Email Marketing

February 4, 2020 Jesse Stein Jesse has founded, operated and sold multiple Internet-related ventures over the last 20 years. Most recently, he started and ran DietSpotlight.com, a leading nutrition website with more than 120 million total visitors and 325,000 subscription-based customers. In 2018 Dietspotlight was an Inc 5000 fastest-growing company.

Everyone gets marketing messages in their email inbox. Although some of these messages are spam, many people actually rely on email marketing to hear about important sales and stay in touch with their favorite brands. Whether you run a small B2B company or a large eCommerce store, your email campaign might quickly become a core part of your overall marketing strategy.

Why You Need Email Marketing

91% of customers check their email every day, and people who make purchasing decisions based on email marketing tend to spend 138% as much as normal customers. It’s hard to ignore email as a successful channel and an important way to strengthen your brand.

Build a Reputation

Email marketing is a great way to build a positive reputation with your audience. Regular, high-quality emails tend to increase credibility and help customers have a positive association with your brand. If your newsletter contains interesting information, you might even have clients who look forward to receiving your weekly or monthly updates.

Of course, anything that can elevate your brand can also decrease your reputation if used incorrectly. Nothing turns off customers more than an inbox flooded with spammy messages. Treat your marketing emails with the same care you’d put into a blog post or any other part of your content marketing strategy.

Advertise Products and Sales

Email marketing has almost completely replaced direct mail as the go-to way to send out advertisements and product announcements. If you’re holding an end-of-season sale, a marketing email is the best way to notify your customers. Email lists can also be used to announce new product lines or remind customers of your store’s continually low prices.

Reach the Users Who Matter

Email subscriptions are entirely opt-in. This means that anyone on your mailing list is interested in your company and is likely planning to make a purchase in the future.

Your subscribers represent your most dedicated and engaged clients. Use your email list to reward them for their loyalty with discounts, first looks, and industry information that they can’t get anywhere else.

Choosing an Email Platform

Marketing emails are typically sent through a mailing platform. These programs let you design messages, manage subscribers, and automate some of the most time-consuming aspects of email marketing.

Your mailing platform will play a large part in sculpting your email campaign. If you choose a design-focused software, you’ll be more likely to create messages with strong visuals and bright colors. If you choose a management-heavy software, you might find that your campaign centers around identifying and targeting segments of your audience. Email campaigns are an important part of your company’s voice, so choose software that makes sense for your brand identity.

Before you choose an email platform, consider how well it implements each of the following features:

  • User interface: Great email newsletters contain a lot more than just text. Even if you have no design or coding experience, your software should allow you to create an eye-catching email with images, links, and even video content.
  • Subscriber management: As your subscriber list grows, keeping track of every reader can become a serious time drain. Look for a software that lets you add new subscribers, remove people who don’t read your messages, and segment your audience into different mailing groups.
  • Automation tools: From timed emails to targeted messages, automation tools will help take the heavy lifting out of your email campaigns. Every software has unique features, so choose the ones that are relevant to your campaign goals.
  • Website integration: The best way to add people to your mailing list is through a signup form on your website. This means that your email platform needs to integrate with whichever content management service you currently use. Most popular platforms have this functionality, but always check before you fall in love with a service.

There are dozens of email marketing platforms, and they all have a host of excellent features. Shop around until you find a software that has helpful automation features and an interface that makes sense to you. You can also get started with one of these four popular email services.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is one of the longest-standing and most popular email marketing platforms on the web. With an accessible interface, simple features, and a free version that allows up to 2,000 subscribers, what’s not to love?

Mailchimp doesn’t have a focus on subscriber management or automation features. If you’re planning to run a large campaign, this might not be the software for you. But if you’re new to email marketing, Mailchimp is an excellent introductory platform that has everything you need to get started.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact is a comprehensive email marketing platform that has everything you need to run an excellent email campaign. Manage your subscribers, design emails, and take advantage of the company’s database of email marketing tips and campaign ideas. Constant Contact is also known for offering exceptional customer service and marketing advice.

If you love the way Constant Contact handles emails, you can also check out their website builder and marketing services. Go with Constant Contact if you want a smooth interface and a host of great features.

Drip

Drip is an email platform centered around intelligent use of customer data. With Drip, you’ll be able to track your customers’ behavior, see what they’re interested in, and send them customized email campaigns.

Drip’s target audience is eCommerce businesses, but anyone can take advantage of their analytics and optimization tools. Choose this platform if you want to run a wide-scale targeted email campaign with a focus on conversion optimization.

ConvertKit

ConvertKit is a mailing platform designed for content creators. There are few other mailing software options with such an intuitive and accessible automation interface. Craft messages, manage subscribers and organize your campaigns based on audience interests and message intent.

