Email Marketing Best Practices for 2018Published on August 20, 2018
Email marketing can be a minefield, but these 10 email marketing best practices should help you stay on track to delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time.
First of all, you need to build your buyer persona. What’s a buyer persona, you ask? Well, it’s the desired audience you / your company intends to sell to. This can include age range, location, financial income, hobbies, family status, etc. Be sure to include multiple buyer personas if you have multiple audiences, e.g. B2B and B2C.
For instance, you are a UK company selling bespoke fitted kitchens:
Your buyer B2C persona would be homeowners, age ranges 30-65, family, based in the UK, salaries £30k+ and marital status: any.
Now you have your buyer persona, you can start to build your brand TOV and marketing strategy.
10 Email Marketing Best Practices
1. Less is more
This is an important one. Brands often feel that they need to put everything in one email and send to their entire database to maximise their ROI. New products, offers, upsell opportunities and support all rolled into one email – I know I wouldn’t read it; would you?
As consumers, we are bombarded with information and advertising. Too much information becomes ‘background noise’ and we don’t take notice of the key points brands are trying to show us. Pick out one main focus to your email and use one of my favourite sayings, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) – if you have more topics you need to communicate, use no more than three per email. Any more, and you need more emails (I’ll come on to that later).
2. Brand Identity
Larger brands have a very consistent brand identity – it’ll be the same on their letters, website, emails, social media, etc. And there’s a very good reason for this – you instantly recognise their communications, and this builds your relationship with the brand.
Imagine if Apple had different colours, logos and fonts on each of their communications – you might not be as confident in their brand to purchase from them. Keep this in mind when creating your brand communications (and/or updating your brand identity).
If you don’t have the expertise internally, I recommend looking for an external design agency to work with you and build a robust brand identity. Costs for these can vary depending on your requirements, so shop around – quality isn’t a direct reflection of cost, but be wary of just hiring the cheapest agency, this is your brand identity after all.
3. Data, and your audience
I know we haven’t gotten to building your emails yet but trust me – these steps are important. Now, do you have a database of your customers, and is that database up-to-date?
One of the biggest mistakes brands can make is using their existing data list without cleansing it first. Why? Because John Smith may have been interested in baby monitors five years ago, but now his children are at school he no longer has a requirement.
If your product is age/time sensitive to your audience’s needs, you will need to think carefully about sending to your archived database as it’ll more than likely not be relevant, and they will either a) not read your emails, or b) junk them – both of which are costly to your brand and email sending reputation. Please make sure that your database has also provided consent for you to send marketing email communications, it’s the law (See consent, below).
Data cleansing can be something you do in-house or send to a third-party company who offer it as a service. The only requirements to email a recipient from your database is an opt-in consent field and an email address – ideally, you should have their first name so you’re able to personalise emails, and any data you feel is necessary to segment your database. Be careful to not store surplus information that isn’t used and comply with GDPR Regulations.
4. Consent for marketing emails
We all know about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that came into force on 25th May 2018 and the many email consent requests, but why is there a need for this, and does your brand need to do the same?
In short, yes. Everyone needs to comply with the GDPR Regulation, but don’t panic it’s a simple step to add to the process that makes everyone happy. On your website or at the point of receiving personal data your brand has the opportunity to request consent to send marketing email communications – this is usually a simple checkbox and should be stored in your data in the ‘date-time’ format.
5. Clear CTA
There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a good email with something you’re interested in, and not knowing how to find out more / purchase. Think about it, your email is the vessel to convert your audience to purchase, so make sure the CTA is clear and consistent.
It’s important that your email is clear and easy to understand, and that your CTA is, too! I take you back to the first point about ‘less is more’ to remind you not to overcrowd your email with too much (be it the copy, images, GIFs, colours or CTAs). Although it may be tempting to put a CTA everywhere, in actual fact what you’re doing is presenting your audience with too many choices – diluting the possibility of them converting.
6. Testing (A/B, Multivariant, User group, and more)
It’s not easy to know what works and what doesn’t for your database, without any KPIs. You’ve done the research, defined the buyer personas, designed the emails and your brand is receiving average KPI stats.
