a person with the hand on the chin looking at a laptop

Part of this is because email marketing tends to be cheap. Email list providers are relatively inexpensive and a lot of list management can be automated. The low costs mean that results don’t have to be fantastic to get you the ROI you deserve.

However, many marketers don’t actually have an effective email marketing strategy. A lot of the time, emails are sent out when something important happens, like a launch. Or there might be a vague plan to release a monthly newsletter. Without a strategy, your email marketing is bound to fail.

So, let’s talk about how to put together an email marketing strategy.

Setting and Understanding Your Email Marketing Goals

​Your email marketing efforts might have several goals, and understanding what they are is vital.

Typically, email marketing serves the purpose of both attracting new customers and retaining existing ones, and many marketers focus on the latter. It is a lot easier to get existing customers to join and stay on an email list.

The start of your strategy should be to layout and list all the goals you want to achieve with email marketing. This should tie into your overall strategy.

Do you want to keep yourself in the mind of past customers? Use email as a way to announce releases and events? Use email to provide information to potential customers?

You might have several goals, and each of these goals is going to be a separate email marketing campaign.

These goals will also determine your email list segmentation. It’s very important to split your list so that the messages you send get to the right people.

Your goals also determine how you will collect email subscribers.

Building Your Email List

First of all, you will need to choose software to manage your email list. These days, email marketing is highly automated and the right software will ensure that you abide by CAN-SPAM regulations, easily allow for unsubscribing, and help you avoid being relegated to the spam can.

Mailchimp and Constant Contact are well-known options, which one is best often depends on the size of your list.

Your email lists must be opt-in. Never automatically add a customer to a list or have the default option be joining the list. Violating this can get you into legal trouble, potentially in multiple countries!

So, how do you get people to sign up for your list? Depending on your goals, you might:

  • Have an option to opt in to receive emails when somebody makes a purchase. People are more likely to subscribe when they buy something.
  • Provide an email newsletter magnet to new subscribers. This is something you give to people in return for signing up. Most commonly, this means a white paper, ebook, or other high-value content.
  • Ask people to sign up when they go to your website or when they leave. Be careful not to make this too obtrusive, though. We’ve all been to the website which has the subscribe popup on every page – and left it quickly.
  • Collect emails when people go to a landing page.

When you harvest emails, they should go straight into the appropriate list segment. Welcome allows you to sort customers by where they are in the buyer journey.

For example, when people buy something, they go onto one subscriber list, while somebody who downloads your white paper in exchange for signing up goes to a different list.

Plan Each Email Campaign

While you are harvesting emails you should also start planning your campaigns. If you have prior metrics this is a lot easier, but many companies don’t properly record the results of their email campaigns.

The things you need to plan are:

  • What you are going to send
  • When you are going to send it
  • How often you are going to send it

Both of these are important and timing is vital. While you don’t want to spam people, it’s ideal to be fairly frequent with your mailings.

Being silent for a while creates unsubscribers, although these are generally from people who were not the best to have on your list anyway.

Specific timing often depends on demographics. For example, if you are mostly targeting working adults, they are more likely to see your email in the morning before work.

For a newsletter with full content, once a month is typically about right.

Launch emails should be sent slightly before the launch, on the day of, and then a follow-up slightly afterward. Never send only one launch email because the gremlins might eat it.

What to send depends on which list segment you are targeting. Current customers want information about how your business is doing, how to better use your products, etc.

New customers and prospects are best targeted with things that make you look like an expert and case studies to show off your product.

What should your emails contain?

Your emails need to be appropriate to your target audience and reflect whether you are attempting customer retention or acquisition. Your messaging should be on-brand, polite, and appropriate to the audience.

Either way, your best emails have content not just adverts in most cases. There are different types of emails you might send at different times, but mostly you want to put stuff in somebody’s inbox that they want to read.

Your email content should be useful, snappy, and grammatically correct (Sorry, I have to say it).

Notifications of sales that are indeed primarily ads should go to existing customers you are hoping will return.

Some content, of course, will be suited to go out across multiple lists, such as new product releases. However, you might want to use slightly different wording with different segments.

