Email Marketing has been around for decades. Email Marketing Automation – not so much. But, better late than never! As with almost every other type of automation, email marketing automation also yields massive advantages in terms of time saved, manual labor minimized and efficiency achieved. And these benefits are regardless of the goals of the campaign.
And the good news doesn’t end there! Evidence shows that automated Email Marketing campaigns (also known as ‘drip campaigns’) offer a number of other advantages as well. You can:
- Segment your mailing (i.e. subscriber) list to improve your targeting, and maximize sales and engagement
- Create customized email campaigns with powerful content that resonates with your audience
- Build a positive brand image with both current and prospective customers
- Nurture your leads and move them down the sales funnel
- Improve your prospect-to-customer conversion rate
If you’d like to harness all these advantages for your brand’s or organization’s Email Marketing automation setup, you would be well-served by following some time-tested best practices. And what better way to implement these best practices than with one of the world’s best Email Marketing automation software – Salesforce Marketing Cloud!
This article covers many such best practices. So without further ado, let’s dive into 7 proven best practices to power your brand’s Email Marketing Automation!
Best Practice #1: Change the way you look at your target audience
Before you initiate an email marketing automation campaign, you must understand whether the campaign would be relevant to your subscribers. And a relevant campaign always starts with understanding your audience. Why? Because simply sending your campaign to everyone who has ever expressed interest in your company, brand or products will do far more harm than good. Furthermore, this one word should strike fear into your heart – spam! To prevent your email from languishing in someone’s Junk/Spam folder as hated spam, start with audience segmentation.
Here are some tips to improve your segmentation and to make sure you reach the right people with the right message at the right time:
- Find important commonalities (e.g. age, location, gender, etc.) in your target audience and group your subscribers accordingly. For best results, make sure your SFMC email specialist uses the data in SFMC Email Studio.
- Make your segmentation as deep as you can. Deeper segmentation allows for more personalization, which is one of the keys to Email Marketing automation success.
- Don’t forget your current customers. Segmentation is not just important for prospects and new customers. Create a new segment for those who are already on-board and make an effort to nurture them and keep them engaged.
Best Practice #2: Design for your audience
Email Marketing can never be done in a ‘subscriber-free vacuum’. And it shouldn’t.
A successful campaign – especially an automated one – must always be designed with the audience in mind.
What do they like?
What are they looking for?
What challenge can your campaign help them solve?
Your email design must incorporate elements that address all these questions. It should also answer the most important question of all, “What’s in it for ME?” (aka WIIFM). All subscribers care about is WIIFM. Do you?
It’s also important to make it easy for your subscribers to express their preferences and take action according to those preferences, even if those actions lead to sub-optimal results for you, such as opt-outs or unsubscribes. A lost subscriber is usually better than an unhappy one! Think about these aspects:
- How frequently would they prefer to get your messages? Daily, weekly, monthly?
- What kind of content would they like to receive? Detailed newsletters? Special offers? Birthday discounts? All? A combination of some?
- How would they like to receive this content? If mobile is their device of choice, your design must be mobile-friendly.
Best Practice #3: Always, always, always personalize
In the information-overload world we live in, customizing content is pretty much the only way to retain your audience’s attention. Still, it’s amazing how many Email Marketing managers skip this important step in their Email Marketing automation effort. And this is ironic, because SFMC Email Studio actually makes personalization ridiculously easy. You can effortlessly populate email designs quickly with best-in-class Salesforce email templates and custom content blocks. With drag-and-drop functions, personalized scripting language and even interactive content, you can deliver unforgettable messages that delight and inspire – from basic messages to sophisticated 1×1 messages.
Try these tips to create customized content for your next Email Marketing automation campaign:
- Build ‘customer personas’ as per your understanding of your target audience. Dig for insights into what your customers think about your brand. Also look for information about their background, demographics, objections, fears, challenges, goals, etc.
- Keyword research is the key. Target customer-centric keywords and optimize content for those keywords. What are they searching for, and you providing it?
- Produce content in the format they desire, not you. For example, if your audience is looking for video content, an email campaign that contains only text is doomed for failure.
- Nail your subject line and headline. ALL email campaigns, especially automated ones need to have great subject lines to grab recipients’ attention, and to ensure that they are opened (high open rate) and interacted with (high click-through rate).
- Create compelling copy. Remember that automated does not mean lazy! If your copy is not interesting, relevant or original, no amount of automation – with or without Salesforce email templates or even Pardot templates (if Pardot is your Email Marketing weapon of choice) – can help save your campaign. Make sure that your content is subscriber benefits-focused. Remember “What’s in it for ME?”!
Best Practice #4: Include a solid – and unambiguous – Call to Action
Almost every Email Marketing campaign has a specific goal with respect to subscribers/readers. These include:
- Inform them about the company, its products/services, relevant news or new offers
- Engage with them so they want to learn more about the brand and how it can help them meet their needs
- Attract potential customers, say, to switch from your competition
- Guide current customers and keep them onboard
- Convert prospects into customers
What is the goal of your Email Marketing automation campaign?
Once you know this, you can identify relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and metrics. Why are these needed? Because you can’t improve what you can’t measure! More about this in Best Practice #7 later in the article!
Regardless of what your goal is, one way to meet it is to include call-to-action (CTA) copy plus a button or link. Research has proven that CTA text can increase conversions. How? By pushing readers towards a specific action and by giving them the choice to do so.
Here are some useful tips to optimize your CTA text and button (or link):
- Be specific with your CTA copy. Don’t ramble. It will only confuse your readers!
- Don’t be ambiguous with the button. For example, what does “Our Family Vacation” even mean? “Get Trip Ideas” is much better, not to mention clearer!
