Email marketing is a powerful tool…if you know what you’re doing
Email marketing is sometimes equated with sending out newsletters. But it’s so much more! Simply put, Email Marketing is the systematic and structured use of email in order to initiate, build and consolidate a relationship between brands and people. Email is the most popular media for Relationship Marketing. This is largely because of its impact, its ROI and its ability to grow sales.
Email is a form of personal communication
Much like direct mail was back in its heyday (and sometimes still is today), email is a form of personal communication. At least, when its used properly. That’s what makes it so powerful.
A typical email marketing message should contain text, or a combination of text and images. Image-only emails have huge deliverability issues and are to be avoided. The tone should be friendly. Almost a conversation. The goal is to build a personal link between two people in order to establish and grow a sustainable relationship: A relationship between a brand – or a person representing the brand – and the customer.
Since email messages fall under the broad umbrella of relationship marketing, the content should always take the customers’ point of view. This means focusing on their needs, priorities and preferences. It is the opposite of traditional brand advertising, where the point of view is that of the brand. The latter focuses on presenting itself, its attributes, values and image to customers.
Email marketing grows the relationship between brands and people
Email sells, while at the same time, strengthens ties with the brand. According to a recent DMA study by Demand Metric, the ROI of email campaigns averages an impressive 122%. Its ROI was found to be 4 times greater than that of social media, direct mail and digital advertising in general.
Furthermore, email is the preferred media of Americans. According to a study by Adestra, 72,2% of American consumers prefer email as the media by which to receive information from brands. And we Canadians may be different in many ways, but I suspect that we can’t be far behind.
However, if we truly want to build relationships and increase sales, we need to do more than simply push our products. We need to build trust and connection with the people we serve. And we need to provide value: a flawless customer experience, useful tips, tools and advice, awesome and valuable content that is informative, entertaining and most of all, totally relevant.
The main categories of email marketing
Marketing emails fall into one of five key categories according to their role, structure and content :
Regularly scheduled emails (typically monthly or weekly) whose goal is to relay interesting news and information to the clients, members or donors of an organization. These emails typically contain a significant number of articles or news items. They are often linked to an organization’s corporate blog. There is some debate over the ideal number of articles. Analyzing click rates will tell you how far your readers are willing to go.
An email or sequence of emails designed to promote special offers and deals, new products and services, in order to increase sales. We believe that to deliver value, these emails should also contain additional content that focus on the brand experience and help customers make informed choices.
Ad hoc email that highlight very short-term offers. Their aim is to stimulate sales by creating a sense of urgency. They are often targeted to bargain hunters as well as customers who are stuck in the consideration phase of their buyer journey.
Informative emails designed to help people learn more about the experience surrounding a brand’s products or services. These emails can contain articles, video, tips and advice that will help customers gain insights into the quality of the customer experience.
Automated emails that are sent to customers as a result of their behaviour or a specific action taken. These emails are used typically for abandoned cart programs or for conversion offers following a visit to a Web page.
Moving from Batch & Blast to segmentation and targeting means better engagement and conversion
This colorful expression means indiscriminately emailing millions of customers with irrelevant messages. It is closely tied to spammers, who send millions of messages daily to any email address they can get their hands on.
While some marketers find this to be perfectly normal and acceptable behaviour, other more enlightened marketers understand the negative impact on their sender reputation. Sender reputation describes a score assigned by SenderScore.org, which analyzes sender behaviour and assigns a value based on current email practices.
Impact on sender reputation
On a scale of 0 to 100, the SenderScore tells email service providers (like Gmail, Outlook.com, etc.) if they should trust a sender and deliver their email to the recipients inbox, or block it from delivery by rejecting the sender. When your score drops to the 70s or less, the chances of your emails reaching their recipients drops dramatically.
For this and other reasons, it is important to work with smaller, more focused campaigns. These micro-targeted campaigns are send to customers who have the greatest likelihood of actually needing what you have to offer. In doing so, you will increase gradually email engagement (opens, clicks and conversion). This increased engagement will translate into better in-box placement, which will in turn makes your emails more visible, more interesting. All of this cycle translates into far better results over time.
Email Marketing and technological innovation
Despite its humble beginnings, email today is going through somewhat of a renaissance. This new resurgence of interest is fueled in part through technological innovation. Email plays a key role in marketing automation as well as in omni-channel orchestration. It is also capitalizing on the growth of artificial intelligence as a means of increasing relevance and performance.
