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Email Marketing: A Game of Growth (Chapter 9)

Vineet Karhail

Last Updated: January 22, 2022

Email Marketing is the king of marketing. Unlike other channels, email is direct and gets the full attention of the readers at that particular moment. Consumers prefer to hear from their favourite brands in their inbox. In a research study by Adweek, they found that over 70% of the consumers want brands to communicate with them over email than any other channel.

Think about it, if they are giving you their email addresses and permission to send them emails, they have already committed to you. They wanna know more about your brand, they wanna buy from you, and they wanna be engaged with you.

It is no surprise that email marketing has the highest ROI of all the marketing channels.

🛡️ You are reading "Email Marketing: A Game of Growth (Chapter 9)" - a series of articles on growth marketing. To read the first article, click here 👉 Fundamentals of Growth Marketing: A Game of Growth (Chapter 1)

Email Marketing Best Practices

To succeed with email marketing, there are a few general rules to follow. 

1. Always ask permission

Do not send emails to people who haven’t permitted you to send their email address. Do not harvest email addresses from websites or buy any lists. Ask for permission to send emails to your subscribers explicitly.

It's a fairly straightforward point but so many people get it wrong. Do not assume that you have permission to send emails, if they didn't opt-in to receive them. If a prospect gave your their email address to request a quote, you don't have their permission to send them marketing emails. If somebody wanted to see your demo and gave you their email address, you can't send add them to your newsletter.

2. Follow the law

All email communications are regulated by CAN-SPAM Act (US), CASL (Canada), GDPR (EU) depending on your region. It’s a good practice to read them once a year.

Highlights of these regulations are that you must have explicit permission from the receiver to send them emails, your physical address should be mentioned in the email, and a link to unsubscribe should be available for users to stop receiving your emails at any time they wish to.

3. Define your email plan

Align your email campaigns with your other campaigns like social media

Write down your goals and define metrics for success

Have a plan that covers the whole customer journey - from Awareness to Engagement to Conversion to Advocacy.

For example, you should have nurture campaigns for new leads to prime them so that when the salespeople talk to them, the leads are already warmed up.

4. Create a testing plan

Depending upon your metrics that you’ve defined, test everything you can to boost your traffic. It could be open rates, or link clicks or conversions/purchases. Test these variables:

Subject lines: What subject lines are improving your open rates or conversions?

Personalization: What personalization works best for your target audience?

Day of the week: There are certain days when your market is busy and do not buy from you. Test which days of the week are better for the conversions.

Frequency of the emails: Is sending 2 emails per week better than sending 4 emails per week? Find that out.

Pricing/ Offers: You can test several offers or discounts to see which ones convert better. Don’t take a wild guess.

Email content: You can test adding images or design or different content and see what converts better.

Watch the negative metrics: While testing for the elements above, always keep in mind the impact on these metrics:

Bounces: Is personalization reducing the bounce rate? What kind of personalization helps?

Unsubscribes: Are there any subject lines that are causing users to unsubscribe? 

Complaints: Is email frequency causing more complaints?

5. Take advantage of data, segmentation and automation

There’s so much data you have in Google Analytics and using emails, you can better segment your audience, based on what links they click. 

Once you have segmented your audience, you can use automation to improve conversions by showing the different offer to different segments.

Email Marketing - Things to avoid

1. Don’t start from scratch

Take content from your blog or social media to distribute to your subscribers. Email marketing is a part of your marketing strategy and any content you produce should be coherent with other channels. 

2. Don’t use one big image with text

This is so 2010 when responsiveness wasn’t the priority of most companies. Big images are not shown properly on mobile devices, and the text in those images is even smaller.

Rather, use plain text and add 1-2 smaller images to improve the design of your emails.

3. Don’t buy a list

Apart from the ethical issue, the bought lists are very low performing. Sellers have no interest in maintaining them or reducing their size by cleaning data. This will hurt your deliverability rate and sender reputation score.

Also, most of the emails hit the spam inbox leading to terrible open rates. The link clicks with such lists are around 1% which is significantly lower than a house list. On top of that, what they found out that the most clicked link in those emails was the Unsubscribe link.

4. Don’t ignore mobile

Make sure your emails are mobile-friendly and the buttons are not cut-off 

Most people use their mobiles to read emails, and they will never take action if they can’t see your email clearly

5. Don’t send without test email verification

We all have that moment when we realize a mistake just after sending the email. Make sure you’re testing the email by sending it to your email address first and checking that there are no mistakes.

Cover all the bases before you grow your list

Now that you understand some dos and don’ts of email marketing, you should be aiming to grow your lists. But before you do that, there are a couple of things you’d want to do to be ready for that growth.

#1: Send regular emails to your list

If you want to land in your subscribers’ inbox, you should send regular emails to them. I recommend at least once a month. This is more of a technical reason rather than best practice. Your sender reputation improves when you send more emails that aren’t getting blocked or spammed. 

The more emails you send, the chances are that even if somebody is marking your emails as spam, your sender reputation score doesn’t get a hit. But if you sent zero emails, but have one user marked you as spam, that’s “infinite” spams percentage. Your email deliverability will suffer.

#2: Deliver relevant, valuable and engaging content

This is a no-brainer. If you want your subscribers to open and read their emails, your content has to be engaging. The higher your open rates and clickthrough rates (CTR) are, the better your deliverability rates will be. Based on the open rates and CTRs, Google and Yahoo will assume that your emails are important to your users, and so they will allow your emails to land into people’s inboxes.

