Remember the days when brands and businesses would send you direct mail, or ask you to sign-up for their email updates while in-store?
Most of us threw out those postcards and physical mailers but would readily give our email addresses to our favourite stores or local businesses so we could stay in the loop. And maybe get a discount code or two!
But then, we’d remain on those email lists for years. Rarely would we unsubscribe from a brand’s email or newsletter for the off chance we’d receive a special offer or exclusive updates about new products.
Little did we know that those newsletter campaigns and emails were a very clever form of marketing known as email marketing - and contrary to popular belief, email is far from “dead”.
Customers today are used to communicating with brands through several channels; social media, text, online chat, and even email marketing. We no longer require face-to-face interactions in order to take advantage of unique offers, exclusive discounts, or to stay updated about new products and services. But with email marketing, it goes far beyond the discount code.
In this article, we’re going to break down how you can create an engaging email marketing strategy that will convert audiences into paying customers. Ready? Let’s dive in.
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is quite literally the marketing practice of sending curated emails to prospects and customers, with the goal of converting audiences into loyal, paying customers. Email marketing is used interchangeably with “newsletter marketing” and they are much the same, in that the goal of both is to market something to a targeted list of customers.
It’s been around for a long time, not only because it can be an extremely cost-effective marketing tool, but because it allows for direct communication with your customers.
Not only can you communicate directly with them, but you can also create different lists of customers also known as “segments” and target different groups of customers at different times throughout their buying journey with you.
Studies have shown that, for every $1 spend on email marketing, businesses see an average return of $42! That means that businesses like yours could be making a profit from their email marketing initiatives, without much “grunt work”.
Why should you be using email marketing?
Would it surprise you to learn that 81% of small-medium sized businesses rely on email marketing as their primary channel for customer acquisition?
And for good reason.
Unlike social media or digital advertising campaigns, where your accounts and ads are constantly competing with those of other businesses, email marketing allows you to truly own your list or lists of customers - no one can take these leads (potential customers) away from you, and the only real risk of loss is in having customers unsubscribe.
It’s also a high-converting sales channel. People check their email consistently throughout the day, and if there’s an incentive to open your email, customers will faithfully remain part of your email list (often for months or years). This means consistent opportunities to market your brand and products to audiences filled with existing and future customers.
What are the top benefits of email marketing?
With email marketing, you can reap the rewards of digital communication that allows you to almost hyper-target your customers! Some of the top benefits of email marketing include:
Constant source of traffic to market to
Cost-effective method of reaching your customers versus social or digital advertising
Simplified measurement of performance (open rates, click through rates, etc)
Independence because you own your list (no one can take it away from you!)
Link to other marketing channels (like social media)
How do you create an email marketing strategy?
This is the exciting part! Because this is where we dive into the “how” behind building out your email marketing strategy. Let’s outline the steps you need to take to get started so that you can work at building your email lists and nurture an engaging email marketing strategy.
Set your goals
Before you dive into creating an email strategy, it’s important to first outline what your goals are.
This will give you clarity on what you hope to accomplish by using email marketing but will also inform your strategy. Consider asking yourself the following questions:
How will email marketing benefit my business?
Why do I want to use email marketing?
What am I ultimately looking to achieve?
Will I do this for the long-term?
If you dive into email marketing without knowing what your real goals for it are, you’re likely to end up spending time and resources on a strategy that doesn’t convert!
Determine your main KPIs
Marketers love to geek out on KPIs, and for email marketing, there’s no exception!
KPIs - otherwise known as “key performance indicators” - are very important in email marketing, because these indicators tell you what’s work, what’s not working, and how you have to adapt your strategy.
Some of the main KPIs that people track with email marketing include:
While these are just a few of the KPIs you can measure, it’s important to keep in mind that the KPIs you measure will depend on what your goals are. This will help you better analyze and understand your campaigns so you can adapt your strategy as you need to.
Start with an email/newsletter provider
There are more than enough email/newsletter platforms out there today that give you the option of sending simple newsletters to robust email campaigns, but the platform you use is based entirely on what works best for you.
For example, brands or influencers that sell online courses or training often use email marketing platforms like ConvertKit because they allow for robust email streams with different steps and triggers depending on the actions that people take on the emails.
But you may only need or want to send an email/newsletter 2-3 times per month, and so a free account with a platform like MailChimp could work perfectly for you.
