Guide to email marketing

Ecommerce and social media have fundamentally changed the average customer journey. Purchasing power, user reviews, and information about products and services can all be accessed online.

As a result, it’s getting harder and harder to reach prospective or even current customers with traditional marketing tactics. Email marketing allows companies to access, convert, and nurture customers who don’t answer their phone and don’t pay attention to billboards or the daily onslaught of digital ads.

Get started with this brief guide to email marketing. We briefly cover all of the basics, from what it is and what it does to how to do it well and how to know whether it works.

What is email marketing?

email your customers

Email marketing is the use of automation, email software, and customer data to send mass commercial emails to potential and current customers.

There are many different types of email marketing tactics and templates, each one designed to achieve a specific commercial outcome. For example, an email from your favorite clothing company advertising a new product is designed to generate sales. On the other hand, a company’s email marketing goal may be to improve brand awareness. In this case, you might receive a link to an inspirational story on that brand’s website.

On a high level, however, email marketing is designed to establish, grow, and nurture a profitable relationship with a target audience.

Why use email marketing?

Email is a powerful marketing tool that can be used to accomplish the following goals throughout the sales process:

  • Grow brand awareness
  • Find and engage with prospective customers
  • Drive leads further down the sales funnel
  • Close a deal or make a sale
  • Improve customer retention

Before looking at email templates or scheduling a meeting to discuss email delivery cadence, carefully consider what you want to achieve with the emails you plan to send. And remember: Email marketing works best when it’s part of a larger marketing strategy. So as you consider the many ways connecting with prospects and customers via email may help your business, keep in mind the tactics you’re already using and the ways email marketing can help support them.

Grow brand awareness

The key to any company’s growth is getting people to talk about and recommend your services or products to others. So how do you do it via email?

Davidson & Company found that the key to a successful brand awareness email was finding out what resonated the most with their customer base. With this knowledge, the company could provide customers with truly valuable resources on a consistent basis, nurturing trust and engagement. Additionally, they found that humanizing their brand helped them connect with their customers on a deeper level.

Below are some effective email marketing tactics for growing customer trust and humanizing your brand:

1. Send what your readers want to read.

What are their main pain points? What resources would offer true value to your customers? Keeping your readers engaged with your brand is all about sending them content they want to read about: updates on industry trends they follow, stories that inspire them, etc.

The more appealing your content is to the reader, the more likely they are to share it with others.

2. Give your readers a reason to trust you and click through.

The key to building a trustworthy relationship with your customer is assuring them that you have their best interests in mind. A great trust-building email tactic is to frequently send your customers valuable information, without trying to sell anything.

Not only are people more likely to open emails from trusted sources — even when the source is a brand! — but they’ll also be more likely to stay loyal if the relationship feels mutual. Send free ebooks, templates, and resources to show your readers that you care about them, not their money. They’ll click through.

3. Humanize your brand to connect with customers on a deeper level.

It’s nearly impossible for a real person to feel connected to a faceless, corporate business. Make your brand more accessible and relatable by featuring the faces behind the company.For example, avoid sending emails from a generic address like support@company.co. Instead, use a real employee’s name in the {from} and {signature} field.

Another idea is to add a small headshot of that employee in the signature line to put a literal face behind the name. Additionally, if you are including product photos in the body of your marketing emails, consider using shots that feature real employees using and making those products.

A writer at Mark Growth said it perfectly: “You want to be a business that people like. And to do that, you need to show them that humans are at the forefront of your business.”

Find and engage with prospective customers

A prospective (or cold) email is a marketing tactic designed to start a conversation with a potential customer in the hopes that it will lead to a sale. The first stage of a cold email campaign is the identification, research, and qualification of prospects.

This process can be streamlined by using CRM (customer relationship management) software to segment, score, monitor, and track prospects — all in one organized place.

Once you have a list of qualified leads, it’s time to start crafting your prospecting/cold email campaign. Sales Hacker recommends starting with a four-piece framework they call SP30:

  • Situation: What is the situation a potential customer might face that your product or service would fix (e.g., a broken AC unit)?
  • Problem: What problem does the above situation cause? By identifying the problem (hot, sleepless nights), you can appeal to the emotional aspect of your customer’s pain points.
  • Third-party success: Talk about a success story where you helped a third-party customer solve a similar problem. Make sure to include why your company’s solution is better than anything offered by your competitors (e.g., better turnaround and lower cost).
  • Offer: This is your CTA (call to action). The goal is to start a conversation with the prospect. Ask if they are free for a quick 15-minute phone call, or offer a free demo.

In addition to the SP30 framework, it’s important to consider best practices for subject lines, opening lines, word count, format, and more. You can view examples of several converting cold email templates here.

Want to know how effective your prospective emails are? Take the quiz!

Drive leads further down the sales funnel

Once you have captured the attention of leads and intrigued prospects, the next step is to engage and drive them through your sales funnel. This type of email campaign will most likely vary, depending on the customer’s position within the funnel. For example, you wouldn’t want to send a blast of promotional emails to a top-of-the-funnel lead, because it might seem too aggressive too soon and could cause you to lose a customer.

