When it comes to brand messaging and audience engagement, social media gets all the attention nowadays, but that’s just because it’s still relatively new. Study after study continues to demonstrate that email is the number one inbound marketing channel for keeping people thinking about you, clicking on your links and buying your products. The Direct Marketing Association in the UK found that over the course of 2013, email yielded revenues totaling 25 times the expenses associated with sending it, which is 16% higher than email’s ROI the previous year.
This is why smarter digital marketers favor email – even with everyone so excited about the power of Snapchat. And it’s growing. Business email traffic now accounts for some 100 billion messages every single day.
On the other hand, email’s maturity as a digital marketing channel means that many are using it in outdated ways, or failing to make the most of the newer opportunities that email affords us. The go-to uses for email marketing – keeping subscribers in the loop regarding your latest sales promotions, product rollouts, and newly published content – are as relevant as ever, but if you aren’t doing more than that, then you’re leaving money on the table. Here are three key email marketing goals that are within your reach and are worthy of your attention.
1. Listening to Your Audience
Top contemporary marketers know digital channels are great for tracking audience behavior to learn more about them. What does your audience care about? What types of content and offers turn them on? What are the best timings and frequency increments for reaching out to them?
In the age of big data, the answers are out there, helping us to build more complete and precise buyer personas and to refine our content strategies, for all channels, with agility. It’s just a matter of looking for the signals in the right places – social metrics, search data, and email clicks. Here again, social media provides heaps of insights, but best-in-class marketers recognize that there are some key advantages to using email for listening too.
Social-based reputation monitoring tools and analytics platforms are constantly improving, but they’re still not on the level where they’ll give you a comprehensive picture of conversation volume or sentiment. No matter what dashboard you’re on, you’re still only seeing a fraction of the general public’s conversations that matter to you. The majority of Facebook activity is private, and the other social networks – yes, even the mighty Twitter – don’t have the mammoth adoption rates that Facebook enjoys, which is especially true if your brand targets baby boomers.
And besides, social engagement is by nature a real-time thing. If you post when your audience isn’t looking, then you’ll have no way of knowing whether they might have been interested. Email, on the other hand, is asynchronous. Send an email when people are away from their connected devices, and your message will still be in their inboxes, waiting for them to hopefully look at when they’re ready.
So shake things up with your emails. Test different send timings, subject lines, images, tone of voice, calls-to-action, layouts, and subject matter. Do you get more responses when you write about what’s new with your product line and include a coupon code, or when you offer light-hearted but lengthy commentary on industry trends? There are some potent automated tools out there for A/B testing these things, but you can do this all yourself manually too.
Arguably even more powerful, though, is making your email marketing into a two-way channel. Ask subscribers what their thoughts are, encourage them to hit the reply button, and you may be shocked by how helpful the responses are.
2. Nurturing Relationships Across Channels
Content marketing is about building and strengthening relationships by being helpful and generous. If you want your audience to do more business with you, then you need to earn their trust and respect over time with ongoing messaging.
These statements ring true no matter what inbound marketing channel you’re thinking about, and it’s most effective when all channels work together. Every channel has its own functionality benefits, its own limitations and its own culture. Digital attribution modeling is still in its infancy, but marketers are drooling over it regardless. We’re all looking to make educated emphasis adjustments based on which channel is the first to catch a customer’s eye, which is most effective at addressing specific friction points, or which is the last to motivate a sale. But multichannel marketing is effective because your brand needs to be everywhere your audience’s eyes are, and it’s most effective when each stage of the buyer’s journey is addressed with distinct messaging.
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So regardless of how you go about deciding whether Pinterest is the strongest or weakest game-changer along a multi-touch journey, email needs be integrated into your holistic, cross-channel relationship nurturing strategy. Here’s how:
- Segment your audience according to intent (which you can do by tracking where they came from and what actions they’ve taken), and send targeted marketing emails to each segment, addressing whatever you’ve identified as the key hurdles at this specific stage of getting to know you.
- Make sure that each of your marketing channels is building on the activity of all of your other marketing channels. No duplication or channel silo-ing allowed. Keep the conversation moving across channels, and remain vigilant that you’re consistently offering relevant messages to every persona with whom you want to engage.
- Publish landing pages with content and product offers that can only be reached by clicking on links in your emails. This helps to play up the “exclusivity” factor.
- Approximately half of all emails are opened on mobile devices, so do yourself a favor and make sure your email templates look good on smartphones.
3. Automated Personalization
We all receive way more email than we could ever pay proper attention to, so marketers are always looking for new ways to maximize relevance. If an email recipient can think, “Hey, I better read on – I think this message will be of major value to me!” within a few seconds of glancing at the inbox, then you’ve done your job well.
Relevance is achieved in any number of ways (studies have shown that simply using the recipient’s name in the subject and body text of the email can do wonders), but here again, putting some thought into testing and segmenting is the secret sauce. When you collect the right data and have the ability to correlate your most effective messaging with specific user-triggered events, then you’ve got the information you need to optimize emails for relevance.
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The resulting opportunities for selling and for encouraging progress along the buyer journey are endless. If Scott from Illinois bought an all-weather sleeping bag from you in November, then it might be a good idea to offer him a discount on mosquito nets come May. If Jill completed your free “How to Pick a Taxidermist” online course yesterday at 11:00 PM, and then she commissioned three stuffed squirrels from you over the next seven months, then the time may be ripe to send her a free wall mounting kit that she’ll surely post to Instagram.
Here too, fancy enterprise software can help, but there’s plenty you can do on your own by exporting spreadsheets from your CRM, e-commerce data and email platform’s metrics and simply merging.
How are you using email in ways that didn’t exist a decade ago? Any great examples of brands inspiring you through your inbox? Share in the comments below!
Featured Image Credit: Image Credit: Alan Strakey via Flickr