As the primary tool for communicating with customers and prospects, be it B2B or B2C audiences, email marketing drives the marketing/sales channel for any business. To get the best results, staying tuned into the latest trends and email marketing best practices helps tremendously.
There is a lot that goes into planning a well-executed email marketing campaign: audience segmentation, upgrading transactional emails, setting your cadence, choosing the right tone for your audience, etc. This post shares the 10 most important email marketing best practices for growing your subscriber base by enhancing email deliverability and the responsiveness of your emails.
1. Stop buying email lists
As rightly said by Suzy Kassem, “In life, most shortcuts end up taking longer than taking the longer route.” Buying email lists will actually kill your email marketing initiatives. Marketers are tempted to buy email lists. However, they come with the risk of unknown subscribers, and marketing to “cold” contacts will result in lower conversion rates, higher unsubscribe rates, and increased bounce rates as email servers may view your mail as spam. It is also well-known that 90% of decision-makers don’t respond to cold calls or cold emails.
Building your own list will involve time and resources – but it will be well invested. You will gain more benefits from this process than buying an email list where you have no clue of the prospects and their interests. Custom built lists will keep you on top of your email campaigns because you know the audience, you understand their needs and interests, or sometimes their budget.
How do you build your own list? There are multiple ways to build and add to your email list. Promote email sign-ups on your website, via pop-ups, blogs, landing pages, and social media pages. The list goes on. It’s important to communicate with subscribers once they leave their email addresses with you. Building a subscriber list improves your chances of whitelisting and reduces spam.
2. Audience preferred frequency
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to communicate with the audience once they sign up. This helps them clearly understand what to expect and how often to expect it. Most businesses opt for quantity over quality, their thinking is that by sending more emails they will reach and convert more prospects.
However, it’s highly important to focus on quality, because if they receive an email that doesn’t engage them, you will have lost an important opportunity to move them along the sales cycle. Find a balance between quantity and quality.
How often should you email? That’s a tough question to answer because overdoing it can lead to high unsubscribe rates and under-doing it can decrease brand awareness and reduce sales opportunities. To answer this, consider engagement metrics that showcase how often a recipient would like to be contacted. A much better method is allowing them to answer themselves.
An example: How much *brand name* do you want?
2-3 emails a week
I need a month break
Marketing automation tools allow users to set their preferences during the subscription process. Preferences could be based on time, content, or both. Time-based emails allow audiences to choose their preferred cadence. The content-based method allows them to pick the type of content they want to see in their emails. You can also use a combination of both in your subscription forms.
3. Optimize your calls-to-action (CTAs)
Now that you have subscribers, know what they want, and how often they want it – what’s the next step? It is to get these subscribers to click and perform a certain action. Enter – CTAs. I cannot stress enough how important calls-to-action are in emails; without them, there’s no point in email marketing in the first place. Including a call-to-action button in place of a text link can increase conversion rates by as much as 28%. CTA conversion rates indicate the success of email marketing campaigns.
How do I optimize CTAs? Creating an actionable, inspiring and persuading call to action button is a high click opportunity in the email. Start with creating contextual content around the CTA. As you may already know – “Shop Now” is more effective than “Click Here.” Test some keywords for the business, offer, and the type of audience.
To optimize your CTA, you can follow these simple steps:
- Design the email copy based on the CTA.
- Make it obvious/prominent in the email.
- Don’t clutter the space around your CTA.
- Don’t include too many CTAs so that it’s clear which action you want readers to take.
4. Offer something valuable
Any marketer’s quick answer to increasing their subscriber list is to offer informative content. When you offer something valuable to subscribers, you build a mailing list of genuinely interested leads that results in a lower unsubscribe rate. Your emails will be perceived as spam or promotional when they do not offer value.
When asking people to subscribe to your mailing list, you cannot ask for too much information from your audience. Keep the questions limited – an email address alone would suffice in many cases, or alternatively, ask for only name and email address.
What to offer ? This depends on the niche and how you want customers to perceive your brand. It could be a free download of a white paper or a case study. Also, offering a free trial of your product can encourage the audience to use it and understand it. Plus, it results in increased brand recognition.
