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November 4, 2020 - By Hawke Media

Email Marketing Best Practices: 6 Tips from an Expert

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to drive consistent sales for your online business. Brands of any size can use email to create new customers and retain existing ones with engaging content. It’s one of the few internet standards without gatekeepers, which means you get to control how you communicate with your subscribers – and with users checking their phones approximately 150 times a day, email is a great way to stay top of mind with your target customers.

If you focus on properly growing and managing your email list, you’ll build a cost-effective method for communicating with your target audience that will continue to pay dividends. Here are some email marketing best practices to keep in mind when developing your strategy:

1 – Personalization

Approximately 90% of consumers find personalized content useful. But it’s not just content that can resonate – you can personalize subject lines, send times and more. When planning your personalized emails, think about what data you need:

  • Name
  • Address (including ZIP code)
  • Interests (i.e.: food topics, dietary restrictions, etc.)

If this data isn’t already available to you, consider a survey email sequence. Surveys are an effective way to collect large amounts of qualitative data that can be difficult to find by other methods. When surveying customers, ask questions that gather info on demographics, psychographics, behaviors and other relevant information so you can identify which customer segments to target. For non-buyers (at the end of an onboarding sequence), you’ll want to understand which competitors they’re picking over you and why.

Pro Tip: depending on your ESP’s capabilites, you may be able to link your Facebook Ads account to feed your email list into a custom audience. Sync up with your acquisition managers or media buyers and determine which audiences convert best in order to create segments of email users based on purchase behavior. Then, target these users with personalized emails.

2 – Content

While the majority of emails are still promotionally geared, let’s set a couple things straight. First of all, blasts are dead – and here’s why: they invite lazy, spur-of-the-moment thinking and reveal a lack of respect for your individual customers because you’re lumping them together for the sake of sales.

Second, sending campaigns for the sake of hitting a quota is the wrong approach. Again, it shows that you care more about revenue than the personal interests of your subscribers. Using this tactic repeatedly will tire out your list. You’ll almost certainly experience a drop in open rates (below 10% is the danger zone) and an increase in unsubscribes (anything above 1% is a red flag).

Leveraging content is the best way to increase sends without hurting conversions or losing subscribers. Content – when personalized to the user receiving it – can provide valuable information or social proof while encouraging engagement and sharing. Include relevant blog posts, videos, social media updates, contests or press mentions.

Pro Tip: Experiment with dynamic content, which is smart content that updates based on backend CMS integrations. Some ESP’s, such as Klaviyo and Drip, allow you to drop in HTML blocks that change when users view certain pages or purchase products. The goal is to become more relevant and less annoying!

3 – Deliverability

Deliverability is the rate at which your emails hit users’ inboxes (i.e. the number of emails sent relative to the number of subscribers who are unengaged, mark as spam or bounce). Your delivery rate should be above 99% (in other words, your bounce rate should be less than <1%). If these rates aren’t where they should be, here are some ways to make sure your emails are hitting the inbox:

  • Add reCAPTCHA on your signup forms – this tool stops bots and spam accounts from subscribing.
  • Consider requiring double opt-in (meaning new subscribers have to confirm their email addresses). Though this will almost certainly improve the quality of your list, it will also slow your list growth rate.
  • Make sure you have an automatic welcome message that is delivered to new subscribers within an hour of subscription.

Pro-Tip: Send a personalized follow-up email to new subscribers that fulfills your promise (be that a discount code, free download, etc.) and invites them to reply that they have indeed received it – a reply is the highest level of non-purchase engagement action a subscriber can take!

4 – Giveaways

Before we talk about launching your giveaway, make sure you’ve chosen the right giveaway prize.

Create an onboarding sequence to nurture new giveaway subscribers, describing your brand (and any partner brands involved in the giveaway), what the giveaway is and any other relevant information (like how to increase your chances of winning, for instance).

Because giveaway subscribers tend to be lower quality (they’re looking to win something from you rather than purchase something from you), you’ll need to build out two additional sequences:

  • A content-rich nurture sequence (80-90% content, 10-20% selling) that follows the giveaway onboarding sequence. This should begin with a “manage your subscription” email, so you’re identifying the most engaged subscribers.
  • A re-engagement sequence for subscribers that are inactive after 30 days and at least five sends. This sequence should feature cheekier emails to stir engagement – you’ve got a lot less to lose with these inactives – with the final email leading to your sunset (or “offboarding”) sequence.

5 – List Management

When it comes to your email list, size doesn’t matter (where have I heard that before?). But list health does! To keep an orderly, healthy list, you should be regularly cleaning out inactive users. There are certainly many ways to slice and dice them, but these tips are a great starting point:

  • Segment: Anyone who has been on the list for 6 months and has 0 opens (which presumes 0 clicks/0 purchases)
  • Sequences: Start with a 3-5 part re-engagement campaign. Then, anyone who still doesn’t open should get filtered into a sunset sequence (3 emails)

6 – Beyond Email

Email is great, but there are other effective ways to communicate with your customers, as well. When used together, it can create a more comprehensive marketing mix. Consider using messenger chatbots or SMS to engage with current and potential customers. Recent studies have shown SMS to outperform email by 5x on opens and 7.5x on click-throughs!

With that level of engagement, it can be tempting to “blast” subscribers, but we recommend building a long-term, sustainable strategy based on business goals. With chatbot and SMS marketing, that means building out simple automated messages to new subscribers, recent purchasers and thoughtful holiday or promo-driven campaign messages.