The 5-Step Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing

As a modern-day Mark Twain might say, the reports of email marketing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Despite changes like the rise of social media and chat-based communication platforms, email marketing remains a foundation of any digital marketing strategy. According to Mailgen, 54% of marketers rate email as their most effective type of digital marketing and the least difficult to execute. Furthermore, marketers have consistently ranked email as the single most effective tactic for customer awareness, acquisition, conversion and retention (which, as the chart below shows, is where marketers consider it to be most effective).

Email marketing Campaign

So if you’re just getting started with email marketing, you’ll know you made the right decision. But what’s next? Read on for our five-step beginner’s guide to email marketing.

Before You Start: Set Your Email Marketing Goal

A silver bullet. Email marketing is not this.

A silver bullet. Email marketing is not this.

The most important thing to do as you’re getting started is to decide your email campaign’s objective(s). Are you trying to accomplish one of the goals discussed above, or are you trying something different? You may want to use email to increase your average customer purchase amount through a loyalty incentive program, or you may want to use email to test a list that you’ll be giving to your sales team. The important thing is to have a clear goal in mind. Email is just one tool in your marketing toolkit, and it’s not a cure-all. Like any other marketing effort, you’ll need to test and measure its performance over time to see if it’s worth the investment you’re making.

1. Choose an Email Marketing Software

Now that you know what you want to do with your email campaign, it’s time to go shopping. And that means reviewing email software providers. These programs allow you to easily send bulk emails that would otherwise be flagged as spam by internet service providers. More importantly for you, email service providers will provide analytical data such as open rates and click-through rates about your email campaign. While we don’t typically recommend a particular software, the following providers are in widespread use and will help you get started with your email marketing campaign:

Factors to consider when choosing an email marketing software include:

  • Fee structure: some email programs charge for your total list, while some only charge per send. If, for example, you’ll be sending a high volume of emails to a small number of people, look for the best deal for your particular email marketing scenario
  • Ease of use: The days of needing to know HTML to send email campaigns are long gone, but every email software handles its interface in a unique way. Try out each tool and see which one is most efficient for you
  • List Management: Spend any amount of time working with email campaigns, and you’ll soon find that your day will revolve around managing subscriber lists. The easier your email software makes this chore, the more time you’ll have to spend on other tasks
  • Automation and Integrations: Most leading email marketing tools will link with other aspects of your marketing software stack like web forms, CRM databases, etc. in order to seamlessly pull data in and out of your systems and even send automated campaigns based on triggering events. The more capabilities you have here, the more manual burden you can remove from your email marketing efforts. As you can see in the example below, MailChimp allows you to import your contacts from other services, making it easy to create a list

how to create an email marketing campaign in 5 steps Source: MailChimp

2. Create Email Marketing Lists and Segment Your Subscribers

After you create an account with an email software provider, your next step is to figure out what you want to send to whom. In other words, you need to create a list of people to which you want to send emails. Our rule of thumb is to add everyone you come in contact with to your email list, but who you have in your email campaign cross hairs depends on your objectives. Here are a few examples:

  • Your past and current customers are a great list to start with for a newsletter or other retention campaign to keep your brand top of mind
  • Former sales prospects who haven’t committed make a good segment for the occasional discount or deal offer
  • Friends and supporters of your company make a good source for reviews and referrals

As your list grows and you have more of an activity history, your next step is to segment your list. This can be done in various ways depending on the email you are sending, although it is common to segment by subscriber engagement (opens, clicks, etc.), customer behavior (type of product purchased, past expressed interest, etc.), or demographics (e.g. offers available in certain location). Segmenting your lists make it easier to send relevant, targeted content to your subscribers. For example, if you are an active subscriber, you probably don’t want a “Welcome” email six months after you have signed up. Non-segmented campaigns are more likely to result in unsubscribes due to irrelevant content. Furthermore, clicks on segmented campaigns are 63.03% higher than non-segmented campaigns.

How to create an email marketing campaign in 5 steps

MailChimp offers pre-built segments to make targeting your audience easy.     Source: MailChimp

3. Create Your Email Campaign Template

The next step is to actually create your email campaign’s design. Email software providers make it easy to choose from templates and customize them with your content, and most will allow you to create your own template and re-use it for future emails.

When designing your emails, keep a few rules in mind:

  • Simplicity Wins: the entire goal of your email is to get your audience to take an action. The more graphics and links you include in your email template, the less your recipient will be able to focus on what you want them to do
  • The Mobile Experience is Key: the majority of email is viewed on a mobile device. What does this mean for your email design? If you have large pictures getting in the way of your call to action, your users might not want to scroll
  • Images Aren’t Always Downloaded: many users have image-blockers on the email, which means that if you have a jpg call-to-action button, they may not ever see it. Make sure you’re formatting your calls-to-action in text as well

 

create an email marketing campaign in 5 steps

Campaign Monitor allows you to choose from templates and customize them.
Source: Campaign Monitor

 

4. Write Your Email Marketing Copy

It’s easy to overlook, but email copy plays a very important process in convincing your recipient to take an action. Here are some tips to writing email copy:

  • Use a Direct Call-to-Action: Your call-to-action is a critical step in turning leads into customers – this is where you tell your recipient what to do. Create a large call-to-action button that is central in the email so the reader can’t miss it. Create a sense of urgency by saying something like “Deals expire in 2 hours. Shop Now!” And most importantly, repeat your calls-to-action in various formats throughout the email. The last thing you want is for your recipient to miss the point of your email.how to create an email marketing campaign in 5 stepshow to create an email marketing campaign in 5 steps
  • Stick to the point: Keep your copy brief and focused. Don’t beat around the bush, and remember that the days of letter-length emails are long gone.
  • Personalize the email: Readers are more attracted to personalized emails. According to Experian, personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates. Make sure to add a personalized touch to the email such as using the recipients name and company.
  • Don’t Overlook Your Subject Line: Choose an email subject that is short and descriptive but will still creative enough to make the recipient want to open your email. If you need inspiration for subject lines, check out these examples from HubSpot.

5. Track Your Email Marketing Results

Lastly, you’ll want to track email campaign results – specifically open rates, click-throughs, and unsubscribes. If you don’t analyze results, you will have no way of knowing whether your email campaigns are effective or not. As you notice changes in performance, start testing different elements within your email campaigns like buttons or text links, personalized subject lines, and sending at different days and times. The important thing is to keep continually improving your campaign.

We hope this email helped you craft your first email marketing campaign. Still need help with your email marketing strategy? Why not contact Young Marketing Consulting.

Four Email Marketing Best Practices

In last week’s post, we broke down how to interpret the various email marketing metrics available to marketers, ultimately identifying the single most important email marketing metric (hint: it’s not open or click rates). So now that you know how to evaluate your email marketing campaigns, let’s talk about how to keep improving your email marketing efforts. This week, we’re going to address four email marketing best practices.

Email marketing remains the best outreach tool marketers have.

1. Use Email Marketing to Segment Your Customer and Prospect Lists

When discussing email marketing best practices, it can be easy to jump right into conversations about design and personalization and overlook one of the key benefits that email campaigns provide: the ability to segment your audience. Each time your prospects and customers receive one of your messages, they take an action (even if that action is to ignore your email). And that action allows you to sort your audience into various buckets based on their behavior.

To capitalize on an email campaign’s use as a segmentation tool, begin by reviewing your email open and click rates, tracking your list’s email and web activity at the individual level in order to sort contacts who responded to your emails into buckets such as the example below.

Sample Email Marketing Campaign Activity Distribution

Notice that we’ve highlighted the individuals who always open or click your campaign. If you’re a B2B email marketer, you may want to prioritize these individuals for sales contact. If you’re a B2C company, this segment might turn out to be your evangelists who are primed to respond to new product releases or loyalty offers. The key is to separate your campaign responders and nurture them appropriately. The number of email marketing permutations you can use to speak to different segments of your email lists is limited only by your creativity, so as you build out your email campaigns remember that an email marketing best practice is to do so with the goal of segmenting your audience in order to filter out those most likely to purchase.

Email #marketing can be a great tool for getting an early read on lead source performance

Want another email marketing tip? If you’re working with lists of prospects, email campaigns can be a great tool to use as an early indicator of a lead source’s viability. If you’ve just run an ad campaign that has brought in hundreds of names, but none of them responds to your email, there’s a good chance your ads aren’t reaching the right audience. Conversely, if you’re seeing record open rates, you’ll know you’ve found a great source of potential customers.

 

2. Improve Your Email Marketing with Personalized Content that Drives Action

Your customers are smart. They know you, and they expect your business to know them in return. Email is an ideal medium to provide your audience with the level of personalization expected by today’s customer, and an email best practice is to speak to your audience as individuals. Most marketers fail to personalize their email campaigns, yet personalized emails are proven to have higher open and click rates. Experian Marketing determined that personalized promotional emails had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. Personalization can be as easy as adding a name to the subject line. According to HubSpot, click rates are higher when the recipient’s first name is used in the subject line, so it’s high time you started with these easy wins.

Targeted Email Marketing Call to Action

This button doesn’t go anywhere, but a call to action like this should be in every single one of your emails.

But email marketing best practices go deeper. Personalization also means including relevant content for the recipient that compels them to act. You should be tracking your audience’s clicks, browses, purchases, and other indications of interest from your customers in a database that you can access to segment and target these individuals. Prospects interested in webinars, for example, will be ideal fits for a targeted campaign driving them toward a learning event about your new product. Every email you send should be compelling them to take action.

 

3. Mobile Optimization for Email Marketing is a Must, but It’s Not Quite What You Think

Mobile Optimization for Email Marketing

Optimizing for mobile is a balance between text and images

According to the latest research conducted by Litmus, 55% of emails are opened on a mobile device. If your emails are not optimized for mobile devices, they may end up going directly to the trash. What’s significant for a best practice email marketing campaign is the battle between media-rich emails and image blockers on mobile devices (and email in general).

Research conducted by the Relevancy Group has determined that marketers who use digital media such as videos in their email campaigns note a 40 percent rise in revenue. HubSpot also noted that 65 percent of people prefer emails that contain mostly images rather than mostly text. And yet, the first thing your mobile readers will see is likely text, along with a question about whether they want to load your images at all.

