Email marketing is alive and well. In fact, 59 percent of B2B marketers assert that email marketing is the most effective medium for generating revenue available. Despite critics insisting that the rise of mobile devices and social media are stifling the potential reach of email campaigns, a creatively and thoughtfully structure email blast can still reach thousands of people and generate tons of new leads for your business.
Email marketing may seem like a dead strategy, since the majority of us treat most incoming promotional emails as spam, but the reality is that email marketing can still be a beneficial lead generating strategy—as long as it fits in with the rest of your campaign.
Inbound marketing, content marketing, and SEO have slowly morphed into one interchangeable, composite strategy. In order to increase website traffic, improve search engine rank, or build customer loyalty, you need to incorporate all the elements of a solid inbound marketing campaign. The strength of that campaign depends on the amount of consistency you run it with; if you try to use four radically different approaches to attract new customers, you’ll likely see mediocre results. However, if you can align all those channels under one umbrella of consistent branding with one ultimate goal, you can harness the advantages of each of them.
As an illustration of this point, email marketing is most valuable when used in conjunction with the rest of your inbound marketing strategy. You can no longer count just SEO link building services or on an outbound “traditional advertising” style email blast to bring in new traffic every week. Instead, if you integrate your email marketing into your overall content marketing strategy, you can increase the size and loyalty of your target audience.
Your first option is to use email marketing as a means of promoting your content. If you use it this way, you won’t be explicitly advertising your products or services to your email readership. Instead, you’ll simply be offering them valuable insights and free information. This will make your email readership far more likely to open and read your emails, and you’ll be less likely to be flagged as spam.
Over time, your readers will become more familiar with your writing style and the types of content you post. Some of your readers will naturally unsubscribe, but others will grow to expect and look forward to your updates. It’s a way of subtly building brand loyalty by helping your company stay top-of-mind on a recurring basis. And of course, the more time your readers spend on your site, the more likely they are to convert.
There are two major ways to take advantage of this:
Either way, you’ll start email marketing to the people you already know, but you’ll need a way to attract new subscribers regularly if you want to grow your audience. The easiest way to do this is to feature “subscribe” buttons throughout your website, but any type of subscriber funnel can be successful.
Using an email marketing campaign to fuel your social media marketing efforts is even easier. You can actually use a content-focused email blast as your basis, and expand upon it to link your email marketing campaign to your social campaign. For example, at the end of each content excerpt in your email, provide buttons for users to quickly and easily share that excerpt on one of their social media profiles. The more people share your content, the more web authority you’ll build, and the more visibility your company will have. Eventually, that extra social media attention will result in higher page rankings and more organic web traffic.
No matter what type of body email you use, it’s a good idea to include links to your company’s own social media profiles. It’s an easy way to get a few extra people to like or follow you. You can also add in a free offer for email subscribers who like your Facebook page or follow your Twitter account. Set up a custom landing page to track who takes this effort, and send those users a discount or free promotion.
Conversely, you can take advantage of your social media followers as potential new email subscribers. You can offer “email exclusive” deals, content, or other incentives as a way to motivate your current followers to sign up. Remember, the goal here isn’t necessarily to get them to sign up for your email campaign (in whatever form it takes). The primary goal is to get their information. Every person who signs up is a potential lead, and you can segment your lists to identify which users signed up over social media, so you can market to them differently in the future.
Finally, you can use your email marketing campaign to gather online reviews, which will, in turn, improve your search engine standings. For example, you could create an email list that specifically targets customers who have already engaged with your brand, and send out an occasional email that prompts those users to review your business.
First, you could ask your users to post a review on a local listing, such as one found on Yelp! orUrbanSpoon. Getting lots of good reviews on a local listing site like these can significantly increase your local SEO ranking. You could even offer a small reward for those that take steps to review you—but don’t directly pay your users for good reviews, or you could get flagged.
Second, you could ask your users to post video reviews on social media or on their personal websites. Either way, you’ll get free visual content circulating the web alongside links that point back to your site. Again, you could offer a reward to your potential reviewers. Some large companies have held competitions, offering a major reward for the “best” video submission and attracting thousands of participants as a result. You can even tie it into social media using a hashtag.
