What is email marketing?
Email marketing is simply one of the best ways to stay connected with your target audiences, whether they be customers or prospects or simply subscribers. Email marketing strategy helps navigate through some of the most intricate marketing behaviors and tactics to create emails that truly work.
We’ve collected some best practices when it comes to email solutions; tpyes of emails to send, how to grow your email list, and how email design can make a huge impact.
Email Marketing Solutions
Among so many new communication channels, email might seem a bit old fashioned. The first emails were sent in 1971; the first email from space came 20 years later and the movie “You’ve Got Mail” was released in 1998. Compared to Facebook (hatched in February 2004), Instagram (first photo posted in July 2010), and multimedia messaging app Snapchat (live in 2012), email is the great-grandfather of online communication.
No wonder there are some people who have claimed “email is dead” or at least sounded its death knell.
However, according to a 2019 survey by the West Corp., 82% of customers prefer email for company notifications, and 77% prefer email as the option for questions and issues. And, in a 2018 Narvar survey about online shopping, 83% of respondents said they expect regular email updates about their purchases.
Combined with the surge in content marketing, inbound marketing and marketing automation, email marketing has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it is a critical marketing tool to communicate with and nurture leads as well as to retain and educate customers.
However, with the noise, incredible volume of spam and more advanced email filters, creating messages that reach a recipient’s inbox – and are read – is becoming more difficult. Successful email marketing strategies must be carefully planned, executed and measured.
At its most basic, effective email marketing solutions considers your target audience, their preferences and their needs, and also attempt to persuade recipients to take action to help you achieve your overall marketing and business goals.
Your audience and their needs
There are a number of reasons why you might want to reach out to a lead or to a customer based on their persona, their position in the buying journey or their behaviors and actions. For example, a visitor to your website submits a form on a landing page to download your most recent ebook.
You could send an automated email thanking the visitor and providing a link to the online e-book as well as a complementary offer for another piece of content. Or, you might want to send an email to announce a new offer or promotion, which is of interest to a particular group or segment of your list based on their previous interactions and purchases.
When creating an email marketing strategy, ask and answer these questions:
- Who are you sending to?
- Why are you emailing (what value are you providing to the recipient)?
- What do you want the recipient to do (make it specific)?
- When do they need to receive the email?
- Where do you want them to go (as a result of what you want them to do)?
Types of Emails Your Business Could Send
So many emails find their way to our inboxes every day: updates from our favorite blogs, recommendations from a favorite online store, reminders about events we plan to attend, tips and tricks from a website we downloaded a whitepaper from, notifications that we have a new follower on Twitter (woohoo!) and, unfortunately, a lot of stuff we never wanted and didn’t ask for.
But have you really thought about the different types of emails you receive and why businesses send them?
Below are some emails your business could be sending to keep customers informed, to encourage sales or promote engagement.
One-to-many emails are just that, a single email sent from a single sender to many recipients. A “newsletter” might come to mind.
Email marketers may refer to these as “mass,” “blast,” “bulk” or “broadcast” emails. And while still an important part of any email marketing strategy, this type of email can feel less-than-good to send.
The good news is that marketers don’t need to blindly blanket an audience with emails likely to be thrown away, or worse, marked as spam.
Today’s email marketing solutions and marketing automation tools allow marketers to create very targeted lists and to send highly-personalized emails to recipients who have expressed an interest in their company or online content. Requests for specific information, previous purchases, website activity and page views provide information that allow businesses to send information that the user is more likely to engage with.
Not only are the emails personalized, they can also be incredibly timely. An email marketing campaign can be created, sent and received in a matter of hours. This allows marketers to create messages that are nearly real-time and create a sense of urgency such as low inventory announcements or limited-time-only sales.
Bulk emails allow companies to reach large groups of people more often with little investment in time and money. Aside from the ongoing investment in list-building activities and the time it actually takes to create the email campaign, bulk email represents enormous cost savings compared to regular bulk mailing. Think: printing costs and postage — or telesales campaigns.
Examples of one-to-many emails
Newsletter and subscription emails are sent to individuals who opt-in to receive periodic updates about your business, industry news, blog articles or other published content. These emails might be sent weekly, monthly or quarterly, depending on your bandwidth and the subscriber’s preferences.
Newsletters can be used to increase brand awareness with the recipient through regular communications as well as spread brand awareness via sharing. Newsletters may include multiple articles, each with their own pathway for the reader to pursue. Be thoughtful of the pathways you create, where they lead, and what you want the reader to do once they get there.
Offer and promotional emails occur on a less regular basis. These emails aim to get the recipients to take an action and further convert or purchase on a subsequent offer. These emails should be used sparingly since they are often seen as spammy; in Gmail they could even end up on the “Promotions” tab of the user’s inbox.
Additionally, the emails should be sent to segmented or targeted lists of contacts likely to be interested in the offer, based on what you know of them, what actions they’ve taken on your website, or what they’ve purchased in the past. There should be a real value in the offer that is clearly explained and supported by well-defined benefits. Don’t try to mislead your readers with bogus offers – they’re smarter than you think and they’re not above using the unsubscribe button!
Drip or timed emails are the gateway between one-to-many and one-to-one and are often referred to as one-to-group. Email marketing of this nature involves a series of messages sent or “dripped” in a specific order and at a specific interval. These drip campaigns are often used to nurture leads, build relationships and even improve customer retention and foster repeat sales. Each drip campaign should have a goal. For example, your email could convert a lead to a customer, reconvert a lead to gather insights about the lead, or reconvert a customer.
Once you have established the goal, the emails should be constructed to guide the recipient toward the goal, building on each previous message. The emails should be short and provide enough information to help the recipient take action. Drip emails should not be sent to your entire database. Rather they should be sent to segments of your list and tailored to the specific needs and wants of members of the segment.
As the name suggests, these emails are sent to a single recipient. They are sent after a user has taken an action (transactional) or can be used to inform a user when an event has happened (notification).
Do not confuse these one-to-one emails with the email you sent to “Joe Prospect” yesterday from your Microsoft Outlook account.
The emails we are talking about are still sent via some sort of email marketing service or web portal and rely on rules, templates and dynamic data to generate and deliver an email to the user.
Transactional emails are less about marketing and convincing a user to take an action and more about providing a favorable experience to the user. Transactional emails are sent to an individual as a result of an action. Some common transactional emails are order confirmations, payment receipts, shipping notices or password reminders. The messages are personal and general at the same time, meaning they contain very user-specific information but the format and support language is not tailored for specific contact segments. These emails play an important role in establishing trust and giving users peace of mind.
Examples of transactional emails include:
- Email confirmations
- Password resets
- Username reminders
- Purchase receipts and invoices
- Sign up confirmations
- Welcome emails
- Unsubscribe confirmations
- Payment confirmation
- Shipping/tracking update emails
Marketers often rely on a web developer or IT professional to create these messages as part of a website’s functionality. As a result, transactional emails are typically developed with little thought to design or to marketing and focus exclusively on a specific function, such as delivering that purchase receipt or password reset link.
This is a big mistake. Users want these emails. Transactional emails can have an open rate eight times that of bulk emails!
