Email has been around for decades. The first email was sent in 1971. By the late 1990’s, adoption of email had soared.
Twenty years later, we’ve seen many incarnations of email marketing as technology has changed and marketers have had to find new ways to reach their audiences. We frequently hear claims that email is a dying channel, yet this doesn’t play out in research.
Email marketing best practices for 2019 are another evolution in the cycle, although there is a crucial element that remains unchanged; effective email content is about your audience. Here we’re outlining some key challenges and best practices for email marketing strategy in 2019:
The rumors of the death of email marketing have so far proven to be just that – rumors. There is still a significant audience for email marketing. In fact, take a look at these stats from OptinMonster – the audience is basically anyone over 15-years-old!
One of the important basic steps to take with any sort of marketing strategy is to clearly define who your target audience is first. Email is still relevant and used by most customer types you can think of, but it won’t be the best channel for all of them. Do your own research into your intended target audience to understand their preferences.
OptinMonster further delves into statistics on email marketing and shows that, while email is now an “old” channel, it’s still more likely to reach its intended recipient than social media. With algorithm changes on social channels, reaching your audience organically can be challenging, whereas you can see in the data below, industry averages for email open rates are much higher.
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Once upon a time, emails were something of a novelty. The movie You’ve Got Mail highlighted how everyone used to notice when they got an email and there was some level of excitement over it.
The basis of most challenges that we have with email marketing now is that we don’t notice our emails anymore. The average office worker now receives 121 emails per day. We are so bombarded with emails, texts, pings, tweets and any other form of communication that it can be overwhelming. The biggest challenge for today’s email marketers is finding a way through all the noise.
Here are some of the most common problems that businesses have with email marketing:
The good news is that all of these issues are fixable with the right email marketing strategy in place.
Before we move onto some tips for getting results from your email marketing, take a peek at these insights from a Litmus poll on the biggest challenges facing email marketers. The answers given by those surveyed provide some clues as to how those issues we’ve highlighted might come about (although some are very specific to larger companies).
How many can you identify that could also be an issue in smaller businesses? We see several: low insight into performance, poor tools, lack of quality data, bad strategy…
If you’re going to do email marketing in 2019, then you need to approach your email campaigns strategically. Emailing like it’s 1999 won’t work! Here are a few marketing tips for better results:
One of the first email marketing best practices is quite simple – every good marketing strategy has established goals. Principally, each individual email marketing campaign should establish who you want to reach and what you want them to do.
The goals you have will dictate the type of campaign you should send and the email content to include. Here are a few typical examples of email marketing goals:
Importantly, having goals to work toward allows you to measure and understand whether your email marketing campaigns are effective. If you send an email with a goal of getting conversions but find that there are less than you had hoped, you can start to drill down on why that is happening. We know that email marketing can work very well, so what’s holding your campaigns back?
What makes for an effective email? To begin with, you need to get the mechanics right. Here are a few important points to understand:
According to a survey by DMA Insights, 53% of consumers say that they receive too many irrelevant emails from companies. This often happens when companies take a “spray and pray” approach to email campaigns. They blast out the same email to everyone at once, no matter what their interests are or how they came to be on the email list.
The bottom line is that a more personalized approach where you segment your list (such as by interest, or by stage of the buyer’s journey), will improve open rates, engagement rates and your overall conversion rate.
Personalizing email content is often pegged as one of the hot email marketing trends for 2019, but realistically, it goes beyond a trend. Ensuring that your emails are relevant to the people receiving them is one of the core best practices of any type of marketing.
Here’s where it gets interesting – while we’ve known about list segmentation for years, today’s technology allows us to go even deeper. We’ve got more automations available based on customer behavior, for example. You can set up “rules” that say “if they do this, then send them that email.”
The use of “big data” to gather insights that further help to personalize content is also growing. However, along with that has come a surfeit of data. There is so much available that your average marketer often can’t possibly analyze it all on their own. Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to sort, analyze and report on data.
What does this mean for email marketing? AI can allow you to go beyond segmentation to get even more personal with your emails. Several modern marketing platforms are enabling this use of AI so that businesses can automate a more personalized approach (because who has time to craft each email personally?)
As Smart Insights puts it:
“People have come to expect retailers to deliver content that recognizes their unique tastes and interests. For marketers, that means segmentation just won’t cut through the clutter: to drive engagement, email content must appeal to the individual on a personal level.”
When it comes to new subscribers, think quality over quantity. This means building your email list the right way with the right people on it, such as via a landing page with an opt-in, not by buying email lists or importing from dubious sources.
