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Boost Your Email Marketing Strategy - 8 Effective Tactics

by Chris Bradley
Email Marketing Strategy

Does your email marketing strategy return the results you expect?

Maybe your open rates are great, but you're not getting the conversions you'd hoped for?

Perhaps you’re just not really managing to grow your list?

You’re not alone. 

Whatever your email marketing challenge is, this guide will help you to get the results you need.

Let's start with why email is so important, and is seen as one of the highest ROI channels available.


Isn't Email Marketing Dead?

According to Hubspot, 269,000,000,000 emails are sent and received every day!

It's expected to grow at an annual rate of 4.4%, reaching 319.6 billion by the end of 2021.

What's more shocking, is that we spend an average of 4.1 hours checking our emails every day! That’s 20.5 hours each week!

As you can see, email marketing is far from dead, quite the contrary.  We are all still using this medium heavily.

According to the Data and Marketing Association's 2017 study:

"Email marketing remains the best digital marketing channel for return on investment"

The proof by numbers;

Why are the numbers so high? Because these people have already opted in to receive communications from you

Now that we know it’s valuable, let's get down to the tactics that can ensure your email marketing strategy works.


1. Setting Marketing Objectives

Set clear objectives from the outset.

Why?

Because being clear on where you are going will help you actually get there.

Not knowing where you want your company to be a year from now is like shooting arrows without taking aim.

Karen S Johnston

You might know what your long-term primary objectives are, examples can include;

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Increase annual company revenue
  • Employee retention

But what about secondary objectives. The individual KPI's that will help you achieve your primary objectives. In this case specifically for your email marketing strategy? 

To get you started here are a few we've rounded up:


1. Email Opt-In / Growth Rate.

This is the rate at which your email list is growing with new subscribers. On average, email marketing lists loose 22.5% of subscribers each year. So you need to ensure you are adding more then you are loosing on a regular basis.

To calculate your email opt-in rate simply follow this example by Hubspot:

(500 new subscribes - 100 unsubscribes) ÷ 10,000 emails on your existing database * 100 = 4% list growth rate

In 2017, the average email opt-in rate is 1.95%. Anything above this and you’re doing well!


2. Open Rates

Open rates are the percentage of people who open your email campaign after receiving it. This should be above the industry average of 24.79% (UK). 

If an open rate is strong, it usually means your subject lines resonate with your audience. We’ll cover off some tips on this later in the post.

Mailchimp have created a great resource of all the industry open rates so you can benchmark.


3. Click Through Rates (CTR)

CTRs are the percentage of people who have clicked on one or more links in your email campaign. 

How do you calculate CTR? Here's and Example from HubSpot:

(500 total clicks ÷ 10,000 number of delivered emails) * 100 = 5% CTR

The UK average for CTRs is currently is 4.19%. We’ll discuss more about how to improve CTRs later in this post.


4. Conversion Rate

The percentage of people who made a click and then completed a further action. Actions like go on to make a purchase, fill out a form or create an account. This is a very important metric and is a real indicator of ROI of your campaign. 

To calculate this:

If 400 people completed your action ÷ 10,000 total emails delivered * 100 = 4% conversion rate

On average, a good email conversion rate will be between 1-5%. Bear in mind that conversion rates need to take into consideration other factors too. It is not just down to your email, but also the conversion rates on your websites and the wider marketing funnel. 


5. Bounce Rates

There are two types of bounces, soft and hard bounces. Soft bounces are where an email didn’t get to a contact. This can be due to their inbox being full or problem with recipient’s server.

Hard bounces are due to an invalid or closed email address and will never be delivered. These should be removed as it may damage your reputation score and make your brand look like a spammer.

The benchmark for email bounce rates is less than 2%. Anything above 10% suggests a significant problem that you need to resolve.

Now that we are clear on what we should be measuring and why, lets take a look at how we actually get the results.


2. Customer Profiles

If you haven’t already created customer profiles aka personas you’re missing a trick.


What are they?

A customer profile is a way of describing who your ideal customer is.

Profiles may include:

  • Demographics
  • Their likes and dislikes
  • Where they spend time online
  • Their buying behaviours
  • Whether they are early adopters or laggards
  • Most importantly, their needs, pain points or problems.

Why are they important?

According to Ray Jones:

"The more information you gather, the easier it is to distinguish why customers buy from you."

