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Email is more relevant than ever. Even as our inboxes are flooded with spam, it still gets about 4x higher ROI than any other digital channel.
To achieve such performance, however, it’s not nearly enough to keep blasting your email list with the same generic offers and newsletters. As with any other area of digital marketing, email is a changing subject to the development in technology and industry practices. To keep your email marketing profitable, you need to keep up to date on the latest trends that affect the industry. And you need a reliable tool that allows you to take advantage of these new trends.
This article covers the essential features you need in 2017 to do email marketing well and some of the tools that can give you those features.
What You Need to Do Email Marketing Well
Before you can start exploring the features you need with email marketing, you should consider what things you want to improve in your email marketing strategy. Are you looking to feed a lead nurturing funnel that gets total strangers to becomes loyal customers? Or do you have many users who sign up for your service, but never use it, who you want to re-engage with email?
Getting clarity about these questions will help you in your selection. With that in mind, there are some features that you’ll need, whatever your plan is for email.
Templates and Customization
As a minimum, you want an email tool that includes at least some templates and has an advanced builder that you can use to customize those templates to fit your needs. Even if working with a dedicated designer is available, you’d still be better if the tool you’re using allows you to edit emails on the go, without requiring the specialized skill set of a front-end developer.
Most email products nowadays have an editor that can be used to customize the emails you send out, however, these vary a lot in how useful they are. My best advice is to test the email editor of every tool you’re considering to make sure you’re comfortable using it.
Segmentation and Personalization
The first step when you want to up your email marketing game is to stop sending your campaigns to your full audience. Learning how to split your list into segments, and sending email campaigns that are tailored to the demographics and interests of each group of email subscribers is the low-hanging fruit that can push your open and clickthrough rates up.
As you start collecting more information about your customers, you can use it to personalize the emails that you’re sending out. Before you start bragging—adding the name of the person you’re emailing is not enough. Personalizing your emails based on information such as where they live or what products they bought in the past is much more powerful and can yield better results.
Barney Shoes is an online retailer using email to run special promotions and get customers to buy from their online store. Instead of sending the same campaign that includes promotion on men’s and women’s shoes to their whole list, Barney segments their list based on demographics data they have about their customers and sends separate email campaigns to men and women.[/box]
This is where email marketing gets really interesting. Automating your email campaigns allows you to do some really interesting things with email. Paradoxically, it’s also automation that allows you to get really personal with your marketing—first by sending very relevant emails to your list and then by targeting only the most engaged part of it with your manual communication and nurturing efforts.
In the first level of automation, you should use simple behavioral triggers to design automation flows. These can include things like (not) opening an email within a certain timeframe, clicking on a call-to-action, visiting a specific page on your website, etc.
Barney Shoes uses segmentation to send out a promotional campaign to women aged 18-34. They notice that a significant proportion of their audience opens their email, but never clicks on any of the links in it. Barney’s team thinks that’s because they’re looking for shoes for a family member, for example their young kids. That’s why the team uses marketing automation to create a campaign in which those recipients who never click on a link in the initial email, receive a follow-up email, which highlights Barney’s range of kids shoes.[/box]
Later, you can build upon your success with automation, by taking information about user behavior from your CRM and/or analytics tool and using that to send very targeted emails. For example, if you know that a customer has added items to their shopping basket, but left before making an order, you can follow up with a cart abandonment email, which shows them the items they were about to order and allows them to return to a pre-filled basket.
Reports and Analytics
Having access to reliable data about the performance of your email campaigns is critical because it serves as the basis on which you can start improving your email marketing performance. Luckily, most email marketing services already have this built-in.
However, email becomes really powerful when the software you’re using allows you to integrate data from your email campaigns with any other tools you’re using for analytics and customer management. For example, if you’re using Woopra, you can send the data from your email provider to it to build a more detailed funnel, which gives you better information on which customers are close to conversion. Moreover, you can use information about the behavior of customers on your website to trigger automation campaigns from Woopra in your email marketing tool.
After sending out the kids’ shoes campaign, Barney closely tracks the behavior of its audience. They notice in their analytics tool that a fair amount of people review the kid’s range and even specific models, but leave the site without completing an order. Barney’s team uses this information to build a custom automation campaign in which an email with a discount code is sent after 24 hours to customers who review at least one model but never complete an order.[/box]
The Tools That Can Help You Do Email Marketing Better
Campaign Monitor is one of the most versatile email marketing tools out there. It’s perfect for mid-market companies that are growing fast as it is very flexible in its features and pricing.
Campaign Monitor gives you an easy way to create email campaigns without the help of a dedicated designer. The software gives you powerful capabilities to segment your list and personalize the emails you send, which still feel easy to use. With it, you can run marketing automation campaigns (or personalized “customer journeys” as they call them) and analyze the results of your campaigns.
The great thing about Campaign Monitor is that it allows you to get started with just the right plan depending on the size of your email list and the features you want to use and expand as your appetite for email marketing (and the size of your list) grows.
Marketing Cloud is Salesforce’s all-in-one solution for running campaigns across email, social media, advertising, web, and mobile. It allows marketers to create highly-sophisticated personalized campaigns that connect with customers across multiple touch-points.
Marketing Cloud is aimed at larger companies that run complex campaigns, but of course, that doesn’t prevent less experienced marketers to use the software, especially if they think they’ll need all the capabilities it offers down the road. The great thing about such solutions is that they offer everything your company might need out of the box.
However, the downside of that is that it can be quite difficult to get Marketing Cloud up and running. As your appetite for the product expands, you’ll often find yourself dedicating resources—designers, 1-2 employees who own the product, getting people to go through training, etc.—to keep up with the goals you want to achieve with it.
Ramping Up Your Email Marketing
Emailing your customers might seem intimidating at first, but the truth is that people love to receive relevant and useful emails. By following the advice above you can start producing campaigns that will be anticipated by your audience and will make your customers more loyal.
Most importantly, don’t feel obliged to start with a super-complex campaign that uses behavioral data to run multi-step sequences. Start small—with a simple announcement or a weekly newsletter—and build from there. Seeing initial results is likely to keep you motivated and hungry to try more.
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Ilia Markov is a digital marketing consultant and a Michigan MBA. He helps brands benefit from inbound and content marketing, and establish meaningful presence on social media.