That makes this type of email a great opportunity to build trust, create more engagement and drive additional purchases by blending marketing-related content such as calls-to-action or related offers with transactional-content.
Re-engagement emails are used to “wake up” or nudge subscribers or contacts who are still interested in your company but who haven’t taken action recently. They may have missed your recent messages, subscribed to a one-time offer, lost interest in your emails or maybe they intend to unsubscribe but simply have not yet.
If the subscribers are inactive due to either of the latter three reasons, your re-engagement email will give them an opportunity to unsubscribe before marking your subsequent emails as spam, which can hurt your reputation as a sender. Identify inactive users and segment them based on time inactive.
You can even segment further based on persona or other criteria to create more targeted emails and improve campaign success. You can also use these emails to gather feedback or entice users to update email preferences without unsubscribing entirely.
These notifications can be initiated or triggered by either the sender or by the recipient and typically serve as alerts, notifying a user when an event has happened. For example, a user might select to receive notifications of new comments or followers on social media or a sender might set up reorder reminders and birthday messages.
Notification emails are also commonly used in inbound or content marketing. When a website visitor requests a piece of content such as a whitepaper or checklist, by submitting information on a form, an email is triggered to make good on the offer and deliver the content directly to the user’s inbox. This email is a great place to present a related offer in order to reconvert a visitor and to learn more about his/her research, needs or problem.
Like transactional emails, notification emails are a perfect place to reinforce your brand through design as well as to include marketing messaging.
Examples of notification emails include:
- Registration follow-up emails
- Account change notifications
- Reorder emails
- Congratulatory emails
- Birthday emails
- Milestone emails
- Shopping cart abandonment emails
- Drip/lead nurturing emails
Remember, no matter what type of email you send, always provide value. Create content that users care about and are interested in. And remember, don’t overlook design and readability as well as opportunities to include marketing information even in transactional or notification emails.
Each email you send is an opportunity to maximize engagement and strengthen relationships with customers and potential customers. And though your recipients may have opted-in to receive emails from you, be sure to include an easy to find method for them to unsubscribe or manage their email preferences.
Welcome emails and other autoresponders are, like transactional emails, sent when a user takes a particular action.
The welcome email sets the tone for future communications and is your first opportunity to start building brand awareness, trust and engagement. This email welcomes subscribers or users and outlines what recipients can expect from your company in the future.
Autoresponder emails are usually sent after a form submission. These emails might simply let the user know their request was received. Or, they can deliver on an offer providing a download link or attachment. These emails also provide you an opportunity to present a secondary offer and reconvert your user, allowing you to gain additional insights about their position in the buying journey or their interests.
The one time an audit is a good thing
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Email Lists: Growing, Managing and Cleaning
How To Grow Your Email List
Social media messages and email messages both stream into our view whether it be via a news feed or your inbox. The difference is email is far less fleeting than social media.
Social media updates fly by quickly, and it’s not likely we scroll back to the previous day(s) to read posts. But with email, we take our time in our inbox. The average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and answering email, according to a 2019 McKinsey study. Email can hold our attention and demand response.
While numbers do vary by industry, typically, email marketing converts at higher levels for reads, clicks and conversions than social media, making email marketing strategy an important part of your overall marketing and sales strategy.
Unfortunately, growing your list can be time-consuming and in a world where instant gratification has become the norm, can be frustrating. But in the end, it’s not entirely about the number of emails you have but the quality of those emails and the contacts who own them. Take time to grow your list and don’t be afraid to prune it occasionally removing invalid email addresses or subscribers who are no longer engaged.
But how do you grow the number of emails on your email list?
Executing successfully on email strategies requires having a healthy and clean email list. The wrong way to build your list is by purchasing email addresses in order to quickly acquire as many contacts as possible (possibly within certain industries or demographics) and to then repeatedly “spray and pray.” Another option is to rent a list. This involves a third-party company that sends your email to a list you never see and about which you have no insights. Don’t ever implement either of these tactics.
These lists contain lower quality contacts in terms of interest and relevance, making success rates harder to achieve. The people who opted-in on the sellers’ list never opted-in to receive emails from you and probably aren’t going to do much for you in the long run besides get your IP, domain or email server blacklisted.
Additionally, email marketing services like MailChimp won’t let you utilize their service to send to lists you’ve bought. If you find a service that doesn’t require explicit opt-in, it’s likely their IP has already been compromised or has a poor reputation, making delivery of your emails improbable or unlikely.
So what should you do?
These days, you want your email list to be fresh and full of contacts who want to hear from you. You want them to have voluntarily opted-in and given you their email. A double opt-in process is preferred, which means you send an email for confirmation of sign-up to your list(s).
Create content or other gated assets and useful tools
Content, whether an ebook, whitepaper, webinar or other free resource, can be “traded” for contact information. By offering valuable information, you can request users sign-up to gain access.
Your blog, if it contains relevant and useful information that is published consistently, can attract users who want to stay informed about new posts and who are willing to subscribe for notifications. Make sure you include a subscription form or link to a subscription page in every post, your blog template or sidebar.
Promote your blog and content via social media
You can drive traffic to your landing pages and blog pages where users can then submit their email addresses via social media. Promote every asset and blog post across the most appropriate social channels.
Further, Facebook allows you to create a call-to-action button on your Facebook page. Consider promoting your blog or asset using your cover photo which is in proximity to the call-to-action button. Use the call-to-action to direct the user to a landing page or subscription page that encourages sign-ups.
Use your website
Include ways to capture email addresses throughout your site. Place calls-to-action that direct users to landing pages or utilize subscription forms wherever possible.
If you are using a subscription or opt-in form, make sure it is prominent (at least as prominent as your social sharing icons). Let people know what they get by subscribing or signing up. Try different form locations and methods to see what works best for your site and visitors.
Create email marketing campaigns people will want to forward
You might be thinking, “If I already have an email address, how can I leverage those to grow my list?” By providing great content and offers, you can encourage your subscribers to share and forward your emails to their colleagues and friends who might also want to engage with your content. Be sure to include a link or button to simplify sharing.
Reducing unsubscribes can help your list grow. You don’t want to lose two email addresses for every one you gain. By optimizing the unsubscribe process and giving people the option of less frequent emails, you can reduce the likelihood of opting-out entirely.
Segmented lists and targeted content can also reduce unsubscribes or opt-outs. Your readers are people who are giving you their time and attention. Respect that and only provide information relevant to them based on their interests.
Getting leads through paid advertising is one of the best ways to grow an email list. Once they have become engaged with your brand or content, you should be able to get them to opt-in for additional communications, announcements, contests and other content types. Nurture these contacts just like you would through other means.
It may be a digital world, but you can still collect emails at offline events. Trade shows or networking events can work well collecting emails either via business cards, sign up sheets or apps provided by top email providers.
Email List Decay: Inevitable but not Necessarily Bad
Marketers and salespeople work hard to earn email addresses from prospects and leads with whom they’d like to communicate in order to educate them and to stay connected with them through their buying journey.
Plus, it feels good to see a list grow and thrive, especially if it has been cultivated organically and through efforts designed to attract engaged readers. Unfortunately, not all the names in a contact database remain valid as time goes on.
Decay is inevitable.