No matter how you choose to use email marketing as a part of your company’s campaign, remember the fundamental principle that makes it effective: consistency. Your email marketing campaign needs to serve as a complement to the remainder of your efforts, supporting and enhancing the other marketing channels of your core campaign.
According to Australian business coach Casey Gollan, businesses would be wise to remember that email lists are not a thing of the past; in fact, email lists are more necessary than ever.
In a day and age where businesses put a bulk of their marketing efforts into social media campaigns because of the buzz surrounding it, other types of marketing can easily be overlooked. Combine this with increasing regulations and laws governing email marketing designed to combat spam, and it’s easy to see why 97 percent of marketers are using social media while the number of people who maintain email lists doesn’t even compare.
But forgetting about email could be a mistake, at least from Gollan’s viewpoint, who makes a valid point on his blog that contrasts the two marketing techniques:
“Social media is great, don’t get me wrong. Social media gives you daily access to people who are interested in what you have to offer. It can be a true dialogue, where business and customer connect. But here’s the thing. You don’t own your social media followers. What I mean is this: You can spend years gaining new Facebook fans or Twitter followers. Then poof! One day the algorithms change and all your hard work is down the drain. Because you own your (email) list, it’s often far more worthwhile to focus on growing your list than growing your social media presence.”
Other marketing professionals have made claims that support the need to continually grow a solid email list. Eric Didier from MarketingProfs wrote that, “Email averages a return on investment (ROI) of $40 for every $1 spent, far outstripping banner ads ($2) and keyword ads ($17).”
While a solid ROI is often reason enough for most people to jump aboard a bandwagon, Gollan gives some other reasons why businesses should not abandon their email list:
1. People have email even if they are not on social media.
For business to business, working through email is still essential because many organizations still block access to social media sites from being accessed at work. But for business to consumer sales, surveys show that people often take breaks from their social network sites due to drama or lack of time.
2. Email is more personal.
When emails are collected the right way, using ethical means and double-opt-in (where the person signs up to receive emails and then verifies that they did sign up), businesses know that the individual wants to hear from them. Also, not everyone receives “special” emails. Only those who signed up to receive these messages are notified of sales, events or promotions. Marketing done via social media is shared with the entire world.
3. Email can keep things professional
Businesses have come to accept social media, however there are still those who do not allow it in their workplace. Connecting and communicating via email is still considered a more business friendly atmosphere.
These are all valid points in favor of maintaining a solid email list, but these factors all depend on what you are marketing and to whom. Certain products and demographics in the business-to-consumer space will certainly do well with social media marketing while business-to-business does generally fare better when email is the focal point.
Drawbacks to Email Marketing
As stated earlier, email marketing can have significant drawbacks. For one, you have to build a list. Some companies do opt to purchase or rent email lists, but this is usually met with little success. Even lists that are advertised as 100 percent opt-in lists are not usually well-targeted toward your customers. These lists, as well as those that come from harvested email addresses, will create more problems than success stories.
To begin with, people on a purchased or rented list are not expecting to hear from you. In fact, many will likely be irritated that you contacted them without their permission. Second, many of the email addresses that are sold in lists are no longer managed. They have been sold to so many different marketers that people often abandon them as a result of being inundated with what they believe to be spam.
That brings us to another potential pitfall; you might be sending spam. When you send out an email blast to people who never opted to receive messages from you, you are spamming them. Worse still, if you email them too often or if you don’t craft your emails carefully, technical controls put in place to stop illegitimate emails could label you as a spammer.
If too many complaints are received about your organization, you could find your domain listed on a DNS block list or even subject to fines. Worse still is the damage that can be done to your reputation if your business is labeled as a spammer.
However, going through the trouble to create a double-opt in email list and writing content-rich emails that provide value to your readers is worth the effort, as higher quality content helps businesses build their reputation. Research from Casey Gollan also shows that single opt-in subscribers are less likely to convert, and more likely to unsubscribe than those who are required to take the extra step to verify that they in fact want to receive emails.
The Best of All Worlds
While email marketing does have its strong points, it doesn’t have to stand on its own. In fact, merging your email marketing with other channels makes perfect sense.
