3 Keys to Email Marketing Success

3 Keys to Maximize Your Email Marketing in 2018

You really can’t beat the bang for the buck that email provides you for your marketing budget. Based on research from Experian, every dollar invested in email marketing results in a return of over $44. That’s about twice as efficient as online ads.

It’s not just your accountant that loves your email marketing efforts, your audience does too. According to Hubspot’s 2017 State of Inbound study, email is the most preferred method of receiving business communications, with 86% of people preferring that channel.

How people prefer to be communicated with for business purposes

While social is a wonderful component of your mix, email is still one of the most efficient ways to engage. McKinsey found that email marketing is 40x more potent than social.

Build a Better Brand

Effective email marketing is a great way to establish and strengthen your brand with your audience.

Your logo and brand colors should be featured frequently and prominently in your marketing emails. Beyond the visuals, you need to let your brand voice shine through your messages.  Each email is an opportunity to establish and reaffirm your brand voice with your audience. Use your emails to set the tone of your relationship with your audience. They will know what to expect from you and establish a trusting relationship.

Where people prefer to receive promotional content

Increase Audience Engagement

Engagement is a two-way conversation and email is a great way to have that dialogue. In the beginning, sending one message to your entire list was good enough but your audience has grown wise and weary and now they expect a more personalized experience. If you aren’t able to show your email list what value you add to their mailbox you will be ignored or even worse, they will unsubscribe. Marketers need to communicate with the individual and not treat every member of your audience as the same person.

We spend every day steeped in email here at Cerkl. We combed millions of points of data, talked with our innovative partners, and pooled our decades of experience in digital marketing to bring you our 3 keys to email marketing success.

KEY #1 – Know Your Audience

The first key to email marketing success is truly knowing your audience.

If you are seeing diminishing returns in your email marketing efforts, you are not alone. Marketers are struggling with how to communicate with and engage their Netflix and Spotify spoiled audience. Here are some things you need to know.

Your Audience is Living on their Phone

According to Email Monday, in 2017, 75% of all emails were opened on mobile devices, so a responsive, mobile-friendly email format is crucial for your email marketing campaigns.

An email design that is built just for desktop viewing creates a frustrating experience for your readers and doesn’t engage them in a way that they enjoy. To get your content read consistently and make an impact on your audience, you must have a responsive design in everything you do.

We’ve also found that the following best practices are helpful for readability and making your readers happy:

  • Content placed above the fold, or the first 350 px length of your email, gets 84% more attention than content placed below it.
  • Align your text to the left to make it easier to read.
  • Break long blocks of text into chunks and use formatting.
  • Don’t use too many fonts. Sans serif fonts are recommended.

Users expect an experience that is fast and beautiful. That includes your emails and website. For links from your email, be sure they load perfectly on mobile. Your next site design should include Accelerated Mobile Pages. Sites developed with this open source framework load instantly and perfectly on phones and rank higher in the search engines.

AMP Definition Mobile First Strategy

Use Your Stats

Your email provider surely provides statistics on open rate and click thru rate, but do you know what to do with them? Data in a spreadsheet isn’t doing your organization any good, so make sure you are giving yourself time to interpret and apply the learning your website and email stats have to offer. Look for trends in open times, devices used, and possible content opportunities.

Open Rate and Click Thru Rate Definitions

Using your data, design tests to help you optimize your efforts and increase engagement. Your open rate can help you learn the best time to send an email, hone keywords and subject lines, and segment your audience based on what emails they opened. Your click thru rate helps you figure out what content your audience is interested in reading. It can be used to focus your call to action placement.

When testing new ideas for your email marketing, remember to document your testing and perform one topic test at a time. Too many variables could muddle your results.

KEY #2 – Delivering Relevant Content

We all know that content is king, right? Well, relevancy is the queen. Your audience signed up for your list for a reason. They are looking for you to provide insights into your area of expertise and deliver relevant content to them on a consistent basis. Once you break this trust, it is difficult to regain it. Your emails will not be read or your audience will simply unsubscribe.

Always seek input on what your audience would be interested in reading and use your analytics to learn lessons from content that does or does not resonate with your audience.

Personalization is More Than ‘Dear {first_name}’

Consumers know that their name in a subject line is not real personalization. They are now expecting rich and complete experiences with the brands that they welcome into their inbox. You need to make sure that you don’t become ‘marked as read.’

Interest-based email personalization statistics

Machine Learning > Segmentation

Seeking a more relevant experience, many marketers have turned to segmenting their list by attributes like age, location, and recent purchases but people are more than segments. Think of 1985 John Hughes’ classic, “The Breakfast Club.” If those iconic characters were on a segmented email list, they would be in the same segment. After all, they are the same age and they live in the same town, but they are in fact very different.

In order to give your audience a relevant experience with your message, you need to shape your messages to them by their behavior and preferences, not just basic demographic data. It will pay off.

Increase click thru with interest based content

Don’t Use Spam Words!!!

We all dread having our hard work get routed directly to spam. Just like your audience, inboxes have gotten smarter. Wild claims and exclamation points have a new permanent home – SPAM folders. If you don’t want to end up in no man’s land, our headlines and body text need to avoid spam words like the plague.

SPAM word examples

If you need a SPAM refresh, try Comm100’s list of Spam words.

Promise and Deliver Relevant Content

The subject line of your email could be your first and only chance to convince your audience to take action. Now’s your moment to give your audience a reason to open your email.