#3: Monitor your inbox placement

As you grow your list rapidly, you should monitor your inbox placement to know how many of your emails are landing into inboxes and how many of them end up in the spam folder. Use ReturnPath and 250OK to do that.

Usually, a decrease in inbox placement or deliverability rate happens because there’s a hike in spam complaints or you added a ton of unverified emails to your list. Other thing is that if your email list is under 10,000 emails, it’s easier to place into inboxes and you shouldn’t worry too much about it. However, if you’ve got a million people in your list, you should be actively checking your inbox placement.

#4: Setup the welcome emails and warm up your audience and subscribers

When people join your list, do not just start sending them pieces of information without welcoming them or setting up their expectations. Remember, they have willingly given their email address to engage with you and to be a part of your community.

Get them engaged with your brand by welcoming them. Tell them a little about what they’re going to get in coming weeks or how you plan to help them with their problems. Or simply, just welcome them by offering a discount and make them feel special, and that their decision to join your list was a good idea.

When you ask for their email addresses, you also make some promises to entice them to join the list. Make sure you’re delivering those promises as soon as possible, and beyond.

You wouldn’t believe that when done right, welcome emails also generate a high amount of revenue. In some cases, up to 5x more than the abandoned cart emails.

#5: Automatically cleaning your email list and removing those who unsubscribe or spam complaint immediately

Removing bad email addresses and spam complaints not only improves your inbox placement and deliverability rates, but it saves you from a lot of troubles later on. Most of the email service providers do that automatically but make sure that you are also manually taking actions to clean your list each month.

If someone hasn’t interacted with you in 1 year, they didn’t open your emails or clicked a link, they never visited your website, they are completely disengaged with you at this point of time. I’d consider running a re-engagement campaign to them by sending lesser, more relevant emails to win them back. 

But if they still do not engage with our emails for another 6 months of actively trying to win them back, I’d rather remove them from the list than to spam their inboxes.

Many times, you’ll see people will start engaging more because they see that you care about them, and also they don’t want to miss out on good things.

However, if somebody has purchased something from you, you might wanna understand why they are so unengaged and try harder to win them back. Do not simply take them off your list because if they truly believed in your products once, there must be something that’s putting them off and your job is to understand what.

How to grow your email list?

Action #1: Place your opt-in forms right

If you want to boost your email captures, place your opt-in forms in the right position. Go through your whole website and see where your users might be willing to give you their email address. Some of the locations that work are:

  • At the bottom of your blog posts
  • Pop-ups on exit intent
  • At least one banner on your homepage
  • All non-product and transactional pages where the goal is to something else than just signing up.

Action #2: Build specific lead magnets

Use ebooks, checklists, free tools, webinars, etc. that are highly relevant to different segments. Lead Magnets convert better than opt-ins for newsletters because they are highly specific about their promise. 

Relevant checklists and free resources can be offered on specific blog posts to increase lead capture. For example, if your blog post is about how to make the best coffee, create an ebook which lists coffees from around the world and their preparation methods. Anyone who’s reading your blog post will see your lead magnet offer and will be eager to join your list in order to get that ebook.

Action #3: Give direct benefit with coupons, discounts and referral discount

Whether you’re an eCommerce or a SaaS company, direct benefits for your products like coupons or referral discounts can be offered by anyone. Offer a part of your service or product to people at a heavy discount to grow your list. 

You may think you’re giving up revenues to get email addresses, but once you have their email addresses, your cost of marketing or acquiring paid customers cuts down significantly. You don’t have to offer a huge benefit, but anything that allows you to acquire users within your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is justified.

Run a referral campaign where your existing subscribers can refer their friends and they both get a discount. 

Action #4: Build partnerships in your industry and offer value to their audience

One of the fastest ways to grow your list is to partner with another company in your industry who has the same audience as you but isn’t a competitor and offer value to their audience. Let’s say that you are a company that sells accessories for car interiors.

You can partner with car cleaning companies or custom car shops to either share your content with their audience or you can run an offer specially for their audience like free shipping, discounts, value-add services, etc.

Similarly, if you sell are a kitchen knives company, you can partner with meal kit companies because their audience love to cook at home and they want to enjoy this time. If you can offer them a solution to cook faster and up their cooking game with your knives, they will love it.

Make sure that you don’t swap lists or buy the list from your partners. With these partners, you are enticing their audience to opt-in to your list by making them aware of your products and engage with your brand and product.

Make sure that your offer to such audiences is significantly more attractive than the offer you have on your website for anyone to get.

Action #5: Use paid media to find lookalike audiences

You can run advertising on Facebook and offer a small discount for people to opt-in to your list. The best part of running ads is that you can really target lookalike audiences based on your custom audiences of people who are already in your list.

These were some of the key things to follow to grow your email list and do the email marketing right. If you want to excel at email marketing, I recommend checking Email Marketing Course by CXL Institute. Remember, if you're not communicating with your customers or subscribers by email, you have to start doing it right now. The tips that you learnt in this article will help you get started the right way and grow your list and get the maximum ROI from your marketing budget.

🛡️ You just finished reading "Email Marketing: A Game of Growth (Chapter 9)" - a series of articles on growth marketing.

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