By creating customer profiles you’re going to:

  • Understand who your potential 'top' customers are
  • Be able to speak their language
  • Find out what they are actively looking for so you can drive them to your website
  • Ultimately help to solve their problems by providing the right  solutions. Either products or content

It helps us to ensure each customer gets a message that's relevant and valuable to them.

Not a one-size-fits-all blanket email campaign.


How can you profile your customers?

Ask yourself, what information do you need to collect, in order to make decisions. Decisions about what content would be valuable and relevant to your customers. 

There is lots of information you can collect, but focus on what will help you be more relevant. Just because you know their age, does that help you to be more relevant? 

Here's some ideas of information you might want to collect;

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Income level
  • Marital status
  • Education Level
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Spending patterns
  • Interests / hobbies
  • Were do they spend time online
  • Content that resonates with them
  • The pain points they encounter day to day
  • Promotions that resonate with them
  • Biggest fears when it comes to purchasing

Once you have this information, turn it into visual a profile or persona. You'll reference this when making decisions on what content to include.

Make sure it includes an avatar or picture that represents the customer. It will help you to connect with your audience on an emotional level. 

Here’s an example of 3 core segments for the Urban Cake Shop:

Marketing-Strategies-Customer-Profiles

Here is an example of what a completed customer profile looks like for one of the segments, 

Example-Customer-Profile-Email-Marketing-Tips

Notice how with the later you have more empathy and can put yourself in thier shoes? 


Customer Profiling Tools

To help you get started (in no particular order) here are out top customer profiling tools:


1. DIY

Do it yourself! Talking to customers is easier then you think. Most are very receptive to having a chat with a company they value.

It's also the best way to get more in-depth knowledge.


2. Alexa

Conduct a simple search for your site with Alexa. It will breakdown age, gender, where they are browsing from. Alexa is also an awesome SEO tool!


3. Facebook Insights

Your Facebook business page will provide basic demographic information and geographic location.


4. Social Listening

Use tools like Hootsuite or TweetDeck. Follow relevant hashtags to get a sense of who your customers are and what matters to them.


5. Experian

This is a paid tool but the results you get will blow-your-mind. Experian profile your data and create your Avatars for you!


3. Segmentation

Once you have your customer profiles, act.

With profiles in hand, you can slice and dice your email list into segments. This enables  you to send much more highly targeted email campaigns.


But Why?

According to Campaign Monitor:

Marketers reported a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.

Yet 70% of brands fail to segment.


Marriott International Case Study

Lets See how Marriott did it in this case study.

Their main objective was to become the world’s favourite travel company.


What did they do?

Instead of the usual hotel chain email, they created a ‘Year in Review’ campaign. Showcasing personalised content with customers travel history data such as:

  • Total number of cities visited
  • Total number of reward points redeemed
  • Total number of nights spent at the Marriott Hotel

Email-Marketing-Strategy-Example-Marriott

What's really mind blowing are the results;

They increased revenue by 86% year-over-year.

Not only that, but from segmenting their data they also boosted open rates by 20% and conversions by 9%.

What a great example of how important segmentation can be when done right.


Email Segmentation Best Practices

There are lots of different ways you can segment your list. But start simple and with what makes sense to the objectives you are trying to achieve.

You’ll probably have 2-3 clear segments from your customer profiling. This is a great place to start. Just be clear on what the core differences are between each profile.

As an example, let’s say you are an online fashion company and you are having a summer sale. At its most basic, you could have a male segment, and a female segment. You want everyone to know about the sale, but instead of one generic email, you could create two. 

One with best selling products showcased for men. And one with best selling products showcased for women.


Email Segmentation Tools

Most email services have inbuilt tools to help you segment your list.

Prices range from free to Pro $199/month.

In no particular order…

Bonus: Publicate works with all of these great tools. Without the lengthy design and build process that comes with them. Make your life easier now.

4. Give Value with High Quality Content

Surprisingly, content is still the most overlooked component of an email marketing strategy.


What Defines high Quality Content?

Quality content should be defined by how much value the reader gets out of it. Not how much time or money you put into making it.

