If you want to engage with your prospects successfully, you need to launch a multi-pronged marketing effort. That being said, the importance of optimising your email marketing strategy can’t be overstated.
Despite the growing presence of social media platforms, consumers continue to rely on email — and therein lies the power of your email marketing campaigns.
It’s anticipated that in 2020, more than 300 billion emails will be sent and received per day. And, according to Statista, that number will continue its upward trend, reaching 347.3 billion emails per day by 2023.
Though many emails are personal messages or internal business communications, in 2013, the average email-user still got 416 commercial messages per month — that’s about 13 per day.
Given the competition for attention inside a prospect’s inbox, it’s vital for you to use all the email marketing tools at your disposal and to follow email marketing best practices.
Read on to learn:
- How to set goals for your email marketing campaign
- How to test your email’s effectiveness
- How to best optimise your marketing emails
- How to engage your email audience
1. Plan Your Email Marketing Campaign’s Goals
As with any marketing effort, it’s essential to set clear, concrete campaign goals. These goals should follow the SMART system.
The SMART goal system is an acronym:
When designing your goals with the SMART system, keep in mind several primary factors:
- Identify your target audience
- Determine what action you want prospects to take
- Create a landing page to support your email campaign
- Specify what you consider as a conversion
- Identify an achievable conversion rate
Conversions from your email campaign don’t have to be direct sales on your e-commerce website (though that’s rarely a bad thing).
Depending on your call-to-action (CTA), a successful conversion could be downloading a white paper, signing up to partake in a webinar, following your company on social media, subscribing to an email list, or improving your click rate.
2. Test Your Email Subject Line
We all know the importance of making a good first impression. This same thinking applies to your email subject line, which is the first impression your email makes.
A striking subject line is crucial to increasing your open and click-through rates.
According to a 2020 study from Campaign Monitor, the average email open rate is less than 20%.
In fact, 82.2% of people will never open an email you send them.
You can quadruple your email open rate by implementing the right kind of subject line strategy.
Four powerful subject line strategies are:
- Appeal to their curiosity: If people know what you’re going to say in your email, there is no reason for them to open it
- Use striking numbers: People are fascinated by stats and figures — give these to them in the subject line
- Don’t fear negativity: As counter-intuitive as it might sound, negative language often engages people more quickly
- Utilise shock value: There’s a reason tabloids use shocking headlines — they work
No matter what approaches you take in developing your marketing email subject lines, be sure you test them.
A/B testing of email subject lines is pretty straightforward. To implement this strategy, select a small portion of your email list and send the same email with different subject lines.
Once you’ve established which subject line performed the best, you can roll that out to your entire email list.
3. Personalise Your Email Content
Everyone wants to be special. Make whoever opens your email feel special by personalising your email content and email subject lines.
It’s hard to put it better than Dale Carnegie when he said, “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”
According to a 2019 Statista study, 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say that marketing personalisation is either “very” or “somewhat” appealing. Of course, it’s necessary to go beyond simply name dropping.
Email personalisation means delivering relevant content and offers that acknowledge an individual’s preferences. According to SmarterHQ, as of 2020, the majority of millennials (70%) are
On the positive side, in 2017, Accenture reported that 91% of people are more likely to buy from you if you offer customised (relevant) product and service recommendations.
4. Optimise Your Email’s CTA Buttons
Email marketing campaigns are all about the call to action (CTA). If you don’t have a CTA, it’s nearly impossible to get prospects and clients to do what you want — you need to tell them what to do!
There are two ways to optimise your CTA buttons:
- CTA button text
- CTA button design
It’s crucial to have dynamic, action-oriented verbs on your CTA buttons. This type of verbiage creates the sense of urgency you need in a CTA button.
You can’t rely on someone remembering to click on the CTA button tomorrow or in a week — you need them to click on it now.
Every email from LinkedIn focuses on one major CTA.
In terms of optimising engagement, the way your CTA looks also matters. Choose a color that stands out, but doesn’t clash with the rest of your email’s design. It also needs to coordinate with your branding.
5. Make It Easy to Unsubscribe
Making your email lists easy to unsubscribe from might seem counter-intuitive, but this distinction is important.
The truth is, if someone is ready to unsubscribe from your email list, they aren’t interested in engaging with your brand or buying your products.
Paul Jarvis demonstrates a friction-free unsubscribe process in a recent email send.
So, let them go with as little fuss as possible. Don’t double down and risk leaving a bad taste in their mouth.
When you make it difficult to unsubscribe you accomplish several things:
- You damage your relationship with your consumers
- You tempt them to mark you as spam (which hurts deliverability)
- You obscure why your brand or content is not connecting with your target market
Of course, making it difficult (or impossible) for people to unsubscribe from your email list also means you’re flirting with the law — and not in a good way.
The CAN-SPAM Act makes it clear that consumers have the right to demand you to stop emailing them. Failing to do so comes with serious legal consequences.
