Think about it. When you send an email, you reach your audience in one of the most personalized ways possible. Our email inboxes are literally in the palms of our hands. We’re glued to email at work, after work, first thing in the morning, and right before bed. It’s an understatement to say that email is a powerful marketing channel.
The problem is, we’re also bombarded with spam. Take a look at your email inbox right now. Does it make you want to tear your hair out? Finding a great brand email can feel like a diamond in the rough. You’re literally looking for a unicorn. But they’re there.
Even with all the junk out there, email marketing still has ROI. According to an Econsultancy study, two-thirds of marketers rate the ROI from email marketing as ‘excellent’ or ‘good.’ Harvard Business Review did an analysis with one detailer and discovered that the dollars earned per email sent was around $15.79 for sales generated in store and online.
It’s hard to believe that email marketing is so effective when there is so much spam out there.
The marketers who come out on top will focus on three core concepts:
1. Content. 2. Relevancy. 3. Value.
Build Personal Connections
As marketing director at SmartShoot, a marketplace for photographers and videographers, Steve P. Young constantly finds ways to recruit new customers. He found that subject lines are mission-critical for driving cold recruitment.
Using the subject line “Your AMAZING photos,” he generated a 70% open rate along with a 25% conversion rate. Because it was a cold email, he made sure to tell recipients where he found these photos, along with an introductory email to the company that he was representing.
The subject line shows that flattery is a great way to get your recipient’s attention. However, you want to make sure that you are not baiting your recipients and then trying to sell your services.
Steve P. Young, via Unbounce
Are we boring you?
As Steve P. Young points out, a similar subject line used by Sperry Van Ness. Their email open rates were around 30%, which is above the industry average. The company believed that it was the same subscribers opening emails, over and over.
To clean their list, the company drafted an email with the subject line, “Were we boring you.”
The opening paragraph included a message about how many subscribers were opening the newsletter and how many weren’t. Sperry Van Ness asked subscribers if they wanted to stay on the list or if they wanted to opt out. The open rate for this email jumped to 50%, and the company received fewer unsubscribe requests than they thought they would. People actually apologized for not being more involved.
- Questions in subject lines are a great way to build a rapport/inspire a connection
- Be matter-of-fact and upfront
- Inspire dialogue from the get-go
I recently blogged about how powerful email marketing can be when starting a business. If I want to launch a business and make money fast, all I have to do is leverage my connections and my brand. Within days, I can easily get thousands of visitors to any website and generate thousands of dollars in revenue.
That’s how I helped my buddy launch a product. He was able to generate $100,000 in income within 30 days.
When I first started out, it wasn’t this easy. Nobody knew who I was. I didn’t have cash, so I couldn’t spend money on marketing. When I told people I had a company, they’d try to avoid me. Nobody wants to hear a sales pitch.
My solution was to use email. I cold-pitched millionaires. Here’s what I did:
- Selling to people doesn’t always work, especially if you don’t have a track record. I decided I was going to tell people how they were screwing up their marketing. I told them everything that they were doing wrong. I made the assumption that if someone was a millionaire, they probably didn’t have the time to fix what was wrong and would hire me instead.
- Some of these emails generated responses, which evolved into phone calls. And some of those phone calls became high-paying consulting gigs. This is how I was able to work with people like Pete Cashmore, Michael Arrington, Guy Kawasaki, Gary Vaynerchuck, and others.
- Don’t give up. When you cold pitch prospects, rejections are bound to happen. Continually follow up until you get a response. It took me 6 months to get Michael Arrington to hire me.
- Be thorough. The more that you can show real examples and solutions to your prospects’ problems, the more credible you’ll appear as a resource.
- Don’t be afraid to name drop previous clients and connections that you have in common.
- Be respectful. Sometimes people will ignore you, and that’s okay. Even if you persist, they’ll still ignore you, and that’s ok. Just move on, and don’t feel bad about it. It’s their loss, not yours.