Ultimately, you want the email platform to be easy to use and allow you to target multiple lists of customers. Speaking of lists…
Create customer lists or “segments”
A “segment” is really just a group of email subscribers that you market to differently versus other groups of email subscribers. And most businesses create segments in their email marketing because some customers will be at different stages of the buying process with you than others.
Let’s say, for example, that you have a pop-up on your website that offers people a 5% discount on their first purchase when they sign-up to join your newsletter list. Those people could be an entirely separate segment from those who join your newsletter list after reading a blog article.
By segmenting your customer lists, you have more control over which products you market to specific customers, and how you nurture your relationship with potential customers.
Develop content templates
Most email platforms will allow you to create your own templates or customize pre-built templates that have all of the elements you need to create engaging emails, every time.
The benefit of creating templates for different types of emails (like special offer emails, brand update emails, birthday discount emails, etc) is that it lightens your load in creating content from scratch every time you want to schedule an email to be sent out to your audiences.
This is especially important if you have a limited email marketing budget - platforms like MailChimp have a breadth of pre-built templates where you just drag-and-drop content, then add in your branding (like logo and colours).
Always have a CTA
The main purpose of your email marketing strategy is to drive sales.
Even when you’re just touching base with your customers to provide brand updates or a fun/themed email (maybe for a National holiday, for example), you ultimately want the people opening your email to take some sort of action!
And that’s where your CTA comes in.
A CTA - otherwise known as a “call to action” - is the copy you use to drive someone to take an action. If you’ve ever opened an email and have seen a button or large call-out with text like “Shop The New Collection” or “Get 20% Off”, then you’ve seen a call to action.
The key in creating a great call to action is keeping it simple and to the point. For example, if you’ve just released a new dog food flavour or line of products, you don’t want to confuse your audiences or customers. Instead, you’d want to use copy such as “Shop Our New Dog Food” or “Click Here to Try Our New Dog Food!”.
The more clear a call to action is, the easier it will be for your audiences to take action because they’ll know exactly what they have to do.
Establish a cadence
One of the questions we suggested you ask yourself (above) when setting your goals for email marketing was to consider whether you’re going to do this for the long-term.
And that’s really because email marketing works best when done consistently!
When customers get used to a cadence of communication from a brand, it can create a poor customer experience when that brand drops the ball. For instance, if you send out an email/newsletter every week, then suddenly start sending emails out just once per month, customers can quickly become confused and may even ignore your emails.
Instead, you want to establish a realistic cadence or “schedule” of how often you’ll be able to create and send out emails/newsletters, bearing in mind your goals. This benefits you because you’ll be driving people to your products, but it also helps your customers feel like you care enough about them to stay in touch consistently, and offer them value.
Schedule with your KPIs in mind
When it comes to actually scheduling and sending your campaigns, the dates and times at which you send your emails/newsletters can be crucial for the success of each email campaign.
There are many resources that can help you determine when the best dates and times are to send out emails (like Tuesdays at 10am EST), but ultimately, these “best times” will boil down to what works for you and your audience.
That’s because your audiences will differ from other audiences, so what works for 5 other businesses may not necessarily work for you! Scheduling should always mean doing so with your KPIs in mind testing what works best.
And there are a few ways to do this:
Test different dates and times
Test these different dates and times among your different lists
Measure which dates and times result in the best KPIs for your goals
Use your email platform’s built-in analytics to monitor what works best
Note these times for future campaigns to narrow down 1-2 days and time ranges that work
Finally, always aim to drive real value
Ultimately, the best way for your email marketing strategy to engage and convert is to drive real value. And that’s not always in the form of discounts or special offers.
Many of the best email campaigns, for example, focus on educating, informing, and communicating with their audiences in a conversational way - maybe they share blog articles, content upgrades, tutorials or how-to videos, customer testimonials, letters from brand founders, and more.
All of these info pieces create a sense of authenticity and trust between brands and their audiences, because the customers get real value from reading the emails or newsletters.
And where there’s real value to be found, there’s customer loyalty to be had. So, when you do share discount codes, special offers, exclusive freebies, or insider brand updates, your customers will be that much more excited to buy from you!
Is email marketing right for you?
Overall, the goal of any email marketing strategy is to drive sales, but it’s not as simple as sending discount codes. It’s about building a following of customers who care about the content you’re sharing and find value in buying from you. Email marketing is such a powerful tool for marketing your business, and if you’re ready to take that next step, we’re here to help you do just that.