The ultimate guide to building an email marketing strategy that thrives
Experts consider email marketing to be one of the most effective and long-lasting strategies for customer acquisition and maintenance. It’s easy to see why. A quick look at the statistics tell us that:
Since email is responsible for more than 7% of all the eCommerce acquisitions made online, and automated emails give conversions a 77% chance of growth, it makes sense that more people than ever before are beginning to look to their inbox for business growth solutions. Which is why you need a dedicated email marketing strategy.
Though some “modern” marketers convince themselves that email is a thing of the past, along with offline media and other tried and tested solutions for brand visibility, the truth is that email is just as important today as it’s ever been. As a solution for getting your brand out there, email is hard to beat.
At Fabrik, we’re devoted to every aspect of branding, from creating the perfect logo, to establishing your market position, and even building a strategy for branding success. With that in mind, we think it’s about time that we offer a full, ultimate guide to building a thriving email marketing strategy.
Before we can begin to understand the current techniques that combine to form an email marketing strategy, or even the future of what’s to come in the digital space, we need to look back at where email marketing came from.
It’s hard to deny that email is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reach your customers. While social media solutions are growing more popular, and businesses are currently searching for ways to update the customer service experience, email marketing has remained consistently strong as a solution for brand messaging.
Perhaps what makes email marketing such a durable digital solution, is the fact that it can evolve and adapt to the times. According to a report in 2016, there were almost 4.6 billion active email accounts. It’s no surprise that email has become an integral part of business transactions. More reason to develop your email marketing strategy.
So, where did this strategy come from?
Before the birth of email marketing
Before email marketing began, businesses relied on traditional mail to share their brand messages with the world. This mail came in the form of catalogues, flyers, and even promotional postcards.
Though email can seem old-fashioned in a world of virtual reality and artificial intelligence, the truth is that the first email wasn’t sent until 1971, by the creator of email, Ray Tomlinson. Up until that point, the messages that customers received from companies were all pushed through their mailbox.
Fortunately, the development of email, and the email marketing strategy has meant that companies no longer need to print out hundreds of letters just to reach their target market. Email has become a cost-effective, (and more environmentally-friendly), solution to get your message out to the masses.
1970 – 1980s: The growth of email
The decade between the 1970s and the 1980s was the first era of email marketing. It defined our journey away from the days of snail mail, and into a digitally-powered future. From the first email in 1971, which was believed to read “qwertyuiop”, to the first “spam” email in 1978, the world of electronic messaging began to grow.
By 1982, the term “electronic mail message” was rebranded to “email”, and the very first smiley emoji came into being. By 1989, the first AOL voice messages were being recorded, and we began to hear that iconic sound “You’ve got mail”.
1990s – Today
Though email began in the 70s, the true email age started in the 1990s. After all, it wasn’t until 1991 that the internet was introduced to the globe in all of its digital glory.
Since that time, the internet has changed how we work, live, and communicate, with solutions like email, social media and more. Today, we use the web for everything from gathering crucial information, to sharing pictures of cats with other people.
Interestingly, even though the internet was thriving during the 1990s, B2C direct marketing was still a practice carried out largely by telephone or direct mail. Email was used for communication, both by people within business networks, and students.
After email became a personal tool for communication, marketers began to recognise its value, and started to develop messages that would inform browsers of their products and services. As such, the very first email marketing campaigns began to appear.
It’s fair to say that the world of email has come a long way from that first jumbled message back in the 1970s, to the powerful email marketing strategy solutions used by businesses today to earn hundreds, thousands, and even millions of customers.
Back in 1989, experts predicted that email marketing was a temporary fad, destined to quickly lose its popularity. However, the fact that 82% of B2B and B2C companies are continuing to use an email marketing strategy today, just goes to show how resilient the right marketing campaign can be.
So, what makes a powerful email campaign so effective, and such a good solution for businesses who are looking to build their brand?
1. It’s cost-effective
If you’re a small business starting to grow your presence for the first time, or an entrepreneur searching for a way to be heard in the saturated marketplace, email marketing is a great way to reach out to your customers without breaking the bank.
There’s no print or postage costs to worry about, and you’ll generally pay a lot less getting a great email marketing campaign, than you would paying out for a TV ad, or a pay-per-click campaign. In simple terms, email marketing is a cheap and effective way to start making a splash in your industry.
