5 Steps to Building a Great Email Strategy

Email marketing used to be the domain of big corporations with massive marketing budgets. With the internet now operating as many people’s primary, go-to source for information, even small businesses must adapt to digital strategies for marketing. The upside is that a well-designed email marketing strategy can build loyalty with existing customers and improve your chances of converting interested prospects into paying customers. These five steps can help you build a great email strategy.

1. Set Specific Goals

Much like exercise, an email strategy works best when you set specific goals. General goals are much harder to achieve because they typically call for a range of activities that can be very different. Endurance and strength are both elements of overall fitness, but demand different kinds of exercise. Building customer loyalty, cementing a brand and boosting sales are all elements of a successful business, but each calls for a different approach in terms of the content of your emails. Trying to achieve all of these goals simultaneously leads to mixed messages that will likely fail to deliver positive results. Decide at the very beginning what specific goal you want to pursue and build your strategy around that goal.

2. Target a Specific Audience

Professional marketers focus on demographic information because it makes their jobs easier and more effective. Different demographics respond to content in different ways. Men and women, for instance, react differently to the same content. Professionals working inside an industry read content with deep background knowledge, which allows the content writer to employ industry jargon that would be totally inappropriate for those working outside the industry. By narrowing your intended audience to a specific group, you can craft emails that cater to the particular needs, wants or concerns that impact that group, rather than offering content with wider, but less meaningful, messages.

3. Deliver Compelling Content

Whether you choose to use e-newsletters, sales offers, a product announcement or an event invitation, there is one rule that always applies. It must be compelling and relevant information is always compelling. If a home improvement store is running an email campaign to build customer loyalty, it won’t matter how slick the HTML-enhanced email looks when the information isn’t relevant to people who shop at the store. A short, text-only article that details ways a homeowner can protect against a problem common to houses in the area, on the other hand, will be compelling because it matters to the reader. If your email campaign is designed to sell something or get the reader to do something, it should always include a very clear call to action. If you want the reader to call, a phrase like “call our toll-free number today” needs to appear. Never assume your reader will know that you want them to call, buy or sign up for something.

4. Follow Best Practices

Like other types of marketing, email marketing messages have legal limitations. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act, in particular, regulates what can, cannot, and must be included in marketing emails. While business owners moving into using email campaigns should familiarize themselves with this law, there are some general rules that will help keep you out of trouble with the Federal Trade Commission and keep your emails out of spam folders. The subject line of your emails should be consistent with the content of your emails. If you promote a sale in the subject line, the email needs to be about that sale. Include opt-out instructions. Email recipients must be able to leave your list at will and instructions or a link to do so should be clearly available in the email. There are also a number of email services that offer software and server space that automate elements such as list management, opt-ins and opt-outs that can simplify legal compliance. A final consideration is the issue of terms that set off spam filters. Terms like free, credit, and cash, for example, will all trigger spam filters.

5. Track Results

It isn’t enough simply to send out the emails, you need to track results. Two of the most important metrics to track are the open rate and the click-through rate. The open rate is percentage of emails opened. These results are particular important when the emails are simply delivering information, rather than asking for the recipient to do something. The click-through rate tracks how many people chose to click on a link inside the email, to an external article or a sale item for example, generally as a prompt from a call to action. If either the open rate or the click-through rate is particularly low, it means one of two things. It can mean that your subject line or content isn’t communicating a relevant message and needs to be revised. The other possibility is that you need to check the bounce rate. Bounce rates refer to the number of emails that never reach an inbox, either because the email address doesn’t exist or the because of a technical issue with the server trying to deliver the email. By tracking these results, you can see which emails generated the highest responses, allowing you to tailor content more effectively, and you can clean problem email addresses out of your list, which improves delivery time and reduces costs.

By implementing these five steps, you can develop a targeted email strategy that creates results. By aiming at a specific audience with a specific goal, you tailor your content to address their needs in a specific, compelling way or show how your product can fill a gap in their life. Following best practices helps you avoid alienating your customers or prospects and keeps you in the clear legally. Finally, tracking results enables you to focus in on the content that your customers respond to and retire content that get bad results.

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