Marketing automation is based on the triggering email messages as a result of specific customer behaviour. With marketing automation, the message or series of messages will change or evolve based on customer’s behaviour and preferences. The mantra of marketing automation is “right message to the right person et the right time”. This mantra embodies the quest for relevance and nurturing, which are at the heart of this field.
Omni-channel orchestration is aimed at breaking down the silos and integrating email with all the other channels in the media ecosystem in order to create synergies. These synergies allow marketers to augment the impact of their campaigns. They also help people move forward along the path of their customer relationship journey, from discovery to purchase and beyond.
Artificial intelligence, or augmented intelligence as some prefer to say, applies to email in many areas. First and foremost in the area of targeting. AI can model and predict which customer have the greatest need for a given product or service and include them in your campaign. AI can also assist with content creation and optimization. This is done by understanding the tone and sentiment that resonates most with each individual customer.
Email marketing challenges
Challenge no 1 – consistent email rendering
At present, there are close to a hundred email applications and versions in use to read email messages. Each one will interpret your email html code in different ways. As a result, your message will display differently, sometimes with less than flattering results. That’s why you need to optimize your code to ensure universal display. This requires considerable technical skill.
Challenge no 2 – email targeting
Targeting is the quintessential question that all marketing leaders are faced with. How to choose the right audience that will increase your campaign performance instead of spamming the entire database?
Challenge no 3 – email deliverability and inbox placement
Spam filters are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their ability to detect and bloc promotional email. These messages are often blocked, quarantined or sent directly to the spam folder. We must pay careful attention to the content of our messages, to the technical quality of our code, as well as to our sender behaviour.
Challenge no 4 – productivity and operational agility
According to Litmus, the average email takes 24.5 hours of work from initial planning to reporting. The same study showed that the process takes several weeks to execute. Generally speaking, email marketing teams are rather lean and as a result, they’re hard-pressed to turn quality messages around quickly.
Email Marketing and Spam
All too often, people equate email marketing with Spam. Irrelevant messages with litter in the personal and professional inboxes of people everywhere. But a marketing message is not always necessarily spam.
According to a study by the Radicati Group*, in 2017, the worldwide volume of emails reached a staggering level of 269 billion messages per day, reaching 3,7 billion users. That’s an average of 72 emails per person per day. Of those messages, 59.33% are considered to be spam.
Source : Statistica
The good news is that this number is trending down, having reached a high of 71% back in 2014. We seem to be witnessing a decrease in irrelevant email messages as well as a drop in phishing, spoofing and long-lost rich uncles, living in remote parts of Africa, who have somehow included us in their will.
The importance of authentication and configuration
Fraudulent or misleading email messages remain a threat and as a result, many steps as taken to prevent their delivery to unsuspecting individuals. Among these are authentication protocols such SPF, DKIM and DMARC . These protocols are used to detect and block emails that are unable to prove their origine.
For this reason, if your sending domain is not properly authenticated, beware! Your email messages won’t reach their intended destination. There are many tools available online to test your server authentication. It’s work the minute or two it takes to ensure that everything is in tip-top shape and you can rest easy. While you’re at it, why not review the technical foundations of your email program to make sure nothing is amiss.
One last thing
Email marketing is very much alive and well. It is a powerful tool with which to build relationships and increase your sales. However, it is an exacting profession that requires a solid strategic foundation as well as technical excellence. There’s no room for improvisation. Content, code quality and sender reputation can all impact the results of your email marketing campaigns. This site is rich with useful tips and advice. Enjoy the read!
A brief history of email marketing
The technology for email has been around since the ‘60s. But it wasn’t until 1995 that the internet open up to the general public. This change of vocation triggered the rise of email marketing in short order. Using SMTP, POP3 and IMAP protocols, messages were sent to and received by consumers and business people alike. Some more seasoned marketers still remember the days when mastering these protocols was essential to achieving success. Thought they are still around today, they are transparent to most users. That was back in the days of the dialup modem with bandwidth as low as 2400 baud (that’s equivalent to 0.0024 Mbps) and the recognizable connection tone.
Such low bandwidth had a huge impact limiting creativity to the bare essentials. Most emails were simply plain text, without images. Text was adorned with caps, underlines, symbols and bolding to impart the most basic of designs. Today, bandwidth is not a significant constraint for marketers. However, fast loading time remains a key consideration for mobile emails. In addition, HTML email files must not exceed 102k to avoid clipping.