But it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Losing invalid email addresses or reducing un-engaged users allows you to focus your efforts on those most likely to convert or take action.
And remember, especially with multichannel strategies, that list decay doesn’t just apply to email. Whenever someone unfollows you on Twitter or un-likes your Facebook page, you have experienced decay.
Marketing databases typically decay at 22.5% per year or about 2% per month.
Email List Decay
Email addresses in a contact database can become “bad” for a few reasons:
- A contact has changed jobs and their email address has changed
- A contact has stopped using or cancelled their email account (think AOL or Earthlink)
- A company has gone out of business or changed names
- A contact simply stopped using an email address and stopped logging in, triggering the email service provider to deactivate the account
- An ISP flagged a sender as a spammer
This atrophy is known as list degradation or list decay (or if you like “The Walking Dead,” maybe you prefer “list rot”). Whatever you call it, it’s important to know that your list needs to be consistently supplied with new email addresses in order to counter its natural decay.
Marketing databases typically decay at 22.5% per year or about 2% per month. If no new contacts are added, eventually, a contact list would have no valid email addresses and become a dead and worthless asset.
Now, we can’t do a lot about the rate of decay especially when it is related to user behavior such as closing or changing an email address. What we can do is make sure the list continues to grow, reduce unsubscribes and improve engagement.
Email List Cleaning
Emails that have become invalid can affect a couple key metrics: bounce rate and deliverability. High bounce rates and low deliverability rates can diminish the sender’s reputation and score, which can ultimately lead to the sender being labeled as a spammer, making it even harder to reach valid subscribers. Keeping bounce rates low and improving deliverability is vital to email marketing and inbound marketing success.
Removing bounced or ineligible email addresses from a list helps keep the list clean. Even better, keep these emails on a suppression list to ensure they are not inadvertently added or re-imported to your contact or email database.
In addition to bounced email addresses, removing un-engaged contacts over time allows email marketers to mitigate against spam reports.
MailChimp applies “member ratings” for each contact in an account’s contact list. Utilizing open rates, click rates and sending frequency, MailChimp weighs contact activity. Member ratings can be used to create segmented mailing lists for email campaigns, especially re-engagement campaigns designed to improve list health and data integrity or to suppress emails to un-engaged recipients.
Email List Growth
Not only should marketers evaluate list decay, bounces, unsubscribes and reader engagement, they should analyze email list growth.
Take notice of lists which, though continuing to grow, grow at a declining rate. This decline could indicate a problem with efforts related to converting first time contacts, form and landing page optimization and contact retention.
To calculate the rate of growth (or decline), subtract the number of unsubscribes from the number of new subscribers, divide that number by the total number of email addresses in the list and then multiply by 100.
(100 new subscribers – 10 unsubscribes/abuse reports)÷17000 email addresses * 100 = .53% list growth rate
In the above example, the rate of growth does not outperform the rate of decay (monthly or yearly). A good goal, at minimum, is to grow the number of email addresses in your database by at least the rate of decay. But be wary of extraordinary growth. This could indicate bots are completing your forms or addresses are being added for users who did not opt-in.
What to do with cold emails
Cold email acquisition includes list buying, site scraping or acquiring emails of people who have not opted-in via other means. In general, emailing cold leads is risky when using an email service provider, because you could see a lot of bounces or your messages could be marked as spam. You open yourself to spam or abuse accusations if you start sending emails to those leads.
However, a way that lists can be grown reputably, offline, is having people willing add their emails to your list at a trade show or event.
For many email service providers, such as HubSpot and MailChimp, using a purchased list is against their terms of service. But, if you’ve already purchased email lists, there are some providers that will allow purchased-list or cold lead emailing.
ClickBack is an email service provider that specializes in cold leads. It uses multiple sending domains similar to your domain. It also has a dedicated pool of IP addresses, so you’re not risking your email IP address. It also parses the email distribution over a period of days, depending on the list size, to watch for issues with the deliverability. Cold lead specialists like ClickBack use these tactics to warm a list without the risk of tarnishing your domain reputation.
Verify your email sends
One way to check your email list health and clean your list is using an email verification service, such as NeverBounce or BrightVerify, where you can test the validity of an email address without actually sending an email to it.
ClickBack compares your email list against known email lists, and also pings servers to verify whether email addresses are valid.
Savoir Faire works with a service-oriented client that has a large email database. Their services aren’t designed to be used regularly, so some of these addresses have not been emailed in years. While the list accumulated new emails over the years, the client rarely used the list for email marketing/nurturing purposes.
If they don’t verify those addresses before sending their next email, they risk high bounce rates if emails go bad. They also risk high abuse reports or spam complaints if people don’t remember they signed up – or simply don’t like the contents of the email. Both of these can lead the service provider to limit their ability to send email.
Once a limit has been imposed on your account, your email service provider can even manually review your campaign sends, slowing the process.
List verification services flag generic or role-based email addresses, which are used to manage generic inquiries and are overseen by several people across departments, because they often result in high complaint rates and have low open rates. Email list verification services will provide you with a report of invalid and risky email addresses that you can remove from your list.
CAN-SPAM Laws and Email Compliance Best Practices
The importance of following email marketing best practices, and complying with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 continues to be important. If you’re looking for a way to improve lead quality and increase conversions with email marketing, you can start by simply following the rules.
If you want your email marketing strategy to be successful and, more importantly, productive, there are a few essential things you must include in every one of your emails. We’ve put together a simple, step-by-step process for building a kick-ass (read: non-spammy) lead nurturing, conversion-focused email marketing campaign.
If you aren’t interested in acquiring new customers or keeping your existing ones, then this info isn’t for you. (We’re not sure how you ended up here. Are you lost?)
About CAN-SPAM Laws
To avoid putting you to sleep, we’ll try to keep this brief. You can read the full details of the CAN-SPAM laws here, but the basics of the laws are as follows:
- NO false or misleading information permitted in the header. Be honest about what you are sending. People don’t like being tricked into opening emails. Plus, it’s in your best interest not to make your readers angry.
- NO deceptive subject lines. While catchy subject lines are great, they should also be relevant to what your email is actually about. It’s not fair to mislead your readers, and it’s not good for business, either.
- NO pretending your email isn’t an advertisement. Pretending that your email is anything other than what it is won’t get you anywhere good. Your readers aren’t stupid, so don’t treat them that way. Plus, you could get in big trouble, so it’s really not worth it.
- NO hiding your physical location. This one’s pretty straightforward. If your business has a physical location, it must be visible in your email.
- NO preventing recipients from unsubscribing. This is a really important one. You need to allow your readers to click the unsubscribe button, if they wish. (We’ll talk more about ways to address this, later.)
- NO ignoring requests for opt-outs. If someone wants to opt-out of your emails, let them. Not only is it illegal not to, but it doesn’t make any sense to keep a subscriber that doesn’t want anything to do with your business. Or, maybe they just have too many emails. (We’ll talk about other ways to reach your audience, too.)
- And, last, but not least (not by a long-shot), If you hire someone else to do your email marketing for you, make sure they know the rules, and that you are paying attention to whether they are following them. Your company is ultimately responsible for any mistakes, whether you made them yourself or not. What If I Violate the Act?