Using social media, you can steer visitors toward your subscription page. Conversely, your emails should contain links to your social media accounts so that people who are more inclined to connect with you this way can do so as well.
Creative email marketing can also help with SEO marketing. Newsletters and other marketing materials that are sent via email should be housed on a page on your website. Each marketing email should also provide a backlink to its web content as well for people who cannot view images or have other restrictions on their email.
Of course, your email list could also be used to announce your content marketing efforts. Did your company recently release a new white paper? Does a new blog post solve an important problem? Maybe you have a new video hosted on a video sharing site that your customers just have to see. Any of these things should be presented to your subscribers in your newsletter or other announcement that you send out.
Is email marketing superior to any other form of online marketing? It depends on the end goal and the audience. Whichever industry you’re in, and whatever demographic you’re trying to reach, email marketing can help you achieve your goals. Is it the be all, end all? No, but it should be a part of what you are doing.
As with any marketing campaign, it is best to constantly test your email marketing to see what works best for your organization. Combine your email list with your social media marketing and other Internet marketing campaigns to see which combination yields the best results for what you are trying to accomplish.
The biggest problem facing email marketing today is not in new technologies or new formats (though a responsive email design is a necessity). Instead, the biggest challenge today is the same biggest challenge it faced a decade ago: getting people to open the email. And in order to get people to open your email, you need an awesome, captivating subject line.
These ingredients combine to make a fantastic subject line your email recipients can’t help but want to open:
Subject lines aren’t the place to get long-winded. You might be tempted to talk about the benefits your brand has to offer, or the special deals that await your users inside, but you only have about ten words, so you can’t afford to do anything but convince your reader to open the email.
Buzzwords and fluff content have no place here; instead, use simple, meaningful words to convey a single idea. If you’re struggling, go ahead and draft out a long version of your subject line, then cut it down word by word, focusing on eliminating anything that isn’t absolutely necessary for your message.
Nobody wants to open an email that was obviously sent to everyone under the sun. If there’s no personalization factor, there’s no individual incentive to open the email. Some companies use personalized subject lines to feature each recipient’s name. Other companies work to become familiar with their demographics and include something that’s very important to that portion of the population. Whatever you do, don’t make your subject line generic. Make it as personal as you can.
Don’t give everything away up front. If users can get everything they need out of a subject line, they have no reason to open the email. Use a tease to draw users into your material, along the lines of “discover the long-held secret…” This implies that there’s something very significant on the other side of the email without telling your reader exactly what it is. It’s a powerful tool that leads to many more opens.
Emails also tend to receive more opens when the subject line indicates some level of urgency. Don’t overly pressure your readers, but do subtly imply that your deal or offer is time sensitive. For example, you could use the phrase “today only” or “24-hour sale” to make users react quickly and open your email. Otherwise, they could postpone opening the email and never get to it.
Though email subject lines don’t allow you much space to accomplish the feat, it’s important to distinguish your brand as an authority in the space. For some businesses, that means unveiling unique information by using words like “the latest data.” For other businesses, that means outpacing the competition by using phrases like “prices you’ll never see elsewhere.” The key is to make your brand (and therefore your email) stand out.
A little bit of humor goes a long way. Giving your readers something unexpected will make your subject line pop out in an oversaturated email inbox, and making them laugh will endear them to your brand. Take, for example, Groupon’s now-famous email subject line: “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve).” It was original, unexpected, and funny, and it got Groupon a lot of email opens and clicks.
People get dozens, if not hundreds of emails every day. If you want to get past the clutter, your subject line really needs to stand out. No more “try now” messages, or clichéd phrases that readers are sick of seeing piling up in their inboxes. Write something you know you’ve never seen in your own inbox before.
Questions tend to lead to more opens, especially if the question is one the user has had before. Recently, real estate platform Zillow distributed an email with the simple subject line “What Can You Afford?” The subject line conjures plenty of emotions and thoughts without bogging the user down with special offers or special values. Instead, it simply invites the user in to find out more.
People tend to remain idle unless prompted to do something. Using action words in your subject line is a perfect strategy to get people to take action and open your email. Of course, you don’t have to rely on the straightforward action words like “open” or “read;” you can use almost any command verb as long as it is somehow related to your purpose or your brand.
