If you’re like most people in this day in age, your email inbox is probably flooded with spam messages from corporations trying to reach you upwards of three to five times a day. I mean, who even has time to read all of those?
In this blog, we will teach you all the dos and don’ts of email marketing, like how much you should be sending, what your emails should look like, and what they should contain. Obviously, some of these things are up to preference, but since emails are such a one-to-one medium, the same things that apply to all communications apply to email marketing as well.
This article is one in a series of deep-dive blogs that are educational content. These longer-form articles inform our readers about not only essential marketing information but also our personal feelings and values that we hold as a business. Make sure to read our last blog in the series after this, “The Importance of Marketing.”
What is email marketing?
Email marketing is the practice of staying in touch with people who have given you their email addresses. It can be done in a one-to-one or one-to-many fashion using tools like MailChimp, Drift, or their other competitors to communicate with your base.
Typically, people will either sign up for your email subscription from your website or from in-store visits. Whatever you do, please do not buy an email list from a 3rd party. As technology improves, this process can look a little different from place to place, like using QR codes to sign up instead.
Email marketing can be in a variety of ways, such as sales, offers, and deals – which is more traditional. Alternatively, you can provide educational content such as on the value of your brand or to keep people engaged between purchases.
Why use email marketing?
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways for you and your business to stay in touch with customers. It is incredibly vital because marketing itself is all about building relationships. When you’re trying to maintain your status with future customers, prospects, and existing customers, being able to reach out to them regularly and in an almost one-to-one way is extremely important.
Email marketing helps you send emails to your “list,” the term that marketing people use for email subscribers. You will want the messages to look like they’re personalized for your recipients to make them feel seen. Be aware that email marketing services usually have a cap on the number of emails you can send through them depending on how much you pay, so be sure to do the math on how many you believe you will need.
This brings us to another reason: email marketing in its simplest form is free. Everyone has an email account, including your business. Why not use it to stay on the top of your consumer’s minds? If you’re just starting out, it doesn’t make sense to use a paid service yet when you can do it yourself or the free version will suffice. But make sure you are using a reputable service provider. Or else you’ll end up with more headaches. When people sign up to get emails from your business, it means that in some sense, they find value in you or they want to stay in touch with you to hear about your promotions, offers, news, and updates. What is important is that you use your emails to maintain that trust and credibility – not shatter it through unwanted spam.
Does email marketing encourage loyalty?
Yes! In fact, in the marketing world, it’s pretty much the only medium that does this specifically. If it’s done right, you will certainly encourage loyalty. Below is a graph by Google that shows the best way to keep and stay in touch with your existing customers is email marketing:
Email marketing is an extremely valuable tool and should be one of the pillars of your marketing strategy. It is so essential to have a way to personally reach out to people who want to hear from you. If not, then how will you build a lasting relationship with your future customers? It should not be taken lightly. Instead, treat it with the utmost importance and consideration, since how and what you email people can make a huge difference in returning sales.
Is email marketing out of date?
Email marketing is always going to be a timeless classic as long as people own email addresses. Why? Because it’s the most cost-effective way to reach people on your list and not be a slave to the algorithms. Despite the emergence of newer channels, even though the task of reaching your customers has been distributed, that does not mean you should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Some people feel that since there is social media marketing, email marketing doesn’t add any value because you do not receive as clear metrics as you do in social media.
Open rates show how many people are actually opening your email. 20 years ago, the open rates on emails were close to 100%, since it was still exciting to receive emails. However, over the years, people started overusing emails and sending junk, and that’s when open rates declined rapidly. Another case in point – what do you do when you receive unsolicited spam mails in real life? The same happens to emails. It’s just that the receiver can now mark you as spam – and if enough people mark you as spam then your reputation will tank and future emails will always land in spam instead of inbox.
If your open rates have dropped or they’ve always been “bad,” it’s not necessarily a reflection of your business; instead, it could just be cultural. Email marketing is so vital, that even with a low open rate it is still incredibly worth maintaining.
Screenshot from Gmail’s “Promotional” folder on my iPhone
There is one last thing to note with open rates. Another reason you shouldn’t stress over them is Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection. Because Apple now preloads emails on its own proxy servers, it will trigger the tracking pixel for every email it’s processing. That means you could potentially see a 100% open rate for your Apple Mail recipients – whether they actually open your message or not. The greater percentage of your audience using Apple Mail, the more you’ll see your open rates inflate artificially. Quickly, open rates are becoming obsolete as the data is unreliable.
What challenges come with email marketing?