Nearly every email marketing software on the market will automatically format your messages for mobile devices. Your challenge is handling your audience’s first impression on mobile. Best practice email marketing works well in both text-only and graphical formats by using styled text more heavily than large graphics and by incorporating image ALT tags that entice the reader (for example “Click for Fall 2016 deals” instead of a random hash of letters and numbers).

 

4. Email Marketing is Ideal for A/B Testing

Have you ever gotten into a debate with other staff members about which elements of an email marketing campaign work best? These types of discussions about email marketing best practices aren’t uncommon when every percentage point increase is key. The good news is that A/B testing will help you improve your email marketing strategy by testing multiple versions of an email campaign and settling the argument once and for all.

A number of email marketing tools let you conduct automatic A/B testing on a variety of areas such as those below:

  • Subject lines
  • Sent from name/address
  • Copy
  • Images
  • Send times

The more advanced email marketing software suites allow automated testing that will evaluate open and click-through rates on a small sample of two lists to identify the email most likely to drive response and then send that email to your audience. For example, a retail marketer may want to test its content in order to determine if a coupon elicits a purchase. One email could read “We haven’t seen you in a while. Come back and see us!”. The other email with the coupon may say “Take 20% off your next purchase if you visit us within the next five days”. And rather than debate how either will perform, you can let the software do the work to determine your best offer and format.

Testing email #marketing? Let your software evaluate the As and Bs for you!

So that’s it! Pretty easy right? These four simple (but often ignored) email marketing best practices should put your email campaigns in top shape. If you still need help with your email marketing strategy, feel free to contact Young Marketing Consulting.

 

 

 

2016 Email Marketing Success Benchmarks

The ultimate measure of email marketing is did it drive the results you wanted.

When discussing email marketing metrics, the conversation often stops and starts at open and click-through rate benchmarks. Although important measures, these email metrics are not 100% reliable for reasons that we’ll discuss in a moment. But they also belie a bigger point about email marketing: even though its measurements are fuzzy, email marketing undoubtedly works: 82% of B2B and B2C companies use email marketing of some kind, generating a 4,300% return on their investment.

The challenge is that many marketers don’t understand exactly how to measure their email marketing’s effectiveness. So this week, let’s dive into some email marketing success benchmarks that can show you where to focus.

Email Marketing Open Rate Benchmarks

Email open rates can be off by as much as 35%.

Email open rate measurements are far from accurate, with some estimates noting that reported open rates can be off by as much as 35%. There are several explanations for these inaccuracies. First, open rates are calculated based on user downloads of a tiny tracking pixel image, but 30% of email clients automatically turn the image download feature off for security reasons. On the other hand, any recipient using a preview pane which displays emails and downloads the images automatically may be counted as an open without having ever clicked or read your email.

Below, we’ve included some email open rate benchmarks for different-sized businesses from Mailchimp and Silverpop, two email leaders:

Email Open Rates for Small and Medium Businesses

Email Open Rates for Small and Medium Businesses (source: MailChimp)

 

largebusinessopenrates

Email Open Rates for Large Businesses (source: Silverpop)

Email Marketing Click-Through Rate Benchmarks

Click-through rates are often viewed as a more relevant, accurate measure of email effectiveness. The following charts display industry averages for the metrics we have discussed among small and medium, and large-sized businesses.

Email Click-Through Rates for Small and Medium Businesses

Email Click-Through Rates for Small and Medium Businesses (source: MailChimp)

 

largebusinessclickthrough

Email Click-Through Rates for Large Businesses (source: Silverpop)

Google Analytics is an excellent tool for tracking “beyond the click”. Email campaign tracking with Google Analytics allows you to isolate site visitors from email and understand their behaviors. After setting up a tracking code, you can see how guests interact with the website as well as conversion outcomes.

 

Email Marketing Unsubscribe Rate Benchmarks

Now we’re getting to one of the hidden keys of email marketing success: your unsubscribe rate. Keep in mind that even if they don’t open your email or click a link, your recipients will be seeing your brand’s name in their subject line every time you send an email. And when they do, the email will force them to take action (deleting it, marking it as read, etc.). Email’s ability to force your customer to take action is the true key to understanding successful email marketing. As long as your potential customers don’t unsubscribe, they’re granting you permission to keep your offers in front of them until they’re ready to purchase. Low open or click rates are ok, they’re the equivalent of your customers saying that it’s not a good time right now. High unsubscribe rates are not.

Email marketing’s key benefit: it forces your recipient to take action.

So from Young Marketing Consulting’s perspective, the most important email marketing success metric is your unsubscribe rate. Anything with rates higher than the benchmarks below means it’s time to reevaluate your email strategy.

Email Unsubscribe Rates for Small and Medium Businesses

Email Unsubscribe Rates for Small and Medium Businesses (source: MailChimp)

Next week, we’re going to look at exactly how you can capitalize on some of these email marketing best practices. But for now, we hope that these 2016 email marketing benchmarks are helpful for you.