Finally, your email subject line should convey some kind of value to the user. In the simplest sense, you can mention a freebie coming out for your subscribers, but try to go beyond the conventional. Use concise words to effectively demonstrate how users will feel or how their lives will improve after opening the email—even if you only imply it.
The popularity of email marketing campaigns has been volatile, especially as the emergence of new online marketing techniques such as social media marketing and content marketing have risen to dominance. Email marketing is sometimes considered ineffective—in part due to the fact that new communication mediums are proving to be more popular than email correspondence, and in part because creating a great list and emailing effectively are tricky to accomplish.
Still, there are a number of advantages to maintaining an email marketing campaign. It’s cheap to sustain, especially if you use templates and have a relatively small list of recipients. It keeps your brand top-of-mind even if your emails aren’t opened and fully read. It gives you another outlet through which to connect with your audience.
If you can combine your other, broader strategies—namely, your content marketing campaign—with your email campaign, and keep them aligned, you can maximize your returns on both fronts. Here’s how you can use your blog synergistically with your email marketing strategy:
This is a great strategy for businesses without a solid offer for their emails. In order to be effective, emails need to offer something valuable to their potential readers; otherwise, readers have no reason to open them. That value is flexible—it can be something tangible, like entry in a giveaway for taking a specific action, a special offer like a discount on new products, or something intangible, like information.
Using your blog as that value can be beneficial, especially if you’re looking for new ways to bring readers in. For example, you could take your three most recent blog posts and highlight them, showcasing the first paragraph of each in your weekly email blast. The idea is to give your email readers value, thereby increasing the likelihood of them opening future emails, while simultaneously reminding them of your blog and giving them the opportunity to revisit it.
This is the second portion of a potentially ongoing mutual process. On one end, you’ll be taking your email subscribers and showing them your blog. On the other end, you’ll be taking your blog readers and getting them to sign up for your email list.
There are several ways to do this. First and most simply, you can include a small signup form on the side of your blog asking users for their name and email address. This is inconspicuous, yet still relatively visible, so it will be effective without interfering with the rest of your page. Alternatively, if you want to be aggressive with your signups, you can hide your content behind a signup wall, mandating or highly suggesting your users to sign up before they read your content. This will get you more conversions, but may also irritate your users. Finally, you can simply call users out in the body text of your blog, sending them to a separate landing page to fill out their information and sign up. This will get attention, since it’s in the body of a post, but few users will take the extra action.
No matter how you choose to woo potential signups, make sure you’re making a good first impression. The quality of the first blog your reader sees could mean the difference between getting a signup and losing one.
Another strategy you can use involves appealing to the fans you’ve already generated. By offering email-exclusive content, such as niche blog posts that don’t appear on your blog, you can earn a significant amount of additional email campaign signups.
The trick is to maintain a balance between the content you offer on your blog and the content you offer through email. You want to ensure your free onsite blog content is substantial, comprehensive, and interesting, but at the same time you want your email-exclusive content to be interesting and unique enough to warrant an audience that follows it. To resolve this potential dilemma, you could publish the email-exclusive content on your blog a few months after sending it out via email—this way, email subscribers still get the value of seeing it early, but you can recycle the content for your regular blog readers as well.
This strategy is perfect if you’re trying to appeal to a highly targeted audience. The first step is to ensure your blog is segmented effectively. Create sub-categories for your content based on the most popular topics you can find, and segment them based on your target audience. For each sub-topic, compose a list in your email management platform, and customize your email signup forms based on the category each blog post belongs to. For example, you could have a list dedicated to customers interested in “SEO,” or “social media,” rather than just having one pooled list. This will allow you to create highly customized messages to each of those audience segments.
Another factor every email blast needs to be effective is a strong call-to-action, usually leading them back to your site in one form or another. Typically, retailers try and assign a monetary value to this call-to-action, asking users to “shop now” or “make a purchase,” but for some businesses, this type of language can turn someone away. By using your blogs as a leverage point, with calls-to-action like “read more,” you can call someone back to your site without that intimidation factor.