Don’t forget to monitor those KPIs and improve on them, and there’s no definitive method such as e=mc2 that shows what works for your audience. That’s where testing comes in. The traditional types of email design testing are:
A/B – Split testing
Split the design of the email to test one element change between your database, using a percentage.
E.g. 20% gets email A, 20% gets email B and the best performing email for opens is sent to the remaining 80% of your database.
Testing multiple variants and email designs to your database, to determine which elements receive the most interaction. This is useful for when testing re-branding or layout changes.
A/B testing is the most popular as it’s much simpler to do. Make sure to test every part of your brand’s email, from subject lines to CTAs, however, limit this to only test one element at a time (otherwise your results will be inconclusive). If you’re dealing with a largely unengaged database it may be better to split your sends by active and inactive segments, as this will provide a better indication of how your email is performing to your active database.
Gone are the days of the ‘full database blast’ mentality when it comes to email marketing, Email Service Providers (ESPs) offer platforms that allow you to dig into the email activity of individual people in your database (Opens, clicks, last open, etc.), as well as storing information they have intentionally provided you with (First name, email address, purchase history, address, etc.), which means that you have all of the information you need to send highly personalised and segmented emails.
Segmentation is as powerful as the data you hold. E.g. It can be used to send one email that has dynamic content populating based on the ‘location’ of your recipients using data stored in the database.
It’s good practice to send an email based on your customer lifecycle (This can typically range from 6 months – 2 years) asking for data to be amended, or to unsubscribe from your brand’s email marketing. The bonuses of this are thrice fold, 1) You’re data cleansing regularly, 2) It’s an opportunity to capture more data fields and 3) Your brand is GDPR compliant! Easy!
Personalised subject lines and opening lines within the email are standard forms of personalisation – and if you aren’t already sending emails addressed to a recipient’s name, you should. However, personalisation doesn’t end names, it can be content too.
E.g. If you booked a holiday and receive an automated email containing your booking information, this is a form of content personalisation. Within it, you will have your flight date, time, airports, cost, destination address, etc.
More and more we expect personalised services, and email isn’t excluded from that. Best practice is to make sure you’re always sending personalised emails (even including personalisation in your email newsletters), as these are less likely to be junked and/or ignored. This isn’t limited to order confirmations, but also newsletter signups, website enquiries, waiting lists and double opt-ins.
9. Email drip campaigns (Automation)
Automation is one of the Email Marketing buzzwords, but what is it? Effectively, it’s removing the manual element to sending a personalised email to a recipient, based on their activity. This doesn’t mean a marketer sets up an automated email and sits back, relaxing – what it does mean, is that your brand can send highly targeted emails with personalised dynamic content on demand, to your database.
E.g. A person fills in the newsletter signup form on your brand’s website and receives an email confirming their subscription moments later. This is a ‘welcome email’ and it’s the easiest form of email automation, the recipient receives confirmation they have been added to your brand’s database and will receive email marketing newsletters.
Most brands dedicate resource and money into effective email automation but don’t worry about setting up complex purchasing and upselling email nurture drip campaigns just yet – start off small with a welcome email, and if your brand is eCommerce make sure there is an order confirmation email setup. From there, develop your buyer personas customer journey and expand into multi-stage email drip campaigns. We can help you set these up or offer advice on where to start.
10. Re-Engage inactive or dormant recipients
Every brand database has a percentage of it that is either inactive or dormant. First you will need to remove the inactive and dormant recipients from your day-to-day email marketing, then set up an automated email to entice them to re-engage with your brand (which can be followed up in a multi-stage email drip campaign, when your brand is ready to develop), which could include special offers or free P&P.
It’s easier to sell to someone in your database than a cold lead, so part of your brands lead generation strategy should be to include email communications to this segment. Make sure that emails to this segment are kept separate from your active database so that you can easily measure how effective your re-engagement campaign is.
This list is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, it is, however, the foundation for building great emails and processes. In the coming weeks, I will dive into each of the 10 best practices and provide further insights into email marketing.