One challenge that comes with email marketing is that people are often confused about what is the right frequency for sending emails, and some businesses overuse it. Small businesses, like the ones we serve, might hypothetically see multi-million dollar corporations send out three emails a day and think that it’s a great idea. But, you have to know that you’re only seeing what’s on the outside. Maybe internally, that multi-million dollar company isn’t doing it for higher open rates or to make a connection with their customers. The bottom line is, don’t emulate what you see, use a critical eye to understand what feels right for your business.
People buy from people that they know, like, and trust. For instance, take our email subscription here at marketANDgrow. We send out a weekly newsletter tied to the release of our Monday #TWIM show. Since we only send an email once a week, with content that is purely educational and not sales-related, the people who sign up find it valuable and actually open the email.
The idea is that if we serve them at a higher level, we remain at the top of their mind and when people need a business like ours they think of us. People will already know we are active and they can come to us.
Secondly, email marketing is serious because people trust you with their privacy. An email address is as personal as a phone number, most people want that to remain completely private. What a lot of people don’t know is that behind the scenes, if you give your email address to the wrong people, your data may get sold. Meaning that people who you did not give your email address now have it without your consent.
How do I get people to sign up for email marketing?
In mid-June, marketANDgrow attended the Salesforce Connections conference in Chicago. There, we attended a talk about email marketing and something they emphasized was tagging. Tagging represents a larger problem with the industry: it’s when the “Sign up for our email list!” pops up before you even do anything on the website you clicked on. The idea is that if the person puts in their email address first, you can then track how many times they come back and what they did on your site.
Sajid Islam and Elizabeth Ozark at Salesforce Connection on our Instagram
Naturally, most people are going to be hesitant and weary, especially if this is the first time they visit your website. Basically, they are being asked to sign up to get emails for a site they haven’t even scrolled once on. Plus, on mobile, it takes up the whole screen with a teeny tiny ‘x’ in the corner that’s impossible to hit. Unpleasant, to say the least. That is no way to build credibility or a relationship with your audience.
Think about what actually feels natural. If you go to an in-person store and they jump in front of you to sign up for something before you even have time to look around, most people are going to brush past them, or worse, turn around and leave. The better time to ask is at the register when they have already looked around and they’re making a purchase. The same goes for your website. While the allure of tagging may be strong, if you want to build credibility, think about putting your email sign-up during check out or mention it during consultation calls.
What if I don’t have a sale or deals to offer?
It may be time to rethink what your definition of email marketing is entirely. It’s not all about discounts and deals, maybe make the pivot to making your emails informational. Talk about your industry and give updates on what’s happening in your business. Or, even better, if your business has a strong mission or vision you want to show people, your emails are a great place to show that off. A monthly email newsletter about your brand’s values will come off as more natural than any sales email.
When you make the decision to do this, then make sure you say right on your website that you will not spam them. Then, of course, make sure that you stay true to your promise. If people only want to hear from you once a month, give them that option.
What are the best practices for email marketing?
1. How should I send targeted emails to my list?
When it comes to email marketing and targeting, segmenting is the key to success. Segmenting is when you tailor your message to appeal to people in different buying phases of your company.
For example, take a real estate company. They are going to have both buyers and sellers signed up for their email list. However, buyers and sellers don’t need the same information from a realtor. If you just sold someone’s house, you won’t want to send them tips on preparing for next season’s sale. Alternatively, you want to inform buyers about mortgages and interest rates, but that’s not relevant for sellers. Adjust your email marketing accordingly.
2. What does a good marketing email look like?
As we’ve been saying, there are right and wrong ways to do email marketing. When thinking about the design of your email marketing, keep these few things in mind:
- Don’t make it too long. You should be getting to the point before the customer ever has to scroll.
- Make sure to always use a single column. For mobile devices, two or more columns will start wrapping around and it will look bad. It’s a mobile-first world.
- Be judicious with your images. Don’t make images too big or include too many. On mobile, it may not load properly since you can’t know a recipient’s network speed when they open it.
- Use buttons. Avoid links as much as possible. On mobile, it’s easier to hit a button than scroll in to click a link. It only takes one finger to click a button – no pinch and zoom required.
- Take advantage of color. You want your email to pop with the colors important to your brand or campaign.
- “From” sender should have your name or your business’s name first. If people don’t recognize the email list name they signed up for, they’re not going to trust it.
- Use preheaders (subject lines) and preview texts to your advantage. When you create an email, use previews as a snapshot. Keep it punchy, short, and relevant.
