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Written by Kia Irving
on May 06, 2021

Email is, and has long been, the workhorse of any marketing program. Whether inbound marketing, calendar-based promotions or your basic customer retention program, business doesn’t function without email marketing. Sure, there have been (several) rounds of predictions that “email is dead” (it’s not). And the prevalence of spam, and then the follow-up of CAN-SPAM and GDPR laws threatened to ruin the game for everyone, but email is here to stay. So how can you make it work for you?

Here’s our paint-by-numbers guide to making your email marketing program a success.

#1 Devise an email marketing strategy

Defining a clear vision is essential for setting up an email marketing channel for your business. There’s little value in collecting data if you aren’t going to do anything with it.

First, it’s important to define what you want to achieve:

  • Are you looking to engage with your existing customers?
  • Do you want to nurture leads?
  • Or perhaps it’s a combination of the two.

It can be as simple as a weekly newsletter, or as sophisticated as setting up an automated program for renewals. The key is consistency. The moment you lapse and stop sending for a few weeks or months, you become unreliable and easy to forget.

It’s important to have enough content to power your email program for at least one quarter at a time, whether you’re sending weekly or monthly. Creating enough relevant, evergreen content is not only good to power the machine, but it also means you can recycle it further down the lifecycle.

Once you have your goal, it’s time to think about your content and the subscriber journey:

  • What kind of content are you sharing? Think blogs, case studies, product pages etc.
  • Will you treat more engaged subscribers differently?
  • Are you keeping in touch with a newsletter or are you creating a specific sales funnel?

There’s a lot to plan, but the clearer you are about it, the easier it will be to map out what you need.

#2 Develop standard templates 

Hubspot lists these 12 best practice essentials for your email templates:

  1. Craft a strong subject line
  2. Write an attention-grabbing preheader
  3. Be concise
  4. Keep your email on-brand
  5. Utilise the layout to enhance your email’s user experience
  6. Personalise every email
  7. Incorporate unique visual content
  8. Don’t be afraid to use emojis
  9. Use a responsive design
  10. Optimise your email with calls-to-action
  11. Add an “unsubscribe” button
  12. A/B test your design

A few things to avoid in your emails:

  • Attachments! Instead, host that PDF on your website and link to it. Reason being spam filters detect this to be suspicious activity.
  • Keep your email concise: long emails will truncate (in layman’s terms: the content won’t display after a certain point, which looks unprofessional). Remember: the digital attention span for email is less than 10 seconds!
  • Broken links: make sure you test all your links are working before you send an email, and that they’re going to where you expect.

#3 Craft compelling subject lines 

You’ve no doubt seen some shockers in your time. You’ve likely seen some good ones that intrigue you. A lot are somewhere in the middle though.

Let’s start with some of the recommendations of what works (according to Hubspot’s observations):

  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Use personalisation tokens.
  • Segment your lists.
  • Do tell them what’s inside.
  • Use concise language.
  • Start with action-oriented verbs.
  • Make people feel special.
  • Create a sense of importance.
  • Use numbers.
  • Pose a compelling question.
  • Don’t be afraid to get punny.
  • Combine with some engaging preview text.
  • A/B test your subject lines

#4 Test before sending

Avoid embarrassing typos, dead links and designs that don’t render properly by testing (or visually proofing) your campaigns. All reputable email marketing platforms will have something built in that shows how your email renders in a number of popular email clients, devices and browsers. It also doesn’t hurt to have a look yourself.

Testing your email campaigns in Litmus

In addition to how it looks, make sure you’re clicking all those links to make sure they’re working and going where you intend.

Lastly, it’s a great idea to get a fresh set of eyes over your work. So ask someone else who hasn’t previously seen it to cast an eye. They will be more likely to spot mistakes or if something doesn’t look quite right.

#5 Can’t decide on something? There’s a split test for that!

As the cheesy anecdote goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results. Similarly, you should aim to keep things fairly consistent with your emails. But with both those sentiments, how do you know specifically what is and isn’t working? Easy: by split testing (also called A/B testing).

We recommend testing one variable at a time. That could be link colours, buttons vs. text links, from names, content length, images. The list is endless! But it’s essential you keep it one at a time so that you can know with confidence what effected the result.

You can find out more about split testing with Hubspot here.

The age old question: when should I send my emails??

“In general, the highest click-to-open rates are 10 AM, at 21%, 1 PM, at 22.5%, and have seen a spike at near 6 PM. The data reflects when most audiences begin or conclude their day and have the most time to check their emails.”

 Hubspot

Depending on the purpose of your marketing, have a think about when you’re most likely to give your inbox some attention. Chances are you’ll look at your personal emails at different times to work ones. Factor this in when you schedule or send your emails and monitor the results (and of course, test send times too!).

What KPIs to use?

Your email marketing platform of choice should give you a pretty decent dashboard of the results from your campaigns. It’s subjective, to an extent, what stats you and your business find more important and beneficial to report on. That said, some of the crucial ones are:

  • Database hygiene (new subscribers vs. unsubscribes)
  • Click through rate
  • Web traffic and conversions

Looking at industry benchmarks are a great way to measure how your campaigns are performing comparatively.

Strategy and analytics matter

To operate a successful email marketing program, planning your strategy and analysing your results are crucial. A bit like your website, planning your subscribers experience and journey are also really important factors. An effective lead nurturing program uses email as a core driver.

If you’re thinking about stepping up your email marketing, leave your details below and we will be in touch to discuss.

Read more: A guide to multichannel marketing in the pharma industry: From email to content marketing

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