- Customize the text according to the action you want the reader to take. For e.g. “Click here for 25% off” is always more effective than a bland “Click here”.
- Use contrasting colors for the button so it stands out, but stay within the parameters of your brand’s colors and designs
- Focus on the benefits to the reader (again). WIIFM comes into play yet again!
- Optimize it for mobile. If your reader can’t see the CTA text or button on a mobile screen – something a majority of your subscribers likely do – there’s no point even having it there.
Best Practice #5: Before launch, test, test and then test some more
Even with the most solid customer research and a powerful (some even say best) email marketing automation software like Salesforce Marketing Cloud, the success or failure of a campaign comes down to testing it before launch.
A/B testing is a great way to test your campaign on a small sample of your target audience because it can help you understand what’s most likely to work and what’s not. Of course, it’s not a foolproof way to guarantee success. However, it can help you improve your campaign’s open and click-through rates, thus raising your chances of success.
Do keep in mind these tips when you set up A/B testing in SFMC for your Email Marketing automation needs:
- Identify the goal: Your email campaign has a goal, right (see best practice #4)? Then you should have a goal for A/B testing as well. Ask yourself: what exactly do you hope to achieve at the end of A/B testing, and how do you expect it to improve your results?
- Test a sample that’s large enough to provide statistically trustworthy results but smaller than your final subscriber send list
- Test early and as often as possible
- Test only one variable at a time. If you need to test more than one, do multivariate testing
To know more about A/B testing and how to set up A/B testing in SFMC, explore this article: How To Set Up AB Tests In Salesforce Marketing Cloud A Step-By-Step Guide To SFMC AB Testing.
Best Practice #6: Keep an eye on email scanners and spam filters
Email scanners are people. Spam filters are – well – not. Even with Email Marketing automation, you need to be aware of the issues that can arise due to these two sets of entities.
First, the scanners. Research shows that a majority of people don’t read emails from left to right like a book. Rather, they ‘scan’ emails in an F pattern. Why should this matter if you are an Email Marketing manager or SFMC email specialist? Because knowing this can help you design campaigns and create email structures that have the most impact – even with these scanners.
What can you do to increase your chances of grabbing and keeping a scanner’s attention? Try these ideas:
- Chunk your email content. Instead of one huge block of text (which, face it, no one likes), break down your content into smaller, more easily consumable chunks, ideally each with its own headline and/or image.
- Prioritize your chunks. This does not necessarily mean putting the least important chunks at the bottom of your message. Usually, the first and last messages in a series are the ones we tend to remember so make both these chunks count. Strong CTAs in strong emails are usually at the top or bottom, never in the middle. Now you know why!
- Choose your design elements carefully. Font size, color, word spacing – they all matter!
Next, spam filters. If too many of your emails are landing in recipients’ spam folders, they won’t get read. This will affect your campaign’s deliverability. A good way to keep your automated email campaign’s open and click-through rates high is to use Content Detective in SFMC’s Email Studio. Content Detective can help you identify potentially spammy content in emails before these emails are sent, thus improving email deliverability.
Tips to make the most of Content Detective and keep your emails out of recipients’ spam folders:
- Avoid using ‘spammy’ words in your content. Examples like ‘free gift’, ‘save $’, ‘big bucks’, etc. should be a no-no in your text and subject line.
- Create relevant content. This one is a commonsense strategy. But is it common practice? Well…
- Run your email through Content Detective before the final send – always.
For more about Content Detective’s uber-cool Sherlock Holmes-like features, explore this article: No-Jargon Guide to Content Detective in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Studio
Best Practice #7: Measure your results after launch
If you’re an Email Marketing manager or an SFMC email specialist, your work doesn’t end when the campaign (send) ends. In fact, once the send is out of the way, it’s important to evaluate its effectiveness and thus gauge the success of your Email Marketing automation efforts. And for this, you must understand which aspects worked, and which ones will require more work in future.
Review your campaign goals, KPIs and metrics like open and click-through rates, conversions and bounces. You should also go beyond these metrics and look at the fundamental statistics that truly matter to your business, such as site visits, customers and revenue. SFMC makes all of this super easy. It is powered by Einstein AI (Artificial Intelligence) to help you understand how well your campaign is doing in real time so you can:
- Discover the right audience
- Create personalized, engagement-worthy content based on individuals’ preferences and behaviors
- Engage with your most active subscribers more often
- Send messages to inactive subscribers less often
- Automate the process of sending the best and freshest content every single time
..and of course, review your campaign as per the metrics that truly matter.
For more about Einstein in SFMC, our article 4 Powerful Ways To Boost Email Marketing With Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Einstein AI is a good read.
What are some useful strategies to measure the effectiveness of your Email Marketing automation efforts?
- Identify which metrics matter to your campaign and brand. Open rate, click-through rate, unsubscribes, complaints, bounce rate, conversions, forward rate – these are all commonly-used metrics. Not all of them may be relevant to your campaign.
- Measure your campaign’s RoI: This can show you the way forward for future campaigns.
- Create a benchmark: If this is not your first campaign, you can chart your past campaigns, establish averages and then measure this campaign against those averages.
- Identify patterns: Take note of any patterns that emerge and use them to improve future campaigns.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud provides a number of powerful Email Marketing automation tools to help managers and SFMC email specialists do everything, from segmenting their audience and creating dynamic content, to split testing (A/B testing) different factors in their campaigns, and even analyzing and replicating their best results for future campaigns. In short, SFMC provides everything you need to make your drip campaigns a success, especially if you harness the 7 best practices from this article!