You really don’t want to do that, or, should we say, you really can’t afford to do that. You can be fined for each separate email that is found to be in violation of the law. With the penalties for non-compliance reaching up to $16,000 per email, you should probably just follow the rules.
Unwanted emails related to financial matters
Scams and fraud
Email Compliance Best Practices
We’ve put together a list of email marketing tips to keep your email marketing campaigns compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act, while also getting the results you’re looking for:
Using the double opt-in method
The double opt-in method is a great way to ensure that your subscribers are actually interested in the content you have to share. When the double opt-in method is used all subscribers must confirm their subscription twice.
Subscribers typically opt in on a landing page, and then receive an email to confirm their subscription. This helps to weed out any subscribers who are entering email addresses other than their own, and in turn increases the quality of your email lists.
Do NOT buy email lists
While purchasing an email list may seem like a great way to kick start your email campaign, it is actually a terrible idea. Think about it, if you can purchase a list of emails, anyone can, right? And the people behind this list of emails, do you think they have any interest in what you’re selling? Or, more importantly, do you think they even know they are on a list?
Why would you want to send emails to a list of people that are probably being emailed by a bunch of other companies with content they have absolutely no interest in? And, if they’re being bombarded with emails by other companies as well, then the chances of them unsubscribing or marking your emails as spam are even higher. It makes much more business sense to build your own email lists, with subscribers who actually want to be there.
Write great email subject lines
Your email subject line should be interesting and relevant. Don’t write wordy subject lines. Keep them short and to the point, using 50 characters or fewer if possible. And, whenever possible, make your subject lines personal. Why? According to Campaign Monitor, “Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.” Use part of the subscriber’s name or city to grab your reader’s attention.
Don’t use the same subject line over and over with the same email list. If you are sending a periodic newsletter with the same title, you still want to switch up your subject line each time. Maybe add something about the particular season or highlight a topic or theme for your newsletter to spark additional interest.
Let your readers unsubscribe
Of course, the last thing you want your readers to do is unsubscribe, right? Or is it? Wouldn’t it be worse if they reported your email as spam, and/or reported your business for unlawful email marketing? If your subscribers really want to opt out of your emails, you need to let them go.
One way of dealing with this dilemma is to allow users to manage their email subscriptions. By setting up a simple subscription management screen where users can decide what types of emails they receive and how frequently they receive them, you can give your subscribers more control over what and how often they hear from you. And in the end, if they still want to unsubscribe, then at least you made them think long and hard about their decision.
Use permission reminders
Have you ever received an email from a business, but don’t remember how the heck you ended up on their email list? It happens all the time. Permission reminders are exactly what they sound like. They help people remember why they are receiving an email from a business.
It is usually located in the footer of an email, and can help prevent businesses from getting reported for spam. Keep them short and to the point. You may also want to link your permission reminders to unsubscribe/manage your subscription links, so your readers know that they are in full control.
Just follow the rules
When done right, email marketing campaigns can be an extremely successful method for generating and nurturing leads throughout the buyer’s journey. According to the DMA, “When it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), when compared to social, direct mail and more.” If you can consistently deliver great content to those who are truly interested in what you have to say, then it will be hard to fail.
Reconnect with inactive email subscribers — or drop them from your list
Bigger isn’t always better, especially when describing your subscriber count. Of course, you want to be actively growing your email list; but you also want to be sure your list encompasses people who are interested in your email content and are engaged with you rather than “dead” subscribers, names on your list who have not engaged with (opened, responded or clicked) any of your emails in at least six months.
Subscribers could have become unengaged for a variety of reason:
- They are no longer interested in emails from your company but have not yet unsubscribed from your list
- They no longer check the email address with which they used to subscribe
- They are interested in your content and emails but have become too busy to engage
- Your emails have found their way into a spam or junk folder
- The timing of your emails doesn’t coincide with their expectations
- Your content or offers no longer resonate
- They completed a transaction or made a purchase elsewhere a no longer need your service/product
Having a large number of unengaged or inactive subscribers can affect email deliverability. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor metrics associated with engagement and may divert emails to spam or delay delivery if those metrics are not compelling. While delayed delivery may not be as concerning as being flagged as a spammer or having emails relegated to junk mail, these delays could affect ROI especially if an email is time-sensitive.
Even worse, an email address among your unengaged subscribers could become classified as a spam trap and sending to this email address could land you on a blacklist. Spam traps are usually email addresses set up by a company or individual for the purpose of fighting spam.
These email addresses are not actively used but might be used for subscriptions. Spam traps can also be expired email addresses that a company reactivates as a spam trap; expired domains purchased by an anti-spam organization to set up as a trap; or traps set up by organizations selling email lists. Unfortunately, these spam traps can make their way onto your list, putting your email reputation at risk.
So what can you do?
There are a number of steps you can take to attempt to re-engage subscribers.
Identify inactive subscribers and gather information about their past engagement (or lack of engagement). This will allow you to create a highly personalized re-engagement email marketing strategy with content that is more likely to resonate. Let subscribers know you‘ve missed them with a special offer, discount, coupon or sweepstakes.
Send a “re-permission” email. This email asks subscribers to update their email information and their email preferences. It allows them to enter a new email address if their email has changed and to self-select a delivery frequency, such as daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly, that they feel better suits their reading needs and interests
Ask subscribers what they think about the content they are receiving. If subscribers aren’t responding to the content you currently send, ask them what types of content they are interested in.
After you have completed your re-engagement campaign, it’s time to say goodbye to subscribers who have remained inactive. While this may be difficult to do, ultimately it can improve the health of your list, save you money, and increase your chances of reaching subscribers who are engaged.
Dropping email subscribers can be difficult. You’ve worked hard to grow your list and watching the subscriber number go down can feel like defeat. But sometimes, cleaning your list is the best way to improve your performance and your deliverability.
Just like with plants, regular pruning can correct irregularities and improve health, but it must be done at the right time using the right techniques. Examine your email list periodically for inactive subscribers, attempt to re-engage them and then, if they remain inactive, remove them.
Send better emails.
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Creating Your Email
(So-called) Email Best Practices
Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened, according to Campaign Monitor. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a prescribed set of steps or parameters that would guarantee success or some sort of black and white, concrete solution to achieve results? Devoid of any such magic insight or secret formula, we turn instead to “best practices.”
In email marketing, we can find a lot of data about click rates and open rates and how the structure of the email, the subject or the content affects these rates.
Companies like MailChimp analyze hundreds of thousands of messages to tell us what time of day is best for sending, how to compose an email message that gets opened and which elements an email must have to improve clicks and conversions.
This data allows us to construct rules to guide us when building our emails and email campaigns. However, just because it is a “best” practice doesn’t mean it is best for you.
Pre-headers and “view online” links
Pre-headers allow you to include preview text that a user will see when viewing a list of emails in their inbox. It can give valuable information about the email’s primary content in order to entice the recipient to open. It is also where the The “view online” link is usually located. This link gives users the ability to view an HTML version online if it is not displaying correctly on their computer or device.
