Regardless of other forms of digital communication, email marketing remains the most direct and most effective practice of nurturing the leads you’ve got, then converting prospects to customers and turning customers into champions. Throughout all stages of digital marketing, email marketing has a big part to play.
The rise in social media activity has been great for awareness and driving web traffic, but sooner or later you’ll need to take those conversations one on one to convert them, otherwise they tend to stay as just conversations.
Meetings and phone calls might be best if you have a dedicated sales team and you know the buyer is qualified, but with email being checked 15 times on average it’s is a great place to start building a more intimate relationship if you have a large audience and your prospect is not ready to buy yet, which is often the case if they’ve not known you long.
The first and most important thing you need to succeed is permission to email your leads and prospects. Buying email lists or just adding contacts you know or entering details from businesses cards you’ve collected is generally not recommended.
Without permission you’re technically just spamming and that’s unlikely to get you positive results. People who don’t positively opt in aren’t the people that will buy from you so don’t waste your time – or theirs. It can also hurt your domain credibility with mail providers if a lot of people mark your messages as spam.
You’re far better with a smaller group of highly interested and engaged people who want to hear what you have to say. To get started all you need is an opt-in form and a tool to send your emails. Most CRM’s have email campaigns as one of their core features, but if you don’t have one yet then you can start with a standalone service like MailChimp.
To grow your list you’ll need to do more than just have a sign up box on your website. You’ll need to attract people to sign up by providing an offer, which is known as a lead magnet. People are in effect paying you by giving you their email address so you need to give them something valuable in return. Popular examples of lead magnets are:
- Whitepaper or eBook
- Free trial or sample
- Discount or coupon code
- Cheatsheet of tips or hacks
The possibilities are endless, but in order to be effective lead magnets will share some characteristics. They’ll be easy to consume, action-driven, relevant and instant. If you’re not giving any real value, effectively tricking your audience into handing over their email address they’ll soon unsubscribe and you’ll have to start all over again.
With your lead magnet you also need an opt-in form. The purpose of which is to show the value of your offer and to collect the subscribers details. A good opt-in form has these things:
- Enticing headline – grabs the reader’s attention
- Helpful description – brief, clear and to the point
- Good visuals or images
- Easy to complete – name and email address is usually best. You can get their other details later.
- Compelling subscribe button – try experimenting with colour and message eg “Yes, please send me the coupon”!
You then need to install it somewhere in your website. Good places include separate landing pages, splash pages, floating bar, sidebar, header or footer, links on your blogs or articles, or as an exit-intent popup. All have their relative strengths and will show conversions. What’s important is that you try different things, move your opt-in form around and try different avenues to get there. When you see it performing well you’ll know you’ve found the right balance of making it easy to find yet not so over-promoted that it’s ignored.
Once you’ve started collecting emails you’ll need to think about segmenting your subscribers so you can send them more personalised emails. A good place to start is with your buyer personas and also what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re at. This way rather than broadcast every email you send to everyone, you start to nurture leads based on who you think will be most interested in the content you have, thus resulting in higher conversions.
Once you’ve tagged your subscribers into different segments you’ll be able to start sending autoresponders – a series of emails that go out automatically to the right people at the right time. Segments makes it so much easier to craft subject lines and messages as you’re not trying to appeal to everyone.
Depending on your product or service there’ll be different ways to segment your list but here’s some examples:
- New subscribers. Send a welcome email or series of emails.
- Interests. Depending on which lead magnet they clicked on will tell you
- Location. Send material on local events in their area.
- Open rate. Those who engage and click more links get sent a particular offer or invite to something
- Inactivity. The opposite to above, you might send a different email or series of emails with the aim to re-engage subscribers.
These are just some ideas and the options to segment may be different for your business.
You now need to get people actually opening and reading your emails. There are several important factors to consider here:
- Avoid spam filters. Make extra sure everyone has opted in – ask twice if need be. Send mail through a verified domain from a reputable provider, using a good IP address (not somewhere public or somewhere that may have sent spam before. Use merge tags to personalise the To field. Include an opt-out link and your details including location. To be double certain ask subscribers to white-list your emails and add you to their address book.
- Remove inactive subscribers. There’s no need to have a huge list of thousands, when all you need is real, actually interested potential buyers. People will change email accounts, move away, change jobs, interests or life circumstances all the time. Every 4-6 months is a good time to refresh if you haven’t heard from someone. Just send a note asking if they’d like to stay subscribed. Then you know.
- Perfect your timing. Time of day, time of week, month or year can all have an impact of your open rates. Try different times, measure the results and stick with what works best.
- Make your subject line stand out. Entice curiosity without being too clever, it should stand out and tell the reader what to expect from the mail. Avoid overly sensational statements like “Amazing one time offer just for you!” as they have the reverse effect and look spammy.
- Write to one person. It’s natural to think of the thousands who might read it, but it’s far more effective to write to one person – one buyer persona – in a way that resonates with them and using their language. Be personal, humourous, professional etc depending on the topic you’re writing about and the persona you’re talking to. Whatever you decide, be consistent as people quickly become familiar with how you communicate and what they can expect.
- Optimise for mobile. Around half of all emails are opened on mobile devices so when designing consider your mobile audience. Keep the formatting simple, use a slightly larger font than desktop, assume images won’t be displayed, use a large Call To Action button so it’s easy to hit with a thumb, and don’t put 2 links right next to each other.
All of these tips will help, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results from emails. It can take some experimentation to get right and also some time before readers feel like they can contact you back even though they’re secretly hanging off your every word!
The last part to email marketing is using autoresponders – the automatic sequence of emails that go out to a specific segment of your user list, triggered by a specific event such as signing up for the first time or downloading an ebook.
The common ways autoresponders are used are:
- Send a welcome sequence to new customers/subscribers.
- Use it as an alternative lead magnet, by sending out a mini course or a series of lessons or tips.
- Promote up-sells/cross-sells, particularly if you’re an eCommerce business.
- Onboard or train new customers after a purchase
You’ll need to map out your entire sequence and what the triggers are. There’s no rule when it comes to how many emails to have in your sequence, just needs to be long enough to accomplish your goals. So you’ll determine it by your buyer personas, their preferences and the subject matter. The same rule applies to frequency.
You need to find a balance between your value emails (educational) and your offer emails (sales). This stops your list getting burnt out. If you start by sending around 80% value emails and 20% offer emails you should be in a good place to make tweaks so that you see incremental results.
Getting the content of an autoresponder series right isn’t something to rush. Worth keeping in mind is:
- Focus on the reader. Solve their problems not yours
- Use personalisation. Name as well as language (back to your personas)
- Write awesome subject lines. Think about media here and how they capture your attention to read an article
The subject line of your email is the same as the headline of the front page of a newspaper (for those who still read them) and it works the same way.
Lastly, as with all things digital, monitor your results and improve. Getting the perfect result is unlikely to happen first time, you’re going to need to look at things like open rates, click through rates and unsubscribe rates. Take note of the results and make adjustments accordingly. They all tell you a story.