2021 has a special significance for email – it’s been 50 years since email began! Who would have thought that it would revolutionize the world and business as it has? In honor of this momentous birthday, let’s learn how to strategically use email to take your business to the next level.

But first, some fun facts. Even though email was invented in 1971, the first time it was used as a marketing tool was in 1978 by Gary Thurek. There is still debate as to whether his first email campaign could be considered spam rather than marketing. He emailed 400 users about his product and claimed to generate $13 million in sales, along with a lot of complaints! 

Later, in 1999, Seth Godin proposed an ethical way of using email for marketing. His proposal got him kicked out of the Direct Marketing Association. Yes, email marketing was that radical an idea! The story ended well, though, with Godin today being a star in the same association’s hall of fame.

Today, there are 3.9 billion email users around the world. And Godin’s ideas came to fruition – 90% of marketers consider email engagement the top measure of their content performance. From a customer’s perspective, 59% of them say emails affect their purchase decisions, and 80% of marketers agree that email affects customer retention numbers. 

There’s no doubt that your email campaigns can deliver outstanding results if you implement them properly. But how exactly do you do that? In this article, we’ll cover absolutely everything you need to know about implementing an effective email marketing strategy. Buckle up! 

Why Having an Email Marketing Strategy Is Important

“Email is dead” is a common line that we’ve all heard tossed around at least once. The truth is that email isn’t dead — far from it, in fact. And if you’ve somehow been convinced that it is, it’s probably time for a strategy shake-up to ensure that your email marketing is being implemented correctly and effectively.

Successful email marketing entails so much more than just whipping up some email content and pressing send. Having a comprehensive strategy is crucial for reaching your audience, your conversion rate goals, and staying top of mind with leads and prospects. What it’s often not, however, is intuitive. Putting together an email marketing strategy takes real work, like:

  • Keeping up with an email list
  • Properly segmenting your contacts
  • Following up
  • Testing subject lines
  • Coming up with consistent email messages
  • A/b testing subject lines
  • Generating high open and click-through rates

With so much involved, a strategy is essential. Here’s what a documented email marketing strategy does for you.

Helps You Put a Personalization Plan Into Place

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, personalization is crucial for effective marketing. Among leading marketers, 90% say that personalization lends a significant boost to the profitability of their business, which speaks volumes to the importance of personalized email marketing.

When you’re able to identify your audience better and segment them based on their on-site behavior, patterns, device of choice (mobile device or desktop), and where they are in the buyer’s journey, you’re able to build a stronger connection with your leads. You’re proving that you know a lot about them, that you have the right resources to answer their questions, and that you’re the resource they need for valuable information.

Moves Leads Down the Funnel

Emails are meant to achieve a lot of things, but ultimately, their main purpose is to guide leads down the funnel and toward a purchase decision. Easier said than done, though, right?

When you take the time to strategize, you have the opportunity to really think about the route that your leads will (hopefully) take. Instead of guessing what steps need to happen, you’ll create drip campaigns filled with the right content to create the best emails and call-to-action (CTA) that move your leads closer and closer to a decision. Just be sure to loop sales into the conversation since they have a unique perspective on the hurdles you need to overcome.

Ensures Your Content is Distributed Correctly

Content fuels your email marketing. An email marketing strategy directly complements your content marketing strategy by helping distribute your content to the right people at the right time. Each piece of content you create should be crafted with your audience in mind. Particularly, you should be thinking about what questions the content helps your audience answer and what stage of their journey it is most applicable to. Doing so will ensure your email marketing plays a key role in how, where, and to whom that content gets sent. It’s a much better way to approach content distribution than just throwing it all out there and seeing what sticks.

As an added benefit, this type of content creation can also help your SEO and social media marketing efforts.

It’s Integral to Cohesive Campaigns

Email marketing campaigns help you build trust over time with your audience and keep those unsubscribe numbers low. To really work, though, there needs to be cohesion in terms of your message and your approach. That can be hard to achieve on the fly, which is where a thorough strategy comes in.