Of course, if you’re already making great offers to your customers in the form of discounts, giveaways, or other special events, you can use your blog as a platform to learn more about your customers and make better offers to them. One of the easiest ways to do this is through an on-site survey or discussion thread, which you can initiate under the guise of a blog post. Write briefly about a given sub-topic, and ask your readers for their opinions. Learn what they’re looking for, what they like and don’t like, and tailor your special email offers based on that information.
Ultimately, email is going to serve as one more communication platform you can use to give your customers and followers a seamless overall brand experience. Instead of merely focusing on how to convert your email recipients, use email as it was intended—as a medium for communication. Reinforce the ideas and values you’ve presented in your blog, remind users of who you are and what you do, and use your blog to get your users to trust you and sign up for the updates.
The big problem for most companies is building a reliable list of potentially interested parties. Getting users to sign up for an email blast is tough, but if you use your content strategy to cultivate new subscribers, you’ll be left with a list that’s bigger and more relevant for your business.
Try these 10 content-based strategies to make it happen:
One of the most straightforward content-related email signup strategies is simply offering your readers an exclusive, detailed piece of content in exchange for some of their information. The most traditional way of doing this is offering a detailed whitepaper through a pop-up ad or specific landing page, in exchange for a user’s name and email, with consent to receive emails from you in the future. This tactic is valuable because it instantly gives users two means of engaging with your authority: through the content of the whitepaper and top-of-mind content in regular email blasts. Select a subject for your content that hasn’t been overdone and is truly valuable to your customers.
Another popular option is to provide exclusive content after the user already subscribes, in the form of recurring content that users can only get through your email. It’s not quite as enticing as the immediate gratification of the first option, but the recurring frequency will ensure that your readers actually open and enjoy your email blasts for months to come. The only real problem here is that your content has a much more limited audience, and you’ll have to work extra hard to maintain that line of engagement. Base your posts around a theme, or use a content series to maintain user interest.
If you’re already engaged in an onsite content marketing program—which you should be—take advantage of your current content as a means of recruiting new email subscribers. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; at the end of your article, suggest that your readers can learn more about the subject or get special offers by signing up for your newsletters—and of course, include a link to the signup page or embed a popup. Vary your language, but feel free to include this method in several, if not all, of your blog posts.
If your blog is already seeing a lot of traffic and you don’t want to fluff your content up with an obvious call-to-action at the bottom, you can go the more subtle route and include a small email signup form that stays with users on the blog, no matter what they click into or how much they scroll. You can embed this form in the corner of the screen, on the side bar of the blog, or even have it in the center of the screen until your users opt to close it out.
You can also unite your email subscriber list with a list of users of your website, and hide portions of your content so that only registered users can read it. Tease users with an excellent introduction, but make the juicy second part of your most valuable articles only readable once people have submitted their information. It can be annoying for some users to have to sign up, but if they’re genuinely interested in your content, they won’t mind handing over some valuable information. Do be sure to retain at least some 100 percent public content for those wary of signing up.
Social media is a great tool to capture impulsive urges of those “passing through” your newsfeed. Use that to your advantage by posting teases about upcoming special offers from your email blasts. For instance, if you plan to offer a promotional code for 20% off in your latest email, tease it a few days ahead of time by saying “later this week, we’ll be rewarding all our loyal email subscribers with a one-of-a-kind deal! Sign up now to be a part of it!” Be sure to include a link to a signup page to make it easy for your followers.
You can use your blogs as previews for much larger pieces of content, like “definitive guides” or whitepapers. You can do this either by using each successive SEO blog post as a chapter in the defining piece, or use them as tactful lead-ins to a much broader subject. Either way, at the end of each respective piece, you can allude to the fact that it’s only a small window into a much more valuable resource—and then deliver that resource exclusively through an email blast. It builds anticipation and shows people the value they’ll be receiving.
Building a diverse email list is easier when tapping multiple channels, but as a marketer you traditionally only have access to your own mediums. Guest blogging allows you to tap the audiences of a related organization, vastly increasing your total signup potential. Use any of the other tactics listed here to complement your guest blogging efforts for email signup potential.
