Email has been a mainstream direct marketing channel for over 20 years. Since then we have seen the arrival of many different forms of digital communication, with the explosion of marketing and social technology. However, even after all the new entrants and the expected death of email, it still remains one of the most effective channels for sales and marketing.
It is arguable that no other digital marketing channel offers comparable personalisation options and level of integration within business operations and systems. There is also more ownership and control of email for businesses. For example, other marketing platforms such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are constantly changing their service and algorithms with how marketing content and advertising is displayed which we have little choice apart from to accept. These changes can greatly impact a business’s online visibility, which can leave them none the wiser following any changes apart from a sudden drop in sales, enquiries, leads etc. There is, of course, the challenge of keeping abreast of all the changes and to understand their impact too. There have been plenty of services which have come and gone, especially within social media, so this doesn’t give businesses much confidence that their chosen platforms will be around or at least similar in the next 1 to 3 years. With now a large number of martech (marketing technology) tools, it is ever more common for businesses to find themselves over-dependent on those services. However, this should not deter you from experimenting with new and emerging technologies to promote your products and services or to improve operations, but accept that things do change, either by external factors beyond your control or your business use case.
Therefore, businesses should be able to feel more confident, especially due to its age, that email can be viewed as a ‘traditional’ form of marketing and is highly likely to be around for the foreseeable future.
Even though the concept of using email to support business communication hasn’t changed, the methodology and how it’s applied in marketing have changed significantly over more recent years. This article goes on to explore some of those features and how they can drive ROI.
Whether segmentation of your customers and prospects is done within the email marketing tool or within your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool, or a combination of both, the management of your list of contacts is important. Individuals should be suitably segmented into groups and/or categories to help define their personas. A basic example is grouping your contacts by job junction, responsibility, market sectors and consumed/relevant services. At this stage, even though the temptation is to have multiple lists to define various segments, there are many more benefits to having fewer lists than more. Your list can contain all the segmenting requirements and options which can be utilised during the campaign build stage. This avoids getting into a muddle when the same contact appears in multiple lists and changes need to be made in all those places if contact details are amended, which includes opt-outs and GDPR compliance.
Email marketing automation
An email marketing tool can now not only schedule when emails are sent to maximise open rates but they can also automate a multiple email campaign based on how the end-user interacts with the individual communications.
A basic example is a welcome email campaign to new customers. This can be automatically triggered after a set period of time once they become a new customer. This email will contain information about the business to fully explain the breadth of services and support it can provide. Further emails can be automatically followed up to introduce them to your team and/or more information about the service they have bought.
Another basic example is a newsletter subscription campaign. When someone subscribes to your newsletter on your website (including all other appropriate consent statements) an email can be automatically triggered to ask them about the services or topics they would be interested in. Based on the selections by the individual, follow-up emails can be triggered to inform them about the relevant services you provide. Further relevant content can also be subsequently sent, which might include case studies, articles and videos. Questionnaires contained in emails can help refine content further, as well as a promoted user preference centre where they can amend the topics they are interested in.
Diagrammatical workflows or flow diagrams can help with determining the automation process which aims to keep individuals within a cycle of relevant content based on their selections and interactions. Once set-up and tested, you can leave the automated sequence to deliver communications without any further involvement, and if it has a lead generation focus, then you can start to watch enquiries roll in. Useful free tools to help with workflows and flow diagrams are Draw.io and Funnelytics.
Within an ever more competitive environment and with ever-growing inboxes, personalisation is vital for your emails to stand out from the crowd. The examples above about segmenting will be the building blocks to creating personalised and relevant content. Once you are happy with the concept of segmenting and building intelligence about your business contacts, you can expand your options of gathering information to improve personalisation within your communications.
Segmentation and automation will then assist with sending the right or relevant content to individuals at the right time.
Two further basic considerations which can be insufficiently considered when designing your email are to ensure the subject line is relevant and engaging and you use the person’s first name in the body text e.g. “Hi Ed”.
Which email marketing tool?
An email marketing tool I recommend to small businesses is MailChimp. Their free package allows you to send 12,000 emails per month to lists containing no more than 2,000 people. Email automation is also included within the free package as well as other useful features. It comes with a range of templates for your emails as well as the ability to create your own. The user interface is fairly intuitive and the reporting analytics are useful to monitor the success of your campaigns as well as to make changes.
How to increase your mailing list
In a post-GDPR world, consent is key in the use of email marketing. It is vital that your CRM and email marketing tools have the ability to manage the legal basis for processing personal information and for individuals to make changes to their information and consent.
As part of ‘privacy by design’ for all our business systems, businesses will need to determine their own paths and methods for expanding their mailing lists based on their compliance requirements with data protection regulations. The new data protection regulation puts the control of personal data firmly with individuals instead of businesses. However, this presents an opportunity for businesses to make sure their values and culture are aligned with protecting privacy and individuals, and to reassess all the activities in their business which may allow them to seek consent for relevant communications. I believe it’s an exciting time for businesses, as the new data protection regulation allows them to be more creative with methods used to invite individuals to engage with their business. Building trust leads to loyalty, which in turn leads to success and ROI.
It some aspects of B2B email marketing, a business can still consider cold-email to a list of unqualified prospects as long as all the compliance and balancing tests with the GDPR (and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation) have been completed. Tools such as Hunter can help with finding publically accessible email addresses for individuals within businesses.
How to approach your email marketing campaign
As like all marketing campaigns, email marketing should follow a structured process which is aligned with business and sales objectives. The campaign should involve staff who are involved in both marketing and sales in order to maximise the results e.g. to define ‘marketing qualified leads’, ROI etc. I have found the ADDIE project design model to campaigns the most appropriate for many businesses:
- Analyse – understanding your audience, problem(s) to solve, goals and objectives
- Design – agree on the requirements and components of the campaign
- Develop – build and test your campaign
- Implementation – deliver your campaign at the right time and place
- Evaluation – Monitor performance of the campaign (making tweaks to the campaign where necessary/possible) and whether it is meeting the goals and objectives
For more information or help with your email marketing, please get in touch.