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Email marketing

12 tips for a strong email marketing strategy

Originally published on June 7, 2018. Updated on June 26, 2020.

We all get a ton of email these days. In fact, according to DMR, 205 billion emails are sent daily and the average office worker gets 121 emails a day! That means there’s a lot of competition when you’re trying to implement an email marketing strategy. The email jungle gets even thicker when you consider that there is only an 18% open rate for desktop users.

The question, then, is how do you make sure your email stands out instead of blending into obscurity? The truth is that email marketing can be an incredibly effective tool to educate people about the great products or services your business has to offer, especially if they’ve visited one of your landing pages and they’ve signed-up for your mailing list, a free consultation, or a free download.

Keep reading, and we’ll run you through some basics to keep in mind when you’re developing your next email. We recommend you use these tips frequently and liberally for the best results.

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Why is email marketing important?

Email marketing is a really useful tool, and it can be used in a number of different ways. If people have signed up and indicated they want to learn more about your products or services, go ahead and teach them. It’s also a great way to build loyalty and trust in your brand. You can do this by offering perks like special rates, access to competitions, limited-time offers, prizes, exclusive question-and-answer sessions, and much more.

Once people have a good experience with your emails, they’ll be much more likely to open them, read them, and reach out to you. It also means you’ll be first in mind when they do need your products or services – for example, if you’re a HVAC company, you want to be front of mind when their boiler breaks. If you’re a fintech company, you need to be at the top of the list when they’re looking for a new POS software. If you’re a general contractor, you want them to think of you when they need to upsize their home to accommodate their growing family. You get the idea. It’s a great way to build a positive brand experience over time.

Not sure how to start? We’re email marketing experts!

Is email marketing effective?

You betcha. Email marketing is incredibly effective, when it’s done right. That’s where it gets important to read the fine print. Spam does no-one any favors. Neither does sloppy copy, rambling text, or blurry images. You need to keep your emails sharp and polished with lots of value. Here are some of the tried-and-tested email marketing tips we actually use for our own emails:

#1 Have a strong subject line

A well-crafted subject line can be one of the most important parts of your email marketing campaign, because it’s your first impression. Your email needs to hook people and make them curious enough to click and open it. Ideally, keep it to seven words or less, but don’t forget to do some A/B testing because some audiences respond better to longer subject lines. Always ask a question with the goal of making them curious. Using numbers is a great idea for your subject lines, for example, 12 Tips for a Strong Email Marketing Strategy. (Oh hey! That’s the title of this blog post! #genius) The second headline and be more descriptive. Focus on using action verbs like 5 hacks or 3 best tips to engage people and pique their curiosity. Lastly, you can use brackets to indicate what the person is going to be opening or viewing in the email. For example [infographic] or [case study pdf].

#2 Create exclusivity

Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something special, especially if it means they’re getting something before everyone else. Apple does an amazing job at this when they send out their emails announcing their new iPhones. Everyone on specific email marketing list gets an email inviting them to take advantage of their “Pre-Ordering” offer. Considering people camp out at the Apple stores to be some of the first to get phones, it can feel pretty special to get the chance to pre-order and have the phone just show up at your door! Another way to make people feel like they are part of an exclusive club is to send them a link for information prior to it going public. Send your subscribers a link to your newest blogs or offers the day before (or even hours before) they go public.

#3 Be friendly and considerate

Remember, your amazing email marketing campaign is one of about 121 other items in their inbox. It’s a good idea to call that out, and acknowledge that it is a big deal they took the time to open your email. Make it worth their while! Delight them with great photos, engage them with fun titles. Create something that will genuinely make their day better. Show them how special they are to you for taking your time and turning out quality content. Make sure you are talking to the person opening the email, not AT them. No one wants to feel talked at, but we enjoy having a conversation.

#4 Be generous and positive

Continuing in the vein from number 3, if you make a point to make the viewer happy, they will look forward to seeing and opening up your emails. Whenever you can be generous, give something away. How can you make their day better, how can you make them happy? What can you give away, you may ask? Great question. Here are some examples of email marketing winners:

  • eBooks
  • eCourses
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Coupons
  • Free trials
  • Blog posts
  • Free assessments
#5 Make it scannable

One way you can make their day better is by making the information in your email easy to read! Break up your content with photos and subheadings; be concise in your verbiage and if you have a lot of text that needs to be communicated, or post it as a blog on your website and use the “read more” option in the email. It’s also a great way to get some traffic back to your website. Remember, they have a lot of items to get through, and your email marketing campaign needs to be respectful of their time.

#6 Don’t let them forget

This might seem like a no-brainer, but your email marketing campaign should keep reminding readers about what it is that you do and how you can help them. Your business may be the center of your world, but they might have only heard of you in passing, so create a great impression every time.

Courtesy of Vero
Courtesy of Vero
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#7 Encourage conversion

Statistically, we see that when people are given clear ways to make conversions, they are more likely to do so. This is especially true when viewers are given small ways to engage and convert. Small options could be “Tweet This” or “Follow us on Facebook. These small opportunities don’t require much of the viewer and give them a way to engage with your email marketing campaign.

#8 Make the next step clear

One of the cardinal rules of email marketing is to be very clear on what the next step you want the subscriber to take. Content Rate Experts stress how important it is to be very clear and obvious what you want them to do. The question you want them to answer is “What do I need to do next?” You want to make sure there is a very clear way for them to answer that question and take the action you want them to take. One of the most effective ways to help viewers take the next step is to use buttons. They are clear, basic, and effective. If you want people to click on something, give them an obvious button. Make sure it is not a subtle color but clearly, stands out from the design.

#9 Segment your emails

Just because you can send someone an email doesn’t mean you should. What we mean by that is that not EVERYONE in your email list should get EVERY email you send out. Email marketing is a long game, you need to build trust with the people who are getting your emails. Make sure the offer or the information in the email is relevant to the person getting the email. For example, if they are a long-time customer, they shouldn’t get the welcome email or the email with the special for new customers.

Instead, make sure they get an email with a coupon because you value them as a long-time, loyal customer. If you’re wondering how you should segment your email marketing lists, start with your end goal (i.e. increase sales, expand brand awareness, increase engagement on social media, increase event registration) then work backward from that point and map out the journey you want the customer to take to get to the goal. Here are a few ideas of how you could segment your lists:

  • Past purchasers
  • Past asset downloaders
  • Hot leads
  • New subscribers
  • Current but not hot leads
  • VIPs
#10 Leverage social proof

Online reviews have become one of the mainstays of people’s buying decisions, so factor that into your email marketing strategy. People trust what others say online. According to Vendasta

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#11 Plan ahead

Use an editorial calendar and plan out ahead of time what your email marketing strategy is going to cover, and when. Having a plan provides for time to edit, edit, edit. No matter how effective a writer you are, it is always a good idea to have a second pair of eyes on your work prior to publishing. Following your editorial calendar also allows for time to invest thought and really put some time into your email marketing. The effort you put into the email will show through for the viewers. The difference between an email that is hastily thrown-together email and one that is well thought out and considerate of the subscriber’s time in palpable and appreciated.

#12 Respect SPAM rules

Finally, it is critical to know the rules laid out in the CAN-SPAM act. Each infraction could result in a $16,000 fine so it pays to be aware of and adhere to the rules including the seven basic rules. Be aware that you must make it clear when someone gives you their email that you will be adding them to your mailing list. Just collecting email addresses at a conference (for instance: “throw your card in the jar and be entered into a drawing”) is not enough. You must let the people know that not only will you be entering them into a drawing, but that their address will be added to your email marketing list.

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