Are Email Marketing Campaigns Relevant in 2018?

They can be. You’ve just got to roll with the times.

Sure, everyone has some sort of digital device with mobile apps and a gazillion ways to communicate, from WhatsApp to Google Allo, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram or Slack.

But that doesn’t mean email marketing is any less effective in 2018 than texting, using social media or a plethora of other communication apps.

It just means marketers need to adapt strategies in an ever-growing media landscape. And for email, that means tapping into video, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), motion graphics and more—and making it all look pretty on a device which fits in the palm of your hand. We’ll come back to this, so hold onto this thought.

Meanwhile, when you think about it, it’s not dissimilar to audiences which have remained dialed into radio for decades after the introduction of television.

 

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That’s because radio adapted its programming for listeners as they traded in vintage tube radio tabletop sets for portable transistor radios, eventually graduating to conventional (can receive AM and FM radio stations), and digital (can receive satellite broadcasts).

Television has undergone similar transitions and growth spurts, facing challenges of its own along the way. Yet, even in an age of YouTube and Netflix, broadcast TV still dominates traditional media.

So, as tempting as it might be to dive into new media so deeply that you leave behind tried-and-true methods such as email marketing, let’s take a fresh look at when and how to make it work for you.

Reach Marketing Communication Goals

Let’s begin with achieving your communication goals.

Who doesn’t like the idea of attracting more business? We’re confident the acquisition of new clients, and marketing to existing customers for repeat business, shows up on every business communication goal list. This includes:

  • Driving online leads, store and site traffic, and memberships
  • Promoting specific product(s), service(s) or messaging
  • Increasing contest participants or program sign-ups

Customer acquisition isn’t, however, the only reason to launch an email marketing campaign.

Sometimes, an email newsletter is just that. It contains news, events and announcements of interest to your audience. It is just as valid as it is to send promotional emails with percentage-off coupons or links to contests or surveys with clear calls to action.

Consider this when deciding whether to start one:

  • If you’re going to send monthly emails, how are you gaining subscribers?
  • Do you have a meaningful monthly content calendar to support your communication efforts?
  • Is your goal to complete an action or deepen relationships?
  • What is the schedule?
  • How many other emails are you sending monthly?

Another reason to launch an email marketing campaign is to re-purpose content you’ve used for a presentation, posted on a blog or elsewhere on your website such as a white paper or timely report. Email is a great way to introduce readers to your content. This is considered content syndication. And it’s a great platform to promote ideas that can set up your organization as an industry thought leader.

Content syndication can:

  • Increase blog traffic
  • Drive engagement among interested subscribers or content participants
  • Include more text
  • Offer high-level exposure to a brand
  • Provide content that can help educate the consumer

Questions to consider before launching a syndication project include:

  • Do you have a content hub to drive people?
  • How often do you produce content?
  • How often is content recycled?
  • How will you build your list?

Here are some additional issues email marketing can help your business address:

  • Deliver ongoing company or industry updates
  • Increase event attendance
  • Announce new products or services or updates
  • Follow up after an event is completed with a notification, alert or autoresponse
  • Send birthday greetings
  • Recapture sales otherwise lost to shopping cart abandonment
  • Offer discounts for recently browsed products
  • Provide product recommendations based on a previous purchase
  • Confirm a new account
  • Confirm an order shipment
  • Verify account termination
  • Deliver invoices
  • Remind customers of upcoming payments or deadlines
  • Reset passwords

Get Started

Once you’ve decided on a “why” to use email marketing, it’s time to consider “how.” Here’s a startup checklist to consider:

  • Do you have email addresses for current customers?
  • Can you buy a targeted list for the desired segment?
  • Do you have data to support implement cross or upsell promotions?
  • Do you have an incentive to drive engagement?

Uncovering the answers to these questions will help your organization prepare and organize.

Don’t Take Opens for Granted

Even the best email marketing campaign built with great content, both verbal and visual, will fail if you don’t provide sufficient enticement for recipients to open your message. This is where subject lines and preview text come in. They do the heavy lifting to get your message to pop from a sea of emails competing for attention.

In fact, 64% of people say they open an email because of a subject line.

One way your message can stand out includes using emojis (if it suits your brand) when others are not using them. If everyone else is using them, leaving them out will make your message visually different, and therefore noticeable.

Use words of interest without being cliché or spammy. The words which trigger spam filters change over time, so make sure to stay current. Be vigilant on keeping up with the trends to avoid having your emails filtered into oblivion because of one poor decision in your choice of words.

Subject lines also need to be compelling to get subscribers to click. Use a shocking statement, quote a statistic, ask a question or hint at something to create curiosity. And do it all in 30 characters or less to be sure your subject line doesn't get cut off on any device.

Finally, personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, so be sure to use personalization tags in places like the subject line and body copy to make messages feel tailor-made.

Take Advantage of Preview Text

Storefront windows have a long tradition of being dressed up with displays to draw visitors inside. Similarly, preview text, the short summary text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox, offers recipients a peek at what’s inside. If your subject line poses a question, for example, the preview text (sometimes referred to as pre-header text) can offer clues as to how your message might answer it.

