Email Marketing

5 Email Marketing Strategies to Try in 2018

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There have never been more avenues available for marketing than there are these days—TV, radio, billboards, website ads, social media, and so on. But even with all these channels to choose from, 80% of marketers agree email marketing remains one of the most effective strategies.

With marketing automation in place, it’s tempting to “set it and forget it” when it comes to email marketing. But, just like life, what you get from email marketing depends on what you put into it. The best way to maximize your gains is to pair a great marketing automation system with a robust email marketing strategy that reflects your customers’ needs and the buyer journey.

We’ve gathered a list of tried-and-true email marketing strategies for you to put into practice for your business this year:

1.  Personalized and Segmented Emails

Sometimes low-hanging fruit is as easy as it looks. Personalizing emails, as well as segmenting them—a marketing technique that teases out your subscriber list to send relevant emails to specific subscribers—can offer significant returns. Segmenting emails allows you to target specific groups of subscribers, which leads to substantial increases in click-through rate.

Starting your subscriber emails with “Dear [First name]” instead of “Dear valued customer” can make a world of difference. Something as simple as a personalized greeting can offer a six-fold increase in transaction rate, but 70% of brands still fail to personalize their emails.

Take personalization emails a step farther, and you can customize your call to action (CTA). Focus on understanding buyers and how their roles fit within their organizations. For example, a marketing director and a technical director may have entirely different goals and perspectives when they open up your email. If you offer a unique CTA for the two groups, they are more likely to engage with your email and more likely to convert.

Here are some different ways to segment an email subscriber list:

Demographics: Certain demographics like age, gender, job title, and other information that informs your buyer personas can be a good way to segment customers and customize messages. For example, a financial company may want to send retirement-themed emails to customers seeking information on offering their employees benefits and emails about college loans to university-based customers.

Open and click-through rates (CTRs): Knowing who are engaged customers (those who open most emails and end up making purchases) versus inactive customers (who haven’t opened any emails in months) can be invaluable. Marketing campaigns announcing a new product should absolutely include those engaged customers, while re-engagement campaigns can be created to try and entice the inactive customers.

Location: Businesses that offer local service, such as a lawn service company, obviously need to target local customers, but regional, national, and global companies can also benefit from location-based personalization. Consider running special campaigns for customers in a specified location based on regional events or what’s happening at your local office.

Interests: This is a big one, and Amazon is a prime example of the impact it can have. Recommendations are made based on purchase history, which offers a more personalized message that is more likely to drive engagement and, ultimately, a purchase. What are the bottom-line interests in B2B marketing? How your product or service saves time, money, and resources.

Phase in the customer lifecycle: Targeting customers based on where they are in the customer lifecycle is perhaps one of the biggest ways to reach them. These are some examples, based on the buyer journey:

  • Welcome emails to new subscribers
  • Re-engagement or follow-up emails to customers who seem stuck or hesitant
  • Follow-up emails to prospects who completed a trial/demo but did not move on to a purchase
  • Confirmation or thank-you emails to customers who completed a purchase

There are many more ways to segment your audience for effective email marketing—the full possibilities are almost endless. Keep in mind that segmentation should be customized to your business or marketing plan: segmenting that works for a technology company wouldn’t necessarily work for a boutique.

Marketing automation plus a personalized email marketing strategy enables sophisticated personalization, bringing you closer than ever to your customers. Use it and love it.

2. Drip Campaigns

A drip campaign is a set of scheduled marketing emails sent out automatically after a particular trigger. These campaigns can be used to turn prospects into leads, turn leads into customers, and turn customers into highly engaged customers. Drip campaigns have shown to result in up to a 98% conversion rate for qualified leads.

Drip campaigns can be configured to respond to customer behavior triggers like a new subscriber, a resource download, or a request for a demo. When this action is recorded in the system, it triggers your drip campaign workflow, which sends a follow-up message after a set time interval.

A trigger can also be a passive customer behavior, such as not opening your last few emails, not logging in to use your service for a while, or downloading a product without downloading the tutorial or an important related resource. These types of drip campaigns can help re-engage customers who were moving through the customer lifecycle but have somehow gotten “stuck.”

A drip campaign paired with marketing automation can help you:

  • Move leads through the marketing-sales funnel faster.
  • Educate your leads about your product and your industry.
  • Give your leads more opportunities to engage with your content.
  • Give your sales team more data about “warm” leads.
  • Re-engage customers that have been inactive.
  • Encourage customers to try other parts of your product or related products.
  • Reward your most engaged customers with special offers or inside info.

Drip marketing is one component of lead nurturing, the process of developing relationships with buyers at every step of the buyer’s journey. Segmenting your audience and creating a drip marketing strategy that speaks to these different segments is a great way to listen to the needs of your prospects and provide the answers they genuinely need.

