Email marketing is one of the most effective content marketing tactics out there.
According to the DMA, email marketing brings in $38 of revenue for every $1 spent on it, which means that it has an ROI of 3,800%!
And emails are 40X more likely to bring in new customers than social media.
But sending out a regular, plain email to everyone on your list won’t get you big results like these.
You need to be strategic about who you send what content to.
This is only possible if you get to know your audience.
Thankfully, there are many ways to target your email marketing campaigns to exactly the right people.
Here are my favorite tactics for getting the most out of your email marketing strategy.
1. Use personalization and segmentation
Everyone loves to feel like marketing is tailor-made just for them.
You know when you see a really great email in your inbox that feels like it was created just for you?
I received this one from Volkswagen a few weeks ago.
I don’t own a car, but I was actually looking at a GTI on the Volkswagen website a few weeks before receiving this.
I’m not in the market to buy one. But, if I was more than a casual browser, this email would have a big effect on me.
I had totally forgotten I was looking at that car until I saw it, the exact same one, in my inbox a few weeks ago.
Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe it was advanced automated email marketing, but it sure felt like it was targeted directly at me.
And you know what? It felt good.
It didn’t feel like selling to me. It didn’t feel like just another pitch from a brand waiting for me to open it.
People get tired of emails like that real fast.
40% say most promotions aren’t interesting to them. Almost 40% say they delete most emails without even looking at them.
Personalizing emails to your audience is a great strategy for improving open and conversion rates.
Monetate recently did a study about email marketing personalization. Of companies who invested time in personalizing email campaigns, 79% of them exceeded their revenue goals.
Personalization can be as simple as using your contacts’ names in an email.
Truly customizing the content for each user requires segmenting your email list.
Segmentation is the most effective personalization tactic you can use.
Research backs it up, too.
Segmented emails result in 18 times the revenue of regular, mass-distribution emails. They also have over double the click-through rate.
This just makes logical sense.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to receive emails in line with their interests and preferences?
Segmenting your list means placing subscribers in different groups according to their interests, purchases, or other factors you decide on.
A common way to segment your list is by which products your subscribers have purchased.
For example, if you’re a clothing store, segment your subscribers by product category, like formal business attire or casual items.
Then, next time you have a special promotion, send it to the right people.
You wouldn’t send a customer who only buys suits from you an email about a sale on summer shorts, right?
Send only relevant promotions to each segment of your list.
Segmenting your list increases the chance of selling to the right audience.
It also avoids alienating other people by not sending them emails they’re not interested in.
2. Experiment with your subject lines
Subject lines are an extremely important part of your email marketing.
69% of people who report an email as spam do so because of the subject line alone.
No pressure getting it right then, huh?
There are a lot of tips out there for how to create great email subject lines.
These are worth trying out, but remember that each audience is different.
What your audience prefers is going to be different than what an audience in an entirely different industry prefers.
There have been studies on the words to avoid in your subject lines, like “white paper,” “journal,” and “forecast.”
There are also words you should avoid so your emails don’t land in your reader’s spam folder.
Some of them are pretty obvious, like “Addresses on CD.” You can tell that’s not legit just by looking at it.
But others are a bit trickier.
Words like “for free,” “prize,” and “earn extra cash” frequently get blocked by spam filters but they could have reasonable uses.
Personalization is also a great strategy for subject lines.
Using a subscriber’s name in a subject line can increase email open rates by 50%.
But, it’s important to keep in mind the space you have on mobile.
The average modern mobile device displays around 30 characters of an email’s subject line before cutting it off.
Over 50% of emails are now opened on a mobile device.
You need to make sure your subject line compels mobile users to open it in under 30 characters.
So get to the point quickly!
Keep your subject line straightforward and describe the content of the email in plain terms.
If you’re sending out something free to your audience, consider your word choice.
Statistics from MailChimp reveal that using the word “free,” was very effective in certain industries. But, it had a negative effect in others.
What works for one industry definitely doesn’t work for all of them when it comes to subject lines.
Your best bet is to try out different things, A/B test your emails, and find out what your audience responds to the most.
3. Use one call to action
It’s important to have only one call to action in your emails.
You need to make it obvious what you want your subscriber to do.
People are busy. There are over 269 billion emails sent every day and experts say it will only increase.
Over 49% of those emails are spam, but the average office worker still receives 121 real emails per day.
You’ve used a great subject line to get someone to open your email, so don’t lose them when they start reading and don’t understand what they’re supposed to do.
You could use a simple call to action like “Download Now,” or “Start Your Free Trial.”
But, it’s even better to focus on the benefits on the user instead of using simple commands.
If you’re sending an email to try to get someone to download a free trial of your new project management app, focus on what it will do for them.
Instead of “Download Now,” try, “Manage more projects in less time.”
Or, “Put down the spreadsheet and back away slowly.”
You get the idea.
Don’t use the same boring wording as everyone else. Make your calls to action about what your subscribers can gain from clicking it.
4. Provide value in every email
This should go without saying!
Of course, your goal is to provide value in all of your emails, right?
If you find yourself scrambling to come up with something to throw in an email so you can stick to your marketing schedule, you need to rethink your priorities.
Sticking to a schedule is great, but a schedule alone won’t win over any customers.
Real, valuable content will.
If you’re an e-commerce business, offering a discount to first-time subscribers is a popular option.
30% of retailers offer a 10% discount in the first email to a new subscriber.
This is a great strategy to encourage a new person to place their first order.
But what about after that?
Use segmentation and personalization to get to know your new subscribers.
Use what you learn about them to send them relevant offers like I mentioned in the formal wear vs. shorts example in the first section.
Until you know more about them, send them an email for every sale or new collection you have.
For B2B or service-based businesses, you need to get creative.