Obviously, it’s nice to give users an option. However, on mobile devices, this text takes up valuable real estate at the top of the email. The pre-header and preview text can be hidden in the email view via CSS and still appear in the inbox preview. However, what will hiding the “view online” link do? To decide if this should be hidden or included, you can look at how many of your users click the link or how many people view the email online or in their email client.
When to send, day and time
We’ve seen reports that state Thursday at 3 p.m. is the best time of day while websites mention morning hours when people are just starting to go through their inboxes. We’ve also seen it suggested that it is best to send early in the week when subscribers have not already been bombarded with and become tired of emails. But the truth is, there is no exact day and time that will work for every industry and every business.
Think about your audience and when your messages might best resonate with them. For example, if you are emailing about a weekend event, you might aim for Wednesday when people are making weekend plans. Consider your audience’s routines: when are they online, when are they thinking about your product or service, when are they making decisions?
Personalization became a best practice to boost open rates; however, when spammers realized this, they began using personalization in every email. Soon, recipients could easily identify a spam email based on the presence of their first name in the subject line. Personalization has become impersonal and emails with names in the subject lines are often delivered as junk mail. Should you ditch personalization because of this? Not necessarily. But consider it in terms of your list segmentation and what content or offers you are delivering to members of your audience. Be personal without being spammy.
Messaging and your subject lines
We posted on some considerations when crafting your subject lines such as keeping them short, avoiding overly spammy words, using targeted keywords and creating a sense of urgency. However, while these are “best practices,” it is worth noting that utilizing words such as Free won’t necessarily flag your email as spam or cause a user to automatically delete it.
Spam filters will look at the email in general as well as the overall reputation of the sender to calculate your spam score. So feel free to use some of those “spam trigger” words in your testing. They might just compel your audience to click.
Your unsubscribe link
It’s been a fairly common practice to hide the unsubscribe link in small type in the footer simply to satisfy CAN-SPAM requirements in an attempt to avoid the loss of subscribers or contacts. But if people really want to leave, they will find a way. If you make it too difficult to unsubscribe, users might simply report your email as spam, which, if you have enough complaints, can affect your email deliverability. Make it easy for users to unsubscribe or manage their email preferences. Test different options including ways to “opt-down” or select different email frequencies or email types.
Once a day, once a week, once a month? How often should you send emails to your subscribers? Finding that sweet spot where recipients remain engaged and informed and have not experienced email “fatigue” from over mailing can be difficult. Research from the DMA (the UK-based Direct Marketing Association) shows the highest percent of companies send four to five emails per month to their contacts. Does that mean this is the magic number to elicit response? Again, the answer is not necessarily. While you want to avoid sending too few as well as too many emails, the number of emails depends on the types of emails you send as well as your audience. For example, your company might send a larger number of emails particularly if transactional emails are a part of the purchase or sales process. If the emails are relevant, the quantity becomes less important.
Remember, as with anything, best practices might not be best for you. Consider these to be common practices or even average practices. Use them as the basis on which to build but don’t allow best practices to be the reason you do less or stop experimenting. With a little imagination, trial and error and A/B testing, you can develop better email best practices for your business.
Designing your email to maximize engagement
Not long ago, emails resembling printed newsletters were prevalent. They had two or three columns, a number of articles, a table of contents, a “published” date and a lot of content that was best read on a desktop device.
We’ve come a long way since then.
You’ve managed, with your compelling subject line, to convince an email recipient to open your email.
But did they read your email? Or did they “bounce?”
What your open rate (and click rate) doesn’t tell you is if they actually read your email after opening. That’s where email open time comes in.
According to emailmonday, a large percent of readers on various devices spend less than 15 seconds reading an email. This could indicate they quickly clicked a link but it could also mean they quickly closed or even deleted the email.
Your email needs to engage the reader quickly and to encourage the reader to scroll and to click regardless of the email type.
Email Layout Design
Though statistics vary for different industries, on average, 46% of emails are now opened on mobile devices (Hubspot) and 54% are opened on mobile first (Cynthia Price), making it very likely your readers are viewing your email on a smartphone rather than desktop device.
However, it is still important to design your emails for all devices, using responsive layouts to increase the likelihood your email will be read and clicked rather than abandoned.
- If you use a multi-column format, make sure it reformats to a single column when viewed on a mobile device, making it easy to read on a narrow screen.
- Design your email to be no more than 600-650 pixels wide to ensure that when viewed in a browser-based email application such as Yahoo or Gmail, the entire width is visible.
- Use a simple layout that is clean and uncluttered with visual cues to indicate headlines and calls to action as well as to create information hierarchy.
- Use spacing and dividing lines to split content sections.
- Keep paragraphs short for easy scannability and readability.
- Use your company’s colors and fonts. However, make sure your email works with a system font as well.
- Watch your use of background images. Some email clients such as Outlook, will not display them.
- Include a pre-header or preview text if your email uses a header image or logo which would take up a large portion of a mobile screen.
- Try to keep your header less than 150 pixels high so that your main content is more likely to display on smaller devices.
- Break up large chunks of text with images and consider linking to longer content hosted on your website. Remember to include “alt text” on your email images just as you would on a website to help identify images that might not be downloaded or displayed.
- Balance your images and text. An email that is overly image-heavy can be flagged as spam.
Our internet savvy audience has matured rapidly and mobile technology continues to evolve. As such, it’s long past time to drop emails that look like old, printed newsletters, and to instead focus on mobile-friendly emails that are easy to read regardless of device.
Rather than using email marketing as a way to deliver every detail of every story in a given time period, consider the specific purpose of each email and use it as a gateway to information located elsewhere on your website where users can convert.
Seven tips to create email subject lines that work
There are a number of factors that can impact your email open rate. Some of these; who the email is sent from, the cleanliness of your list, and the day/time the email was sent, can be manipulated and controlled to a degree. There are however, external factors and limitations sometimes imposed by the email sending provider that limit your control.
On the other hand, you have complete control over your subject line and it can make the biggest impact on the success or failure of your campaign. You can choose the general format, the words, length and the inclusion of personalization as appropriate.
Consider the volume of emails you receive per day. Now think about how you clean out your inbox on a daily basis. Do you delete based on a quick perusal of senders and subject lines, deleting anything that sounds spammy without even a glance at the content?
Based on the report by Adestra, which analyzed information from over 3 billion attempted email sends, “thank you” (or variation of this) had the highest above average rates whereas “early bird,” “white paper” and other words that might be found in offer-based emails had the lowest rates. This occurs because transactional emails often include “thank you” in the subject. Whereas offer emails are unsolicited and are likely to receive less engagement.
Keep in mind however, that no single keyword guarantees results. Context plays a key role and can elicit a response that is different than what you intended. It can be tricky to navigate through this successfully.
As Adestra illustrates, while many sales can be affected by discount rates, the discounts can have the opposite effect on the email effectiveness. While buyers might purchase something that is on sale for 50% off, including “50% off” in an email subject line can turn people off, either because they think the offer is bogus or because the email is viewed as spam. However these emails, if they pass the open test, have lower unsubscribe rates and higher click rates.
Here are some tips for compelling email subject lines:
- Keep your subject clear and focused. Be specific and communicate the value of your offer or opportunity. MailChimp found that shorter subject lines that can be scanned more quickly and allow users to easily figure out if they are interested perform better. A good rule of thumb is to keep your subject line under 50 characters.
