Complete Guide to Email Marketing

You’ve heard of email marketing, sure. It’s a classic staple in every digital marketing strategy. But what does effective, targeted email marketing look like? What has changed in the world of email marketing? And how much value does it really bring to the table?

What is email marketing?

In a nutshell, email marketing can be defined as any email communication sent to a prospective customer with the intent of converting her to a sale. But as a marketer, it’s better for you to think of email marketing as a personalized stream of communication that builds a trusting relationship between you, your brand and your contact.

Email marketing is one of many channels in a typical digital marketing strategy. Others include SEO, content marketing, social media, PPC (pay-per-click), influencer marketing to name a few. But email marketing continues to bring in the value. In fact, email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.

But remember, not all emails are created equal. To yield these great results, you need to craft emails that are effective. To do that, it’s crucial to understand what email marketing is not.

What email marketing is NOT

Successful email marketing campaigns incorporate strategy, personalization and a reasonable frequency. But all too often, marketers execute invasive, ineffective eblast marketing. Here are some things marketers should avoid when it comes to email marketing:

“Spraying-and-Praying”: These days, blasting your house list with one-size-fits-all messaging just doesn’t cut it anymore. Think about it –– not everyone in your email database will open the same email simply because they’ll each have individual interests and attributes. Segment your lists to ensure your message is on target and you’re maximizing your marketing effort.

List Purchasing: No matter how tempting it might be, do NOT purchase email lists. Not only is a purchased list pretty ineffective email marketing technique, but oftentimes ESPs on a shared IP address won’t even allow you to purchase lists. Why? Because one customer’s bad email address can seriously hurt the deliverability of all the other customers on the same IP address. And lastly, most lists available for purchase are typically not high in quality.

Flying Blind: If you’re not consistently tracking the open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates of your email marketing campaigns, then you may as well have never sent an email in the first place. How will you know how effective your email marketing plan is unless you’re actively measuring its performance? Most email marketing packages and marketing automation platforms include reporting capabilities so you can double down on what works and ax what doesn’t.

The Evolution of Email Marketing

These days it’s hard to imagine life without email, but email marketing has a storied history which continues to evolve.

1971 – First email send in history. Ray Tomlinson sent the first email ever. What did the message in this historic leap in communication say? Tomlinson says it was, “something like QWERTYUIOP.”

1978 – First mass email blast sent. Gary Thuerk, the marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp, sent a mass email blast promoting DEC machines to 400 users via Arpanet. The promotion email worked, as it resulted in $13 million worth of sales.

1996 – Hotmail launched the first free web-based email service. Hotmail was founded by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith. The name “Hotmail” was included the letters HTML (HoTMaiL). Naturally, marketers were quick to take advantage of this and email marketing started taking off.

2003 – CAN-SPAM Act Signed Into Law in the United States. By the early 2000s, spam was becoming a huge problem for everyone. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the CAN-SPAM into law, as part of a nationwide effort to fight the flood of unsolicited emails. Marketers knew they needed to adjust their email strategy if they were going to reach their audience.

Present Day – The Email Marketing Renaissance. Permission-based marketing, also known as inbound marketing, has shifted the way marketers and consumers relate to one another. Email plays an important role in the inbound buyer’s journey. By keeping in touch with interested prospects via email, you can help build a relationship and pull leads closer to a conversion.

Email Marketing Best Practices

Get permission. If you want to execute a successful email marketing campaign, the first thing you’ll need to do is get “permission” from your recipients. Permission marketing (also known as inbound marketing) is the privilege, not the right, of delivering personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. This means you’ll want to email prospects who have opted in, or indicated their interest in learning more about your company. This could be website visitors who fill out a form to download content, request
to hear from a salesperson or subscribes to your blog or newsletter.

Personalize. Sending an impersonal or irrelevant email will earn you a first class ticket to the spam folder. When an email is not personalized, 52% of customers say they’ll find somewhere else to go. How can marketers prevent this?

With marketing automation, you can track your contact’s website and email behaviors. Is there a particular product or service page on your website that she keeps visiting? Send her an email suggesting that product or service. Has she downloaded certain content pieces? Send her a similar piece. Stay relevant and you’ll earn your contact’s trust.

Segment your lists. One easy way to create personalized, targeted messaging is by segmenting your lists. You can segment your contacts by a variety of criteria, like demographics, location, job title, etc. You could also segment by buyer persona, to make your messaging even more targeted. For example, Cindy CEO may require different messaging than Andy Account Manager or Mary Marketing Manager.

Pay attention to deliverability. The world of email deliverability is changing, and while it may seem strange for marketers, it’s very important to only interact with engaged leads.

Why? Your domain reputation is very important. ISPs are growing increasingly sophisticated in their battle against spam and unwanted email. In addition to tracking engagement, ISPs are now tracking your sending domain.

But there are major positives this new era of deliverability. For example, since SharpSpring introduced email engagement tools, customers have seen higher overall opens and clicks. Also, suppressing email sends to disinterested recipients has already increased customers’ reputations with ISPs as well.

Considerations when Choosing Email Marketing Vendors

When you’re ready to choose an email marketing vendor, be sure to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is marketing automation included as part of the email marketing package?
  • Does it easily integrate with CRM and other apps?
  • Does the platform require a long-term contract or is it month-to-month?
  • How much does it cost? Does it fit in your budget?
  • Can you easily segment your email lists?
  • Is it easy to build designed marketing emails without coding?
  • Can it send your sales team automatic alerts when a prospect is ready to buy?

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