Here’s what I believe quality content should consist of:

  1. It’s Helpful - Sharing valuable information will engage and retain your list. IF it is helpful, it solves a problem the reader has.
  2. It’s Personal - It is actually relevant to the reader. It talks to a point that is actually important to them. 
  3. Its Interesting - No one likes stuffy corporate. Inject some life, some fun, some passion in to your emails.
  4. It’s Unique - Rehashing content that already exists is not unique. Figure out an angle the competition haven't already covered and play to it.
  5. It Provides Value - Valuable content should follow 2 simple rules. It's inline with your business goals and it helps to solve your customers problems.
  6. It’s Shareable - Not only have you made it easy for people to share. But the content ticks points 1-5 and so people cn't help but share it.

But why do all this?

By providing high quality content you build trust and gain authority.

"People do business with people they like and trust"

This much-quoted nugget by Salma Jafri says it all.

Here's just some of the benefits of adding high quality content:

  • It positions you as the expert in your field. The more you give, the higher your authority status.
  • You're giving your audience a taste of what it will be like to work with you. Think eBooks, Skype sessions, videos and so on.
  • High quality will increase your potential reach, drive traffic, begin conversations and convert.
  • You'll grow loyal followers. By giving away super-duper content, your raving fans will share with their network. Giving you free word-of-mouth advertising. 
  • High quality content = sales! 

How to create quality content?

We’ve written an entire blog post on this already! 39 newsletter ideas is filled with amazing content ideas to get you going.


5. Subject Lines

With millions of brands competing for a spot in your subscriber’s inbox, it’s important to stand out from the crowd.

According to HubSpot:

35% of recipients open email based on subject line alone.

So getting it right is crucial.


Best Practices on How to Write Subject Lines

1. Keep your audience and goals in mind. What action do you want them the take? Are you trying to boost revenue? Offer a promo? Your goal will determine your subject line.

2. Keep it short and sweet. With up to 77% of people opening email on mobile, keep characters to less than 50 to hit that sweet spot.

3. Create urgency! It encourages readers to open your email when used effectively. Examples include "24 hours left", "one day sale".

4. Create a sense of mystery. “You will benefit from reading this email” encourages readers to open.

5. Personalise. Add the recipient’s name in the subject line for example "Hey Louise, ready for Summer?"

6. A/B Test. Test keywords, day of week, time of day, personalisation. By testing your subject lines, you can refine and boost open rates.

7. Segment. As mentioned earlier in this post, segment your emails as well as subject lines. Targeting those interested in a specific product of piece of information.

8. Offer value. Discounts, eBooks and videos will encourage open rates. If there is something of value in your email people want to find out more.


Subject Line Tools to Boost Open Rates

Wish you had a magic tool to help your write the most eye-catching subject lines?

We have you covered;

1. CoSchedule Free email subject line tester. It will score your overall subject line quality and rate its ability to result in open.

2. Subject Line Grader Simply enter your subject line and receive a score out of 100. They offer advice on whether it's strong statement, the character count and word count. And whether there's enough words that evoke emotion, action or power.

3. Test Subject by Zurb. This beauty will show you how your subject line, pre-header and sender name will appear on mobile.

4. Postmark checks the spam score of your email. Copy and paste your email including subject lines to find out what will trigger the spam filters.


6. Images, Videos and GIFs

Using Images, videos and GIFs in email newsletters is a hotly debated topic.

We could write a whole blog post on it but here are our top tips for using media in your next email marketing campaign.


Image Best Practices

Using images can bring your email to life. 

When used correctly, images evoke emotion in a reader, more then just words alone can.


Number of images

Not sure whether to include 2 or 10 images? Constant contact recently surveyed over 2 million people on this hot topic. 

They learnt that emails with 3 or fewer images and approximately 20 lines of text result in the highest click-through rates.


Image Size

By this we mean file size.

If they're too big they will reach the size limits of the email client and could be blocked or labeled as spam. Where possible try to ensure they are 100kb or less.

You can use online tools to reduce them if you don't have an in-house graphics team or agency such as:


Image Blocking

Images can sometimes be blocked from rendering. This could be due to personal preferences, or the email client’s default settings.

For this very reason don't create an email that is entirely image-based. It looks terrible;

Newsletter-Image-Blocking

This highlights why it's important to add ALT text for each image. Then if they don't show at least the readers knows what it was.

It also shows why it's important not to put your CTA in an image.


Videos vs GIFs

It would be amazing if you could share your cute ‘bring your pet to work day’ video in your newsletter.

But unfortunately embedding videos in emails isn't a great idea, yet.