Plan out your email campaigns in advance, also covering other marketing channels your content will go through (i.e., social media). This big picture view is part and parcel of a successful campaign and pretty much only achievable if you strategize ahead of time.

It’s Helps Plan Out Promos

Email marketing is more than just offering nurture. Including promotional email marketing in your strategy is a must, as it can lead to more sales and other key conversions. When mapping out your email marketing strategy, you can carefully plan out these specific promos you’ll need to make room for and how you’ll go about rolling them out through a marketing automation plan. This can help you hone in on the areas that need targeted promotion, like a newly released whitepaper, discount pricing, or a special trial that is limited and won’t last long.

It Just Works

Your audience wants to hear from you; why else would they opt-in to your email outreach? More than 50%  of consumers check their emails at least ten times a day, and it’s their preferred way to receive brand updates. Meanwhile, more than 59% of marketers say that emails are their number one source of ROI, thus offering a cost-effective way to generate consistent revenue. However, it stands to reason that if you want the maximum return on your email efforts, you’re going to have to put in the maximum effort. An email marketing strategy is designed to help you capitalize on this opportunity to connect with your audience, avoid missteps, and get as many benefits as possible out of your digital outreach, whether you are a small business or eCommerce shop. Sounds like as good of a reason as any to make it a priority in your marketing tool belt!

Resources and Tools

Now that you’re convinced that an email marketing strategy is crucial let’s cover the resources and tools you’ll need to look into to get your strategy off the ground. 

1. Email list

Your email list is the beginning and end of your email marketing. The quality of your list will define the success of your campaigns, and a high-quality list is made up of an interested and engaged audience

Measuring the health of your list is easy. Look at:

  • Deliverability rates (at least 95%)
  • Open rates (15-25% is great)
  • Bounce rates (not more than 3%)
  • Growth rates for new subscribers

Note that with Apple’s iOS 15 rollout, open rates will be affected and shouldn’t be a leading factor for determining a healthy list. With that said, make sure you assess your database and clean it up regularly so that it’s healthy and up to date. 

2. Email Automation Tool

Every email tool is different, but there are some basics you need to check for. Is it reliable, and does it offer you the features you need, like easy customization, report generation, and list management? Ideally, selecting an email automation tool should be about looking for one that helps you save time and focus on the bigger picture.

3. Documented Email Marketing Strategy

Simply sending emails won’t get you results – sending emails that are strategically designed will. Your strategy should be what you go back to every time you start or end a campaign, so having it documented is a must. Without a documented strategy, you’ll be left floundering, and you won’t see much return on your investment. If you’re not sure where to get started, keep reading as we discuss how to build a results-driven strategy for your email marketing.

Step-by-Step Email Strategy and Planning Guide

Step 1: Identify Your Goals

Unless you know and define what you want as a business or brand, you won’t be able to achieve much. It’s important to set clear goals and expectations from all your marketing exercises, and email is no different. Set aside some time to identify what you want to achieve from your campaigns, how much you can spend, and target goals. When setting campaign objectives, make them:

  • Specific
  • Time-bound
  • Aligned to larger business goals
  • Measurable
  • Proportionate to the resources available to you

Step 2: Define Your Audience and a Purchase Funnel

Once you know what your goals are, think about who can help you achieve those. Who is your ideal email recipient – how will they help you get closer to your objective? List a couple of customer personas and include demographic details. When you know who you’re talking to, you will also understand how to talk to them to get their attention.

An important step in crafting your strategy is creating a sales funnel. Here’s an example funnel for someone who visits your website:

This could look different depending on your business and goals.

Step 3: Decide How to Capture Leads

Leads for your email marketing are different from leads for your business. In the context of email strategy, leads refer to sign-ups. There are various ways to capture leads. Examples are your website forms, paid ads, organic traffic, or social media.

