Email marketing has come a long way over the past few years. It has become a great marketing tool with considerable ROI, if it's done right. According to WordStream, email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind colleague recommendations and industry thought leaders.
Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of businesses that are misusing email and spamming their audience with information that is neither helpful nor wanted. However, there are many businesses that understand the power of email and know not to abuse it. In order to leverage the power of email, it's important to understand and follow email marketing best practices.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Best practices for B2B email marketing have changed and will continue to do so as technology expands. In 2018, users have high expectations and if you don't meet those expectations you're at risk of your users banning you to the unsubscribe list ...
So let's start with the basics, these are the bare minimum for email marketing that will help you stay out of the Spam folder:
Build your own email list - ask users to opt-in
Customize the "From" field
Write clear subject lines
Design for mobile - this is a must
Include a call-to-action
Make it easy to unsubscribe
Customize the "From" Field
While this is a basic best practice for email marketing. I thought it was worth discussing the importance and the reason behind it.
Open the lines of communication between you and your prospects/customers by using an actual person/email address in your "From" field. By allowing prospects to respond following your email outreach you are providing the opportunity for your prospects to reach you and start a conversation. Even if the conversation is criticism or an unrelated question, this information gives you the opportunity to address any concerns or questions, which creates engagement with your prospect.
I receive emails on a daily basis that come through from "No Reply". That's such a big miss for those users who are ready to interact following your email. I realize not all emails your company sends are meant to generate an immediate response, but consider this - You received an email from Company XYZ last week promoting some new service. At the time, you weren't interested or didn't have time to look into it so you just let it sit in your inbox. A week later, you receive an email from the same company - it's unrelated to the previous promotion, but it's enough to jog your memory and you want to reach out for more information. But no such luck, Company XYZ sent you a "No Reply" email ... opportunity missed. Always, always, always send an email out from an actual email address.
Segment your list
Before I talk about list segmentation, let me discuss your list. Never buy an email list. The goal of email marketing shouldn't be to hit as many inboxes as possible, but rather to bring information to the users who are looking for it - those are the users that opt-in. Now onto segmentation.
Gone are the days when you just mass-emailed every person on your list the same content. By segmenting your email marketing lists, you are creating a level of personalization. You can create segmentation lists by:
Interests (what pages have they viewed, what offers have they downloaded, etc.)
Why does list segmentation matter? It allows you to send the right information to the right people at the right time. For example, if you have a user who has visited your pricing page in the last month, but has not converted, sending an email to continue the conversation will help nurture them through the decision process. According to HubSpot, targeted emails to certain buyer personas increase email click-through rates by 16 percent.
Personalization goes hand-in-hand with segmentation. Knowing your audience is the key to successful email marketing. This goes beyond simple demographics - what information is your audience looking for? What time do they prefer to receive communication and engage with it? (This part requires data - also a key to successful email marketing) Uncovering your audience preferences will help you to deliver more effective communication and should yield a higher response to your messages.
You can gather this information by asking the right questions. Do you want to know why the user is visiting your site? Ask them in a form or a pop-out. Keep the questions short and the to-the-point. If you're looking for more detailed information, consider buyer personas. Personas help uncover what types of information a specific group of users is looking for. Using this information will increase the personalization of the emails you create.
data = knowledge
In order to personalize and segment your lists, you need data. Data is also crucial to measuring the success of your email marketing efforts. How will you know what's working if you're not measuring it? But what do you measure - that depends on the goal. Are you sending an email that you just want people to read, or are you looking to drive people to your website, or is there an offer you want them to download? Each of these emails has a different goal and therefore, should be measured differently for success. If you are solely looking for users to read your email, you will be measuring email opens. If you're looking for engagement, you want to measure clicks and website traffic.
Data will also help in your list segmentation by uncovering the day and time groups of users interact with your email.
Why? Because it's important to stay up-to-date with your audience preferences. Just like everything in marketing, email tactics change quickly. Keep in mind, A/B testing does not mean that you send two completely different emails. Test one element at a time. If you notice that your open rates aren't as high as you'd like - A/B test subject lines to see if a different style appeals more to your audience. Looking for better click-through rates, test out different CTAs. Above all, make sure you have a significant sample size for your testing. Once you find a winning piece, move onto the next element.
So there you have it - a guide to email marketing best practices and trends. Keep in mind, these are best practices to be used as a starting point. As you dig deeper into email marketing, you'll discover what works best for you and your audience. Email marketing best practices and trends will continue to change over time. The best advice I have is to stay nimble with your tactics and efforts. Do the work, analyze your results, and adjust as needed. To learn more, check out the email marketing case study below.
She enjoys diving deep into the numbers and trends behind campaigns and constantly looks at new ways to bring the right information to the right audience. Kristen loves a good process and if there isn’t already one in place, she’ll look to create it.
Outside of work, you will most likely find Kristen at the softball fields or volleyball courts. She enjoys spending as much time as possible in the wide world of the great outdoors.