Keep your promises in email content

Good subject lines are short, personalized and say something about what to expect inside the email.

With the majority of emails read on mobile devices, it is important to make sure that your great copy is not cut off. A good rule of thumb is that your subject lines shouldn’t be longer than 40 characters. If your subject line promises great, relevant content, your email best be ready to deliver. We’ve done a ton of research on this if you want to know more.

Save Time and Add Value

Your audience is busier than they’ve ever been. Email, social media, push alerts, 24-hour-news…. the world is very noisy. In order to cut through the clutter your communications need to do two things:

  1. Add value to your readers
  2. Save your readers’ time

Engaging communications add value and save time for your audience.

If you can save your audience time or provide meaningful value, you will move to the top of their ‘must read list.’ Even better if you can do both.  With everyone receiving on average 100 emails/day (if not more), being trusted by your readers as either a value provider or time saver will help you and your organization.

Key #3 – Building & Maintaining Your List

Now that we know what we’re doing with audience knowledge and delivering relevant content, let’s talk about how we build and maintain our lists. A strong list will help you expand your reach and make sure that your emails continue to be delivered to your audience. We have done a lot of hands-on research to develop best practices to grow your list and make sure that it is properly maintained.

Don’t Buy a List

While buying a list can be a tempting way to try and add many people to your list, we highly suggest that you avoid what looks like a quick win.

Purchased email lists will hurt your deliverability and relevance. Don't buy a list.

These won’t be strong leads and will hurt your deliverability when they mark your messages as spam and unsubscribe from your list. Your goal should be to get people who truly want your content. It will take more work, but it’s worth it when you have a list full of people who are interested in what you have to say.

Use an Opt-in Form on Your Site

Congratulations! Your marketing efforts have delivered people to your website. Now your job is to convert them to people you know and members of your list. One great way to capture audience information is to use opt-in forms throughout your site – particularly on pages and content that are already receiving high traffic.  There are many places you can test opt-in forms on your site.

Example opt-in form locations for lead capture.

One great way to capture information is to create a standalone landing page that is entirely for lead capture. This brings the ask to the front, but you do risk potentially annoying your visitors.

Another choice is popover opt-ins. Popover opt-ins exist above your content and prompt your audience to sign up for more information. This is a great way to prompt your visitors to provide information while continuing to show them your content. As with everything else you are doing, testing will be key. There is no opt-in strategy that will work for everyone and you must learn what is best for your particular audience.

Motivate Them to Share

Sometimes you’ll need to give your readers a reason to provide you with their email address. Incentives to sign up to your list, paired with a solid opt-in strategy, are a great way to get this information.

Offer incentives appropriate to your audience to get strong email leads.

There are a lot of great incentives you can try:

  • Whitepapers are longer-form, value-packed content pieces. They make wonderful incentives to sign up for your list for visitors who have demonstrated an interest in your content.
  • Webinars are a great way to demonstrate the quality of your services and provide real value to your potential audience.
  • Prizes are a great incentive and work both in person and online. Make sure the prize relates to your company – many people will give you an email address to try and win an iPad, but they may not be the best audience for your message.

Leverage Social Media

Your social media channels are a great way to interact with your current audience and add new members. Each channel has its own suite of tools that will help you convert your social visitors into members of your list.

Leverage social media for lead capture.

Here are a few opportunities to consider:

  • With Twitter Cards, you can attach rich photos, videos and media experiences to Tweets, helping to drive traffic to your website. Simply add a few lines of markup to your webpage, and users who Tweet links to your content will have a “Card” added to the Tweet that’s visible to their followers.
  • Facebook offers a call to action button for each business page – have yours link to a landing page asking folks to sign up.
  • With LinkedIn, you can message your connections, asking them to join your list, download your whitepaper, or join a webinar.

List Maintenance

While getting people on your list is important, it is also vital to make sure that you have a healthy list to keep your deliverability score high and avoid being marked as spam. List maintenance can be a bit of a mystery but it is super manageable once you learn the basics.

Email bounces are generally what happens when your email message is not delivered. But, there are two types of bounces you need to familiarize yourself with, hard and soft. A hard bounce indicates that the message was not delivered because the email address is invalid or does not exist. A soft bounce could indicate that the mailbox is full, the server was down, or that the message was too large for the inbox.

Delete emails from list after four soft bounces for better deliverability.

Here are some tips to deal with your bounces:

  • Send your emails from a monitored address. The message you get back from a bounce can tell you a lot: name changes, domain changes, and organizational changes.
  • Check your bounces for typos. Even just being one letter off will bounce your email.
  • If your email bounces four times, take them off your list. Keeping a bad email can hurt your delivery.

Respect & Reinvigorate

Research has shown 49% of email newsletter unsubscribes are because they receive too many emails. There are a few things you can do to try to respectfully reinvigorate the relationship to avoid the unsubscribe kiss of death.

Pruning your email list will help with open rate, click thru rate and your reputation.

  • If an audience member is becoming less engaged, try to reactivate them with content they have not yet seen. If their engagement continues to fall off, you should slow down delivery frequency.
  • Provide your stale members the ability to personalize their options or dial back the number of emails you are sending them until it is at a point where you reestablish the two-way relationship with your member.
  • If a user does choose to unsubscribe, offer the option to slow down delivery or to change their other preferences.

With these tips and your marketing know-how, 2018 is going to be your best email marketing year ever!

Director of Marketing, Cerkl

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