Emails in 2018 : The ‘How To’ Guide

225 Billion, does this looks like a big number ?, if it does, it’s because it is a big number. According to research, 225 Billion emails were sent out everyday in 2017 and this number is expected to grow to 235 Billion/day and 246 Billion/day in 2018 and 2019 respectively. With these many number of emails being sent and possibly read, the importance of email marketing cannot be emphasized enough. Email marketing was one of the first channels to qualify as digital marketing and till date remains an important component in every digital marketer’s arsenal. According to a leading authority on inbound marketing, Hubspot, emails help in closing bottom of the funnel leads and converts them into customers.

Not only email marketing is a time tested strategy, it is also the strategy that delivers the best ROI when compared to all other channels.

With a 73 % ROI rating, email marketing beats other popular channels such as SEO, Content marketing, PPC and Affiliate marketing.Email marketing is the most cost effective way of promoting your products, communicating with your customers and drive your business goals. And according to this report, on an average, for every $1 spent on email marketing you can expect a return of $48 !. Today, email marketing is used extensively by both businesses selling to other businesses and businesses selling to customers. They use email marketing to send out a promotion on their latest product or just to say hello. Either way, getting the fundamentals right is very important for creating a sound email marketing strategy and mastering the principles that build an effective email marketing strategy. We are going to look at the 5 crucial aspects of an effective email marketing strategy and why getting them right is very important.

  • Email Personalization

Personalized email marketing doesn’t mean sending an individual email to every single subscriber on your list. It means using the information you have on a particular subscriber to tailor the email to his liking. A great example of a company that does personalization well is Amazon. Amazon sends out promotions that start with ‘Dear Vaibhav; and not ‘Dear Valued Customer’. The suggested products are not picked at random but are based on my Amazon browsing history. For Amazon, email is not another ‘run-of-the-mill’ marketing channel, it is the foundation to an exceptional customer experience. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO places great emphasis on email. He understands the value that email provides and has been known to go through customer complaints from time to time It’s also why more than 35% of all product sales for Amazon are generated from recommendations, both through email and onscreen.

Email personalization is way of life for some companies. One such company, Rankwatch, a market leader in SEO management software uses personalization in all its emails. They address every prospect by his/her first name and the email is tailor made for that particular prospect. The email contains content that addresses the prospects pain points whilst encouraging them to engage in a free trial of the product.

Another great example of email personalization is to send an individual, statistics unique to him or her. For example, a company called Grammarly sends out weekly progress reports containing statistics exclusive to you. Such personalized emails build rapport with your customers and leads and help in closing more sales.

And it’s not just these companies that have found such excellent results through emails. According to a study by Experian, personalized emails deliver upto 6X higher transaction rates. According to an estimate most of the brands today(upto 70%) do not use personalization and this presents a great opportunity for every company to begin using personalization. A simple form of personalization is to use the reader’s name in your communication. Most of the email softwares today provide this functionality and using this tactic alone will improve the performance of your email campaign. According to this study, emails that include the recipient’s name in the subject line see upto 3% increase in open rates.

Apart from using the customer’s name, below mentioned are few more tips to help you get started with personalization:

  • Immediately ask for the right information: Personalization starts long before you hit the ‘send’ button. It is crucial to obtain the correct customer information like Name, Designation and company through your sign up forms. You can then use this data to personalize your emails. Without this data you will be limited to sending generic emails
  • Don’t use a generic reply-to email address: Using reply-to addresses like donotreply@example.com only reduces the authenticity of your communication. Using a real reply-to address such as johndoe@example.com will encourage your recipients to engage more actively with your communication and will improve the credibility of your communication
  • Use a real email signature: Just like the reply-to address, using a generic email signature will reduce the credibility and authenticity of your communication. For giving your communication a more human touch, you have use a real person’s signature. Including your phone number is also a good idea as this will encourage your recipients to actively respond and engage with you.

2. Segmentation

Segmentation is the practice of dividing your contact database into more specific groups based on certain characteristics in order to send them targeted emails. According to the market authority on inbound marketing, HubSpot, all the prime email marketing KPIs show better results when the email list is segmented.
The segmentation improves performance in areas such as

Segmentation is what determines if the right person has been sent the right message at the right time. In the inbound philosophy, email marketing demands that context of the email be given as much attention as the content. According to a recent survey, 63% of the participants, agree or strongly agree that the emails being sent to them had irrelevant content. These people aren’t saying that the content was bad, they found that the content was just not relevant to them. Even the best written email in the world will be a complete waste of time for you and your subscribers if the context is wrong.
Below mentioned are a few ways of segmenting your target list

  • Segment by industry: Depending on whether you sell products or services, knowing the target industry of your subscribers and segmenting your database according to it is a great way of sending targeted emails. For example, A company dealing in IT software would engage at a much higher rate when they are sent email promotions on software products rather than email promotions on auto parts.
  • Segment by company size: Segmenting your email database by company size or annual revenue is a great way of improving response rates. A small business is unlikely to buy that enterprise scale cloud ERP solution but a large business will most definitely be interested.
  • Segment by stage in the funnel: Early stage or top of the funnel buyers will not be looking for a demo/trial or an aggressive sales pitch. However, they will be more receptive towards receiving a link to an industry seminar or a white paper/ebook that gives them useful information. On the hand, bottom of the funnel buyers, who are ready to buy will be more receptive towards email promotions with trials or demos.

