Email is a communication channel between you and your customers, either current or prospective.
But…how can you make sure that your email won’t end up in the virtual bin of your subscribers? A simple solution is not to use an email campaign as virtual sale-person. Instead, you should use emails to announce the launch of new products, move customers along the purchasing funnel and inform customers of important transitional messages. However, to avoid becoming a serial spammer the best long term solution is to begin by focusing on one specific strategy first and only after establishing a solid email marketing plan, you can start expanding the role that an email campaign plays in your business.
Email marketing is the foundation of business
Email marketing has become a more and more powerful tool since the average rate of social media reach has being decreasing progressively; for instance, Facebook organic reach represents for a brand only the 2.60% of its entire business, while Twitter click-through-rate is as little as a 0.50%. As organic reach decreases on social media, brand start investing even more in paid advertisement, as suggested by a 40% increase in the AdWords cost.
All these evidence lead to a marketing conundrum: as organic reach decreases, logic dictates that a well established marketeer focuses more efforts (and money) on PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns. However, when everybody starts implementing such strategy the Cost-Per-Click (CPC) raises and the return-on-investment (ROI) decreases.
In this bleak scenario, email marketing comes to the rescue: it is cost effective and with a CTR of 3% it beats both Twitter lame CTR and Facebook constantly decreasing organic reach .
Take advantage of ESP (enterprise server platform)
ESP are online platforms that manage email marketing for you in automated, easy to implement and stress free manner. The most famous one is MailChimp that offers a free basic account: up to 200 subscribers and 12,000 emails sent/month.However, as many ESP are currently available offering a variety of prices and services it might be difficult to find the one that best suits your business needs. In addition to MailChimp, other options are CampaignMonitor, Customer.io and MailGun.
After becoming familiar with a free ESP, you might have a better idea if it is still a valid choice for your business or if it is worth investigating further and opt for a paid plan that includes features essential for your business (support team, automated messaging, testing etc…).
Opt for a SMTP-AS-A-SERVICE
While the ESPs are using their own server, the SMTP-as-a-service allow subscribers to sent emails directly from your own server. In addition to email notifications to your list of subscribers, SMTP-as-a-service can also send confirmation messages and daily activity summaries. You might consider SendGrid, SMTP2GO, SendPulse.
Define your email goal
1. Sales and Promotions
Emails that include a discount or promote a new product are defined sales and promotion emails as they prompt subscribers to purchase. These emails could be used to:
- Behaviorally target users
- Create segments based on intent
- Drive sales using promotions delivered to high intent customers
When creating an email campaign to drive sales through promotions:
- Add an expiration date to create urgency
- Offer specific advantages based on your audience (discount, free delivery etc…)
- A good rule of thumb is: for less than a value of $100, offer a percentage discount, for higher amounts offer an absolute amount (for instance, $20 instead of 10%).
- Offer two different deals to purchasers vs non-purchasers
Newsletters are the most popular among the emails a company sends out on a general basis. Newsletters can include blog articles, updates on the users’ activities, alerts and so on.
Newsletters are generally sent on a monthly basis even if many companies send a weekly or a quarterly newsletter to their subscribers.
Newsletters could also include “Best Reviewed Products“, “Seasonal sales” and everything that could be relevant to your subscribers.
There are several advantages of including newsletters on a marketing campaign: they look less like advertisement, they are cheap and therefore even small businesses could run them and finally let users know more about the company they buy from.
Announcement emails are generally sent out when a new product is launched, a key event is coming up or new partnerships are established. Announcements can include:
- Launch of new products
- Mobile and website upgrades
- Prizes awarded to the company
- Coming up events such as big sales or conferences
Announcement emails are very useful to show customers that a brand is thriving in the market and it keeps its focus on delivering better products and a better service. They also contribute to make the subscriber being part of the event.
