Top 5 Elements of Successful Email Marketing Strategies
When it comes to email marketing, there’s more than one way to measure success. A multitude of metrics can indicate overall performance and present areas for improvement after the launch of a campaign. Taking a look at click-through-rates or open rates, how conversion rate was impacted by a certain email, or how much website traffic is being generated can identify the effectiveness of this kind of marketing initiative. To be successful with email marketing, strategies should be focused on fostering brand engagement and minimizing unsubscribers, all while maintaining strong branding.
Accomplishing all of the above is definitely feasible if the right strategy is created. You need extensive research, sometimes a bit of trial and error, and a thorough understanding of the audience you’re delivering messaging to. However most importantly, you need to implement a series of best practices in order to develop a strategic approach that enables you to achieve your core objectives. Here are 5 elements of email marketing that will help you make sure you’re getting the results you want:
Timing and Frequency
The timing with which you’re sending your email campaigns is one of the most important elements to focus on in an email marketing strategy. You may be located in New York, but perhaps a large portion of your target demographic is in a different time zone. The time of day when users receive emails can directly contribute to performance indicators like open-rate and click-through-rate. You can’t send the same message at the same hour to a global or national audience and expect to reach everyone. Segment your email lists based on the time zone recipients live in so that they’re receiving your emails at an hour that is convenient and appropriate for them.
If you’re looking to maximize user engagement with your emails, but aren’t sure when to send, a good place to start is by considering three core time slots—during the morning once your users are commuting or arriving at work, during the early afternoon on their lunch break, or in the evening late night once they are back in their homes. From there, think about your specific audience’s lifestyle habits and when they would be most likely to give some attention to your email. If you’ve launched email campaigns in the past take a look at the statistics provided by your email platform. For example, in MailChimp, you can see the metrics from previous campaigns and identify what time the most users were reached.
Aside from just the timing of your email, the frequency at which you disseminate your messages plays a major role in performance. The age of email blasting is over. Users have increasing email fatigue these days and won’t even open your emails if they are inundated with a plethora of emails. As a result, it is often the case that the more messages you send the less effective they will be. While your emails may have a short “shelf life” this doesn’t mean you should be sending a new one each and every day—that’s how you’ll get a surge in unsubscribers. Instead, keep your emails at two per week at most to ensure that you’re still reaching users and cutting through the clutter of their inbox. Depending on industry, sometimes two per month is even more fitting.
The importance of a terrific subject line cannot be stressed enough—it’s literally the first thing the user is reading and their first “personal” impression of your brand. An effective subject line sparks user interest and builds anticipation of what the email contains. You need just enough to get the user intrigued, while still staying true to your brand in under 60 characters. It’s okay to think a little outside the box and let some creativity flow with subject lines, but keep in mind that more often than not, simplicity works best. The best subject lines find a happy medium between oozing creativity and being straight to the point of why you’re emailing a user, and make sure that it also fits your company’s branding.
The goal of a subject line is to entice recipients to open the message, but to also click through the email. For that reason, consistency as you go from the subject line to the actual content of the email is crucial. You can’t say something “clickbaity” just so that users open the message, only to disappoint them upon finding no relevancy to what they originally saw in their inbox. This instills a poor sense of trust with your brand and almost guarantees that users won’t take a desired action.
If you have an idea for a subject line but are unsure if it’s fitting with your brand, never be afraid to ask others around you for feedback. Sometimes, an outsider’s perspective can shed some much needed light onto your ideas. Similarly, segmenting your lists into two groups and testing out different subject lines provides you with hard data about what which subject lines resonate best with users. Discovering what works best with the people whose opinions you value most (your users’) is incredibly important.
Content: Visuals and Copy
Images speak louder than words, and this holds true with any successful email marketing strategy. In general there should always be more visuals than copy in an email. Users don’t want too much to read, they want to be able to quickly skim easy-to-digest content and have a full understanding of the central messaging. If you have a lot of content to offer your audience surrounding a particular subject addressed in your email, direct users to a landing page on your website where they can read the rest or review the full article. Don’t contain it all in the message.
A good portion of the copy used in your emails should be in the CTA. In every email, there is an action that you want recipients to take. Whether it’s “Buy Now,” “Request A Quote,” “Download Now,” or “Read More,” if the messaging is too wordy, the CTA will get lost. Instead, make sure these buttons are vibrant and prominent in comparison to the rest of the message, while still fitting with the design theme. Any CTA is a major component of your core-messaging, so if you aren’t concise with the rest of your wording, it may go overlooked.
Since images are vital to the success of an email marketing campaign, you want to make sure they are loading appropriately and quickly for users. Use a file optimizing tool to ensure images load efficiently. If users are waiting for an image to load, they’ll likely skip to the next email or delete the message. That being said, sometimes technology is faulty or an email service provider requires users to choose to see images and as a result images may not load. If you include relevant image alt tags on the visuals you include, users will have at least some context as to what the visuals are intended to be if they aren’t appearing right away. This little effort can go a long way with providing a good user-experience for recipients.
Recently, more and more companies are experimenting with the inclusion of GIFs in their email campaigns. Sometimes, this can be a challenging feat because not all email platforms will load them correctly, or they will load only the frame of the GIF instead of providing users with the full effect. If you’re considering utilizing this type of visual in your emails, thoroughly test it on a variety of platforms, and if it’s going to be frozen on one particular frame, make sure it’s an image that’s able to stand alone and still give users a complete understanding of what the content is about.
Photo Credit: Jason Rodriguez
Optimization for All Devices
Long gone are the days where all users accessed their inbox from the same email platform on their desktops. Today users are connected to email through smartphones, tablets, desktops, with a wide range of devices to choose from within those general categories. The way one person views an email isn’t the same way another person does, so to ensure that accessibility isn’t jeopardized for any users, a responsive design email is typically the best solution. This way all recipients on nearly every device and platform imaginable have a user-friendly experience with your email and are able to view it as intended. If you aren’t using a responsive design, investigate what devices the majority of your users are on, and ensure that the email is tailored to those functionalities and set up for that platform.
In today’s era of being constantly connected to the internet, the majority of users are on mobile – regardless of vertical. This actively growing audience is on-the-go and expects the brands they engage with to understand that. Clickable items on a mobile device should be optimized for a touch screen thumb—not a mouse—and shouldn’t require the user to do any extra work (zooming in or zooming out) to view the images in the message.
While you can focus on a certain group of users, ideally, you should be optimizing your email campaigns for your entire audience—which means whatever device they are checking their mail on. Litmus is a tool that allows you to see how your email would render on multiple devices and platforms before you send it. Give it a look through before you launch any email campaign.
Content you provide users with through email initiatives should be relevant and provide significant value. Marketing to the user as an individual and using personalization no longer needs to be exemplified by addressing them with first and last name. Similar to a conversion funnel, an email funnel allows you to target users with more specific content as they show signs of progressive interest and come closer to becoming a customer.
If a user is in your email database after signing up for your newsletter on a specific blog post, you can segment your lists based on relevant content that they have demonstrated interest in. By personalizing emails in a step-by-step process based on relevance, the effectiveness of your messages will be much greater as the content is related to what initially caused them to interact with your brand.
Perhaps you have a newsletter sign up on your blog, and after reading an article on email marketing the user provides you with their contact information. Sending them a follow up email that addresses logo design will not fulfill their needs, and will seem arbitrary given their reason for signing up. Instead, set up a specific email funnel for users within that group. Send them a whitepaper that goes into further detail about email marketing, and if they open email they move further down the funnel, where they’ll receive another email providing them with content that makes sense given their latest read.