Here’s Your Guide to Email Marketing Success
Pierce Heska-McJannet Digital Director, Strategy and Innovation
Email marketing has been and continues to be the number one marketing effort used by professionals in 2020 – and for good reason.
There are nearly 4 billion people who use email every day, and 59% of users say that email marketing does influence their purchasing decisions. I’m no mathematician, but that sounds like over 2 billion people are ready to be influenced by email marketing.
In this document, we will cover all of the items that need to be considered when developing an email marketing campaign. These are not all steadfast rules, but they have been shown to increase the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign. These topics are line-itemed in a specific order in this general guideline that will help you increase your email marketing ROI.
Give your audience what they want – not what you think they want.
Do you feel you know what your audience wants? Are you sure? Too often, we see organizations corresponding with their audiences in a manner that is completely off target. Think about your audience, dissect the data and ensure that you are communicating in the proper fashion.
Welcome campaigns are a golden opportunity.
When an individual has signed up for your email or newsletter, they are at a possible peak of engagement. Automate your welcome campaign so that this new opportunity engages ASAP. At Kinetic, we recommend a three- to four-email sequence that will provide a holistic view of your organization.
Automate. Everything. (Almost.)
Automation was created to optimize your marketing department. Why pay people to do monotonous daily tasks when you can uplevel your marketing campaigns with automation? Automation can be used for everything from email marketing to social media and lead scoring. If you are not using automation, there is no time like the present.
Win back your unengaged audience.
If you are like me, you have a rockstar set of leads that engages with your content and another group that doesn’t. Don’t let these leads die in your marketing automation tool or CRM. Develop a re-engagement campaign that is focused on getting you back on their radar. Depending on the industry, this can be a flash sale, promotional deal or discount.
Email marketing and social media should be connected in some manner.
Email marketing and social media share a handful of characteristics, for the sake of this article, they are both demand generating activities. If you are sharing content or promotions via email, make sure these same pieces make it onto your social platforms. Not everyone on your email list follows you on social and vice versa.
Always test emails internally, the more eyes the better.
I am a notorious over tester for good reason. We have all received a promotional email that did not get properly proofed, and I don’t want to be that guy! Always have a testing process and follow it every time. Even if it may delay a send, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Stay out of the spam folder.
When was the last time that you checked your spam filter? Probably the last time someone asked you if you got their email. This is where emails go to die. Below are some of the top tips I use to ensure that my emails make it into the correct inbox.
- Be compliant will all regulations that affect your organization
- Get permission: opt-ins are the best way to avoid the spam folder
- Ask to be whitelisted
- Avoid spam triggers: there is no end-all-be-all list here, but if it feels spammy…it probably is. Avoid words like free, prize or bonus and ensure that your email has a proper ratio or text to image
- Use a double opt-in
- Maintain proper list hygiene
Concerned about new regulations? Use a double opt-in.
Over the last five years, we have seen a serious increase in email communications that are aimed at cracking down on spammers and other nefarious individuals. If you are marketing in the United States, you should be familiar with the three regulations linked below:
Allow your audience to choose their email frequency.
This can be done at registration but is most commonly used during the unsubscribe process. Instead of losing a user altogether, provide them with options around the frequency and content they would like to receive from you. One email a month is always better than none.
Track everything and analyze your results – data-based decision making.
We are officially in the digital age of marketing and with that comes access to data points that our predecessors could only have dreamt about. The days of guessing marketing ROI and campaign success are behind us so use this data to your advantage.
Create a follow a pre-send checklist.
Checklists are the lifeblood of any (every) marketing task. On a daily basis, there are too many items that need to be completed. Checklists will help you allocate your memory to more impactful items. This is true for most items when it comes to marketing but certainly is important when testing emails. One small hiccup can derail a campaign.
Don’t get hung up on unsubs – they are a part of life.
Don’t take unsubs personally, every organization that utilized email marketing will get unsubs. They are simply a part of life. Now, with that being said, if you are experiencing a large number of unsubs (1%+) multiple emails in a row, break down your email process and see where you can make optimizations.
Follow the rules – GDPR, CAN SPAM, CCPA.
As mentioned above, there are a number of regulations that we, as marketers, need to follow to be within the bounds of GDPR, CAN SPAM and CCPA. Understand these regulations and follow them. I promise you, getting into a legal battle over email is always a losing battle. If you need further advice as to what is applicable to your organization, please contact a registered lawyer.
