Over the past 5-6 years, it's been said repeatedly that email marketing is going to go away or get replaced. Guess what? It's not going anywhere. In fact, companies are sending even more emails than ever. That means our inboxes are also filling up quicker than ever, so we need to figure out a way to cut through the noise.
That's why it is important to make sure our email strategies are focused on helpful, educational and engaging content to ensure our emails don't get labeled as spam or ignored. We create and implement strong email marketing strategies for our clients, based on inbound marketing best practices. This provides us with content that addresses common triggers or pain points that prospects and customers have.
Based on a few common questions from our clients, we've put together some helpful tips and best practices that will help you increase the effectiveness of your email marketing in 2018.
Should I buy a list?
No! Buying lists are almost never a good idea, because these are unsolicited emails, you'll get a very low response rate. If they don't recognize your company or name, they might mark your email as spam which can affect your future deliverability rates. Instead, there are many ways to grow your subscriber list organically.
So, how do I grow my subscriber list?
- Include a share with a friend link. This makes it easy for people to forward the email to their friends. Make sure to also include a sign-up link in the email. That way if the email does get forwarded to someone they are able to sign up for your newsletter as well.
- Add social sharing buttons to your email so that recipients can share the email on their social media.
- Include an email sign-up form on your website, with a brief description about what visitors will receive if they sign up. Make sure to mention any incentives or valuable content that you regularly send out (coupons, special giveaways or promotions, etc.)
- Speaking of contests, these are a great way to build up email lists. Run the contest through your website, at tradeshow events, or on social media. To boost your results, promote the post on Facebook or LinkedIn. It can be well worth the money!
- Create a landing page on your website with a free ebook or guide that they can fill in. Check that the content is valuable enough for them to want to provide their information.
How often should I send out emails?
This really depends on your customers and the content of your emails. If you are sending out an email newsletter that does not include time-sensitive information, it will not need to go out as often as shorter eblasts, or special promotions.
The most important metric to pay attention to when determining email frequency is the unsubscribe rate. If this starts going up, adjust the schedule accordingly. Almost 50% of email newsletter unsubscribes are because of receiving too many emails.
A good way to test the best schedule for your customers is performing A/B testing. Split your email list into random segments and send emails on different schedules, this will determine which one gets the best results.
Another way of getting around this problem is by using segmentation to split your list into groups based on interests or behaviors. That way, you can send each subscriber more relevant and helpful content, which will improve your open and click rates. More targeted email marketing, like this, is called lead nurturing.
What is lead nurturing and how can I use email to do it?
Lead nurturing fits with the inbound approach to marketing. Inbound marketing breaks down the buyer's journey into four different stages and provides prospects with helpful information as they are performing their research and decision process online.
The four stages of inbound marketing are: Awareness, Convert, Close and Delight. Once a prospect has gone through the Awareness and Convert stages they become a lead and you will have their email address. Email can now play an important role in staying engaged with them throughout the last two stages of their journey.
To help get them closer to making a purchase or decision, we can send educational content that helps their research process and provides more information about the advantages of your product or service. Make sure these emails are not a hard sell, but instead are educational and show the benefits of working with a company like yours. This will increase engagement and ensure they are less likely to label you as spam.
Once someone becomes a customer, their journey is not over, the Delight stage begins. Email is still very important at this stage, and it's the way most companies stay engaged with their customers. We're focused on building customer loyalty throughout the Delight stage. By sending regular email newsletters or email blasts to customers, you can encourage them to become your brand ambassadors, and promote your company or services for you.
What metrics are important to look at?
There are a few different metrics you will usually be able to track when sending out emails - open rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate, bounce rates and list growth.
Many marketers focus on open rate results; however, this metric is not as important as you might think.
Open rates are difficult to measure accurately because they are tracked based on an image loading in the recipient's inbox. Some email clients like Microsoft Outlook have this turned off by default, so your open rates may be underreporting the true number of opens.
Instead, we focus on the click-through-rate, to get a more accurate picture of the effectiveness of the campaign. Goal conversions, such as filling out a form on the website or making a purchase - while a little more complex to set up - can also provide you with a better idea of the ROI of your email campaign.
If you are looking to increase new leads and customers, subscriber list growth rate is another important metric to see how well you're doing.
Unsubscribe rates are also important to pay attention to. If you have a large number of unengaged subscribers, consider scrubbing them from your list. It can hurt deliverability if you continue sending emails to the same people month after month that are not being opened. This can eventually cause your email to go into a Junk folder.
What's the difference between a hard and a soft bounce?
Another metric that is tracked when an email goes out is the bounce rate. When an email bounces, it means that your sender couldn't deliver it to someone's email address. A hard bounce means that it failed for a permanent reason -- something like a fake, invalid, or blocked email address. On the other hand, a soft bounce means that it failed because of a temporary issue -- a full mailbox or an unavailable service, for example. Hard bounces should be removed immediately, however soft bounces can be kept in for a few sends before being removed. It's important to monitor these, because having an unusually high bounce rate can cause email providers to hurt your deliverability.