ConvertKit also makes it easy to add landing pages and signup forms to your website. This is the platform to use if you want effortless integration and simple campaign management.

Growing Your Mailing List

Now that you’ve chosen a platform, it’s time to add subscribers to your mailing list. Just like any list of contacts, you’ll grow your list of subscribers by getting their attention and offering value to users who become part of your network.

Add a Signup Form

If people want to join your mailing list, they’re going to check your website first. Include a signup form on your website, and make sure that new users will notice it immediately. Some of the most successful mailing list signups can be found in sidebars, footers, and other universal aspects of your site design.

Many website owners treat email signups as successful conversions. If your mailing list is core to your marketing strategy, make sure to give your signup form an appropriate amount of design attention. Consider adding a landing page that explains the benefits of joining your mailing list.

Offer a Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is a benefit that users receive when they sign up for your newsletter. Popular lead magnet ideas include eBooks, tutorials, templates, digital assets, and software.

Your lead magnet should be representative of the product or service that your company offers. If you’re a graphic designer, try making a template or a digital asset. If you’re a consultant, write an eBook with exclusive advice.

Once you’ve selected a lead magnet, advertise it on your email signup page. New subscribers should receive a link to download the resource in their first email.

Add a Subscribe Button

Once you start a great newsletter, you might be surprised at who sees it. Many people who love an email will forward it to their friends and coworkers. If those people like the message, they’ll probably want to subscribe.

To make sure you aren’t missing out on an interested audience, include a subscribe button at the bottom of your email messages. Make the button prominent but not disruptive, and watch your subscriber list start growing on its own.

Subscribe eCommerce Customers

When customers purchase items from your website, they typically provide their email address. Under the right circumstances, this means you can add these customers to your mailing list.

If you want to subscribe eCommerce customers, make sure you ask for their permission. You can do this by including a small checkbox somewhere in the checkout process. As long as customers can opt-in on their own terms, you’re free to ask for subscriptions anywhere that an email address would normally be entered.

Include Mobile Signup

Some mailing platforms allow you to accept newsletter signups through a text message. This is incredibly convenient for trade shows, retail establishments, and any other scenario where your audience might not have immediate access to a computer.

Always test out SMS-based services before you ask customers to interact with them. Make sure that the subscription process is smooth and easy, and see if you can edit the texts that customers are sent. After all, every audience communication should reflect positively on your brand identity.

Create a Paper List

Whether you own a storefront or have a presence at trade shows, don’t miss out on the chance to gain subscribers from real-world venues. If implemented correctly, paper signup lists can be incredibly successful and will help you stay in touch with clients who might never visit your site.

Although you can use any piece of lined paper, consider designing a branded signup sheet. Include information about your value proposition, lead magnet, and anything else that might encourage people to subscribe.

Non-Compliant Subscriber Lists

Most email marketing platforms are permission-based services. If you don’t have permission to send emails, you might be violating the platform’s terms of service. As you grow your mailing list, make sure to avoid any illegal or spammy tactics; if you don’t, you could quickly end up on your clients’ blocklists.

  • Purchased subscribers: Purchasing a list of email addresses for your newsletter can be anywhere from shady to illegal. You definitely don’t have consent to use those email addresses, so avoid adding them to your subscriber base.
  • Imported lists: Someone who follows you on Facebook or uses your software doesn’t necessarily want to receive emails from your company. Avoid importing contact lists from services unless you’ve received express permission to send marketing emails.
  • Automatic subscriptions: Avoid adding any feature to your site that automatically subscribes people to your newsletter when they make a purchase or sign up for an account. It’s fine to include an email checkbox, but make sure the user has to take action to subscribe.

If you aren’t sure whether you can add someone’s email to your newsletter, send them a message asking for permission. Include an opt-in button so that they can subscribe on their own terms.

Crafting a Great Email

Whether you want to sell products or publish a company newsletter, you’ll need to brush up on your copywriting skills if you’re going to create a successful marketing message. Remember who your audience is, and write newsletters that you know they’ll love to read.

Optimize Your Subject Line

The quality of your subject line will determine whether your readers even open your newsletter in the first place. Writing good headlines is an art form, and there are no hard-and-fast rules that will guarantee clicks. However, there are generally-accepted guidelines that seem to work well for modern marketers.