Personal connections will help you fight the spam effect. Focus your message directly to your end recipient. Make them care.
Balance Personalization with Automation
Imagine sending tens of thousands of individualized emails to your marketing list.
You probably can’t because it’s impossible.
That’s the beauty of marketing automation software. Send emails to the right users (and customer/prospect segments) at just the right time in the purchase cycle. It’s a sophisticated way to scale personal attention.
The key to successful marketing automation is technology. Rely on tools (rather than spreadsheet) to reach your email list successfully. The biggest players in the space include:
The great promise of marketing automation has always been that it enables you to trigger messages based on a visitors actions on your site, ideally sending messages when they are most relevant, rather than spam.
Understand customer needs
Customers have more tools than ever to filter out unwanted messaging with priority inboxes. Your deliverability statistics may be strong, but your emails are getting ignored for reasons outside of your control. You need to build a connection with your audience before you start sending them emails. Implement an opt-in process — a series of steps that subscribers can take to ensure that they’re receiving your emails. Perhaps include a freebie, piece of content, or promotion/deal that they’ll receive in exchange. Don’t just bombard your customers with emails. Make sure that they’re set up (and willing) to read what you have to say.
Here is Noah Kagan’s approach — if you want his free growth hackers tips presentation, you need to subscribe (and confirm that you’re on his email list).
Sync up with other marketing channels
Email should not be a standalone marketing channel. Make sure you’re integrating all of your marketing campaigns. If you launch a blog, for instance, make sure to concurrently build your email list. Every time you publish a new blog post, notify your subscribers via email. This chain of events will keep audiences coming back to your website.
On QuickSprout, audiences have a few ways to become email subscribers:
And when they sign up, they’ll be notified about every new blog post:
Notice the personal tone of this email. It’s not flashy. It’s not formal. It’s not a complicated, graphics-heavy newsletter. It’s just a regular email — a quick way of balancing marketing automation with 1:1 personalization.
Complete the customer experience
An understanding of user psychology is successful for successful email marketing (and automation especially). You need to make sure that you’re targeting customers and prospects with messaging that complements their needs and intent.
Always create a plan or outline for your email marketing campaigns — make sure that your messages follow a system or schedule.
The first step is to sequence all of your emails. What messages should you be sending, and what steps should users take after each message?
Here is an example created by Speak2Leads. The goal of the first email is for prospects to complete the demo. A secondary goal of the demo is for prospects to reach out for a free trial. The second email is to nurture the relationship and promote user engagement. Readers are directed to the blog.
Here is another example from Clarity, a marketplace that connects advice seekers with consultants and subject matter experts. You can use the platform to book experts for a call.
Recently, I (Ritika) wanted to book a call with Poornima Vijayashanker, founding engineer at Mint.com and founder at BizeeBee, a membership management platform for local fitness studios. I wanted her advice on tips for personal brand building.
I started the process of booking a 15-minute call with her, but then I got lazy and didn’t complete the transaction. In Clarity’s view, that is a lost opportunity. So they kept up with me through some awesome marketing automation. They probably thought that I got lazy and then forgot about booking the call (which was the case — good thinking, Clarity!)
So what happened? I booked the call. That’s a conversion event valued at close to $70!
Prioritize conversion optimization
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, you need to do more than just get ‘em to your site. You need to specify a clear conversion goal from your email marketing automation. You also need to ensure that your landing pages are fully optimized for the actions you want users to take.
Here is a case study from Todd Staples, founder at Stealth Auto:
- Objective: Stealth Auto wanted to increase the number of people who add products to their carts and then successfully checkout.
- Steps Taken: They started an experiment for our returning visitors and then tested different hypothesis.
- Hypothesis 1: As the test was limited to returning visitors, there was no need to display in-product value propositions. They already know that we offer these features.
Therefore they thought about removing those from our product pages.