Regardless of customer position, follow these tips when drafting a funnel-driving email:

  1. Experiment with subject lines. How can you best capture the attention and intrigue of your customer?
  2. Personalize your opening lines. Avoid generic opening lines by using engaging phrases like, “I loved your blog post . . .” and “I was excited to hear about . . .”
  3. Keep it short and sweet. Emails between 50 and 125 words tend to get the best response rates, at just above 50%.
  4. Include a clear CTA. Don’t make your reader guess. Provide clear direction for the customer to keep the conversation going.

Crazy Eye Marketing, LeadFuze, and several others recently sat down with us to talk about which strategies and formats have worked best for them. You can take a look at some examples — and how they incorporate the above four tips — by clicking here.

Email marketing best practices

You know why you’re using email marketing. Your goals are set. Your North Star of customer retention or brand awareness is clearly in view. It’s time to start thinking about the words on the page. Or the screen, as it were.

While there are many different types of email marketing campaigns, they all share a common set of “best practice” rules. Stick to these no matter what message you’re conveying. Each will help you gradually build meaningful relationships with your target audience.

1. Personalize by including a snippet of information specific to the customer.

Remember the importance of humanizing your brand? Personalizing each email is just one way to connect with your reader.

Customers are 75% more likely to purchase services or products from brands that recognize their name and remember information about them. While highly personalized emails are not as scalable in a large marketing campaign, they can be incredibly useful for closing deals with high-profile clients.

Personalization on a scalable level, however, can be achieved with email services such as Mailchimp. Merge fields and templates are used to auto-populate information, such as the first and last name of a customer — perfect for personalizing mass-scale email blasts. You can learn more about Mailchimp’s automation capabilities here.

2. Create a sense of urgency and FOMO.

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a powerful force, and not just for the social-media obsessed. Consumers young and old are more likely to try a service or product that everyone else already has. Appeal to your prospects’ FOMO with data like, “1,000 customers have already signed up for our free trial.”

Sense of urgency is another form of FOMO that is highly effective at driving sales. Customers are much more likely to quickly act on an offer or sign up for something if they feel time is running out. After all, no one wants to miss out on an incredible deal!

3. Talk less about yourself and more about your customer.

Consumers care about what your product or service can do for them. The quicker you can get your readers to the, “aha” moment, the better. When writing an email campaign, focus less on talking about who you are and why your company is different. Instead, market your service or product by explaining how it will make the customer’s life better.

A great way to do this is to create an email campaign that addresses the main pain points of your target audience. Identify a common situation or problem your customer deals with, and explain why your product is the solution.

4. Make promises you can keep.

It can be tempting to use click-baity subject lines and wording to improve your open or click-through rate, but don’t do it. The quickest way to lose a customer is by tricking them or lying to them. The body of your email should align with whatever promise or offer you make in the subject line.

Additionally, whatever CTA you use in the body of your email, make sure the corresponding landing page quickly and thoroughly delivers.

Finally, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Set yourself up for success by looking at what kind of subject lines have worked for other companies, and why.

Key email marketing success metrics

Email marketing is an iterative process, so try not to get overly discouraged if a campaign flops. In fact, those flops are often the most insightful.

CRM software and automated email platforms are useful tools that use built-in dashboards to provide key email metrics and insights from your campaigns. Testing and analyzing your campaign data on a regular basis will help you identify what’s working and what isn’t, as well as how to adjust strategy accordingly. Below are three common email metrics for measuring a campaign’s success:

  • Open rate: This refers to the total number of opened emails, expressed as a percentage of the total number of emails sent. A positive open rate is indicative of an engaging and successful subject line.
  • Click-to-open rate: The click-to-open rate (CTOR) is the percentage of people who click through to your website after opening your email. A high CTOR means the body of your email was engaging and well written for your target audience.
  • Reply rate: An email marketing campaign’s reply rate is highly revealing in terms of its success. A high reply rate helps you determine how much your content resonates with your target audience.

Most email marketing platforms will feature a dashboard for recording and analyzing key metrics, including open rate, bounce rate, click-to-open rate, and more. These metrics offer valuable insights for all aspects of an email campaign. For example, open rate helps you identify whether or not your subject lines are engaging enough. The CTOR is indicative of how well the email copy itself is performing.

For a more in-depth look at key email metrics and how to analyze them, scroll down to the “Sales email metrics” section of our Guide to Sales Emails. Need more help? Just bring in sales and support to analyze the results and offer key insights for improvement.

Email marketing for the win

There is perhaps nothing more valuable to a company than a direct line to prospective and current customers. It doesn’t matter whether your goal is lead generation, brand awareness, sales, or customer retention — there’s an email marketing strategy or template to help get you there.

And remember, successful email marketing is a product of constant iteration and learning. A flopped campaign is simply an opportunity to grow and to learn about your customers.

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