Even if you have little to no experience in marketing, you’ve definitely come to understand, at some point in your life, that email is a powerful communication tool.
Unlike the countless, broad range of social media and search engine advertisements that you come across in the short span of even a few hours, or the hundreds of light messages containing gifs and memes that you get from your friends and family per week, email is a very personal and professional form of communication that allows users to connect with one another with an added layer of depth.
Unlike some of the articles that you have already run across in your web searches, this one is going to go beyond giving you a light, philosophical understanding of how to think about your strategy and give you an actionable plan to get you moving forward with your email efforts. In this article, we will cover:
1. Why your email campaign strategy matters
2. Target market and demographics
3. Setting goals and objectives
4. Copy testing framework and best practices
5. Sending strategy
Keep your company’s specific needs in mind and continue reading to understand why having a good email strategy is so important and what actions you can take to make sure it stays ahead of the market.
Whether you are just getting your business off the ground or are well established, your email marketing strategy, irrespective of your market, is undoubtedly going to be a major factor in driving your company’s growth. Due to the reasons mentioned above, and a plethora of others that we will cover in the following sections, your email marketing funnel, if done correctly, is essentially more of a faucet when compared to your other marketing efforts, and your strategy is essentially your leverage on opening that faucet, as well as keeping it open. Without a proper strategy, you might as well be collecting rainwater with a shot glass.
If you don’t believe in the power of email just yet, just try doing a quick Google search on the dimension of digital marketing with the highest ROI. You won’t even have to scroll once to see that most businesses will agree that their email efforts are the main drivers of customer or client acquisition (especially in B2B markets).
Now take business out of the conversation for a moment and think about how many emails you have read and sent since you first signed up for your first private email address. One thing that you will notice all of those instances have in common is that the people on both sides of the conversation already have some sort of a commitment to one another.
Your email marketing strategy is the foundation upon which your messages increase in relevance to your audience, and can either unlock a tight bond between your brand and your audience, or land your brand’s email domain a one-way ticket to all of your leads’ spam boxes. Your funnel is very short here, and you really only have a couple shots at getting your leads to convert, so let’s dive into what you need to do in order to continually pull your audience in and grow your email conversion rate.
Before you start thinking about how to target your market(s), you are going to need to know which ones really apply to you and your company’s skill sets. In order to do this properly, you will need to conduct some research on your markets so far in order to uncover which demographics are most likely to seek your value proposition, as well as which aspects of your value proposition, or “pain points” and “gain creators,” are most relevant to each demographic.
This is extremely important for optimizing your email campaign for the highest ROI and, therefore, tuning your efforts to get the best results across all of your key metrics (e.g. open rate, click-through rate, and conversion rate). On top of that, this will allow you to personalize all of your emails through your CRM, using the contact information given in the contact list.
If you are starting your campaign from scratch, here’s a list of some demographics that you can use to segment your contact list:
- Business type (e-commerce store/app/etc.)
- Number of employees
Remember to have your lead generation specialist find this information when building your contact list, or your email templates (read further for more on this) will not be able to pull this information from your list.
Once you have a solid contact list that matches your value proposition segment, segment, segment!
This is going to really help you automate your email sends for optimization of your success metrics. For instance, if you are targeting multiple regions around the globe, you will want to separate your email send times from your time zone so that your contacts all receive their emails at the same time with regard to their time zone.
(e.g. if you are operating from Central Europe, your Central European contacts will receive their emails at 10:00 AM GMT+2, while your contacts from California will receive their emails at 1:00 AM GMT+2).
Each demographic will have their own reason for segmentation (e.g. country for time of send, industry for key value prop pain points and gain creators, etc.), so really think about how each demographic factor will constitute its own personalized approach.
IMPORTANT: Save yourself the hassle of having to evaluate every lead in your contact list for email syntax & further verification and DON’T BUY CONTACT LISTS. It might seem tempting but, for many reasons (which will be covered in future articles), using a purchased list of contacts can ruin your email domain’s reputation and leave you with a bunch of irrelevant contacts based on your value proposition.
With any strategy that you set up, one of the first things that you will need to consider is the reasons why you are undertaking your efforts, which translate into goals and objectives. Essentially, your goals will provide you with a consistent vision for what you consider to be success, and your objectives will be the steps that you take in order to achieve said success.
One way to ensure that you are setting good goals for your campaign is by stucturing them in a way that allows you to build your strategy around them. We recommend using the SMART goal-setting method (pictured above) because it helps construct goals that are both achievable and measurable.
As your goals are meant to be the overarching vision of your campaign’s success, we recommend starting with one well-written goal at a time. For example, many companies choose to focus on increasing conversion rates, increasing sales, or increasing overall ROI. If you set out to achieve all of those at once, you may run into some conflicts between each, at which point you will be forced to make a decision in the midst of your efforts, which can become chaotic and stressful.
“Increase email-driven conversion rates in market “a” from “x” to “y” by the end of the current month”
or, if you’re starting your campaign from scratch:
“Drive email conversion rates to the industry average by the end of next quarter”
In both examples, you can see that the goals are specific, measurable, achievable (assuming your “y” factor isn’t something absurd, like 90%), realistic, and have a particular time period in which the results should be met. However, there isn’t a clear path to success just yet. This is where targets really come in handy.
Now that you have your goals in mind, you’ll need to set up some key targets to focus on before you can get those conversion rates or sales boosted. Targets are basically “mini goals,” or steps that you take in order to be able to Try to imagine that nobody opens your emails; you aren’t really going to be able to track anything at the point of conversion if they aren’t even entering the top of your funnel. Therefore, logically, you will want to work on optimizing your funnel from the top down. Try organizing your targets like this:
STEP 1: Achieve an average open rate of 20% (global average) by the end of week 1
STEP 2: Achieve an average click-through rate of 2.5% (global average) by week 3, day 2
STEP 3: Optimize the conversion rate to “y” (set in your overarching goal) by the end of week 4
Notice that these objectives are directly in line with your overarching goal, and serve as the steps taken to get there. Remember that you may have many of these if you have more markets, and that your goals might be slightly different depending on target market-specific factors.