For all businesses, you can nurture your subscribers with a welcome sequence, and find out what they want to read with a survey.
Create a welcome email sequence: A welcome sequence is a series of emails you send to new subscribers only to educate them about your brand.
74% of consumers expect to receive a welcome email when they subscribe.
Subscribers who read that email are highly engaged. They also read 40% of your brand’s other emails for the next six months.
Give the people what they want!
Survey your readers: If you’re not sure what your audience finds valuable, ask!
Ask them what problems they’re having in their business, or what types of products they’re interested in.
Whatever you ask them, make sure to segment them into the appropriate lists in your email marketing program.
As a consumer, there’s nothing worse than taking the time to fill out a survey and feeling like your preferences are being ignored.
5. Accept replies
Make the address you send email newsletters from something that people can reply to.
So, “firstname.lastname@example.org” isn’t a great idea.
Your email subscribers are your biggest fans.
They want to hear from you on a regular basis. They buy your products. They tell their friends about you.
The goal of your email marketing list should be to build a community of awesome people that you communicate with regularly and who want to buy your stuff.
How can you build a community if it’s a one-way conversation?
Ask questions to encourage people to reply to your newsletters. Emails with questions get a much higher response rate.
Getting replies from your subscribers is valuable information for you, too.
It can help you to feel confident in knowing what types of content your audience wants to see. It’s like having your customer personas at your disposal to gain insight from.
You can use that regular insight to adjust your content strategy and develop new content.
Reply to every email you receive from a subscriber.
It may sound like a lot of work, but remember, these are your most valuable assets.
Replying to everyone can be automated.
You could hire a virtual assistant to answer the emails for you, or you could set up several Google canned responses.
A canned response is basically an email template that you can save and then send out in the future with just a few clicks.
To activate this feature, log in to your Gmail account.
Click on the gear icon at the top right, then click “Settings.”
Click on “Labs,” at the top.
Scroll down until you see “Canned Responses” and then click the button beside “Enable.”
Scroll to the bottom and click “Save changes.”
Then, open a new Gmail message and type a response to a subscriber email you’ve received.
Don’t reply to the person’s email. Create a new email from scratch.
When you’re done writing, click the tiny triangle in the bottom right corner.
Select “Canned responses,” and click “New canned response.”
Give your new response a name. It should be something you would recognize right away.
Next time someone else asks a question suitable for that response, just click reply to their email.
From the reply window, click the triangle at the bottom right of the screen and select “Canned responses.”
Click on your template under “Insert.”
Just like magic, your text is pasted into the reply box.
You can edit it before you press send.
These will save you a ton of time while still enabling you to engage your audience.
6. Allow people to unsubscribe easily
Don’t be afraid of people unsubscribing.
If someone unsubscribes, they’re doing you a favor.
They’re not interested in your products or content, so why would you want them on your list?
Instead of being afraid, focus on finding people who want to be on your list.
Half of all people who unsubscribe from emails mark them as spam because they couldn’t figure out how to unsubscribe.
That’s not good.
You don’t want your emails to get a spammy reputation.
Emails that are marked as spam by a lot of people have a higher chance of ending up on the spam list for everyone.
At a minimum, all emails you send must have one “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom.
Here’s an example of one of my recent emails.
Some users won’t scroll that far to figure out how to unsubscribe. You can include unsubscribe links in the rest of the email content, too.
In my example above, it’s pretty short so the unsubscribe link is easy to find.
If your email is longer, you may want to make the “Unsubscribe” text larger, bolder, or a different color to make it stand out more.
7. Keep your email design simple
This ties in well with my example above.
See how plain my email looks?
I send newsletters like this all the time.
What about the fancy newsletters you’re used to seeing, like this one from skincare brand Philosophy?
Sure, it looks nice, and it works for e-commerce.
They have beautiful products. Displaying them in a nicely-designed email adds to that.
But if you’re a content marketer like me, you don’t need a mile-long, professionally-designed template to let people know you wrote a new blog post.
You can simply write a few lines, drop a link to your post, and move on.
Sometimes keeping it simple is the best solution.
This is especially true when it comes to mobile devices.
Displaying a long, elaborate template can be tricky on mobile.
Devices have many different sizes of screens. You’ve got to deal with lots of different email apps and operating systems, like iOS or Android.
Unless you really need to have a fancy template, skip it.
It’s not worth the risk.
69% of mobile email users delete messages that don’t display well on their phones without ever reading them.
With 64% of decision-makers reading emails on their phones, you can’t afford to let mobile design mistakes cost you business.
Don’t let a few pixels stand in the way of getting your content out!
Email marketing is a much more personal way of marketing than social media or ads.
The average person checks their email 15 times per day. That’s about once an hour, assuming people sleep for 8 hours a day.
Email has replaced much of our dependence on paper mail for bills, statements, and other important communications like doctor’s appointments.
A home address used to be the main piece of information marketers wanted years ago to send direct mail to. Now it’s an email address.
Email has changed marketing forever.
While there’s no doubt it’s effective, there are lots of tweaks and tests you can do to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck out of your email marketing.
It’s not all about sales.
Sending targeted, personalized emails also creates consumer trust in your brand.
77% of consumers expect emails they receive to be personalized based on their profile, purchases, and browsing behavior.
Yes, it also makes people more likely to buy from you.
This happens because you’ve taken the time to get to know them first by segmenting them into relevant lists.
By ensuring that your customers only receive emails they’re interested in, you’re continuing to build that trust.
Most of all, email marketing is about the human contact your brand has with customers.
To make that human connection even stronger, ensure that the address you send campaigns from can accept replies.
Respond to everyone who replies to one of your marketing emails.
They could have a great new feature idea for your product. Whatever they have to say, listening to their feedback can only make your company better in the long run.
What are the most effective email marketing strategies you’ve tried?