Email is a necessary tool to attract, convert, and retain customers. According to McKinsey, email marketing is 40x more effective than social media. In addition, email generates an average $38 for every $1 you spend.
To make the most of your email’s capabilities, however, you need a clear email marketing strategy that also fits in with your greater marketing strategy.
What is an email marketing strategy?
An email marketing strategy explains the who, what, when, where, and why you’re going to market your product or service through email. It’s part of your company’s overall marketing strategy, designed to nurture your contacts and move them through the marketing funnel.
For example, let’s say you have a master list of email subscribers. You want to send a general newsletter to all subscribers, a drip campaign to those who signed up for the free trial of your product, and a nurturing campaign to a segment of customers who might churn.
To do that, you need to determine the type of email campaign you want to create (a newsletter or drip campaign, for example), what content you’ll be sending, why you’re sending it, and which segment of customers you’re sending it to. Each of these campaigns will need to be approached differently, so it’s important to decide why you’re doing each one.
While these steps might sound simple, Email Monks discovered that 50% of brands struggle to define an email strategy. Keep the big picture in mind when developing your own email marketing strategy and how it relates back to your goals as a marketing team and as a company.
Align email marketing with sales and support
Before diving into how to create an email marketing strategy, it’s important to highlight the necessary involvement of sales/support in the process. Attain buy-in for your email campaigns from sales and support as 1) their input ensures that the right customer personas are being targeted and 2) the email content meets customer needs.
- Sales. Reps can share sales calls, emails, and social media conversations. Ask sales managers: “What information are potential customers asking for? What are their pain points, and what content could interest/convert them?”
- Support. Similarly, support has a finger on the pulse of customer questions and concerns. What information are current customers asking for? What type of email content will assist with customer retention?
Plan to have monthly conversations to discuss what emails you have in the pipeline and how this content could affect sales/support. Strategize together to create a consistent customer email journey.
5-step email marketing strategy
The following five-step email marketing strategy begins at a high level (e.g., goals), so all team members have a clear understanding of why you’re emailing customers in the first place. Once the foundation is laid, it then turns more tactical (e.g., types of campaigns to send).
Start with the following steps to create and manage an effective email marketing strategy:
1. Establish email marketing goals
What do you hope to achieve with email marketing? To answer this question, look at where you’ve already been. What’s the current situation with your email marketing, and what do you want to improve? Also review the goals of your overall marketing strategy.
With this information, outline your general email marketing goals. Relate them back to your overall marketing strategy. One overall marketing goal might be to increase brand awareness. A general email marketing goal could then be "Increase the size of our email list."
Break down these general goals into specific metric goals such as:
- Improve response rate by 15% during 2019
- Capture 25 new customers per segmented drip campaign by Q3
- Increase size of email list by 30% during 2019
- Send 5x more nurturing content to new subscribers by Q3
These goals will act as the guiding point for your other email marketing decisions and activities.
2. Choose the right email marketing tools
An email marketing strategy is only as effective as the tools you use — they’re what help you execute your strategy. A marketing automation platform is a necessary tool for email marketing as it takes your email list and provides actionable insights on the campaigns you send. It gives you the ability to create email templates, store lists, run tests, and track effectiveness.
You can select the right marketing automation platform for your company with these three steps:
- Know your requirements. What capabilities does your marketing automation platform need? How will a marketing automation platform grow with your company? Also establish your budget for how much you can realistically spend.
- Get feedback. Ask sales and support if they are already using a marketing automation platform for their own email activities. Also, check with peers in your industry or review conversations/reviews online.
- Do your research. Review the different marketing automation software available such as Mailchimp and test through free trials. Make sure it aligns with your requirements (e.g., is there a limit to how many emails you can send?) and can integrate with your sales/support CRM, so no conversation falls through the cracks.
A marketing automation platform is the smartest way to approach email campaigns. You don't have to worry about manually inserting contact info or analyzing results. Instead, the platform does the work for you, so you can focus on optimizing every campaign.