Of course, you don’t want to fully give away your secret. You just want to pique the readers’ curiosity enough to get them to click on your email.

Remember, however, to stay true to your message. Using a trick just to get someone to open will backfire if you don’t deliver on your promise. When they see your brand in their inbox again, chances are they will be less willing to go along with the ruse.

Preview text can be longer than a subject line, but still should be no more than 40 to 50 characters, depending on the email client. It should pair nicely with the subject line. Don’t use spam words here either.

Use Quality Copy and Visuals

Best practices for writing email copy and producing images that will convert is a topic of discussion for another day, but here are tips related to the technical side of things:

  • Keep emails scannable (text should be less than 750 words)
  • Be sure to use web-safe fonts
  • Few email clients support web fonts, so stick to system fonts to ensure your email is viewed correctly on all email clients such as Outlook or Apple Mail
  • Include minimal images; Image to text ratio is no greater than 2:3
  • Links are designed as buttons to stand out
  • Build bulletproof buttons for CTAs to ensure the button(s) display with images off
  • Ideal font size for body copy is 14 pixels, with a minimum of 22 pixels for titles which provides decent readability on a mobile phone
  • Double-check your copy for spelling and grammar

Deliver Engaging Content

Okay, we promised to get back to taking advantage of tech to keep your content relevant. Here we go.

Imagine receiving an email promising a virtual tour of a store where you can browse your favorite aisle through the digital magic of 360° video. What if you could do more than imagine what your new home might look like with the help of VR, or see potential upgrades to your existing home, thanks to AR?

You can allow your potential clients or repeat customers to do just that by linking to a custom landing page on your website. You can host an appropriate video, include a download link for a VR or AR app, or post images which can be viewed through a mobile app to deliver customizable messaging.

When you deliver interactive content, you increase the level of engagement. And that bodes well for the overall success of your campaign.

Pay Attention to the Details

Like every play depends on a crew of people to take of important matters behind the scenes, email campaigns require more than the sometimes-flashy, exciting (or at least important) content they deliver.

Here are two checklists featuring a few of those unsung heroes. They are more important than you might think.

Email Footer

  • Includes organization’s complete contact details
    • Phone number linked to call for mobile devices
    • Company address linked to online map directions
  • Make it easy for users to share your email by including social sharing links and/or forward-to-a-friend options
  • Make social media accounts accessible
  • Unsubscribe button upfront and easily clickable. Emails need to be CAN-SPAM compliant

Testing – Deliverability – Before You Send

  • All links in the email have been clicked, including images with links
  • The links go to the intended pages (and use the correct UTM string)
  • The email still functions and makes sense with images turned off
  • Include an HTML and plain-text version of the email
  • The email displays correctly on all devices, including desktop, mobile, tablets, and in different email clients
  • A link to view the email online is available
  • All images are linked

Reporting and Tracking are Essential

Even if everyone read your message and forwarded it to everyone they know, you’d never know unless you measured and tracked performance.

Sure, you might see a lift in traffic or sales. But you need to be able to attribute it appropriately or you might not retain your budget to create content that works. That’s why measuring return on investment (ROI) is as important for email marketing as for any other marketing tactic.

So, here are a few getting-started pointers. If you’re already familiar, feel free to skip to the next section.

  • Delivery Rate: helps define the quality of your list (delivered / sent)*100
  • Open Rate: how many people opened your email (opens / delivered)*100
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): The quality of content within the email messages (clicks / delivered)*100
    • The percentage of people who clicked on a link as compared to the total number of emails delivered
  • Click-to-Open Rate (CTOR): The quality of content and alignment with the subject line (clicks / opens)*100
    • The percentage of people who clicked on a link as compared to the total number of emails opened
  • Unsubscribe Rate: how many people unsubscribed from your email list (opt outs / delivered)*100
  • Bounce Rate: percentage of email addresses that are returned undeliverable (returned / sent)*100

You can find more in-depth information on this easily online, so we won’t go into great detail. Even just a taste will help you speak more confidently with an email marketing professional—or become one yourself.

Use these Bonus Tips

Did you know you can use tracking tags to identify where specific traffic originates? You can, and you definitely should. UTM, which stands for Urchin Tracking Module, is a way to add codes to your links so there is no question whether someone downloaded your app after visiting your website on their own or after opening your email. You can even tell where on the email they clicked, if you offer a link to your site in more than one location.

Speaking of links, the best practice is to include a single call to action (CTA) per email. You only want to explicitly ask once. That doesn’t mean you can’t include links elsewhere by hyperlinking text or images. Just make sure to give each its own UTM code so you can tell which are best at generating clicks.

And that’s it. You’re ready to strive for the benchmarks. Speaking of which…

Benchmarks

  • Open Rate: 16 – 40%
    • Depends on the industry, company size, and list size
    • Open rates for newsletters are typically much lower 8 – 12% range
    • Transactional email open rates are 4-8x better
  • CTR: 2 6%
  • CTOR: 9 – 40%
  • Unsubscribe rate: Less than 2%
  • Bounce rate: Less than 3%

Okay, now you are ready. We can’t wait to see how it turns out.

 

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