Email marketing remains one of the most powerful communication tools for B2B sales, despite new digital marketing channels available in today’s marketplace.
Some business owners believe that email marketing is passé. Well, let’s allow the stats to speak for themselves; the average number of business emails received on a daily basis is 124 and is expected grow 3 percent annually. And the majority of marketing influencers say that increasing the engagement rate of email marketing is a top priority.
Email, when used strategically, can aid freelancers and agencies in reaching target customers to grow and retain business. In this article, you will learn how to build a winning email marketing strategy through:
- Goal setting
- Email content
- Understanding your audience
- Helpful tools
Let’s dive in!
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1. Set your goals
The first step to creating a winning email marketing strategy is to set goals and plan the appropriate tactics that ladder up to your goals. Goal-setting is a crucial step in any marketing plan and an email marketing strategy is no exception.
Separate your primary and secondary goals. When building any email communication, refer to these goals to ensure that you are staying on track. When setting goals, a good formula to follow is SMART:
Specific — What exactly do you want to achieve?
Measurable — How will you know that you have accomplished your goal?
Attainable — Is your goal realistic?
Relevant — Does your goal seem worth the effort; is it the right time?
Time-Based — When can your goal be achieved?
Here are some example email marketing goals that may be relevant to your business:
- In 2018, increase email communication to retail merchants by 15 percent, and position ABC Company as a thought-leader in web development technology.
- Increase email engagement by 30 percent by July 2018 through audience (merchants) segmentation, and by providing valuable content in creative services.
- Grow sales by 5 percent in Q1 2018, as a result of email marketing through sales-driven, action-oriented email communications.
- Produce weekly email communications to merchants in 2018.
- Track email results following all deployments to grow open and click-through rates by 15 percent in 2018.
2. It all starts with content
"Planning is an important step that many companies often miss. Mapping your content journey to understand what and when to communicate is key."
Planning is an important step that many companies often miss. Mapping your content journey to understand what and when to communicate is key. That being said, the first step in your email mapping strategy is to build an editorial calendar. Start by grouping your content ideas in the following sections:
Review your industry’s category and jot down all relevant information that your customers would find insightful and beneficial to their business. For example, if your business is in ecommerce web development, some examples of industry content could include ‘Intro to web design trends’, ‘Best practices for SEO,’ or ‘Top Shopify plugins for merchants.’
Include all content ideas here that align your business with key market seasons. For example, the Christmas holiday season is a busy time for merchants, and as a web designers, marketers, and/or developers, you may want to create content that speaks to the services offered in preparation for this busy retail period. Your plan should include a series of content ideas around each season.
Announcements and events
Do you plan to launch any new products, features, or services? Are there any special company announcements that merchants would be interested in knowing about? Are you planning any webinars or events? In this section, include all upcoming announcements, events, and their dates. Consistent company announcement updates will keep your business top-of-mind to customers.
Many companies love to brag, but having good reason to brag is even better. Find any successes or case studies that could help deliver a key message and provide value to your customers. For example, did you create a game-changing website function for a customer that drove revenue growth? Or, did a split A/B test provide valuable learnings that helped improve a merchant’s checkout? These success stories can help your customers in their business and position you as a leader in the ecommerce space. On the contrary, failures are also learnings and may be valuable lessons that you could offer in your content plan.
Putting it all together
Now that you’ve brainstormed all content possibilities, it’s time to put it together in an editorial calendar and assign deployment dates for each piece of email content. This plan will help you stay focused and pre-plan all future deployments.
Email frequency will be discussed later in this post, so for illustration purposes, let’s assume you choose to email your customers once a month.
3. Understand your audience
"Sending an email without understanding who is on the other end of that email is likely a shot in the dark. To get the best ROI from your emails, you need to get to know your audience."
Segmentation is a big driver of great results. Increase your email engagement rates by knowing your audience and providing relevant content to the relevant merchants. Sending an email without understanding who is on the other end of that email is likely a shot in the dark. To get the best ROI from your emails, you need to get to know your audience. Here are a few ways how.
