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Email Marketing Continued

Missy Hildebrand | November 12, 2014 Comments
Email Marketing Continued
In a previous post we debunked the myth that email marketing is on its deathbed. We concluded that reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated and the hysteria around the notion only shows that email is more important than ever. Email continues to be the one channel your audience accesses on a regular basis. 
 Email Marketing Continued
 

What is true is that the old school methods of bombarding your subscribers are no longer effective. This will land you directly into the spam folder and even worse, destroy any trust (or opportunity to build it) with your customers. Email marketing is continuously evolving and growing. As a result, traditional paradigms are no longer cutting it.  We need to face the new challenge of email today which is understanding our consumers and engaging with them using relevant content that speaks to them individually, one-on-one. In order to do that, our email marketing must become more trusted, relevant, and conversational. Because when you really think about it, your subscribers pay the most attention to emails that come from friends and family - the ones in which they have a trusted relationship.  The relationship between a consumer and a brand can never, of course, be the same as those between families, but we can close the gap by marketing to the buyer in a natural, non-salesy way that will really resonate with him.  The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing at all.

To really succeed at this, your marketing emails must be trustworthy, relevant, and conversational.
 

TRUSTWORTHY
I'm sure we’ve all heard some sort of sappy quote that dwells on the importance of trust and how there can be no relationship without it.  If it’s important in your day to day relationships then you can probably guess it’s just as important between you and your consumers. If you don’t have trust, what do you have? Probably low opens, clicks, and conversions. You are also probably more likely to be marked as spam.

Spam is not a term that we like to be tied to. When we hear it, we usually think of a nasty can of meat, or worse, the opposite of engagement, which means losing potential buyers and opportunity. Consumers will consider any of these to be spam:

•    Email they don’t want
•    Email they don’t expect
•    Email that prompts them to hit the "spam" button
•    Email they signed up for but later decided against it
•    An easy way to opt-out

It’s essential to develop trust with your subscribers so they don’t mark your email as spam. Only trust will open the gates to your customers’ inbox and into their lives.  
Email Marketing Continued
So how do we build the trust?
 
Consistency:
A great way to start building the trust factor is to be consistent with your emails.  We are creatures of habit and routine – it gives us comfort and makes life easier. When unexpected events happen in our lives we tend to be annoyed or feel dread. The same goes for unexpected emails.  When you are consistent, your subscribers will recognize your emails the moment they arrive.  We can also use consistency to "train" our subscribers to anticipate our emails, as well as take certain actions such as click through to a landing page. Predictable routines create security, or trust, and deter negative reactions such as unsubscribes or spam clicks.

Setting Expectations:
Expectations tie directly into building trust. It’s essentially the "promise" of the relationship that is to unfold. We need to set the proper expectations during the opt-in process and fulfill the expectation with every email. A properly executed opt-in process will set the foundation and a positive notion of what the consumer should expect, and how they should expect it.  This will also build a quality email list for your business.

There are a variety of ways to set the expectation and build your list, including:

•    Single opt-in: Subscribers enter their email address and possibly other information and are immediately subscribed.  This requires the least amount of effort for both you and the consumer.
•    Single opt-in with "Welcome" or "Thank You" email: User signs up and receives welcome or thank you email that includes customized messaging to explain what to expect in future emails and when to expect them.
•    Confirmed or double opt-in: A new subscriber enters an email address /other information and receives an email that requires him to click and confirm the subscription.

There are pros and cons to each method, but the most important thing to remember is no matter the method, you should somehow establish what your users can expect from you moving forward. You can accomplish this on your opt-in page or the "Welcome / Thank You" email /page. Including a welcome message or thank you message tells your subscriber that they’ve successfully opted-in and answers those questions on what happens next. It’s a great opportunity to stand out from the pack, and heck, it’s just good manners to say "Thank you"!

Once you establish expectations you better make sure you meet them (or say goodbye to the trust you’re trying to build). If you tell your users you’ll send a weekly email and then harass them daily, they will quickly ignore your messages, unsubscribe, or mark them as spam. Determining when you should send your emails can be tricky and there is no perfect or best time to deploy them despite what some people will tell you.  It will be something you need to consistently tweak and test to find what works best for you. How often you send will depend on the level of perceived value you deliver in your emails. However, for most businesses, once a day is too much. A general rule is if you find yourself wondering if you’re sending too many emails, you probably are.

Deliverability:
These days email software is getting better at filtering out spam, which is great because it makes it easier for engaging emails to get through.  But without a focus on deliverability, sometimes quality messages can get lost in the junk folder.