3. Build your email list
Source subscribers who will hopefully purchase your product/service in the end. First, review your buyer personas. Who exactly are you targeting? Finance managers of startups? Customer service reps of mid-size companies? Also determine where you are most likely to capture their attention (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, your website).
In addition, know what type of data you want to collect. Name? Demographics? Interests? How much information you can collect will depend on your audience, but having the right info will help you send targeted, more personalized content.
If you already have a large list of quality email subscribers, great! If not, here are a few ways to help bulk up your email subscriber list:
- Include an opt-in form on your website’s landing page.
- Promote gated content on your blog.
- Add lead generation forms to middle-of-the-funnel videos.
- Insert your email address on social media accounts.
- Target your ideal customer with Facebook ads and email sign-up.
Do your research and ensure that your email list is made up primarily of people who want what you’re selling. The higher the quality of your subscribers, the higher the chance that they’ll open, read, and respond to your emails.
4. Create and send valuable content
The right copy for each email campaign will depend on your customer segments and their stage in the customer journey. For example, you wouldn't send an introductory sales course to a manager who's been working in sales for 15 years. To nail your email content, consider the following:
- Establish a timeline for email campaign content. Determine what important dates you have coming up. For example, maybe you have a big product launch in March that will require announcement emails. An excellent strategy to organize your timeline within your email marketing content plan.
- Work with sales and support. Get their input to develop email content ideas based on shared customer personas. Establish a shareable email marketing content plan using Google Spreadsheets or Airtable that includes due dates, deadlines, roll-out dates, points of contact (POCs), etc.
- Create a mix of educational and promotional emails. Use your segmented lists and third-party integrations from your CRM to send personalized messages. Repurpose content from the blog. Create narratives (case studies) from your customers' successes. Get creative and repurpose as much as possible!
- Work from email copy best practices. Include a call-to-action (CTA) in each email, and make it easy for readers to click/convert. Experiment with your subject lines. For example, personalized subject lines (e.g., using the customer's first name) increase open rates by 50%. Also, make the copy conversational rather than filling it with business jargon.
- Keep your first template simple. Don't go crazy with fancy designs — experiment with your marketing automation software's predesigned templates and customize if needed. Also, ensure that every email design is aligned with your brand.
Your ultimate goal with email campaigns is to build a relationship with your customers. Creating thoughtful email messages will help accomplish this goal.
5. Analyze results and make changes
You have your emails sent out into the world — regularly review the data to determine what emails are receiving the most interaction from potential and current customers.
- Track your email marketing KPIs. Review metrics such as email open rate, bounce rate, conversion rate, and unsubscribes to get a sense of what content resonates with different audiences. Ensure that you have your Google Analytics connected with your marketing automation platform and set up different goals for each campaign.
- Use your CRM. Track customer conversations with sales and support through your CRM. Are certain emails being forwarded by customers to sales? What questions are they asking? Also look at other departmental channels, such as live chat and phone conversations. Are customers asking about a new product feature based on your emails?
- Clean your list as needed. A common problem with poorly performing email campaigns is inaccurate data. Validate and update information, such as email addresses. Remove duplicates, and delete contacts who are wasting your resources. This kind of data cleansing enhances the value of your current data.
- Discuss campaign results. While it's important to know the actual numbers, it's also essential to know the “why” behind results. You have to interpret your data. Get feedback from sales and support on ways to improve. If certain types of emails performed poorly for a specific audience, brainstorm on better content ideas or the best time of day to reach the customer.
Take these email campaign results and analyzations to determine how you can improve next time. Also, revisit your goals and objectives and find out if you’re meeting them (e.g., did your response rate improve by 15%?). If not, it might be time to go back to the drawing board with your strategy.
Planning an email marketing strategy is important to track the effectiveness of email long-term. Without a strategy to guide your email marketing, you’ll end up with a list of subscribers and content that you just hope sticks.
To create a successful email marketing strategy, sales, support, and marketing should work closely together and determine exactly what they hope to achieve and the steps to reach those results. Also, use a CRM to track email responses and determine the level of engagement with your emails.