  • Write multiple drafts. Write at least 10-15 versions of any headline before you pick your favorite. If your mailing platform allows it, you might even use A/B testing to try out alternate headlines on the same newsletter.
  • Keep it short. Short headlines get more clicks. The optimal length is somewhere between 30-50 characters.
  • Add numbers. Numbers in headlines always grab attention. If your newsletter includes a list or an important statistic, show it off in the subject.
  • Use verbs. Encourage action – even if that action is simply opening the message.
  • Offer value. Why should customers click on your message? Include a value proposition in the headline, so customers instantly know what you have to offer.
  • Make real promises. Never put false promises in your subject lines. If you say “free gift,” the gift actually needs to be free.
  • Be personal. Email is a surprisingly personal channel; your audience has subscribed because they trust your brand. Feel free to be casual, witty, and relaxed in your subject lines.
  • Avoid spam. Spam filters often look for trigger words to identify dangerous messages. Make sure your subjects don’t include any of the most common spam trigger words.

Consider the Preview Text

Depending on the email client, your audience might be able to see the first one or two sentences of your email before they open it. Devote extra time to the content in this space; customers will use it to determine whether your email is interesting or not.

Preview text can include anywhere between 30 and 100 characters of your email. This amount varies greatly between clients and devices, so don’t optimize for a single platform. Instead, make sure that your first 100 characters are relevant and interesting to any user.

If you write short preview text, consider including white space after your opening paragraph. This will prevent links, headers, and images from showing up in the preview section.

Write Compelling Copy

To copywrite, you should consider email marketing to be a type of content marketing. The same strategies for headlines, paragraph length, and tone of voice will apply for nearly every marketing message you send.

If you write a long email, make sure to break it up with headlines. No one likes to read large blocks of text. You should also limit paragraphs to around three or four sentences.

End with a CTA

What do you want users to do after they’ve read your email? A call to action is an important tool that helps interested customers take the right steps after they engage with your sales pitch. Your CTA might be “view our products,” “read the full blog post,” or simply “forward this email to your friends.”

Include Creative Design Elements

Your email platform should be able to help you craft a beautiful newsletter. Include images, colored backgrounds, and even videos to help your content stand out from the rest of the inbox.

If you work with a graphic designer, talk to them about creating a branded newsletter template. Put your logo somewhere in the message, and think about whether you want a standard header and footer for all of your messages.

Check for Email Client Compatibility

Before you publish your newsletter, send a copy to yourself. Check how it looks on both your desktop and your mobile device. Some layouts that look great in your browser will appear differently when viewed from a phone or a tablet.

It’s also smart to check your message in multiple different email clients. In addition to Gmail, people also use Outlook, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, and many other services.

Email Campaign Ideas

Now you know how to write and design a great email, but what should you write your email about? Select one or two campaign strategies that mesh with your brand identity and take the time to perfect your chosen format.

Deals and Coupons

From loyalty programs to weekly deals, email marketing is a great way to tell your customers about amazing and even exclusive discounts. These kinds of email campaigns often include product images and discount codes that can be used on your eCommerce platform or in a physical store.

If you have physical locations, make sure your cashiers know how to activate digital coupons. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for a manager when the email newsletter promised you a fantastic and stress-free deal.

30-Day Challenges

14-Day, 30-Day, and 60-Day challenges are a type of marketing campaign that promises a daily email from your brand. Participants hope to learn a new skill, make a lifestyle change, or complete one of their personal goals.

To run a challenge campaign, you’ll need to come up with several useful pieces of information equal to the length of your challenge. Try sending out recipes, tutorials, and activity lists.

Company Updates

Company update campaigns are a popular choice for small businesses that highly value each client relationship. These newsletters can be used to tell clients about your recent projects, link to your most popular blog posts, and even introduce your newest employees.

These kinds of company updates are best sent on a semi-regular basis. Monthly or seasonal updates will be met with a smile, but weekly updates might be too often for clients that you only communicate with once or twice a year.

Industry News

If you work in a fast-paced industry, you might devote your newsletter to sharing important updates and industry news. Talk about tech improvements, compliance issues, and anything else that your clients need to be aware of.

These campaigns mesh particularly well with company updates. Clients will look forward to a regular newsletter that keeps them informed about your side of the industry.

Holidays and Seasons

A holiday is a great excuse to send out a fresh newsletter. From coupons to seasonal wishes, these campaigns are usually fun and lighthearted. Consider changing your template to reflect holiday colors and themes.

Re-engagements and Follow-Ups

A re-engagement email is sent to a customer who hasn’t checked in with your company in months or even years. Send these to eCommerce customers who made a purchase years ago, clients who you had a great relationship, or anyone else you’d like to hear from again.

A follow-up is sent after someone has received their product or completed their contract with your brand. These serve as a thank-you note and open the door for testimonials and reviews.

Both of these emails should be highly personalized. Instead of using a template, take a few moments to write a meaningful note; you’ll get a much better response.

The key to successful email marketing is to treat it with the same care as any other marketing channel. Treat your subscribers well; they’ve already taken a huge step towards engaging with your brand.