4. Email Notification
Email Notification such as a welcoming email is a must as it achieves multiple results: it confirms the subscription to the new member, it shows that the company values the new user by welcoming them and finally, as the subscriber is in the right mind set to know more about the company, these emails could help conversions. In addition, these emails are useful when:
- A subscriber has not been visiting your site for some time (The “we miss you” email).
- A subscriber has not committed to a purchase yet (The “coupon” email).
- A subscriber has not committed to a paying plan yet (The “subscription advantages” email).
- A subscriber’s plan has expired (The “renew your plan” email).
This strategy is often described as a drip series designed to help a customer to know and understand the many features and advantages of your products or services. Generally they are sent over a period of 2 months, once or twice a week.
- Use them when people sign up to a trial or to a specific plan.
- Add explanatory videos.
- Include examples, success stories to create a sense of trust.
- Add links to additional services/products that might be of help.
- Add a free gift.
- Review the drip-strattegy every 6 months.
Surveys are ideal to know your customer better and re-direct your marketing campaign based on these results. Survey questions could include:
- What content do they look for?
- Which features/services/products would they value the most?
To increase the number of responses, you can offer a discount, a gift, a voucher. Do not make the survey longer than 3 min. unless you are offering a very good deal in return. In addition, do not run surveys more often than every 4-5 months as your subscribers might get annoyed.
Plan your new strategy based on your previous survey result and run the next one based on your new collected information.
7. Cart Abandonment
Cart Abandonment is quite a frequent practice among online buyers; indeed, 68% of purchases are abandoned. In order to encourage buyers to complete their purchase, you might set up email alerts.
But…Why do people abandon the cart when they have started adding products? Reasons could include:
- They might get distracted by work or family issues.
- They need to determine the final cost and/or compare it to other sites.
- They are not completely sure and need to think it over.
But…How can you identify visitors and then their email address? Here’s how:
- Add a unique URL parameter to every link in the email you are sending out.
- When a user clicks on the unique parameter, they can be logged in.
- In addition:
- Offer a discount or take advantage of the discount ladder
- Include other related-popular items
- Leverage the scarcity principle (“24h only!“)
8. Purchase Confirmation Emails
As a purchase is the goal for which every e-commerce site exists online, the email confirmation helps to diffuse the anxiety due to submitting credit card details (above all among older generations). This practice helps to confirm to the purchaser that everything worked: the bought items are correct, the final price is not different from the one expected and the purchase will be delivered in the correct time frame at the right address. In addition:
- Add a tracking link to let customers know the status of the delivery each step of the way.
- Add a support number of email contact so that customers can discuss their issues/concerns.
- Follow up with an email confirmation to let people know their package is on the way.
- Conclude with the package has been dispatched and add “how to return your purchase” details.
9. Replenishment Series and Back in Stock Emails
If you are running an e-commerce business where people are buying items that needs to be replenished such as household products, food, pet food, even skincare and personal hygiene products. Sending people that have purchased a product that need replenishment a notification email that they products are running out is a great way to show customer care, encourage future purchases and create customer loyalty.
You can even add new lines of products that might be if interest and special discounts or offers.
A similar email is a Back in Stock email to let people know that items that they were interested in (“Wish List Items“) are finally available again. A wish list option is a great tool to track customers’ interests and leverage those items for future email campaigns.
10. Price Alerts
Deal emails are the most popular among businesses and customers as examples of extremely targeted promotional emails. These emails are particularly popular among travel sites and airplane companies.
11. Sales and Wish List Sales Emails
Sales emails with an added sense of urgency are great tools to drive customers to purchase. Showing that items that they have added to the wish list are actually on sales, pushes to close the deal, in particular if the stock is getting low pretty soon.
Write your first email
After learning the various types of emails you could be sending out to your subscribers, it is finally time to draft your first email. Let’s assume that your first email is about the release of a new product. Here the steps you need to follow:
- Download a (free) template. For a complete list of sites refer to EmailOnAcid.
- Modify color, style and images to match your brand.
- Add text and draft the first email.
- Edit, edit, edit!
- Ask for help from your colleagues and supervision from your managers.