Videos are often too large and a large number email clients don't support it (only 58%). Including Outlook.

But we have a solution!

There are two ways to get around this. 

First is the way all major email clients currently get around it. They represent the video with an image that is hyperlinked to the original video. So the reader feels like the video is embedded.

Second way to get around this is to use animated GIFs.

We've written a marvellous blog post all about how GIFs can boost your CTRs here.

But to re-cap, here's why GIFs in your email marketing strategy can really boost engagement:

  1. GIFs are much more lightweight in size than video
  2. They communicate a lot in a short time
  3. Users don't need to interact with them to watch them
  4. They're eye-catching and engaging
  5. They are proven to improve CTR and ROI as shown in our Email Gif post here
Bonus: Publicate makes DIY newsletters incredibly easy! Find the right image or GIF right inside Publicat with royalty free search. Try It Now

7. Timing

Timing is everything? Or is it?

According to MailChimp there are 'optimal' times to send your campaigns. But, it all depends on what industry you're in and more importantly, who your readers are.

As a general rule here are some top tips:

  • Avoid sending emails on Mondays. Why? People tend to dislike Mondays, the weekend is over, they're back in the office.
  • MailChimp confirms that Tuesday and Thursday are the two most popular days to send email.
  • WordStream proved that the best time to send their emails was on a Thursday between 8-9am - with over a 25% open rate.
  • They also confirm that between 9am-11am and 2pm are the optimal send time. Note: different occupations have different times. If you're in retail or hobbies, 8am is preferable as many check emails on their commute to work. Where as lawyers read emails at 09:00 and then after lunch.
  • Location, location, location. If have a global customer base, you'll need to segment accordingly. 

This is the general advice. But we challenge you to test it. Test, test and test some more until you hit that sweet spot.

8. Killer Call to Actions

So, we've talked about what makes a great subject line and how to give value, but what about your call to action?

Simply put, your call to action or CTA is a prominent button or link prompting readers to click.


Call to Action Tips

  • Limit each email to a maximum of 1 main CTA. Knowing what the one action you want someone to take is a good place to start when planning your email content
  • Make visuals clear and enhancing, not distracting and confusing
  • Make sure you keep button copy short, 2 or 3 words max
  • Try using the first person in any copy 'Start my free trial'
  • Create urgency 'Today only: 50% off!
  • Action oriented text, 'Download our ebook'
  • Make the button large, but keep in mind not killing the aesthetics
  • Include a healthy bit of white space around your CTA
  • Use bright bold colours - green and orange perform the best
  • Try your best to keep your main CTA above the fold. Just as with websites, people don’t always scroll

If you have too many "crucial" call to actions it could be a good indication of a lack of planning or focus in your email.

Except for obviously curated roundups and ecommerce product roundups.


Test and Optimise Regularly

Why do you need to test?

Simply put, we are bad at guessing. And what works for one brand, may not work for you. So to get the best results, testing is your biggest ally.

Here are just some of the things you could test in your email;

  • Subject lines
  • Headlines
  • Copy (length, tone)
  • Call to actions
  • Design and colours
  • Animated GIFs and media
  • More images vs more copy
  • Social proof
  • Send frequency
  • Types of content
  • Time of day/day of week

How to test? 5 Pro Tips

  1. Test one element at a time, if you test multiple you won't understand the source of the change in result
  2. Start simple, subject lines are a great place to get started with testing
  3. Keep a log of all your tests, so you can learn as you go and keep a record of trends
  4. Run tests on groups that are small. For example 10% of your database
  5. Control the time of day, day of week. Otherwise the change in result might be down to the send time
  6. Take action with the results. Use the data to refine your future campaigns

In Summary

Hopefully you now have an idea of things you can do to improve your email marketing strategy.

One-size-fits-all email blasts just won’t cut it anymore. You need to be personal, create unique engaging content, segment, test and refine.

Above all else just be yourself! Inject personality into your brand and focus on your customers needs. It’s about their wants, desires and problems.

We'd love to hear about your tried and tested email marketing strategies? Comment below!

What's Next: Now that you have the bread and butter basics sorted, it's time to start creating your own newsletters. Give Publicate a try, a new way to create emails

Try It Free Now

Ask the Author, Chris Bradley

I'm the founder and CEO of Publicate. I like to share my thoughts on content curation, content marketing and the journey of building Publicate.
Come say hi @briscradley

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