Eight Email Marketing Essentials

Industries and markets vary wildly but, on average, every dollar spent on marketing nets approximately $38 in sales. Despite its maturity, email marketing can still be a a powerful part of your marketing plan—driving organizations worldwide to send out billions of emails daily. But, like other marketing tools, there are essential things you need to do to make this channel effective; steps you absolutely cannot skip or ignore. Based on marketing strategies we’ve developed for clients, here are eight key ways to help manage risk in your next campaign.

1. Keep your list straight, or don’t bother.

One reason email is so powerful is the ability to target the right people with the right message at the right time. But if your email list isn’t accurately aligned through solid market segmentation, and properly maintained along the way, the whole effort is doomed. Developing a strong list, and keeping up with proper list hygiene, is critical. On average up to 25 percent of subscribers fall off each year—change jobs, etc. Remember that the quality of your list counts more than quantity.

2. Manage the experience start to finish.

In good marketing, everything happens for a reason. So each email you send should have a concrete objective. Understand where a prospect is in the sales cycle, what you’d like them to do next, and what strategy your email will use to get them to take the next step. Don’t forget a clear call to action that’s complemented by strong UX and design best practices.

3. Testing and analytics are key.

On the topic of best practices, how do you know if something’s working? You test, adjust, and then test again—rinse and repeat. Open-minded A/B testing can deliver insights that make you a lot of money. Some effective aspects of your email may be obvious and intuitive, but many will not. Benchmark key metrics such as opens, clicks, forwards, unsubscribes, hard/soft bounces, spam reports, post-open conversions and anything else that can inform refinement.

4. Always ask: “What’s in it for them?”

No matter what your industry, product or service—you need to engineer communications to be benefits-focused. Email is no exception. Content must be relevant to the audience and compelling for a concrete reason. Otherwise, it’s just noise. And there is no shortage of noise in your inbox. In fact, according to a recent study, more than 50 percent of email recipients delete marketing emails without opening them—that’s due to poor segmentation.

5. Be compelling, not cheesy.

Understand the difference between benefits-driven and pushy. Don’t use the kind of cheesy promotional language in an email which you’d never use when talking to an actual client or prospect. Stay on message and keep the look-and-feel appropriate for your brand. Also, play fair. Make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe and don’t try to game subscriber numbers to make the campaign look good on paper. People should engage because they want to, not because you’ve tricked them.

6. Always consider mobile.

Almost 90 percent of all mobile users check email on their device. So considering how your email will sound, look and function on mobile is essential. In fact, it’s good to consider mobile the primary way people read email. Bigger fonts, prominent calls to action, concise content and proper spacing all help improve email performance on mobile.

7. Understand SPAM and Black List Triggers.

Because you’re a responsible marketer, you’re not intentionally spamming people—you’re giving them an email marketing campaign that could bring real value to their work and life. Right? Right. But you have to learn how email platforms flag unwanted and promotional emails, so that your messages actually reach their intended recipient. These include technical aspects of the program, including your choice of service provider, certificates, list hygiene, etc—as well as things like not including certain words (such as “win” or “free” or “money” and the like).

8. Invest in a strong subject line.

Without a good subject line, no other aspect of your email will matter. There are many schools of thought as to what makes a good one, but the universal litmus test is whether or not recipients contacted through a clean list are opening it or not. If nobody is opening your email, and they’re being sent to all the right people at the right time, you should revisit and test subject line options. Effectiveness varies by audience, but proven strategies include communicating offers, personalization, a sense of urgency, storytelling or other tactics.

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