3. Full-Funnel Campaigns 

The marketing funnel used to be simple—customers enter the top of the funnel and some eventually come out the bottom with a purchase and retention. Omnichannel marketing has made this funnel much more complicated, even including pre- and post-purchase phases of the customer lifecycle.

Enter full-funnel campaigns.

Full-funnel marketing is a newer digital marketing strategy that focuses on spending time and money on the most valuable, profitable returns. (And with 67% of the buyer’s journey done digitally, email marketing is a nice platform match.)

Full-funnel campaigns also take into consideration how the marketing funnel has morphed over the years. The old school of thought had a top, middle, and bottom part of a funnel, where customers went in at the top and left it after making a purchase. The funnel has evolved into a customer lifecycle that includes those pre- and post-purchase phases mentioned earlier.

Customer Lifecycle concept image

In the customer lifecycle, sometimes customers skip or repeat phases.

Here’s a walk-through of how the customer lifecycle integrates with full-funnel marketing:

  • Awareness (formerly the top of the funnel): In email marketing for full-funnel campaigns, the purpose of this phase is to educate and build trust with the customer, delivering engaging content rather than pushing sales. This is the stage where customers first learn about your products, so make sure to keep it informative and relevant, rather than driving to free trials, discounts, or other special offers designed to drive conversions.
  • Engagement (formerly the middle): Email marketing strategies for this phase deliver education and then point to a product’s benefits, offering a gentle sales lead. Customers have a growing interest in your product, but some might stay in the engagement phase for a while—perhaps visiting your social media pages to find out more about the product before purchasing. If customers are going to abandon the sale, it’s likely to be in the engagement phase, which is where re-engagement email campaigns come in.
  • Purchase (formerly the bottom): This phase should drive the sale, such as a free trial or discount offer. These messages can be much more direct and sales-oriented since these customers have indicated they are closer to a purchase than others. In this phase, it’s important to keep your emails focused on the primary call to action (CTA) and make sure the transaction is as easy as possible. Some companies opt to offer post-purchase set-up assistance or support to help customers move from engagement to purchase.
  • Retention/Loyalty and Growth: At this stage, the customer purchased a product, used it, and keeps coming back. As the customer gets to know the product, your email marketing campaigns should focus on ways to maximize the value of the product, find new ways to use it, and potentially add on other related products or services. Customer loyalty is a key part of company success, but growth goes hand-in-hand; your email marketing should support a strong cross-selling and upselling strategy. When you identify complementary products for customers, you continue to provide increased value. These full-funnel campaign emails can have a slightly stronger sales lead than in first-time engagement, but keep it gentle if you’re trying to sell a product that’s new to the customer. Also, keep in mind that customer loyalty isn’t as strong in B2B as it is in B2C, so continue to remind customers of how your products or services save them time, money, and resources.
  • Advocacy: The old adage of “word of mouth is your best marketing” is still true today. When a customer loves your company or products, they tell others about it. Social media and online reviews are some of the strongest purchase influencers. To capitalize on the advocacy stage, identify your happiest customers and see if they’ll spread the word with a review or testimonial. If you have a referral program where you offer discounts or other rewards for bringing in new business, make sure this program is a big part of your email marketing strategy for devoted customers.

Full-funnel campaigns provide insight into where your marketing efforts are paying off, as well as ROI, no matter where in the lifecycle they hit customers.

4. Interactive Campaigns

With all the pings, alerts, and beeps vying for customers’ attention, the average human now has an attention span of eight seconds—less than a goldfish. This makes it more vital than ever to include interactive content in your campaigns.

Every stage of your email marketing campaign should have engaging content. 93% of interactive content is somewhat or very effective at educating the buyer, which is almost 25% higher than non-interactive content.

Interactive campaigns are a platform that can glean information from your customers because customers are more likely to engage, learn about your product, and purchase.

For example, a young company experiences growth and considers purchasing an employee health insurance plan but knows little about options. A health insurance company offers an online quiz with questions such as what state the company resides and what employee health benefits laws apply based on the number of employees, what to look for in health insurance offerings, etc.

What did the health insurance company gain from this interaction? Valuable data.

  • This customer is interested in company-wide health insurance (a products/services sales lead).
  • This customer doesn’t know much about Questions X and Y (pain point identification and possible opportunity to provide more learn-intent content on those topics).
  • This customer has the revenue and interest to offer employee benefits (a products/services sales lead and an opportunity to suggest complementary products, especially upsell opportunities as the customer hires more employees).
  • This customer is in the awareness/engagement stage of the buyer journey (a cue for audience segmentation).