Now that you have your market information and goals/ objectives set, we can jump into how to properly set up your copy testing framework in order to continue increasing all of your performance metrics. Here, we will explore how to effectively split test the copy in order to ensure you are constantly improving your results, as well as considerations for writing effective copy.
We will start by setting up a simple copy testing framework that directly relates to your objectives and overarching goal. If you have read our article, “How to write a Growth Plan” here, then you have already been introduced to our quick-start framework that can get you started on your scientific approach to email marketing.
Each part of your email relates to a particular metric that you will be tracking, and this is how you should start viewing each part’s relevance to your campaign; through your performance metrics:
- Open rate: Subject line, preview text, and sender name.
These are the three things that your contacts are going to see first, and the quality of each is what will determine their willingness to open your email.
- Click-through rate: Text body and email CTA.
Again, the quality of your copy and CTA presentation are going to either pull your prospect to the point of click-through, or get your email deleted.
- Conversion rate: Landing page and its CTA.
The quality of your landing page’s information and its corresponding CTA will determine whether or not your prospects will finally agree to convert; whatever your idea of conversion is.
Now that you understand the connection between all of the components of your emails and the performance metrics that you will use to measure your campaign’s success, it’s time to test. In order to do so, you will want to test one component at a time, in a continuous cycle, starting with the open rate and moving down the above list.
You will want to send 50 emails of each version of whatever it is you are testing (so, 100 emails total) in order to ensure that your results are statistically relevant, and hold all other metric factors constant in order to decide which subject line/ text body/ landing page version is the winner. Here is how this will look:
- Send 50 emails with subject line A and 50 with subject line B. All of these emails will have the same text body, CTA, and landing page qualities. The subject line with the highest open rate is the go-to line for the text body test.
- Send 50 emails with text body A and 50 with text body B. All of these emails will have the winning subject line from the previous test and the same email CTA, as well as the same landing page qualities.
- Send 50 emails with landing page A and 50 with landing page B. All of these emails will have the winning subject line from test 1 and the winning text body from test 2.
- Repeat the process using different performance metric factors at each stage until you have winners for all.
- Repeat and beat all of your winners.
If for some reason there isn’t a clear winner at any given stage, increase the number of emails sent until there is a clear winner.
In order to make sure you start out with some decent performance at each testing stage, you will want to test variations using these simple rules:
Keep it short and make it enticing:
- Around 5-8 words (maximum 50 characters), and send a test email to yourself to make sure the whole subject line is readable on mobile devices,
- Try personalizing by adding the contact’s name or company name,
- Appeal to emotion (e.g. “are you worried about (x),” or “don’t miss out on “Y”),
- Don’t sound too “salesy” (refrain from adding the word “free” to any of your email’s components if possible, as this can trigger spam alerts), but communicate your company’s strengths above competitors,
- Don’t promise anything you cannot do.
- Personalize, and stay away from “noreply.”
- Always try to have your brand name included (unless you are Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, at which point you’re well-known),
- Adding your name can make the email appear more personal, but ensure your brand’s name is there (e.g. John from Company, or John @Company).
- Ensure you have a strong opening, CTA, and close with a nice message.
- Keep it limited to 50-80 words,
- Open with the pain points and gain creators relevant to the target audience,
- Personalize by using your contacts’ demographic information from your contact list,
- Ensure your CTA is strong and and your links are noticeable (buttons might work, but links are shown to outperform in B2B markets),
- End the message by showing some appreciation for the contact’s time.
- Make sure that you are sending your contacts to the right place.
- Your email CTA should match the page you send them to,
- Try to avoid making the prospect scroll further to reach your point of conversion.
You have everything set up and you are ready to send! Except this requires some strategy as well. Remember how we discussed segmenting your contacts by region in order to keep your send time constant across time zones? Well, timing matters.
Believe it or not, there are certain days for certain activities. You are much less likely to have a night out with your friends on a Sunday and, based on the same psychology, you are less likely to open emails on certain days, though the variance between days really isn’t too high.
You will want to search your target audience’s behaviors with regard to this and decide when you want to send the highest volume of emails based on that research. For most B2B emails, recipients are more likely to open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Monday and Wednesday fall closely behind. Essentially, most people have already mentally left work by Friday.
You probably knew this was coming after reading about how to set up your volume per day throughout the week; the time of day really does matter when it comes to email open rates. Again, research your market well to understand when this is, but studies suggest if you’re in the B2B market, weekdays between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM is where you will find your peak hours for open rates, with 10:00 AM being the most optimal time.
Once you have set some days for highest volume and the most optimal hours, be sure to keep sending outside of those parameters to see if your audiences have different behaviors from the global average, as you always want to be sure you aren’t missing an opportunity to optimize.
Follow these simple instructions and you should see that your open rates remain strong and continue to increase as you test your relevant email components.
Now that you have a good idea of how to strategize your email campaign effectively, you should get out there and start testing away, as this is what is really going to push your campaign to its full potential.
Don’t just take this information for its face value, but really consider the reasons why you are doing all of these things, and what you are truly trying to achieve, because every business has different factors to consider and there are many ways that you could link all of these strategy framework components together to create a something that is tailored to your specific needs.
If you want to learn more about the specifics of the dimensions that were covered in this article, be sure to follow HK Digital on Linkedin or Facebook (or both!) in order to keep up with the best practices of email marketing, and so much more.
Thank you for reading!