2. Target “warm” leads
The more you develop your understanding of the digital marketing world, the more you’ll come to learn that some leads are better than others. Email marketing is one of the only forms of advertisements that consumers actually ask to receive.
After all, your email marketing strategy will begin with you asking your customers and contacts to hand over their email address, in exchange for regular updates, discounts, and other valuable information. That means that you’re speaking to people who want to hear from your brand, and increasing your chances of a real sale.
3. The right messages, at the right times
With an email marketing strategy, it’s possible to create something called an “automated” marketing campaign. These automated campaigns can be used to reach out to different segments of your audience at different times, making sure that they get the most relevant messages and insights when they want them most.
For instance, you might have an automated strategy that reaches out to customers who abandon their shopping cart before making a purchase. You may also have a different email campaign that targets repeat customers and thanks them for their business with coupons.
4. Email is simple
Once you have an idea of the basics of email marketing, as well as the best practices to follow (we’ll cover some of these later), email becomes an easy brand opportunity. Your email marketing strategy can be as complex, or simple as you want it to be. While it’s possible to jazz your messages up with images, videos, and templates, successful email campaigns can still come from simple, plain-text messages. At the end of the day, it’s the content that matters.
5. It’s easy to track
Another obvious benefit of email marketing, is that it’s easy to watch what you’re doing. In other words, you’ll have access to all the information you need to figure out what you’re doing wrong. As with any other digital marketing solution, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be an email marketing superstar from the moment you start typing.
Email can be difficult, which is why things like email marketing software, email marketing services, and agencies exist. However, you can learn from your mistakes, and your successes, by tracking open rates, click-throughs, conversion rates, and bounces. The more you track, the more you learn about what your customers like and dislike. This gives you everything you need to alter your campaigns quickly, and cost-effectively too.
6. Email is global
An email marketing strategy, just like any other form of digital marketing campaign, benefits from its global reach. Imagine trying to send a direct-mail campaign to people across the globe. The postage and administration would be astronomical!
The main difference between email and other global marketing solutions, is that you’re not just spraying your message at an infinite market and hoping something sticks. With the right email outreach solution, you can make sure that you’re communicating with people who actively care about your company, products and services.
7. Email is instant
Emails are instant. That means you can start seeing results from your email campaigns within minutes of sending out your correspondence. You will probably need specialist email marketing software to help you run particularly large campaigns, but everything from sales, to updates, to blog posts can be shared with thousands of people in a matter of moments.
8. Email is a successful investment
Finally, when it comes to the benefits of an email marketing strategy, let’s not forget the most important element of any campaign: profits. In the business world, results are what matters, and email marketing delivers results.
According to studies, emails deliver 4400% ROI. That’s up to £44 back, for every £1 you spend. It’s hard to find a better deal than that.
The top tips for an effective email marketing strategy
So, you know why email marketing is important. All those profits, all that visibility for your brand – it’s hard to resist.
Of course, knowing that you should have a great email marketing campaign, doesn’t mean that you know how to create one. Despite what some people might say, email marketing can be a complicated process, with a lot of different factors to think about.
Obviously, the perfect email marketing strategy is a pretty complex thing, so we can only begin to scratch the surface here. However, these ten tips should get you on the right track to a killer marketing campaign.
Tip 1: Make sure your customers know what to do with your emails
First things first.
The point of email marketing is to drive more traffic to your landing page, product pages, and ultimately, your shopping cart (if you have one). Though you can also use you email marketing to inform and entertain your audience, everything you do comes down to building your brand, and earning more sales.
With that in mind, you need to make sure that your customers understand what they should be doing in your emails. If you have a link, match it up to a call-to-action that tells your customers where to go. At the same time, don’t just tell them to “click here”, inform them of the benefit of following those instructions. For instance: “Click here to download the complete email marketing guide”.
Tip 2: Be careful with images
We love images at Fabrik. Who doesn’t?
Images make your content more appealing, dynamic, and easy to read. But it’s important not to let yourself get carried away in the magic of shapes and colours.
While the occasional image, or email marketing template can help to give your campaign a little extra “oomph”, you still need to be sure that your customers can see the fundamental message you’re sending. At the same time, don’t rely on imagery to get your point across.
If someone’s viewing your email from an old computer or a page with ad-blocker, your images might not load, and render your message pointless.
Tip 3: If you love them, let them go
We know it can be tempting to grab hold of your customers and hold on tight, but if they no longer want to interact with your company, you can’t force them.