What did the young company gain from this interaction? Valuable information about employee health insurance plan laws and plan options, plus a meaningful interaction with a brand that may be able to help them (AKA, save them time, money, and resources).

Customers who gain value from an interaction are more likely to trade an email address, thus opening the doors to personalized marketing campaigns and your ability to guide the customer on to a purchase. Interactive content generates conversions moderately or very well 70% of the time versus 36% for passive content.

Here’s some interactive content that can be included in email:

  • Infographics: This is one of the most shareable forms of content, plus humans are highly visual creatures. On average, companies that use infographics have 12% traffic growth over those that don’t—one company even reported a 756% increase. When creating an infographic, tailor it to your audience, make it simple, and offer value.
  • Video: Recall how humans have attention spans shorter than a goldfish? The higher the customer is in the lifecycle that it’s targeting, the shorter the video should be. With 43% of consumers wanting more video content from brands, it might explain why landing pages with video see 80% more conversions than those without.
  • Surveys/polls/quizzes: Keep them short and select questions wisely to gain insight into your subscribers. Quizzes, in particular, are growing in popularity and have a 33% lead capture rate and a high chance of being shared.
  • Calculators: A calculator offers customers a lot of value with minimal effort on their part and instant gratification. Even a simple price calculator (e.g., “How much does it cost to buy a house?”) can have impressive results: companies report lead conversion increases of more than 25%, plus a nice boost from social traffic. Offering a calculator as a call-to-action is a sign of your intent to solve a customer’s problem and add value, boosting your brand image for customers who aren’t ready to commit.
  • Images or custom font: Even spicing up a plain text email to include a GIF, background image, or unique font can help engage customers. Images, in particular, could earn the page up to 94% more traffic. Be sure text is legible and images are high-resolution—an unprofessional email is a fast way to send a customer running.

Keep in mind that every email doesn’t need to be a sales pitch either. Sometimes emails that provide sheer entertainment for customers help your brand stand out. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy an unexpected laugh?

5. A/B Testing Campaigns

A/B testing, or split testing, is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s toolbox. It compares two versions of the same campaign on email, websites, or other channels.

A/B tests are typically performed on one variable at a time—even something as seemingly minor as background color—to test opportunities to improve conversions. A/B testing collects data on deliverability, open, and click-through rates to see if one version is superior to the other.

Segmenting emails comes in handy when performing A/B testing. It allows email marketers to serve the test to similar sets of customers to help ensure reliable results and rule out results stemming from chance. However, random changes can’t be made without a strategy, or skewed or worthless data will be derived. Here’s an example to walk through:

Your subscriber list has been growing rapidly, but the click-through rate (CTR) has remained stagnant. What’s going on? Your first instinct is that your subject lines are too dull, but you don’t want non-engaged customers to skew the results.

You split your email subscriber list into “cold” vs. “warm” leads so you can compare similar groups of customers in this test. You prepare two versions of your email—one with the normal subject line, and one with a much shorter, punchier subject line. You send half of your cold leads the normal subject line and half of your cold leads get the new, exciting subject line. You also send half of your warm leads the normal subject line, and the other half get the new subject line.

A few days later, the results come back. In both groups (cold and warm leads), CTR is much higher with the new subject line. However, the average CTR for the cold leads is much lower than the warm leads.

This A/B test indicates that engagement is one problem, but your subject lines are an even bigger problem—and one you can solve right away. CTR rates are understandably lower among the less-engaged group, but you saw engagement increase with a punchier subject line, so there is room to improve CTR among cold leads. CTR rates are higher in the more engaged group, but with a better subject line, this rate could go through the roof.

The combination of segmentation and A/B testing lets you test different theories and helps prevent customers from falling out of the lifecycle.

The beauty with A/B testing is possibilities are endless. However, it’s important to stay focused on your goals and not get caught going down rabbit holes with endless testing that won’t deliver ROI.

What variables can be A/B tested in email? Here are a few:

  • Subject lines
  • Messaging
  • Call-to-action
  • Personalization
  • Landing page
  • Target audience
  • Sender name
  • Design
  • Images

This list of variables that can be split tested could go on and on, so use it wisely. Most email marketing automation programs realize the value of A/B testing and offer it on their platforms.

Driving Impact with Email Marketing

When marketing automation is paired with a customer-centric strategy, the results can be amazing. For every $1 spent on email marketing, expect an ROI of $43. This is not only due to a decrease in manual labor, but also because email marketing automation can target and guide readers who are at various points in the buyer journey.

Email marketing strategies have the potential to be a strong revenue generator. What new email marketing strategies have you tried out this year? Tell me about your experiences in the comments.