisation here.
4. Use trigger-based email as well as regular newsletters
What’s the key thing about trigger-based email? It’s sent at a time which matters to the recipient, not a time which suits you.
30% of email marketing revenue comes from trigger-based emails.
“In general, there is a lower volume of triggered emails, but higher engagement and conversion rates thanks to better timing and contextual relevance,” say the Direct Marketing Association.
Segmentation and personalisation can be achieved with a ‘mail-merge’ mentality. Trigger-based email means moving a step further. You don’t simply send marketing emails once a week (or month, or fortnight, or day). You identify trigger times and events which are relevant to your customers or prospects, which you can track and respond to. Then you create an email template to send – individually – whenever someone trips that trigger.
The ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Welcome Home’ personalisation examples above were trigger-based, with a time trigger.
The commonest trigger email (so common we tend to forget it) is the autoresponder email when we first get a sign-up or webform enquiry.
Other triggers you could use include:
- Sign up. Send a welcome email. Send background information on how to use your service. Web hosting companies do this. They also send information about how to set up or transfer a website – since most new customers will need to do one or the other of these tasks.
- First purchase. What a great time to say thank you and possibly include a discount voucher for the next purchase.
- Cumulative purchase revenue. Once again, say thanks with a special offer.
- Haven’t heard from you in a while. This can be a great way to reactivate or clean dormant subscribers.
- Shopping cart abandonment emails also fall into this category.
5. Don’t default to a newsletter subscription straight after sign-up
When somebody first signs up and subscribes, you and your business are new and exciting. Hopefully, you’ve also just given them something they like, which is exciting and interesting in itself.
So strike when the iron’s hot! Don’t just subscribe them to a newsletter. Send a targeted, automated campaign with content which is relevant to what they just downloaded or bought from you.
If you’re just starting out with marketing automation, this is the ideal first piece to set in place.
If your new subscribers get through the marketing automation without further interaction (such as contact or a purchase) they’re no longer such a warm lead. Now’s a better time to trade them into a newsletter subscription.
“We hope you’ve enjoyed our emails about setting up your website, SEO optimisation and core plugins for WordPress. We’ll continue to send you useful tips every month, but if you don’t want to get them, just let us know at any time.”
Simple, friendly and helpful. So you have a foundation to keep in touch, so you’ll be there when they do want something.
6. Test your email subject lines
It doesn’t matter what the email content is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a newsletter or a triggered email. If you’re going to get reactions, web traffic or purchases, people need to open the email and look at it. That’s why subject lines are all-important.
There are a billion (or more) articles on the internet giving advice about email subject lines. I’m sticking with two recommendations.
- Try the CoSchedule headline analyser
This free tool was designed for blog post headlines, but use it for email subject lines as well.
It stores your recent headlines so you can easily compare and choose what you want to go with.
- 2. Test your subject lines.
For newsletters and bulk email marketing, use A/B testing.
You can also try different subject lines as social media posts, and see which ones drive the most traffic and interest.
For trigger-based emails, testing is a little more complex, but it’s still possible. Your marketing automation platform may have a testing capability built in. If not, you could run one subject line for a period, then switch to another one and compare. Just make sure your sample is big enough to be statistically significant.
7. Let your subscribers choose how often they want to hear from you
There was a very interesting comment from Matt McGowan of Adestra at a breakfast I attended recently. He said the biggest threat to email was actually overuse and spam.
“Most email goes either to Gmail or to Outlook. If you get a lot of emails from one address and you haven’t read or reacted to them, both Gmail and Outlook will decide, ‘Okay, my reader is not interested in that. I will automatically put it in the junk file.'”
If you check your own junk folder, I’m sure you’ll find things that you subscribed to. Things you were actually interested in originally. Probably some you are still interested in. But you are no longer getting because they’re automatically going to junk. Now, look at that from the sender’s perspective. It doesn’t matter how good the subject line is if the reader never even sees the email.
The more you overload email, the harder it is for subscribers to keep up, and the more likely you are to end up in junk folders. So think carefully about how often you’re going to send email.
- Try offering subscribers a choice of how often they hear from you. For example, LinkedIn groups offer the option of notification for every conversation, a daily digest and a weekly digest.
- Try running a survey on your unsubscribe page asking why people are unsubscribing. If the option ‘too many emails’ comes up frequently, you might want to cut back a bit.
- Intelligent segmentation and trigger-based emails mean fewer emails sent, more accurately. Recipients are less likely to feel spammed. Another reason these email marketing opportunities make sense!
Email marketing is far from dead. It’s alive and healthy, but as inboxes get fuller, the science and art of email marketing is getting more complex. Email marketing is no longer about blasting out mass communications. In 2016 and beyond, the real email marketing opportunities lie in personalisation, relevance and timeliness. To achieve success, you need not just technology, but intelligent application of that technology.