When users start to get frustrated with your email, they should be able to remove themselves from your list, meaning that you can refine your contacts and upgrade your email marketing campaign. The alternative option to this, is that they flag your email as spam.
Everyone who identifies you as “spam”, starts to wear down your sender reputation, making it harder to get your message into the inbox of your customer, rather than their junk folder.
Simply put: Include an “unsubscribe” link in your emails.
Tip 4: Keep on segmenting
Your customers are all unique, beautiful snowflakes.
In other words, they want to be treated as though they’re individuals, not just another person on your list of contacts. If you segment your email marketing campaigns, you can start to personalise your content so that people receive the emails that are most relevant to them.
Every email campaign should come with a range of segments, based on how often a consumer interacts with your brand, where they’re from, what they like, and of course, where they are in the buying sales funnel.
Tip 5: Get to the point
How you design your email messages is up to you. Usually, you’ll make decisions about which content to include, what fonts to use, and even when to send your emails, based on an understanding of your customer’s preferences.
However, one thing you can know for certain, is that no-body wants to listen to you ramble on about something pointless for several paragraphs in an email. Make sure that you get the point of your message across quickly, and show your value. Otherwise, your email’s just going to end up in the trash.
Tip 6: Test your subject lines (and everything else)
One of the most important elements of your email is your subject line.
A subject line is how a customer decides whether they’re going to read what you have to say, or ignore you and do something else. Your aim should be to write something that’s short, snappy, and attention-grabbing, without being too click-baity.
If you’re not sure which email marketing subject lines work best for your customers, then test a few different ones and see what the results tell you. At the same time, remember that testing everything from the length of your copy, to the colours in your email can have an impact on conversion rates.
Tip 7: Stick to the code
Speaking of testing things, remember that you need to make sure that all the code in your email marketing campaigns is working as it should be. Anything that shows up as a jumble of letters and characters is going to look shoddy and unprofessional.
Double-check all your alt-tags, image-tags, and links to ensure that they show the right things, and send people to the right places. This way, you’ll be sure that you’re sending the same consistent brand image to your customers with every message.
Tip 8: Send test emails before you send to the main list
The best way to make sure that your emails are working as they’re supposed to, is to send test emails before you commit to the final draft. There are few things worse in an email marketing strategy than sending an email just to find out that it ended up in the spam folder because something broke along the digital highway.
Try sending a test version of your email to accounts using each of the biggest email providers, including Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and Outlook. If there are any significant groups of customers in your list that use a different email provider, you’ll need to include them too.
Tip 9: Include a plain-text version
We mentioned above that things can go terribly wrong if you use an email that’s saturated in images. The same is true of HTML formatted emails. Though there’s nothing wrong with using a template to make your emails stand out, it’s a good idea to piggyback a text version of your message onto whatever you send.
As wonderful as your graphics might be, there still are people out there who choose to view their emails in the “text-only” format. This usually includes those using mobile phones.
Tip 10: Ask for permission
Last, but not least, when you ask people to let you add them to your email list, make sure that you double check that they’re happy to hear from you. Sometimes, asking for a confirmation email to ensure that people want to continue with their subscription, is the best way to weed out individuals who genuinely want to hear from your company.
Although you might lose a couple of potential leads this way, because they can’t be bothered to click on a link or confirm their email address, the leads you do get will be far more valuable.
Quick and simple ways to grow your email campaign list
Okay, so you know why email marketing matters, and you know some of the best practices that come with designing your email marketing strategy. Now, how do you build that all-important email list?
The truth is that there are dozens of different ways, and the solution that works best for you – like anything else in marketing – will depend on the specifics of your audience. However, to get you started, here are just a few suggestions:
Create share-worthy content
The best way to have people clamouring to join your email list, is to create content that they can’t bear to miss. If you always have the latest info in the tech industry, or the best deals to offer, make sure that your customers know what they can get for subscribing. You can also include social sharing buttons in your emails that encourage customers to act as ambassadors for your brand.
If you can’t beat them, bribe them
People love free stuff. If you tell someone that subscribing to your email list will get them discounts off their favourite products, free downloads, and other goodies, then they’ll be far more likely to hand over their details.
Grab people on social media
If the people on your social media pages like what you’re doing there, let them know that they can get even more info, entertainment, and useful discounts by joining your email list. This is a great way to advertise yourself to people who are already interested in your brand.
