10 Tips to a Powerful Email Marketing Strategy

Were he alive today, Mark Twain would probably have a soft spot for email because, much like the author himself, recent reports of email’s death have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, email is not only alive—it’s the number one direct channel in terms of daily use and consumer preference for both personal and marketing communications.

“67% of marketers say that delivering highly relevant content is a strategic goal their organization wants to achieve through email marketing.”

- MarketingSherpa, Email Benchmark Survey, 2013

Email is thriving thanks in large part to the channel’s familiarity, flexibility, and universality. A whole new generation of mobile smartphone and tablet users are also driving anywhere, anytime email usage. Indeed, when you dig into the data, any assertion that email is “dying” with consumers is laughable. Evolving—yes. Dying, absolutely not.

Listed below are what we believe to be the top ten tips to a powerful email marketing strategy. It starts with building a list, continues with data management, and ends at revenue generation.

1. Build an acquisition strategy
If you’ve prioritized audience growth, begin by analyzing the places where customers are already engaging with your brand. Then, determine how to enhance those experiences and drive interactive engagement with new tools and techniques. For example, always optimize acquisition forms for mobile. If a customer is on a tablet or smartphone and can’t fill out your form quickly and easily, you’re sure to lose the opt-in. For information about which audience growth strategies are working for marketers -- and which ones aren't -- check out The Audience Growth Survey.

2. Optimizing for mobile is extremely important
For brands that do not optimize email for mobile, the penalty is stiff. Return Path points out that 63% of US consumers delete emails immediately if they are not optimized for mobile. Offer an elegant mobile experience from the start. If your initial welcome email is perfectly optimized for mobile, subscribers will know they’re in for a pleasant mobile experience for the duration of their time spent with your brand.

3. Your data should always be relevant
Assess your current data to make sure you’re sending targeted communications, not “batch and blast” messages. Using simple data points like gender and location can dramatically improve the subscriber experience. Similarly, on social media, use Facebook’s geo-targeting features with status updates. Strive to never regurgitate the same promotional messages on social media that you are using in email, as customers are looking for different information in each of those channels.

4. Personalize email whenever possible
Your website visitors, email, and mobile subscribers, and those who have connected with you on social media will appreciate your messages even more if they’re personalized. Inject personalized recommendations into marketing emails for the ultimate in one-to-one communications. For example, you can create a unique email containing personalized recommendations based on each subscriber’s browsing behavior on your website. Adding personalized recommendations into marketing emails can increase sales conversion rates by 15-25%, and click-through rates by 25-35%.

5. Email drives accessibility across-channels
The ability to easily archive and access messages at a later time influences consumer channel preferences. While smartphones and tablets replicate much of the desktop messaging experience, many consumers purposely “park” messages to take later action from their computers (which may have faster internet access, larger screens, full keyboards, etc.). Email remains a powerful channel for its ability to bridge the three-device environment of smartphone, tablet, and PC.

6. Get their permission to use it
Thanks to the good work of Seth Godin, the email channel is permanently linked with the concept of “permission marketing”—namely, that brands should first seek permission before sending customers email marketing messages. Once you receive permission the next step is personalization and building of data around the consumer.

7. Email drives deals
If you’re not making deals available via email, you are ignoring the largest, direct audience for this content. According to the 2012 Channel Preference Survey, people prefer email to Facebook for deals because it’s harder to miss deals in the inbox than it is in the waterfall of posts that is the News Feed. Use social networks to spread the word about your offers, and push consumers to your website for email subscription. At present, other approaches leave money on the table.

8. Sharing isn’t just for social networks
If your brand is emphasizing only that consumers share via social networks, you’re reaching just the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface are the introverted, the private, and the cautious consumers who share content off your radar via email and word of mouth. These private sharers don’t get as much press as the “likers” and “retweeters” precisely because their activities cannot be seen publicly and they are difficult, if not impossible, to track. Private communications, however, are extremely valuable to brands, as a friend’s thoughtful personal endorsement will often realize a better response than one broadcast to thousands.

9. Did they abandon before they bought?
Tailor the frequency and number of abandoned cart emails to the purchase at hand, and that item’s typical purchase window. For example, some expensive purchases require more time to justify the spend, so the purchase window is larger. Conversely, an abandoned cart email about a heating or cooling system should be sent quickly to be helpful, as people with dysfunctional furnaces or air conditioning will likely want a quick solution. Pay attention to your industry’s typical purchase window, and send abandoned cart emails accordingly.

10. Automate your post-purchase messages
Automate a re-engagement campaign for a week, a month, and 90 days post-purchase. Determine the point when subscribers typically purchase from your brand again (or disengage), and start from there to personalize the send dates even further.

Email, in combination with a strong website and customer experience, forms a stable foundation for interactive marketing. Remember that your audience is made up of both smartphone owners and non-smartphone owners, so make sure your strategy accommodates both segments. Rather than relying on single sign-on products to gather opt-ins, build your own consumer database by gaining consumers’ permission through your website. Email’s ability to deliver targeted and exclusive content continues to make it a sound investment of your brand’s marketing energy to reach your audiences where they anticipate hearing from you.

Looking to enhance your own email designs and get inspired? Check out The 2014 Best of the Email Swipe File.
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