- Don’t make it clickbaity. If it reads like it’s spam, there’s a chance it will be detected as spam by a computer automatically. Better off just being honest about what they’re about to read.
- Be honest. Sometimes people will say things like, “I’m sending you this email from my iPhone in a hurry,” when it’s really a mass email campaign. Lying is not how you build credibility and trust.
- Make it easy to unsubscribe. Put something in every email at the bottom that makes it really easy to unsubscribe.
3. How often should I send out emails to stay off spam lists?
There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re not going to the spam folder. Firstly, be transparent when they sign up about how often they will get emailed. A good practice is to segment your email subscribers into people who want daily, weekly, or monthly updates on sales and promotions. Then, since they raised their hands to get these promotions, they will be more likely to be satisfied with your emails.
Secondly, never go to a third-party website and buy people’s emails. This is called buying data, and it is a certain straight shot to getting put on spam lists. You will be so much better off just organically growing your email list. Once you make that mistake once, your email address will be flagged as spam and you end up in a much harder situation to get out of than if you had just waited for organic sign ups.
Emails are as personal as a phone call: you don’t want some business calling you every day. Make sure to space it out. And, if you’re worried about your emails permanently staying in spam, this article by Movable Ink has a guide to help.
When should I start email marketing?
Yesterday. Seriously, you need to get on it if you haven’t. It’s a great way to nurture your subscribers and it’s not a heavy lift. Start wherever you are! When you let perfection get in your way, you miss out on opportunities. Your email doesn’t have to be fancy, a text-only email is perfectly fine. Wherever you start, make sure to improve over time.
Make sure you always keep in mind the question: How are you helping them? If you look at your emails through this lens, you will never send an irrelevant email. Think about what action you want your subscribers to take after reading your email. Leave them with something they didn’t know before opening it. Always be relevant to your base so as to not waste their time. That’s when your engagement plummets and the value of your email marketing is close to nothing.
Where should email marketing come in a larger marketing strategy?
Email marketing should come immediately after you set up your website. Make sure there is a place somewhere on your website for people to put their email to receive updates. Again, this is a low lift with the right returns. Once you have people to send emails to, use all of the above tips to implement an email marketing campaign that works for you and your schedule.
What are the advantages of email marketing over other forms of marketing?
The first huge advantage of email marketing is that you have hand-raisers or people who actually voluntarily want to hear regularly from you. In almost every other form of marketing, you are not going to find this. Yes, your Search or Display Ads will get clicks; but the reality is that even though those consumers were intrigued by something you’re selling, they didn’t volunteer to receive that ad. Email marketing is so much more personal just because of the hand-raising aspect of the medium.
Email marketing is also a good add-on to social media marketing. Instagram’s algorithm is unpredictable ever since they got rid of the time-posed order for their feed. Customers are probably going to miss some of your posts, and they’re probably not going to go searching for your page regularly to keep up to date with your business. Email marketing is the solution to that, your email will always be in their inbox ready to read at their own time and at their leisure.
Keep in mind that no one marketing strategy is better than the other. Email marketing relies on other forms of marketing to do its job, and it works the other way around. Think of it as painting walls. There are large brushes, small brushes, angled brushes, rolling brushes, and all kinds of other important tools to paint with that all work together to create the finished product. Email marketing is just one tool that will help complete the whole marketing process together.
How do I know email marketing is working for me?
For some businesses, such as realty, it makes a lot of sense to call up people they haven’t heard from in their database every one to two months. You will know if your email marketing is working if those callers recognize your name and know what your business is up to generally. If they don’t know who you are, or think of you poorly as the business that is always spamming emails, then it’s time to switch up your email marketing strategy.
Metrics are a good way to know email marketing is working as well. When you send out email-exclusive promotions, see how many people are taking advantage of your deals. That can tell you a lot about the health of your email marketing strategy.
Finally, while you can always gauge the health of your email list, there should never be a reason to give up on email marketing fully. It’s so vital to a marketing strategy to be able to get in contact with your subscribers that it honestly doesn’t matter how “well” your emails are doing. The low lift means that it’s always worth the cost.
Funnily enough, if you couldn’t tell, we have our own email list here at marketANDgrow. It’s super easy to scroll down and sign up for it in the green box. We send out an email every Monday around 9:00 am with marketing news from the previous week and links to the blogs we published.
As we stated in the beginning, this blog is a part of a wider series of blogs. Our last blog was called, “The Importance of Marketing.” Make sure to check it out if you want to learn more about how marketing can completely change the trajectory of your business and read testimonials from our podcast guests.