3. Mobile Friendly Emails

60% of consumers today check their emails on the go and 75% of them say that they use their smartphones most often to check emails. If you are anything like me, the first thing that you do when you get up in the morning is check your emails. When you send an email to a subscriber and that email is not optimized for mobile devices, the subscriber immediately deletes it or unsubscribes from your list.

Half of the emails sent out today are not optimized for mobiles. On the other hand, emails optimized for mobiles generate a lot of revenue. So much so that mobile friendly emails generate up to 4X more revenue than desktop emails.

55% of smartphone users have made at least one purchase after reading an email on a mobile and a study by Flexmail found that up to 36 % of B2B companies that optimized their email campaigns for mobile have noticed an improvement in their campaign performance.

Below mentioned are a few methods for optimizing your email campaigns for a mobile

  • Use responsive email design (RED): Implementing and using a responsive email design means that user experience is optimized for device or screen they use. It changes the design of the same email so as to give the best possible user experience according to the particular device you are using.Majority of the ESP’s(Email Service Providers) give this functionality with their service
  • Make an attractive subject line and keep the pre-header short: The subject line is the first thing the subscriber sees in your email. Keep it concise and crisp so that the reader immediately grasps what the email is about. GetResponse did a study and found that emails with subject lines consisting of 90-119 characters, had the highest open rates. Another good practice to make your subject line attractive is the use of emoji’s. Emoji’s have become really popular in the recent times and their adoption rate is increasing exponentially.They will be really useful for you in email subject lines and will give your readers a specific, easy to understand reason to open your emails. With a skillful use of Emoji’s, you can quickly communicate your desired message .

Summarizing the email or including a CTA in the pre header(Snippet) Text is also a good idea.
Make the CTA big and obvious: Mobile devices vary in sizes. While it maybe easy to click on a text link in a tablet, it is difficult to do so on a smartphone. Make sure your CTA is a big, bold and easy to click otherwise you risk alienating your readers on smaller devices.

4. A/B Testing

One of the best ways to find out what your audience prefers is A/B Testing. You can send out two nearly identical versions of an email with slight changes and measure the CTR’s(Click Through Rates) to see which one performs better.

You can make changes in any aspect of the email. There can be differences in the subject line, content, CTA’s or delivery time. This can be done until you find the version of email that. It is important to measure each variation of the email because it is only the data that will tell you what has performed better. Below mentioned are few of the most frequently tested things according to a recent report.

Apart from the things mentioned above, below are a few more things that can be tested.

  • From address: The from name has huge impact on whether people will open your email or not. Test the from address using variations like top management’s email addresses, specific person’s email address, company email address etc.
  • Plain text vs HTML campaigns: While most people send out both HTML and plain text versions of their campaigns. It is a good idea to run a plain text campaign only. Plain text along with an element of personalization appears to have just been written for the reader.
  • Long vs short emails: Long emails are detailed copies whereas short emails usually contain a few lines of text along with a CTA. The best way to find out which one works better is to test both.

5. Result Analysis

While preparation is important, it is equally important to measure the results.Analytics is important in every of digital marketing and emails are no exception to this.
Though all the performance indicators are important, there are three that should be carefully analyzed. Oen rate, click through rate (CTR), and unsubscribes.
Your open rate indicates how good a relationship you have built with your subscribers; If it is low, it means that people have started to delete your email upon receipt and you need to strive harder in order to provide value to them.
If the CTR is low, it means that the message content is not relevant to the reader or it is being targeted at the wrong people. In this case, making the content more relevant and targeting the right people would help.
If your unsubscription rate is more in comparison to your opt-in rate, it means that your subscribers have stopped seeing the value in your communication. Taking a step back and rethinking the content of the email and the value that it provides will help.
If they’re churning after an autoresponder email, change the process. If they’re churning after receiving marketing messages, rework the way you present offers. If people are leaving early in the funnel, make sure that you are communicating the right message to people that is relevant to their stage of the funnel.
Email analytics are very critical because they will tell you where you are going wrong.

6. Automate Email Campaigns

Automating the outflow of emails based on certain trigger events is a very good idea. The most common form of automated emails are ‘welcome’ mails, ‘thank you’ mails or transaction based emails such as ‘transaction confirmation’.

Epsilon found the following about trigger based automated emails.

  • 49 % open rates(95% higher than traditional emails)
  • Average CTR is more than double compared to traditional emails
  • Best converting websites in the world use emails

Trigger based automated emails have best possible context and that is why they experience such high open rates. For example, if you left a product in the cart and within a few hours or next day you receive an automated reminder with a 10% discount coupon. You are more likely to complete this purchase now.

Below mentioned are a few trigger based emails that you can send

  • Activation: A new user creates an account but does use your product within 7 days. You can send an email with a ‘walkthrough’ and step by step instructions on how to use your product.
  • Win-back: Customers at the end of their contracts can be sent a big win back email with suitable promotions/offers to lure them into renewing the subscription.
  • Surprise: Customer loyalty is the key to success and you can always surprise your most loyal customers with a surprise offer or promotion.

Emails, because of their simplicity and ROI, always have been and will continue to be the backbone of any organizations digital marketing strategy. Investing in a sound email marketing strategy will bear fruits now and will continue to do so, well into the future.

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