In fact, new data protection laws are often prohibitive of sneaky old ways of building an email list. The EU GDPR is big on “permission based marketing,” meaning that you should have obtained consent from people in order to email them. For businesses in countries outside of the EU, this is important to know – the laws apply to you if you are considered to be storing or processing the data of any EU citizens.
Outside of data protection laws, it just makes good sense to have appropriate permissions to email people. You’re not doing your reputation any favors if you blast out emails to any address you can get your hands on. Besides that, there is definitely a trend pointing to the tightening of data protection laws – we don’t know whether the US or others may follow the EU example.
With GDPR compliance in mind (because let’s face it, you don’t know who might fill out an opt-in form on your website), you need to explicitly get permission to continue to send emails to people. You can’t assume that just because they’ve filled out a form requesting your lead magnet that they can now be subscribed to your newsletter. You need to get their permission without pre-checking any boxes for them, like the example from SuperOffice shown below:
Using some type of “lead magnet” – a giveaway that entices people to sign up with you is still a great strategy for growing your list. The trick is to choose something that is most likely to encourage the right people to sign up, usually something that will be of specific value to your target market.
If you were to say, offer a drawing for a new iPad in return for signing up, then you’d probably get a lot of people who just want an iPad but otherwise aren’t a great fit for your business. When you offer something that answers a specific pain point or really will only be of interest to someone who is a genuine fit, you get a better quality list.
Your email content should vary with the goals of your marketing campaign and the specific stages or needs of the email recipient. OptinMonster describes email types as either promotional emails, relational emails or transactional emails. Each has their own purpose to fulfill:
An effective email is one that the recipient expects to get and that delivers value to them. Even the welcome email can be used to say more than just “hi.” Think about anything useful you might be able to include to get the subscriber started. Other transactional emails can also offer a bit more value, for example, what if your purchase confirmation included a video about how to use the product?
Promotional emails tend to be more effective if they’re not sent out constantly (unless your business is something like Groupon where people expect to be sent emails on different deals). Otherwise, you don’t want your email list to become immune to receiving offers from you.
As for your relational emails, keep one core principle at their heart – sharing something valuable. If you don’t have a lot to say in your weekly newsletter this week, think about one relevant snippet that your audience may find useful. Engagement rates remain strong when you avoid emailing just for the sake of sending something.
Of note from recent trends in email marketing is the emergence of interactive emails. These emails allow people to take action from within the email, rather than be taken to another site when they click on a call to action. For example, a customer who bought a product may be able to give it a rating from within the email.
Email marketing strategy is always better if you use good-quality tools to help with the task. The best service providers include professional email design, the ability to create email automation sequences, and a useful analytics function so that you can monitor your campaigns.
If you go looking for an email service, you will find a large number of options available to you. These vary from free (with restrictions on subscriber and email numbers), to hundreds of dollars per month. The difference is generally in the features available. The higher-cost providers tend to offer more ability to segment lists and to automate functions. These are often great for companies with a large list, but a small business with a smaller list may be able to achieve their goals by starting out with a free account from someone like Mailchimp.
One hint for improving your odds of a better response is to use tools that help you to avoid making mistakes. From the client perspective, it’s just not a great look to receive error-laden emails, emails that don’t open properly, or emails with simple mistakes (like calling them “Jenny” instead of “Danny!”). Email tools such as GetResponse allow you to test out your email in different, popular email clients before hitting send. This way you can avoid some of the more elementary mistakes that can wreck your marketing efforts.
When you test out your email, pay attention to how it reads. Is it easily skimmable? Does the formatting change at all for particular email clients? Think about the things that make your email “easy” for the reader.
Here are a few tips for what to consider when choosing an email provider:
A major component for getting results from your email marketing strategy is to measure and test your campaigns. You’ve got to have the right metrics defined (dependent on your goals) so that you’re taking action on things that make sense.
For example, it’s unlikely to be worth adjusting your landing page or wherever you’re sending people in the hopes of a conversion if you have poor click-through rates in the first place. If people aren’t clicking where you’d like them to, look more closely at testing things like:
You can also A/B test things like:
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Email marketing in 2019 is still a strong, relevant channel to engage with your customers. Of course, the caveat is that you can’t be using old “tactics” with your email campaigns. Today’s audience is more seasoned and savvy – they expect companies to deliver them value in emails, not another addition to their spam folder!
As with websites, software and any other touchpoint with a customer, think about the user experience for your email recipients. The most effective emails tend to be hyper-targeted to them and easy to interact with.
Remember to consider data protection issues and building your email list the right way. The trend for tougher laws on this isn’t going away – in fact there is a lot of consumer demand for it. With some simple planning and tools in place, you can build a quality email list of engaged subscribers.