Promote lead magnets
You can use Pinterest, Instagram, and a range of other solutions to promote lead magnets, like free downloads and eBooks that are exclusive to your email subscribers. These items are a great way to convince someone of your value, and get them to engage with your brand.
Collect emails offline
Remember, just because email marketing strategies are an “online” concept, doesn’t mean that you can’t expand them offline too. Collecting email addresses from the people you meet at tradeshows, or encouraging your customers at brick-and-mortar stores to hand over their addresses is a great way to expand your list.
Use an opt-in form
When you’re using an email marketing service or agency, you’ll find that they give you the tools you need to create an “opt-in” form for your website. This is basically just a page that your customers can go to, to join your list. As a rule of thumb, the simpler it is, the better.
Use other people’s lists
Finally, if you’re really struggling to gain traction with your list, you can always piggyback someone else’s popularity. For instance, try offering your services in exchange for a plug on someone else’s email list. Alternatively, you can propose a joint venture with other people in your industry, to help each of you expand your brand reach.
Planning your email marketing campaign
By this point, you should be feeling well-informed about the world of email marketing campaigns and email marketing strategy. However, if you’re looking for a quick and simple checklist that you can keep in your toolbar for whenever you’re writing a new campaign, try this:
The four most important elements of your email marketing campaign are:
During the planning stage, you’re evaluating your email list, and coming up with the best message to send them. Maybe you want to share your latest blog post, or introduce them to a new sale. Either way, you’ll need to:
Segment your audience: Figure out which people should get which message.
Decide on design and layout: This should match your overall brand image, while highlighting the message you want to deliver.
Make sharing simple: Include social media links and buttons with your calls to action to help people share your message.
Next, you’re ready to craft your message. Remember that every message you send in an email marketing strategy should be focused, valuable, and purposeful. Never send emails for the sake of sending emails, and:
Keep your core message simple and clear: Don’t overload it by cramming in multiple ideas.
Stick to the rules: Make sure that you’re compliant with inbox rules, data protection acts, and other important email marketing aspects.
Use plain text: When you’re sending HTML messages, remember to include a plain-text version for people who can’t see images. Studies suggest that only 48% of people look at images in their emails.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, particularly when your brand image is on the line. Remember to:
Examine your email for any typos, spelling mistakes, or grammar problems.
Check that all of your links work, and send your customers where they’re meant to go.
Test that your email works on all platforms and devices, including smartphones and tablets.
Include a call-to-action that informs your reader of exactly what you want them to do.
Provide an “un-subscribe” button for customers who want to stop interacting with you.
Finally, you’ll be ready to follow up on your email marketing strategy, and make sure it’s working for you. Your aim should be to:
Track what’s going on in your campaign, from click-through rates, to open-rates and engagement. This will help you to adapt your strategy as you move forward.
Integrate other marketing activities into your social media campaign, such as content marketing and social media posts.
Test out new strategies, but make sure not to ignore the old ones that still work.
Capture bounce-backs, any emails that bounce-back will let you know who you need to re-send to, and which areas of your email list need updating.
Keep your list clean by removing anyone who chooses to unsubscribe from your email marketing campaign. The last thing you want is to continue pestering someone who’s had enough of your brand.
5 Examples of incredible email marketing
Sometimes, the easiest way to figure out how you can upgrade your email marketing strategy, is to look for inspiration. Copying what other people in your industry have done is unlikely to get you a great response, but you can use some excellent email examples for an insight into how the pros do it right.
Here are five incredible email marketing strategy ideas to get you started:
One of the most important factors in your email marketing strategy, is the “transactional” email. Basically, this is the kind of email that you send out to a customer when they download your service, buy an item, or subscribe to something. It’s the “Thanks” that lets your client know they’ve made the right choice.
Unfortunately, transactional emails are frequently overlooked and undervalued. Reaching out to a customer after they’ve engaged with you is a crucial first step in building up your brand/buyer relationship. Charity: Water have made the most of their transactional emails by using them to give their customer a complete run-down of what their donation has achieved.
The email builds on the altruistic nature of someone who has already donated, and makes them feel as though they’ve made a real difference.
Uber’s a pretty new brand, that’s made a huge splash in the world of digital marketing. Uber have changed the way that we look at modern transport, and their email marketing campaigns are refreshingly simple, clear, and brimming with value.
If you look at the email below, you’ll see that Uber instantly outline the value of their business in their email marketing strategy, and convince you to keep reading.