Do not purchase contacts.
Purchased lists used to be a fact of life, but as the consumer has become savvier, these lists do not drive the engagement or ROI that they used to. More often than not, with a purchased list you are going to aggravate your audience. Focus on organic growth through demand gen tactics like content creation, social media and email marketing. Quality over quantity is paramount when looking at email lists.
Clean your mailing list regularly – maintain your email list hygiene.
List hygiene is very important as email marketing maintains the number one spot on the podium for marketers. A properly maintained list will prevent your emails from getting stuck in spam traps and increase your overall KPIs. Some top tips for list hygiene are listed below:
- Remove inactive leads
- Segment rather than delete
- Avoid the spam filter
- Remove bounced or invalid emails
- Confirm email subscriptions
Use a subscription model to increase list size.
Now that we are working to create an organic list for your email communications, where do we start? The easiest and most effective manner is to create multiple registration points throughout your website that will allow users to sign up for your email list or newsletter. These opt-in points will also help you follow regulatory guidelines.
Use auto-responders for email registrations and opt-ins.
Actions taken on your website are a perfect place to get started with automation. Often the builds are fairly straightforward and will catch your audience when you are top of mind. Let your tech stack do the work here and free up your marketing team for more in-depth tasks.
Segmentation. Segmentation. Segmentation.
All customers and clients are not created equal and therefore should not be addressed with the same messaging. Segmenting your marketing lists will provide you with the opportunity to engage with each segment in the appropriate way.
Provide clear opt-in forms throughout your website.
Registrations forms placed throughout your website with a clear and concise call to action will help to engage your audience and develop your email marketing list. Understanding the optimal user experience for your domains will allow you to place these forms in high traffic areas where execution is more likely.
A/B test different subject lines to optimize open rates.
The easiest way to increase your open rate is to A/B test your subject lines. If your list size allows, take 10% of your audience (or a statistically significant portion) and send two different subject lines to each group. Use the winning subject line for the remaining 90%. Over time, this can significantly increase your overall open rate and your clickthrough rate.
Utilize incentives to increase open rate.
Subject lines are the gatekeep to your email, ensure that they are written to entice an open from your audience. Depending on your industry, there are a number of ways that this can be achieved. For retail or B2C, incentives are known to increase open and click-through rates.
Provide your audience with a compelling and concise reason to click.
Of all the emails in your audiences’ inbox, why should they open yours? What are you offering them that your competition is not? If you haven’t been thinking about these items, you should be, a properly crafted subject line can make or break an email marketing campaign.
Use the curiosity gap – what your readers know and what they want to know.
The curiosity gap is a psychological phenomenon that represents what we know and what we want to know. Many companies have utilized this over the years, but none have taken it to the level of BuzzFeed. Between its quizzes and listicles, BuzzFeed has become the expert at using the curiosity gap for its viewers.
Don’t use emojis, ever… for any reason.
Unfortunately for me, this is not a steadfast rule and you will get many different opinions about it. We will never recommend to our clients that they use emojis in their marketing emails.
Maintain email design that is consistent and on brand.
Consistency is key, whether we are talking about design, colors, frequency or tone and tenor. Over time, your audience will come to have expectations on what they are receiving from you. Find out what works for your business and double down on that. This does not mean that all of your emails need to follow the same format, but it does mean that your communications should have templates. For example, your newsletters, weekly updates, sales or other communications should all have a separate template.
Avoid using ‘No-Reply’ in the sender’s email address.
Under no circumstances should you be using a No-Reply email in any of your email communications. One of our main goals with email marketing is to create a connection with the audience, and No-Reply will ruin that! Creating a generic email is very simple to do and should be used with email communications. This can follow your team structure – sales@, marketing@ or you can create alias emails for individuals – mark@, carol@, etc.
Use a maximum of three typefaces.
Just like you wouldn’t paint every wall in your room a different color, there is no need to go overboard on email creative. A well designed email will speak for itself and the content will do the rest. Additional fonts, even as callouts, can reduce the professional feel of your email very quickly.
Optimize email for plain text.
Believe it or not, there are still a large number of users that view emails in plain text. Ensuring that your plain text version is optimized and reads naturally is imperative to campaign success.