Deliverability is more about your reputation than the actual content of your emails (that doesn’t mean content isn’t important!), so you need to pay attention to how your emails are being delivered.  How your recipients engage with your emails is a huge factor in future deliverability.  Email providers will analyze which emails are being opened and clicked through in order to determine whether emails from a particular sender are spam.  If users are not opening or clicking a certain type of email, they are banished to the spam folder.

Content is still a key player in deliverability, as you don’t want to include "spammy" messaging.  If you find your messages are landing in spam folders despite adhering to best practices, you might want to review your content. When it comes to content, look at the emails in your own junk folder and don’t do what they’re doing!

To help ensure your emails get to your customers’ inbox, here are a few quick tips:

•    Set the right expectation
•    Use responsible methods for building your lists
•    Choose a solid email service provider
•    Manage complaint rate
•    Monitor reputation metrics

RELEVANCY
Buyers today expect marketers to know almost everything about them in order to create a personalized user experience. This means you need to know who your audience is and what they want from your emails. Impersonal or irrelevant messages will make your customers think you don’t even know who they are, or that you don’t understand them or their needs. If you’re not sending the right content to the right person, your subscribers will emotionally opt-out or unsubscribe all together.
 

Think about the experience when you shop on Amazon.com. This is a great example of delivering relevant content to the user. When a consumer shops on Amazon they look for recommendations to be handed to them based on previous purchases or views. Your subscribers now expect that same experience with your emails, especially if they are sharing information with your business. That data needs to be put to good use.

Segmentation & Targeting:
You can use customer information to segment your subscribers in a variety of ways, and then target specific emails to those segments. There are two main ways to segment; who they are (demographics) and what they’ve done (behaviors and/or transactions). Knowing who they are and how they behave gives you valuable insights on how to effectively engage with them and serve up relevant content.  This starts to create that personal touch your users are expecting and shows that you "get them".

Content (again):
Content always matters. Your content should be "humanistic" – personalized and likeable. It should be helpful or at the very least, entertaining. This goes for all parts of the email, from the subject line to the body. Remember, your subscribers don’t want to feel like they are being marketed to, so making your content as human and relevant as possible is essential. Most emails will serve one of the following purposes:

•    Transactional – operational email related to a purchase or confirmation
•    Promotional – stimulate action
•    Alert / Reminder– triggered by an event or behavior
•    Relationship development – maintain / build relationship
•    Communication – update or communicate information

The content of your email should be appropriate for its purpose.
 

Design: 
Now that you’ve gotten your subscriber to open your email it’s important to think about what they see.  Remember that many email clients now block all images by default so users will need to take the extra step to unblock if they want to see them. Create buttons that look like images and use image alt tags so that recipients who have blocked the images know what they’re missing. Also, focus on what will appear above the fold in a preview pane on desktops and mobile devices.

Remember that Flash, JavaScript, video, and other rich media won’t work in an HTML email, and provide plain text versions for subscribers who simply don’t like HTML versions.

Testing:
How do you know you’re actually being relevant? You absolutely need to test and see what is resonating with your audience.  There is no "one-size-fits-all" to email marketing as every business is different. The most popular element to test is the subject line, followed by the message itself.  But there certainly are other parts of your email that will be testable as well including call to actions, time of day sent, lay out and images, landing page, days of the week sent, and more.

Always remember to start simple with your testing, and to test one element at a time. If you test more than one element you won’t be able to tell which variation drove the success. Control the time of day and day of the week you’re testing to eliminate the time variant if that is not what you’re aiming to test. And of course, listen to what your tests tell you!

CONVERSATIONAL
We’ve already established that the batch and blast method of email marketing is out the door. Your subscribers have made it clear they expect personal and relevant emails. By ensuring our emails are trustworthy and relevant, we now have the opportunity to listen and respond to our customers at every stage of the purchasing journey. This keeps them engaged and moves them through the sales funnel. It means that your emails should flow in logical order and create a personalized conversation with your subscribers. As marketers, we need to listen and adapt, then send messages that flow one to the other. Creating a conversation (rather than just another campaign) ties directly to our previous point about making emails relevant.  You start a conversation with the existing knowledge you have of your customer, and then continue to watch their behavior as they interact with your campaign. When the user performs a certain action, you should be able to respond with a relevant message that continues the conversation in the direction the customer is heading.

IN CONCLUSION
Consumers’ today demand that our emails be trusted, relevant, and conversational. We must truly engage our customers and move beyond traditional email marketing as we used to know it. By establishing trust with our consumers and delivering relevant content that they want, we can engage in meaningful conversations that will strengthen the relationship between them and our brand.  Stronger relationships create long lasting customers, which is something all businesses strive for.  Is your email marketing engaging enough to help meet this goal? Or is it simply sitting on the sideline as an afterthought?


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