- Put the most important words first. Even if you keep to the 50-character limit, you don’t know how much of the subject line will appear on your reader’s device, especially if that device is a phone.
- Use targeted keywords. Sometimes, readers don’t have time to read your email when it is received. A memorable keyword will allow him/her to easily find your email later.
- Create urgency. Setting time limits or perceived time limits can improve open rates and increase the odds a reader will respond or reply.
- Personalize. Include personalization, (no, we don’t mean the recipient’s first name) such as geographic information or other previously gathered data that shows you understand your audience.
- Tone down promotional emails. Avoid overly promotional words that could seem spammy as well as ALL CAPS or excessive exclamation points.
- Try something new. Try humor, mystery or even emoji. Many email marketing solutions/systems allow you to A/B test your subject lines. Try some alternatives to gauge what resonates with your audience.
Email Marketing Solutions
The Advantages of Third-Party Email Service Providers
Email marketing is a cost-effective way to send content, share promotions, make recommendations and stay in touch with leads and customers who are interested in what you have to say. Email allows you to cut through the clutter and give people the information they want when they want it. In fact, an eMarketer study found that email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses.
Further, eMarketer also found that email was cited as the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention in the United States, and a separate study by BtoB Magazine found that 50% of B2B marketers consider email marketing to be the most effective channel for generating revenue. There’s a big upside to using email strategically.
However, creating great email isn’t the only important step. Once you have crafted an email people want to read, you need a way to send it. If you are using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, you might be aware of plugins and extensions that will add newsletter functionality to your site, some of which include jNews, Acymailing, RSMail, and SendPress. If you aren’t using a CMS, you might consider utilizing an open source system that uses your website’s PHP mail function.
Newsletter add-ons such as these are attractive because they allow you to manage your newsletters and subscribers right within your CMS. But beware, using systems that leverage your website’s php mail function can affect your overall email deliverability and your website reputation.
Third-party systems protect your website and work to maintain the highest possible delivery rates. Additionally, they provide integrations for your CMS and website allowing you to display easy subscription and sign up forms for your visitors. These systems also offer robust reporting and analysis tools that are lacking in many of the plugins/extensions.
Using the proper email marketing solution provider that best suits your needs in terms of functionality, features, security, design capabilities, etc. can have a huge impact on the success of your email marketing strategy as a whole.
Email sending limitations
Your web host might have limitations on the number of emails which can be sent per hour. For example, HostGator limits you to 500 outgoing mail messages per hour per domain. If your list is large, you could reach that limit quickly and your system might stop sending or the emails will bounce back with an deliverability error.
For some hosts, mailing lists larger than 5,000 addresses will require a dedicated server or virtual private server hosting solution. Some newsletter systems have a queue or can use CRON to schedule bulk sends or to throttle mailing (pausing for a set number of seconds after each email is sent), however, things can go wrong and your outgoing process could be terminated before completion. Additionally, a web host could see emails to large lists as an abuse of service, especially if mailing list rules are not followed.
Conversely, email service providers (such as MailChimp, Constant Contact and Zoho) are built for bulk sending. Their servers are configured to allow massive numbers of emails to be sent in short periods of time.
There is also a good chance bulk email could be marked as spam when sent via your website. Email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo have a number of rules in place to protect users against spam. Not only does Gmail scan email headers, it also scans the content of email looking for “spammy” information and malware.
Emails that are sent via a website in a shared hosting environment might have the same IP as emails from other websites on the shared server. The simple fact that the IP does not belong to the sending domain could cause an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to mark an email as spam.
Worse than simply sharing an IP address, you also share the reputation of other websites on a shared hosting plan. Many ISPs use the reputation of the server sending messages to determine whether an email is spam. As such, if a website on the shared server has been flagged as an abuser, your site could also be penalized.
Email service providers such as MailChimp work hard to ensure deliverability. They have engineers who constantly improve their email systems to ensure emails are compliant with CAN-SPAM requirements and to ensure high deliverability rates. They also have relationships with ISPs, are approved as bulk mail delivery services, and provide strict guidelines to avoid being labeled as a server that sends spam.
Avoid being blacklisted
According to TechJury, it is estimated that between 55% of all email is spam. To help weed through spam messages, there are public blacklists of mail servers that have been relaying spam. Mail servers such as Gmail can then check a message against the public blacklists before relaying messages to users.
Mail IP addresses can easily end up blacklisted, especially when they exist on a shared server where the sheer volume of email might raise a red flag.
And, no matter how clean your email list is, eventually someone will report you as a spammer. If enough reports are made, you risk being blacklisted. Not only can this affect your ability to access email, but if you send using your website’s php mail function, your website could be blacklisted as well (resulting in the display of Google’s embarrassing red, blacklist screen. Note that different browsers display different messages but all should be similar).
Email service providers send from their servers so your email is never at risk of being blacklisted, which also protects your website from collateral damage and ensures that the routine email you do send from your domain makes it to the intended destination.
Email Marketing Solutions Providers Comparison
Among so many new social media channels, email marketing might seem a bit old-fashioned. But this tactic, the old tool in the marketing toolbox, plays an important part in building a strong content marketing or inbound marketing plan. Email allows you to nurture new leads as well as communicate in a timely manner with existing customers. And, in general, email marketing, compared to the cost of print and broadcast advertising is extremely cost effective.
According to eMarketer, email is also the preferred method of communicating with businesses, according to 69.7% of U.S. internet users. AND, people who receive product offers through emails spend 138% more than people who don’t receive email offers. (Source: Convince and Convert)
But even if users want your emails, you must still create emails they want to read.
Emails should be responsive. According to Forrester, 72% of U.S. online adults send or receive personal emails via smartphone weekly. That means if you aren’t creating emails that can be easily read on mobile devices, your open rates could see a significant decline.
Emails need compelling subject lines. 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. However, the subject line alone is the number one element that increases email open rates so there is a fine line between “spammy” and compelling.
List segmentation matters. By focusing on specific contact segments and sending messages targeted to those groups, you create emails and campaigns that are more relevant to recipients and are thus more likely to produce results.
Social media integration improves your click-through rate. According to MarketingLand, adding a way to share your emailed content can double your click-through-rate (CTR) when read by users of Facebook and Twitter.
That’s a lot to think about when creating your email marketing strategy.
Fortunately, email marketing service providers offer features that help address the above challenges. Many offer free customizable, mobile-friendly templates, A/B testing of subject lines and other content, list management and segmentation tools, social media integration and, finally, reporting tools to analyze it all.