If you really want to demonstrate your appreciation for your email subscribers, ask your email recipients for stories or reviews about their experiences with your company. Then, write up a post on your blog or social media profile showcasing that user and possibly rewarding him/her with a special offer or giveaway. It will greatly increase that customer’s loyalty and make all your other potential email subscribers eager to get involved in the email blast.
First, you’ll have to announce and publicize a competition through your email blasts. Encourage users to respond in some way, and enter them in a drawing for free products or massive discounts. Then, once you have a handful of winners selected, publish the results on every medium available to you. It will make non-subscribers interested in subscribing, and show them how much you care about your most loyal followers. Allude to future, similar giveaways to increase signups and post details about the submissions that ended up winning.
It will take some time to build up a sizable list, so don’t be discouraged if your new subscribers tend to trickle in gradually. Change up your strategies regularly to encourage new facets of your audience, and measure the impacts of each different angle to determine which strategies are most effective for your business. Keep your users interested in your email blast by rewarding them with exclusive content and promotional offers, and be sure to pepper in plenty of opportunities for conversion along the way.
“Sometimes in the middle of the night, I think of something that’s funny, then I go get a pen and I write it down. Or if the pen’s too far away, I have to convince myself that what I thought of ain’t funny.”
— Mitch Hedberg
Do you know what was under Abe Lincoln’s iconic top hat?
Other than what Captain Obvious would want to blurt out, Lincoln used to keep several pieces of paper with notes under his hat. For days, while doing routine stuff, he’d take off his hat, fish out the pieces of paper, ponder, and write a few more things down.
He kept up that routine until he was ready to deliver what is now known as the Gettysburg Address.
In composing that stirring and historic speech, Abraham Lincoln jotted notes, edited, wrote some more, and edited some more, until his speech was ready for prime time, and it captivated the hearts of Americans from one generation to the next.
What’s that got to do with writing emails? Actually, a lot.
If your marketing strategy is to send out a daily email to your subscribers, that’s terrific, but the chances are that — sooner or later — you’re going to hit a wall. There’s only so much you can write about stuff, right?
Observe, think, write, edit, and repeat
Ben Settle did a fine job of reminding us that there’s potentially an unlimited amount of things we can write about anything.
At first, every Internet marketer who’s doing a great deal of email marketing is so hyped up about his product that he feels he can never run out of things to blog and email about it.
But the truth is, we all hit a wall at some point. If that happens, just step back a bit and . . .
Dig deeper into your product’s benefits and features
You might have presented your product’s core features and advantages, but could there be something beyond those?
Who’s going to benefit from your product? Who else?
What’s it good for? What else could it possibly be applied to?
Break down every advantage and even disadvantage into smaller chunks of ideas, and then break down those small chunks of ideas even more.
Write about things, and products, that are related to your product
Compare your product to other, similar brands and services. Put them side by side. Write about your product’s pros and cons versus the other one’s pros and cons.
And of course, just like Lincoln, keep a pen and paper handy. You never know when something might hit you about your product — while you’re out shopping, driving to work, watching TV, or even lying in bed. You just never know.
If the pen and paper is out of your reach, don’t persuade yourself that your sudden passing idea is not worth the trouble; or worse, that it’s so simple and obvious it’ll be there tomorrow. Get up and grab that pen and paper a few yards away. Dig it out of the depths of your briefcase, purse, or nightstand drawer.
If you don’t, you’ll be kicking yourself in the head in the morning, after you’ve forgotten that brilliant idea that was just there a few hours ago.
Look at every aspect of your product, from every angle, because you might have missed a few things, and there’s a chance that those extra nifty ideas could be broken down into several more selling points that are worth a few emails and blog posts.
Remember to observe, write, edit, write some more, edit, and repeat. Just keep on writing no matter how silly the ideas may seem. Some will indeed be silly . . . but some will not.
Remember, the key to building an effective email strategy is trial and error. Measure the results of each of your campaigns and analyze them. Understand the factors that work, the factors that don’t work, and put that information to good use in your future campaigns. Only through a series of ongoing reflection and adjustment will you be able to perfect your strategy, especially when you’re integrating it with an otherwise independent content marketing campaign.