6. Automate With Email Marketing Tools
Automated email marketing tools are more than helpful — they’re essential. From lead generation to lead nurturing, email automation tools can optimise your efforts and improve your bottom line.
With powerful email automation systems, such as HubSpot Email Marketing, it’s possible to roll out custom emails based on dozens of triggers and conditions.
Whether you’re using HubSpot, MailChimp or other similar tools, by automating repetitive tasks (such as sending welcome emails) with customised content, you can lessen the load on your marketing and sales teams, while still connecting with leads in a timely manner.
Of course, it’s not just about improving the productivity of your team — automated emails are also more effective. According to 2019 data from Campaign Monitor, automated emails generate 320% more revenue than non-automated emails.
Part of this comes from clients who receive an automated message that reminds them that they put a product in their shopping cart, but haven’t finished checking out yet. Those people are then 2.4 times more likely to complete that purchase.
Automated email marketing tools are especially helpful for complex email drip campaigns. You can ensure every client gets exactly the right email, at the right time, and that none of your clients slip through the cracks.
Pro Tip: In addition to automation tools, there are a number of other helpful apps you can use when crafting your email sequences. For instance, if you’re part of a marketing team, syncing your email schedule with a project management tool can help delegate tasks. Or if you’re managing a virtual team, video conferencing, instant messaging, and collaboration tools are important to get your emails from concept to completion. Finally, you should invest in a tool like Grammarly to check your grammar and spelling so that your emails are error-free.
7. Segment Your Audience & Messages With Email Lists
There are dozens of ways to effectively slice and dice your email list to improve engagement with email subscribers.
There are five primary reasons to implement list segmentation:
- You can better connect with your audience, as not everyone on the list is interested in your brand for the same reason
- You can more easily provide meaningful offers and promotions to the right customer segment
- You can focus your energy on active prospects instead of those who are not willing to engage with your brand at the moment
- You can improve your open rate and click-through rate
- You can lower your bounce rate and unsubscribe rate
These reasons for list segmenting your audience and messages have a significant impact on your return on investment (ROI). By using a segmented campaign, you can increase your revenue by as much as 760%.
You can list segment your audience and messages is a number of ways, including:
- Previous purchases
- Purchase history
- Engagement history
- Purchasing frequency
- Work history
- Organisation type
The larger your email list, the more finely you can divide it up to better target your audience.
Emails to different segments can:
- Be written in different tones (to better resonate with the receiver)
- Offer different deals (to match previous purchases)
- Provide solutions to different pain points (to match persona)
8. Make Sure All of Your Contacts Are Opt-In (GDPR)
In order to stay on the right side of the law, make sure your email marketing campaigns are General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant.
If you happen to collect or process the information of a citizen from any country in the European Union — even if your company does not operate within the EU — the data privacy laws put in place through GDPR will apply.
The sweeping legal provisions of GDPR include protections for a person’s right to agree to their data being collected, to request that you delete their data, and to understand how the data is being used.
For email marketing efforts to remain GDPR compliant, it’s important that new subscribers intentionally opt-in to receiving newsletters from you. EU citizens — even those living elsewhere in the world — have the right to agree (or not) to their personal information being collected.
9. Optimise Your Email for Mobile Devices
It’s no surprise that people are becoming more reliant on cell phones and other mobile devices for a variety of tasks, including email.
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly one-in-five Americans rely on their smartphone as their only way to access the internet from home. The use of smartphones has skyrocketed in the United States, from about 35% of those surveyed reporting to own some kind of cellphone in 2011, to 81% in 2019.
According to Adestra, in 2019, more than 60% of opened emails were opened on a mobile device. In order to connect with this majority of people checking email on their mobile device, it’s essential that your email is responsive and optimised for whatever mobile screen it’s being viewed on.
Unsurprisingly, when an email fails to load correctly on all devices, it’s detrimental to your campaign. According to Litmus, in 2015, just over 51% of the people who received an email deleted it within two seconds.
That’s not a lot of time to get someone’s attention. Imagine how much faster people will delete your email if they have any trouble reading it.
There are four clear signs that your emails have not been optimised for mobile devices:
- Not enough white space
- Multicolumn layout
- Text and images don’t load
- Images and graphics are out of place or too big
You can avoid these issues by using a responsive email template and testing your emails on various devices and email servers. By following best practices, you can move forward with your email marketing campaign without getting tech-blocked by mobile devices.
10. Invest in Your Email Design
Done right, your email design not only reinforces your brand image, it also makes it easy for readers to comprehend what you’re telling them. The design communicates information, directly and indirectly. The nature of your design creates a feeling that can impact a reader’s actions.
According to Email Critics, “How your customer feels, and therefore if they’re going to engage and buy, is initially influenced by the design of an email. It’s the gateway to meaningful actions.”
A well-designed email signals professionalism to readers and places you as an expert within your field. It also makes a promise about the quality of the content marketing contained in the email.
The more visually captivating and easily readable your email is, the better.