We compared the features of several services, and for the most part, as you can see in the comparison chart, these all offer many of the same basic features.
|MailChimp||Zoho||Vertical Response||Constant Contact||iContact||Campaign Monitor|
|Free plan||Up to 2k subscribers; send up to 12k emails per month||Up to 2k subscribers; send up to 12k emails per month||Up to 4k emails to 1k contacts per month||60-day free trial||30-day free trial||Free trial; send up to 5 contacts|
|Entry level plan||0-500 contacts for $10 per month 501-1k contacts for $15 per month w/ unlimited sends||0-500 contacts for $5 per month 501-1k contacts for $10 per month w/ unlimited sends||0-500 contacts for $11 per month 501-1k contacts for $22 per month w/ unlimited sends||0-500 contacts for $20 per month||0-500 contacts for $14/mo; 501-2500 contacts for $32/mo w/unlimited sends||0-500 contacts for $9 per month w/2,500 sends|
|Free customizable mobile-friendly templates||yes||y||y||y||y||y|
|Custom coded templates||yes||y||y||y||y||y|
|A/B testing||From names, subject lines, delivery date/times||Subject, content||no||Send times, subject lines, design choice||Subject, image, content, delivery date/times (Premier edition)|
|Drip campaigns/Auto responders/Workflows||Yes (Requires Email Plus Plan)||(Monthly Subscription Plans)||Yes, (Requires Pro subscription)||(Requires Email Plus Plan)||(Monthly Subscription Plans)||(Monthly Subscription Plans)|
|Ease-of-use||Easy to moderate||Easy to moderate||Easy||Easy to moderate||Easy to moderate||Easy|
|Customer support||Knowledgebase (free), Chat, Email ($)||User Guide, Tickets, Forums||Call, Chat, Email||Phone, Community||Phone, Chat, Email||Email, Phone|
|Deliverability rate (claim)||96 to 99%||NA||98%||98%||98%||99%|
|Integrations||Salesforce, Eventbright, Shopify, WordPress, SurveyMonkey||Zoho CRM, Facebook, Eventbright, Shopify||Salesforce, Shopify, WooCommerce||Salesforce, Formstack, Facebook, Eventbright, Shopify||Salesforce, WordPress, Joomla||Magneto, Microsoft, Salesforce, Shopify, WordPress|
|List segmentation/Contact Management||y||y||y||y||y||y|
|RSS feed campaigns||y||y||n||y||y||y|
|Event management||Via Eventbright||Via Eventbright||n||Yes (Requires Monthly Subscription)||n||n|
|Email client testing||Yes, (Requires Monthly Subscri[tion)||n||n||n||n||n|
Constant Contact and iContact do not offer a Free level of pricing. And, some of the more advanced features such as Drip Campaigns/Workflows and Event Management are part of their “pro” or “plus” systems that are more costly.
MailChimp, Zoho and Vertical Response all offer Free plans for accounts with a limited number of subscribers and limited number of monthly emails. Advanced features in these plans have additional fees or require upgrades.
The least robust of the systems is Vertical Response unless you purchase their “Classic” addition, which has been in existence for the past 13 years and is a more fully developed email marketing solution.
Zoho and MailChimp are nearly identical in their features and integrations. However, a great feature in MailChimp is their image editing tools. MailChimp’s integration with Aviary allows users to crop, resize and rotate images easily while creating their emails rather than switching to PhotoShop or other image editing software. There are also more advanced tools for image enhancement and photo effects.
As with many services and software solutions, your needs must be carefully evaluated against features and pricing. And even, at times, your comfort level with a particular interface. The nice thing about the free services and the trial for Constant Contact and iContact is that you can test drive each without any financial commitment.
Email Marketing Analysis and Stats
Email Stats To Inform Your Email Marketing
Much like Mark Twain himself, the rumors of email’s death have been greatly exaggerated. And, as statistics show, it continues to be a widespread and ever-growing method of communication.
There are more than 3.9 billion email users worldwide That’s nearly half of the world’s population. More than 306 billion emails are sent each day, according to Tech Jury.
Our use of email is most certainly changing, as is how we interact with email, when we read email and where we read email. These habits have changed over the years – and will continue to evolve as we become increasingly connected to people and businesses online.
For example, more email is now opened on mobile phones and tablets than desktops and laptops. What does that mean for your strategy now? It means if you haven’t already developed mobile-friendly email templates, you should seriously put down what you’re doing and go do that. Like, now.
You also need to think about how to make your emails more engaging. With so many of us checking email while watching TV or participating in some other activity, email is competing for attention. We may always have our smartphones with us, but they don’t necessarily receive our undivided attention.
of millennials check email on their phone first thing in the morning
of email users check email while watching tv/movie
of adult smartphone users have their phones with them for 22 hours/day
Email statistics also underscore the importance of email marketing and careful consideration of the types of emails you send to shoppers. Email can influence a purchase or the decision to return to an abandoned cart to complete a purchase.
These are just a few ways to think about the state of email and how the data can be extrapolated to inform a strategy or define a goal.
Email Marketing Analysis
Email is an integral part of today’s content marketing and marketing automation strategies, and contributes greatly to the success of each by maintaining customer relationships, nurturing leads and even attracting new contacts through sharing.
As such, you want to be sure you are sending the right content, at the right time to the right people while walking the fine line between too many and too few emails and interactions and simultaneously avoid spammy subject lines and content, and regularly prune your list of bad addresses.
Engagement can be measured with open rates and click rates, which are fairly easy to track and view. The open rate indicates how many recipients opened your email. But take this number with a grain of salt; open rates can be affected by preview panes (typically used in Outlook) in an email client or recipients who do not download images. The click-through rate is the percentage of clicks compared to the number of emails delivered.
High open rates can indicate that your subject lines were compelling or that your business or brand is a trusted or reputable sender. High click rates can let you know a particular piece of content or an offer resonated with or interested recipients.
If an email has a high open rate but low click through rate, there is an indication the content may have missed the mark… this time. This is where the click to open rate may be valuable. This measures the percentage of recipients who clicked a link divided by the number of opens.
You should also measure these metrics over time versus individual emails or campaigns. If your opens and clicks are declining with each email, you might conclude that you are sending emails too often resulting in email fatigue.
Engagement can also be measured using the unsubscribe rate and spam reports. These lost contacts indicate contact churn or the rate at which users opt-out of your mailings. While 0% contact churn would be ideal, it is unlikely. However, of the two methods a recipient can choose to stop receiving your emails, it is better for him/her to unsubscribe than to mark your email as spam thus impacting your email reputation.
Unsubscribe rates can be deceptively low as many will simply mark an email as spam rather than taking time to unsubscribe. To avoid high numbers of spam reports, make the unsubscribe process easy.
Going Deeper: Analyzing Conversions and Revenue
The above metrics give you a good sense overall about the performance of your email marketing. But to dive deeper, you can also look at conversion rates and revenue per email.
A conversion is not the same as a click. Conversion rates are tied to specific actions such as signing up, completing a form or making a purchase. If recipients repeatedly arrive from your email to your landing page and fail to convert, then it might be time to review the landing page for issues or inconsistencies in messaging or user experience barriers.
Revenue per email is the ROI of your email marketing. Simply, this is the revenue directly earned as a result of the email divided by the number of emails sent. The analysis of email marketing programs and strategy beyond what is outlined herein can take a number of different directions. You can measure on the provider’s platform, through integration with analytics like Google and also via integration with a customer relationship marketing system or CRM.
What’s next for your email marketing?
We’ll help take your emails from good to great.
Optimize Transactional Emails to Increase Trust and Conversions
Transactional emails, also called triggered emails, are emails sent to an individual based on some action he/she has taken. Often, these are associated with e-commerce sites and purchases, but they also include any automated follow-up emails that are triggered by any website action, such as signing up for a newsletter or completing a form to gain access to an offer or download.