Design Email Templates

Getting your emails out takes time and work. A way to reduce that is to design templates that allow you to just slot in the content.

They also allow you to take time over your email design and make sure that it reflects the image you want your brand to project. For example, you probably want to include your logo somewhere in the mailing.

Choose colors that fit your brand, but don’t overdo it. Don’t forget to include a CTA.

You might have multiple templates, such as a content template, a release template, a news template, etc. The best way to store and keep track of these is through a digital asset management system.

P.S., Welcome can handle this for you. It’s what we do.

Send test mailings to internal volunteers who aren’t part of the marketing team and solicit their opinion on the look of your emails. Make sure to have people look at them on various mobile devices, not just desktop and laptop computers.

Create an Email Marketing Calendar

Welcome allows you to create team calendars that serve specific purposes. Create a team calendar for each of your email campaigns.

These will allow every member of your team to see what is going on and know their deadlines.

Welcome‘s calendars also allow you to easily replace or move an item. Let’s say you were planning on writing a newsletter about how your product is useful to runners…and it’s 2013. Remember what happened at the Boston Marathon?

World events can ruin your plans very easily, as 2020 taught all of us.

The calendar can then be integrated with your other campaigns. It allows you to send out the same message simultaneously across multiple channels such as social media. Calendars can be used to increase marketing automation and save your team a lot of time.

Send, But Verify

Before you send your campaign, make sure that your email is going to hit the mark. First of all, your subject line is vitally important.

Your email subject line should:

  • Not be too generic. 
  • Not include any words that tend to trigger spam filters.
  • Be accurate to the contents of the email.
  • Be snappy and attract attention.
  • Do not say that the email is not spam (in fact, never say that anywhere in the email, people won’t believe you).

One trick for larger lists is to split the list and then send out multiple subject lines and compare open and click-through rates. A/B testing your subject lines can really help.

Then make sure that the right content is in the email. Your email software will send it out automatically to subscribers and there’s no way to un-send an email.

Always have somebody other than the person who wrote the content proofread it.

Oh, and make sure the email headers don’t look spammy. Your email should honestly show who it is from and should not look “funky” if somebody checks full headers.

Record Your Metrics

After sending each email, you need to record your key metrics. For an email campaign these include:

  • Bounce rate – meaning the number of undelivered emails. Always remove bad addresses from your list promptly.
  • Open rate – meaning the percentage of subscribers that open the email.
  • Click-through rate – meaning the percentage that click on links in the email. This may be low as some people will always transfer the URL manually to protect themselves from scammers.
  • Unsubscribe rate – meaning the number/percentage of people who unsubscribe right after the email.
  • Conversion rate – meaning how many of the people who read the email buy something or otherwise do what you hoped.

By comparing these across emails you can start to learn what your customers and prospects respond to and what might tick them off. Remember that most emails should be content marketing, not vehicles for advertisements.

Successful email marketing requires accepting and using constant feedback, and Welcome can help.

Manage Your List

At periodic intervals, you need to curate and manage your email list.

First, any addresses that bounce with anything other than a transient error should be removed. A high bounce rate can get your emails marked as spam and blocked because it is seen as a potential indicator that you are sending random/invented emails.

Second, remove subscribers who have not opened emails from you in a certain period of time. We’re not talking about one or two that they might not have seen, but if somebody hasn’t opened your last four or five emails, then they probably aren’t interested and should be removed.

Third, remove customers from lists they are no longer relevant to. For example, when somebody makes a purchase, you may find you want to take them off the prospective customer list, which a good CRM like Welcome can do automatically.

​Finally, make absolutely sure that nobody is on the list twice. If you send duplicate emails, that increases the risk of an unsubscribe or, worse, a spam complaint.

You should also watch to see if you have increased bounce rates from a specific email service provider. Some are bad for bouncing automated emails, or you might end up being blacklisted, which can be hard to fix.

So, there’s a reasonable template for an email marketing strategy. It’s pretty complicated and those pesky metrics will get in the way.

To get the most out of your digital marketing plan, you need Welcome. Get started with a free account today.