Also, they replaced Order Now button with View my Pricing.
The basic idea was to handle FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubts) here. Although Order Now is a typical and standard button to continue with Sales funnels , it might confuse visitors because there is no pricing available on the product page.
They still have to select product options to see the actual pricing. So, View my pricing sounds better option in there. They also replaced “Satisfaction Guaranteed!“ with Click below to show Pricing.
- Hypothesis 2: They made the button even more meaningful with View Options and Pricing.
- Outcome: Variation 2 outperformed Control and Variation 1.
What does this case study have to do with the body of Stealth Auto’s corresponding email campaign? Nothing. Email was a means to an end goal of an on-site conversion event.
Optimize email deliverability rates
Deliverability is important to email marketing. Make sure you’re taking all possible steps to reach your audience’s inbox. Here are some clear steps to take:
- Avoid the following list of words in your email messaging. They’re spam triggers:Here are some examples from the finance industry:
- Best price
- Big bucks
- Compare rates
- Credit bureaus
- Easy terms
Here are some examples from e-commerce:
- As seen on
- Buy direct
- Buying judgments
- Order status
- Orders shipped by
- Don’t use the color red.It’s a loud color and is used by a lot of spammers. It could set off a number of spam filters.
- Don’t use misleading subject lines.Make sure they’re fleshed out (don’t leave them blank), and ensure that the subject matches the email body.
- Avoid capital letterswithin your email and in the subject lines.
- Be smart about symbols.If you use too many, your emails will look totally spammy.
- Don’t link too much.Limit your links to 3, max.
- Include unsubscribe links.This is required, by law.
- Be thorough yet to the point.Make sure you include a straightforward reply to and from email address so that subscribers can get in touch with you.
- Choose the right service provider.Some have better deliverability rates by industry. When talking with companies like Marketo and InfusionSoft, make sure to ask about their deliverability rates in your industry.
Here are QuickSprout’s deliverability rates with SendGrid combined with Ongage:
- Avoid the following list of words in your email messaging. They’re spam triggers:Here are some examples from the finance industry:
Know the Law
The FTC rigorously enforces laws email compliance. Make sure that your strategy is aligned with the CAN-SPAM Act so that you’re not exposed to potential lawsuits. Here are the rules that businesses must follow:
- Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information — including the originating domain name and email address — must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
- Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
- Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
- Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
- Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
- Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
- Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.
Measure the Right Metrics
There are two types of email marketing metrics: (1) engagement and (2) conversions/monetary analysis. A healthy marketing strategy should focus on both:
- Total Opens: This is the total number of times an email in a campaign is opened. This is usually a count of the total number of times an invisible pixel is opened.
- Total Open Rate: This is calculated by taking the total number of email opens and dividing them by the number of delivered emails.
- Unique Opens: This is similar total opens but is limited to unique viewers (i.e. only one open per person is counted).
- Total Clicks: This measures clicks generated from each campaign. You should include your unsubscribe rate from this metric.
- Total Click-Through Rate (CTR): Divide the total number of clicks by the number of delivered emails.
- Unique Clicks: This will tell you how many unique people clicked on at least one link in the email.
- Click -to-Open Rate: This can be done specifically for mobile opens to understand the efficacy of your campaign on smartphones and tablets.
- Conversions, Conversion Rates, and Revenue: These are metrics that you should be tracking across your marketing channels.
- Personalization is the foundation of your email marketing strategy.
- Rely on software through marketing automation to scale your 1:1 relationships.
- Do your due diligence to ensure you choose the right marketing automation software for your company and industry.
- Focus on the entire user experience, and guide email subscribers towards conversion-focused goals.
- Know federal spam laws so that your email marketing campaigns are fully compliant.
- Synchronize your email campaigns with your content marketing efforts. Build your email list from the ground up, and build a steady traffic stream to your website.
- Remember that your audience is reading emails from a variety of devices. They’re not necessarily behind a computer screen.