- Send email either via ESP or your SMTP-as-a-service
- Hit send!
A little tip. Take advantage of the A/B split testing: 10% of your subscribers receive email A, another 10% receive email type B. The most successful email (the one that converts!) is then sent to the remaining 80%. Do not forget to consider your market segments when creating email campaigns. It would be counter-productive to send a newsletter about luxury cars to subscribers that look for cheap deals.
Start an email campaign
After choosing your email service and writing your first email, it is time to decide how to set up your email campaign. Here are few suggestions:
- Start emailing your subscribers every two weeks.
- After setting up this frequency, become more aggressive and email every week.
- Do not focus on number of unsubscribers or email open rate BUT to conversion rate.
- Consider how much revenue you want to drive by email. After reaching that value, you can switch to another strategy.
Follow up your campaign by testing features like:
- Headline style and text
- Time of day/week when the email is sent
- Clickable images with a clear CTA (click-to-action)
- Use colored links to make them pop up and drive attention.
- To understand conversions use analytics tools such as Looker or Chartio.
Segment your email list
The best marketing campaigns divide their list into categories based on gender, psychography, geography and behavior.
If you are running an e-commerce website that sells a variety of luxury clothing, you end up having customers interested in different products and/or brands, based on their age, profession, interests: for instance, a fashionista would be more interested in the latest trends while a high-profile professional in tailored clothing. Understanding your market segments allow every marketing campaign to be more target specific and therefore drive more sales (in short, have a higher ROI).
Calculate the impact of your campaign
The final goal of your email marketing campaign is to drive sales. However, it might be difficult to establish exactly the impact of your campaign as so many factors are at play. A solution is to have a control group -generally between 2 and 5% of your users – that do not receive the email campaigns. If the email campaign is successful, there will be an increase of people converting compared to those that did not receive the email (control group).
Email Marketing Metrics (KPIs)
- Open rate and click-through rate:
- How many subscribers open the email?
- How many subscribers click on the appropriate link?
- Unsubscribe and spam rate:
- Allow people to unsubscribe to specific campaigns to reduce the number of people that completely abandon your email campaign
- Keep an eye on the amount of people that report your email campaign as spam.
- Bounce Rate:
- Number of subscribers that click on the link but do not convert.
- Number of people that abandon the funnel before converting.
Email Marketing dirty little secrets
Re-send the same email
Coming up with new ideas and better deals might be frustrating, time consuming and frankly reduce your ROI. This is particularly true when a big percentage of your subscribers do not even open your emails. A quick solution is to simply resend the same email to those people that did not open your email.
Market more aggressively
A way to market aggressively without looking like a spammer is to let people drop out easily if they are not interested:
- You let people unsubscribe with the first email
- You send a total of X emails to people who do not opt out
- You are now allowed to be more aggressive!
Time your emails
The rate of which people open emails can vary drastically with the time the email has been sent. In addition, things can become even more complicated as people in different professions and age range tend to open emails at distinct times. Two possible solutions:
- Use an A/B testing:
- Send email A at time X and email B at time Y, each at 10% of your subscribers
- Whichever works best, send it to the remaining 80%
- Take advantage of a ESP plan that allows to send emails at different times based on your market segmentation.
Do not forget your mobile users
As at least 50% of users check emails from mobile devices, it is important to deliver emails that are optimized on mobile devices. In addition, even the landing pages must be mobile optimized as people will struggle to convert if the pages are difficult to browse. A great tool to consider is Litmus as it allows to make sure that email look good on most clients’ devices.
In conclusion, email marketing is a very effective way to drive sales as it offers several advantages:
- It can be tailored to suit each and every market segments.
- It can be automated and the results tracked
- It is extremely flexible
- It is cost effective
A last Note: Keep your email list clean.
- Do not send too many emails and/or low quality/pointless emails.
- Do not buy email lists.
- Keep track of your bounce rate. If an email bounces, erase that contact.
- Keep an eye on spam traps.