If you include a sense of urgency around your valuable content, chances of new leads opting for the offer increase. Grammarly uses this in their email content by offering 50% off on taking a premium account.
5. Provide exclusive offers to your loyal customers
Now that you have a list of subscribers, it’s important to differentiate loyal email readers from those who occasionally do or do not open them at all (there’s another approach to such subscribers – learn more about that below). Making your readers consistently feel special is a great way to increase the excitement and trust factor. It will also encourage them to check for brand updates in their inboxes. This is the way to go to build a niche community.
6. Unique subject lines with interesting email content
Email recipients look at the sender name and subject line before they decide to open. Most email service providers show 40-60 characters of subject lines along with the opening line of the email message. It’s good to include compelling and clear subject lines. Gmail displays close to 120 characters, which include subject line as well as the first line of your email. This is your chance to intrigue the reader with a question or interesting fact related to the industry in the subject line.
Neil Patel works very well on his subject lines – which are thought-provoking and compelling. He includes questions based on the content – “Why ranking #1 on Google is bad?” or “How many backlinks do you really need?”
7. Include “unsubscribe” or “manage subscription” options in emails
Though you can create emails with highly interactive content, some subscribers won’t engage with them as often as you would like. Then, out of nowhere, they choose to unsubscribe from the mailing list. It is quite common to come across such unsubscribes. Ideally, you should look forward to a 0% unsubscribe rate, but it is mandatory to include the “unsubscribe” button in emails. Make the unsubscribe process as easy as possible for email recipients.
Or, you can even divert them to other options. “Marketing Sherpa” does this well in their emails. There may be various reasons behind someone’s decision to opt-out, so Marketing Sherpa includes buttons for:
- Manage subscriptions
- Unsubscribe from pro/lead-generation-tips-and-tricks
- Unsubscribe from newsletters
- And so on
Clicking their “manage subscription” link allows email subscribers to choose the content they would like to receive and opt-out of the content that’s not relevant to them. This further builds trust with your audience.
8. Having a dedicated IP address
When your marketing team starts leaning more about email marketing, they should start learning about dedicated internet protocols (IPs). Let’s understand email deliverability before digging deep into IPs.
Did you know that the email deliverability depends highly on the IP’s reputation? It does. The higher the number of emails that get flagged as spam, the lower your IP reputation will be. And vice-versa.
So, when you increase your email marketing efforts and do that typically through a single IP, you run the risk of your emails never arriving in their intended inboxes. Most email service providers use a collection of IP addresses to send emails, which are shared by various companies. This means your email deliverability depends on other companies’ email deliverability scores. But, with a dedicated IP, you alone have control over the deliverability of emails and your reputation is not determined by third parties.
When do you need a dedicated IP address? Let’s say you consistently send a high volume of emails with high email engagement rates. Perhaps you’re sending around 100,000 emails per week. Since you are the only influence on the IP’s reputation, it’s your responsibility to ensure your email list consists of authentic email addresses. Email service providers monitor the reputation of dedicated IPs to ensure that emails have high deliverability scores.
9. Disclose your location
When your business is in a different country, make sure that you are compliant with each country’s email legislation before planning your marketing campaign.
If you have the USA and Canada geographies in the business plan, read the CAN-SPAM and the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) carefully. They require you to include the physical business address in the footer of all the emails. If you are email marketing in Europe, you will need to be compliant with GDPR regulations that will come into force on 25th May 2018.
10. Get your old subscribers back
With the advent of email marketing, direct postal mail has become obsolete. And the same was thought about email when social media came into vogue. But email marketing has survived the scare and is here to stay. Today, it remains the most effective marketing tool in use. Even though it’s powerful, the main risk is that you have no control over unresponsiveness – while you can try and reduce unresponsiveness, you cannot totally eliminate it.
Let’s look on the bright side, what can you do to increase the engagement of non-engaged users? Number one, religiously engage with them over emails. If you see them for the first time in a month or two, send an email reading, “Nice to see you, it’s your first time in awhile, we’re glad you’re back” – LinkedIn does this effectively.
I hope you include the above best practices in your email marketing efforts. If you are already using some, or leverage additional best practices, please let us know in the comments below.