A/B test different CTAs to increase click-through-rate.
Just like subject lines, CTAs can be A/B tested as well. CTA copy is an important part of any email as this is what will drive traffic to your website. Testing different copy options will allow you to optimize your click rate and success of the campaign.
Position the main message and call-to-action above the fold.
Remember back to the days of print, the front page was great but being above the fold was even better. This still applies today, you want the main message of your communication to be “above the fold,” meaning that the user should not have to scroll (at all) to perform an action.
Your email should be no more than 500-650 pixels wide.
With mobile becoming more and more popular, this is the optimal width to transition from desktop to mobile without stacking issues. There are some email builders that natively create at 800px, I have not experienced any mobile transition issues at this width.
Position your business logo on the top left-hand corner.
Top to bottom and left to right. That is how we read, positioning your logo in this area will almost ensure that you do not go unnoticed.
Always include an unsubscribe option in your emails.
Just like users should opt-in to email communications, they should be able to opt-out of email communications with ease. At Kinetic, we include an unsub in the footer of every email developed. Not only is this an important part of user experience, depending on your industry it can be law.
Add alt-text to images.
Remember those folks that still view emails in plain text? Adding alt-text to the images will then replace the non-existent image with copy. This is a great opportunity to paint a picture for your audience.
Optimize for mobile.
There is debate within the marketing community about when the design will move from mobile friendly to mobile-first. In my opinion, we are not far off. According to a study, 47% of people use their mobile devices as the primary device for viewing email, that trend has been increasing year over year. If your communications do not render correctly on mobile devices, you would be missing out on 50% of your audience.
Email content should be a close reflection of the landing page that it is driving to.
Don’t forget the value proposition.
The odds are that you are one of many businesses battling for viewer exposure. Why are you the right fit? Tell this to the viewer, if you don’t…who will?
Personalize email campaigns where it is appropriate.
Personalization can be very effective when communicating with qualified leads. There is a time and place for personalization. If done incorrectly, it can be unnerving for the users. Utilizing progressive profiling and keeping information on previous interactions – will tell you if personalized emails are the right way to go. Only use the information that your leads have provided to you.
Use humor very carefully.
Humor can be a great asset to any marketing campaign if, and only if, it fits within your organization AND your audience. Done incorrectly, humor can come across as tacky or in poor taste.
Encourage sharing of the content.
The sharing of content not only positions you as an authority but increases your viewership. Provide one-click options that will allow your audience to share the content on social media platforms.
Avoid the hard sell approach.
If you have spent any time with Kinetic, you know that we are not big fans of the hard-sell approach. There are many reasons for this but the main reason is this – your audience. Customers are more involved in the buying cycle, doing the majority of research on their pain points and the services available before they will ever reach out to you. Our goal is to always provide solutions and information that will address your target audience’s pain points. Appeal to their needs not to your products or services.
Send emails at the right time.
Timing is key and unfortunately, is different for every audience. Test out different times and days to learn when your audience is going to be most engaged with your content.
Develop and execute on a consistent emailing schedule – plan in advance.
A proper content schedule will keep you on track, let you know what has been shared and what is working. Always plan ahead, write content consistently and plan your email sends in advance, proper planning will keep you on schedule and on track.
Don’t over send to your email lists.
Have you ever heard of “Banner Blindness?” If not, it is the phenomenon used to explain why we, as consumers, either consciously or unconsciously ignore any banner-like information. On an average day, we are likely to be barraged with 10,000 ads. If we didn’t find a coping mechanism for this…we might go insane! The same thing can happen for emails. This is called email fatigue; you want your audience to recognize your email and be excited to open it because of the previous experiences they have had with your business.
I hope that you have found some helpful items in this document, I know that we covered a lot of topics in a very short amount of time. If you have any further question or would like to discuss email marketing in-depth, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital Director, Strategy and Innovation
Pierce Heska-McJannet is a data-driven marketer, and believes that “every decision should be based off of data.” He brings a passion for digital marketing to Kinetic as our digital specialist. He’s from Regina, Saskatchewan, and earned a degree in Business Marketing at the University of Oregon.
He has expertise in marketing automation, inbound marketing, SEO, PPC, social media, demand generation and other areas. His automated campaigns deliver actionable data to help clients create better campaigns. He works to increase customer engagement on a number of platforms.Read more about Pierce