Another great thing about Uber, is that they keep their brand image consistent, throughout all of their marketing messages and communication. That means that the same colours and designs are used in everything from their logo, to their app, to their email marketing campaigns.
Poncho is a simple, fun, and engaging brand who know how to interact with their customers. Their email marketing strategy revolves around their unique image and voice as a business, which makes every message inherently unique and charming. The copy is funny, brief, and simple, and it’s enriched by images that blend perfectly with the Group’s brand guidelines.
Poncho email marketing works because it’s visually appealing, valuable, and perfectly connected with the rest of the brand’s image.
Sometimes, rather than simply letting your uninterested customers leave the nest, you might try one last-ditch effort to get them back on your side. The way to do this is to send an opt-in email that asks them to come back and give you another chance. For some people, these emails are inherently annoying, but Dropbox have made it difficult to feel frustrated by their “come back” request. It’s so cute and on-brand, that it’s instantly successful.
The use of cartoons, soft colours, and a little bit of humour makes you re-think the reasons that you considered closing your Dropbox account in the first place.
Finally, the frequency with which you send your email marketing messages will depend on your customers, and your business. However, a lot of companies like to stick to a general rule of around once a week. The only problem with sending weekly emails, is that it can be easy to run out of ideas for content when you’ve got so many new messages to write.
InVision’s email marketing strategy is effective because it’s constantly fresh, constantly updated, and easy to enjoy. Not only do you get a great mix of content, but you also get a message that’s easy to read on any device – crucial in today’s mobile-first age.
Email marketing services: The best email marketing software
Feeling inspired, but a little nervous?
Email marketing is an exceptional solution for expanding brand reach, but it’s also tough to create engaging emails. However, there is help out there.
Email marketing software, or email marketing services can help you to customise your campaigns, segment customers into groups, and track the performance of all your metrics too. Most importantly of all? Using email marketing services can help to ensure that your messages don’t end up in the spam folder.
So, what’s the best email marketing software out there?
As you might expect, opinions differ in that area, but there are 5 key competitors that are hard to overlook in any list of email marketing agency solutions:
One of the largest and most popular email marketing services around, Constant Contact is quick, innovative, and easy to use. You can manage your lists with a couple of clicks, enjoy a range of email templates, and store up to 1GB of your own files too. There are even social media sharing tools available, so you can avoid asking for help from an email marketing agency.
Another competitor for “most popular” email marketing software, AWeber offers a host of great email marketing services for small and medium sized businesses. This system connects seamlessly with a range of platforms, including WordPress, and you can enjoy a range of list management tools, auto-responders and extras. If that wasn’t enough AWeber also comes with its own tracking and analysis tools.
GetResponse is a fantastic piece of email marketing software that’s easy to use and ideal for everyone from small businesses, to huge enterprises. It comes with a range of automation tools that allow you to develop your own automated campaigns through drag-and-drop tools. These email marketing services are top-of-the-line, and you can even segment your groups for more targeted messaging.
GetResponse comes with beautiful templates, autoresponders, tracking, and more. Additionally, this email marketing agency is compatible with a range of third-party software, such as ZenDesk, Google Docs, and more.
One of the fastest-growing names in the world of email marketing, MailChimp offers fun, easy-to-use email marketing software for a range of campaigns. The interface is simple, and the agency offers plenty of support for first-timers too. MailChimp comes packed with autoresponders, merge tags, and tracking solutions. What’s more, it integrates with WordPress, Magneto, and Shopify platforms beautifully.
Last, but not least, the unique selling point of ActiveCampaign is that it combines your email marketing strategy with sales and CRM. It comes with plenty of tools to support your email marketing campaign, and allows you to segment your audience members however you like. There are a range of templates to choose from, as well as mobile-friendly sign-up forms, and ActiveCampaign can even gather additional information about your contacts using only their email address. Pretty smart for a piece of email marketing software.
Making the most of email
The trouble with email marketing, is that it’s such a huge topic, it’s impossible to cover everything – even in an article as long and detailed as this one.
The important thing to remember, is that crafting the perfect email marketing strategy is something that requires effort, dedication, and attention to detail. You might not get it right first time around, but if you do your research, continue learning, and make sure that you have the right tactics in mind, then you’ll find something that works.
Once you’ve found your email marketing strategy, you can let it grow and evolve with your brand, conveying your image, your message, and delivering you a constant stream of customers.
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