Focus your lead generation efforts on your target audience if you want to build a high-quality list and spend your budget efficiently.

Some lead-generation ideas:

  • Paid ads promoting your email newsletter with a link to sign up
  • Offering eBooks, guides, whitepapers, webinars, etc., in exchange for email addresses
  • Using pop-ups on your website
  • Linking to your product demo on your social platforms

Step 4: Consider the Types of Emails you Want to Send

There are so many different types of emails to choose from. Product showcases, content marketing, forms, promotional, and so on. Your campaign should be a mix of various types of emails that will ultimately help achieve your various objectives. For example, after a site visitor has completed your sign-up form and becomes a subscriber, here are some of the types of emails in your purchase funnel you could send them:

  • Email 1 – Welcome email
  • Email 2 – Value-based, i.e., a blog article on the fundamentals of what your company does
  • Email 3 – Discount offer/promotion with a countdown to expiry
  • Email 5 – Product showcase highlighting some of your products this subscriber might like
  • Email 6 – Customer testimonial or case study showing the benefits of your product or service

Step 5: Create a Distribution Plan

How often will you send emails? How many emails will you need to create for your different lists? Who will create the content and design the format of your emails? All of these will become a part of your distribution plan. Every industry has its own best practices, so do some research to find out what will work for you. However, selecting an email automation tool will help you greatly with this step. 

Creating an Email Campaign

As we just mentioned, having an email automation tool will prove to be crucial during this entire process, but especially when creating your email campaigns. The following steps were assembled based on the idea that whoever is following them is using an automation tool to enable their process. 

Step 1: Segment your Audience

Depending on your campaign, segment your email list to address different needs. Some examples of segmentation criteria are age, income level, geographical location, language, and industry.

Marketers found that segmented campaigns delivered a 760% increase in revenue! This is because when you send personalized emails, you’re telling your subscribers that you understand their pain points and have exactly what they need. 

Step 2: Create an Email Calendar

Here you can include more than just the dates and times you want to send emails. Set deadlines for layout, writing, and testing to ensure your campaign goes according to plan – and everyone knows when and what to deliver.

Step 3: Create Content

We always recommend starting your email design process with a UX/UI-optimized wireframe. When designing, remember that your email needs to load quickly and translate well on mobile devices. In 2019, 60% of emails were opened on mobile devices.

Your email copy needs to be optimized for conversion. No one wants long paragraphs of text to read – keep it short and effective. This goes for subject lines too. Overall, stay true to your brand personality throughout your campaign.

Email copy aside, you want to make sure you’re creating other great content that will fuel these campaigns and provide your subscribers with the resources they need. So, make sure you have a consistent editorial calendar

Step 4: Test

Don’t be afraid to dabble in email testing. You should be testing the rendering of your emails on various platforms, as well as be testing various copy choices and CTAs. It’s the smartest way to see how people react to your email and correct mistakes before it’s too late. 

A/B testing things like your email subject line, CTAs, preview text, and sending days/times will provide you with a lot of actionable insights that will get you closer to more opened emails and higher conversions. Just follow the rule of two for best results – test only two variants so that they’re easily comparable.

Step 5: Measure, Report, and Learn

After you send your emails, it’s time to track your metrics and results. Every email you send brings back a wealth of information and data on your subscribers and how they’re reacting to your communication. Regularly look at the data available to you, organize it, and spend time with the insights you get. 

Many email platforms automate this process, giving you reports you can start working on right away. Use these learnings to make every email you send better than the last – people keep changing, and your marketing efforts need to as well.

That’s it! You now have a clear understanding of how to formulate a strategy, create campaigns, and implement your plans. Email marketing is incredibly effective as a revenue-generating tool, and the results are clear and measurable – making it a marketer’s dream. It’s a challenging exercise because of the incredible potential it holds, but it’s worth it; just ask marketers all over the world.

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by Benchmark Team