Get to know your email list
If you have an email list already, be sure to look into your email platform for some key metrics. Review the following to keep your list updated and to gain valuable insight into your audience:
Unsubscribe rate — According to MailChimp email marketing benchmarks, 0.23 percent is the average unsubscribe rate for ecommerce. Is yours on par? Monitor these numbers frequently to see how your content is resonating with your customers and make appropriate changes to strategy. High unsubscribe rates is a sign of disinterest (lack of relevancy), annoyance (too frequent), or wrong audience.
Geo and demographics — Find out who is engaging with your current emails by location, gender, age. If you see a high click-through rate from New Yorkers, for example, their appetite for your content is likely high. This will help you determine if content specific to New York should be added to your editorial calendar. Or to the contrary, if merchants in Toronto are not identifying with your content, look for ways of capturing Torontonians attention.
Personalize your emails
There is quite a bit of digital noise and clutter in the marketplace; you need to stand out from the crowd.
Personalization is one of the best ways to capture your reader’s attention. Simple touches like a person’s first name in the subject line can go a long way. Segmenting your list by audiences is another great way to offer personalized content (something we’ll delve into a bit more, below). If you categorize your list by merchant roles — e.g. developers, marketers, sales — you are then able to send email content relevant to their functions.
Customize your audience through segmentation
Most email tools, which will be covered in the last section of this article, will provide you valuable insight into your email list, as well as great segmentation options. You will have access to standard demographics, and you are also able to import custom segments about your customers (any data that you have captured to help you with segmentation).
Common segmentation options:
- Name (First, Last)
- Location (by City, Province/State, Country)
- Subscriber rating
- Date Added
Custom segmentation examples:
- Source — Import where you captured a merchant’s email address.
- Interest — Add custom information about a merchant’s interest in your business.
- Products/Services — Include any past business information here.
Leverage all segmentation to deliver relevant and timely information to your audience and email list. Start A/B testing your segments environment to see which content performs best for each audience. Measurable results will inform your future email plans.
Tip: Be sure to keep all segmentation in mind when preparing your content plan.
Plan how often to communicate
Emailing your customers too frequently will likely cause unsubscribe rates to increase — yet emailing too infrequently could mean your business staying top-of-mind. Finding the right balance is key.
How often is too often? A good method to help you decide on email frequency is reviewing your email content. Finding the right mix of content (between sales-driven content and value-add content) will help you determine if you could email customers once per week, or once per month. Will your content exhaust your list? Will your customers benefit from the content that you are delivering?
Review your email analytics, or start testing if you are just starting out with email marketing, to determine how your email list is interacting with your emails. Review open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates — also look at days, times, forwards, and shares. These metrics are all good indicators of frequency and content, and will help you plan your frequency appropriately.
For starters, once per month is a great way to get started and build credibility with your customers.
4. Know the tools
Finding the right email platform is key to delivering your email campaigns. Your selected platform should provide you with marketing automation, segmentation options, design capabilities for ease-of-use, A/B testing, and much more.
Here are some top email platforms you can try out:
- Klavyio — Easy to target, personalize, measure and optimize email.
- Dotmailer— Great for data-driven email automation.
- Bronto— Sophisticated commerce marketing automation to maximize engagement.
- Hubspot— Marketing software to help increase qualified leads.
- MailChimp — One of the top email marketing automation tools on the market.
- Constant Contact — Small business email engagement tools at an affordable price.
You might also like: How to Build an Abandoned Cart Email Sequence.
Your email marketing strategy
Now that you have all the ammunition to build a winning email marketing strategy, it’s time to take all of your learnings, and build out a strategy. Remember to set goals upfront to ensure your key focus for email, understand your audience by segmenting the right content to the relevant user, and use the best tools for your email needs that will aid in your success.
How do you build an email marketing strategy? Tell us in the comments section below!