In fact, there are a lot of actions that can initiate a transactional email including:
- Email confirmations
- Password resets
- Username reminders
- Purchase receipts and invoices
- Abandoned cart emails
- Sign up confirmations
- Welcome emails
- Shipping/tracking update emails
Unfortunately, marketers often think little, if at all, about transactional emails, beyond delivering the necessary facts to the recipient. Worse, they are often plain text emails that were pre-written as part of an e-commerce solution or written by the IT or development department.
Alternatively, we invest a lot of time in crafting the perfect bulk email messages to nurture segmented leads, seeking ways to further engagement and conversion as well as relationships. We A/B test, we measure, and we refine in an attempt to improve performance and grow click and open rates.
But don’t our transactional emails deserve the same love, attention and measurement?
Good open rates for bulk emails range between 15% and 20%. But transactional emails can have “8x the open and engagement rate of traditional marketing emails,” according to Campaign Monitor. These emails contain information that a user is expecting and very interested in. Recipients may even interact with the email several times and save it to reference at a later date.
Transactional emails are a great opportunity to build trust and create more engagement and drive additional purchases.
Blend transaction-related content and marketing-related content
Transactional emails naturally contain highly-personalized information based on a user’s action and contain useful information the user needs or wants. But they can also contain relevant links to other products, website pages or useful information based on the trigger action, driving the user right back to the website to complete more actions.
Transactional emails are also a great place for a call-to-action which might invite the user to share with friends or on social media or might ask the user to review a product purchased or customer service interaction.
These emails can also include cross-sell or upsell products based on previous purchases or include a coupon or offer toward another purchase or encourage a user to return to an abandoned cart.
However, as Hubspot cautions, when blending email content in transactional emails, consideration should be given to legislation in different countries. What might pass the American CAN-SPAM laws might not pass standards used to define an email as transactional.
Sending via an ESP
Transactional emails, unlike promotional emails, are typically sent via an e-commerce system or website, whereas promotional emails are likely delivered via an Email Service Provider (ESP) to improve deliverability and avoid any potential blacklisting issues.
Given the critical information contained in a transactional email, deliverability is of utmost importance. To improve deliverability and protect your domain reputation, transactional emails should also be sent via an ESP.
ESPs also offer email tracking and reporting tools. These will allow you to test the messaging and promotional content in an email but also monitor open rates on critical transactional emails and follow-up if necessary.
Utilizing an ESP also gives more control to marketers, allowing them to more easily update the emails and massage the messaging instead of relying on an IT department or web development company to manage transactional emails sent via the website or other internal system.
Branding and user experience
Transactional should use the same fonts, colors, imagery and voice as other marketing emails as well as the website from which they originated rather than plain text, generic, downright blah emails. Using the same templates as other promotional emails and digital assets allows you to deliver a consistent brand experience to users, which according to Forrester, is a prime contributor to establishing trust, which in turn drives loyalty and revenue.
Transactional emails should be given as much consideration as other promotional emails. With high open rates, these emails are a great opportunity to increase trust, engagement and conversions.
As with all digital marketing tactics, transactional email marketing should be measured, tested and refined to produce the best results and work harder for your business.
How To Integrate Your Social Media and Email Marketing
Two important marketing channels today are social media and email.
Social media continues to grow exponentially, not only among the giant media channels but also emerging networks. Facebook has more than 2.6 billion active monthly users worldwide who spend an average of 20 minutes per day on the social media site and who contribute to 510,000 comments every minute. Meanwhile on Twitter, 330 million users sending more than 500 million tweets per day! How does anyone get any work done anymore?!
And, while many people may think email is dead or dying, it is still one of the most cost effective tactics for reaching customers and leads. There’s one great test of email’s health according to SocialMedia Examiner: the number of times you’ve checked your email today.
Together, these channels can extend the reach of your email and grow your email list as well as promote your content via social media and allow users more opportunities to connect with your company.
How to integrate your social media and contact list
Many email marketing systems allow you to connect your account with your Twitter or Facebook ad accounts to create custom audiences. This empowers you to target your social media ads directly to your email subscribers.
You can also upload your email contact list to Twitter to “find people you know.” This then gives you the ability to to create lists in Twitter to better monitor and respond to contacts by following them on the social network.
LinkedIn also allows people to upload a list to add connections. Once you upload your list, LinkedIn will find users who match your contacts. You can then connect with them all or select individuals to send connection requests to.
How to collect email addresses on social media to grow your list
You can use social media to request email addresses or signups right within the social media platform.
On Twitter, with the deprecation of “lead generation cards,” you’ll need to use Twitter the old-fashioned way, sharing a link to a lead generation or landing page on your website where a user can enter his/her email address. Additionally, you’ll want to offer something in exchange for that user’s email (such as an ebook, white paper or other resource), which you may be doing already through your other inbound marketing efforts.
Facebook lets you add a page button below your cover photo for a quick call to action. Just over over the button and click the pencil icon that appears to edit the button and select “Sign Up” from the Contact options.
Or, go to your settings and click “Edit Page” to add an email sign up tab to the left column of your Facebook page.
MailChimp makes this very easy with their Facebook integration and allows your Facebook signups to be added to a specific list in your MailChimp account.
In YouTube you can use “cards” or “end screens” to link videos, website and polls or to promote things to viewers at the end of your video. This allows you to invite viewers to a landing page or other lead capture page connected to your email marketing system or marketing automation system where they can give you their email address in exchange for some offer.
NOTE: Cards and end screens replaced YouTube annotations which had been previously used to include links and calls-to-action in videos.
How to include links to social media in your email
Email marketing systems often come with a module or setting to quickly add social media follow or sharing links to any email.
In Constant Contact, while in the edit mode of a content block, click the “Social” tab from the tools and then select the channels you’d like to include and add your social media profile URLs to each. To add sharing icons, simply select the checkbox in the header options to include a standard set of icons.
In MailChimp, the process is just as easy. Simply drag the content item from the right pane to your email and then configure the style and URLs for each.
Other email systems such as MyEmma, VerticalResponse, and Aweber offer similar, easy-to-add and easy-to-configure methods of including social media features in your email campaigns.
Another way to integrate social media with your email is to include “click to tweet” links in your email content. Click to Tweet allows you to compose a tweet you’d like people to share and generates a unique URL or link for your tweet.
You can then add that URL to your email to help users easily share content directly from the email.
When a user clicks on the link in the email, it will open a tweet composition window with your precomposed tweet that the user can share to his or her followers with a simple click or edit to their liking.
Email remains popular and profitable. Social media has the power to reach leads and customers. Used together, they can amplify your marketing efforts and provide a consistent experience for users across channels. Creating avenues or connections between strategies and channels reinforces brand messaging and strengthens recognition. It also creates a more holistic experience for people interacting with your brand or company wherever they are and however they encounter you.
Hopefully, the ideas shared and tools revealed within this ultimate email marketing strategy guide have sparked some ideas for your next, big email launch. There is a path through the clutter! Your customers expect communication but not a bunch of junk and gobbledygook. Give them clear, powerful messaging, and you will see growth. Good luck out there!