Given that only about 20% of people on your email list will even open your message (unless you’ve got a bomb subject line and preview), you need to hit the ground running. Don’t assume a reader is planning on spending more than a few seconds reviewing your email.
For the most impact, you are best served by having an enticing headline at the top of the email, followed by what is known as the “hero shot”. This shot is a strong, active image that gets to the heart of the subject matter and engages your audience.
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for ways to improve your email design, without having to hire a designer or a web developer, check out Venngage’s newsletter design tool. Alternatively, you can try using design tools like Canva that provide ready-made, easy to customise templates.
MeUndies knows how to get attention with product hero shots in their email marketing campaigns.
Below your hero image, keep your text simple and move readers toward your CTA. Remember, a CTA can be something as simple as clicking-through to a landing page or recent blog post.
Make sure you aren’t pawning off the task of creating your marketing emails onto someone who already works for your company, and has little to no training in digital design. Given the importance of your email’s design, you’re hurting your bottom line if you fail to invest.
Put your money where your emails are, hire a good designer, and enjoy that increased ROI.
11. Use A/B Testing on Your Email Content Regularly
No matter how successful your email marketing campaign is and how much you’re crushing your goals, you can do better — you can always improve your system.
To do this in an effective, data-driven way, you need to regularly do A/B testing.
Though you might already be A/B testing your subject lines, your campaign is best served if you also A/B test your design, images, messaging, and CTA buttons.
The basic premise remains the same — select small, randomised segments of your email list (or segments of a target segment) and send them each a test email with one key element that’s different.
HubSpot offers A/B testing for email marketing campaigns.
Do not send emails testing more than one element per A/B test. Otherwise, it will be nearly impossible to determine which element was the cause for the increased engagement.
Once you’ve identified the “winning” element or right message, send that out to the rest of your email list (or target segment). By A/B testing most of your messages, you can continue to fine-tune your email marketing strategy and improve engagement.
12. Avoid Using a No-Reply Email Address
You should want your prospects and customers to engage with you. Why shut down an easy avenue of communication by making messages they find engaging something they can’t reply to?
In general, a no-reply address is used when you don’t have the resources to respond to customers — which certainly isn’t going to make them feel valued. In general, these types of addresses should only be used for one-time emails (like invoices and account summaries), sent from unmonitored email accounts.
A no-reply email address also increases the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam. This can have an indirect, negative effect for your email marketing campaign overall.
The Futurist is an interesting newsletter but their no-reply email address doesn’t encourage a two-way conversation.
Instead, it’s best to allow customers to respond to your messages. However, you’ll have to use advanced automation triggers to ensure they go to the right person in your company, or that the right template email is sent in response.
13. Use Double Opt-In to Confirm an Email Subscriber’s Address
A double opt-in system requires an email subscriber to sign up for your email list through a form and then respond to a confirmation email.
At first glance, you might wonder why you would want to make someone jump through an additional hoop to join your mailing list. But, the reasoning for implementing a double opt-in system worth incorporating the extra step.
The primary benefit of a double opt-in confirmation is that it keeps your email list focused on the most engaged prospects and customers. Without a doubt, those who are willing to go into their email to confirm that they want to hear from you, really do!
Jennifer Bourn demonstrates that a double opt-in can present a great opportunity to incorporate company branding.
The system also decreases the chances of your emails being marked as spam or scooping up accidental subscribers, who don’t have a lot of value as leads.
14. Get Regular Feedback From Your Audience
The entire reason email marketers care about analytics is because it’s a form of useful feedback from consumers and prospects about a marketing campaign. Analytics insights can be used to make data-driven decisions about future efforts — or even tweak those currently rolling out.
Without a doubt, analytics are important.
But what about just asking email recipients about their experience with your content? Regular feedback from your audience, combined with analytics, gives you a more detailed and robust understanding as to the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.
Carney often starts their daily email newsletter, The Daily Carnage, with a poll.
All-in-one feedback software, such as Mopinion, allow you to easily implement feedback widgets directly into your emails.
You can customise feedback options with advanced question routing based on the user’s input. Additionally, it’s easy to include multiple-choice questions, open comment text boxes, and radio buttons.
The idea is to empower your readers to tell you exactly how to improve your messaging and engagement.
15. Measure and Analyse Email Campaign Results
Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to collect as much data as possible during your email marketing campaigns so you can measure and analyse your results.
Even if your current campaign isn’t wildly successful, the data you collect can inform future email marketing campaign efforts so that they can be more successful.
Final Thoughts: 15 Vital Email Marketing Best Practices for 2020
Email marketing is still an essential element of any online marketing strategy. It is a powerful way to connect with your target market and encourage them to engage with your brand.
However, it needs to be done the right way if you hope to find success.
People are bombarded by marketing emails. This has resulted in higher expectations for the companies subscribers are willing to engage with.
Everything from your subject line to your email design needs to be regularly tested and optimised. One of the most powerful ways to do this is by simply asking readers what they want!
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