Technology has a significant impact on consumers’ expectations, and those expectations impact how subscribers engage with your email marketing. Brands need to continually demonstrate that they know their customer, which can make it
a challenge to stay on top of the evolving context of marketing. An email strategy can make all the difference between building a relationship with your customers and sinking without trace.
A strategy, according to the dictionary, is “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”. Your strategy is essentially a roadmap towards achieving your goals. Basic stuff, right? Well, you’d think so – but research
by Email Uplers has found that an astonishing 50% of brands struggle to define an email strategy.
Importance of Email Marketing Strategy
An email campaign without a strategy is like a bunch of ingredients without an actual recipe. Establishing a strategy will tell you what you're doing when you're doing it, and why you’re doing it. Too many people don’t bother to
put together a coherent ‘recipe’ and leap straight into the ‘cooking’.
Part of the problem is that people are confused about the difference between ‘strategy' and ‘tactics'. It's essential not to get these two confused. They are related – tactics are a vital part of what makes a strategy work – but
they’re not the "be all and end all." Too many people neglect a full and comprehensive strategy in favour of a bunch of loosely-connected tactics. So, to recap:
Strategy: The What, Where, and Why of an email campaign.
Tactics: The How.
An email marketing strategy should include analysis and information about the following:
What’s the email challenge?
For both marketing campaigns, channels and across the business
What do you want to achieve?
Research including behaviours and reaction to previous marketing activities.
What emails are they sending? How frequently? What’s working for them?
Draw this up in order of priority, detailing what you should focus on first
How you are going to do it? Always best to break this down by customer segment and not solely by channel and product type. This starts to form your tactics
Key Performance Indicators determine how you are going to measure success. This doesn't have to be monetary; it can be customer value, increase in positive reviews, increase in followers etc.
Do you need to restructure a team, or review the technology you’re using? It’s important to identify your requirements straight away, as they could bring potential barriers to the success of your strategy
When is everything going to happen?
Set critical checkpoints throughout the implementation and life of your strategy.
When you hit these stages, you’ll review performance, checking back against your original objectives and goals. If these change, then so does your strategy.
This guide will take you through each element of creating your own email strategy, step by step.
At the very outset, you should conduct a situational analysis, reviewing your existing email strategy and activity. If you don’t have an email strategy in place, this is still your first starting point. Review your entire marketing
environment, analysing the macro (internal) and macro (external) factors that may be impacting your organisation.
For everyone, the key defining factor in the direction of your email marketing strategy should take is your business’s goals and objectives. This is important because this is what makes your strategy unique to your business.
So, what’s your current situation? What’s the challenge?
Conduct both internal (micro) and external (macro) environmental analysis, using SWOT and PESTEL models to assess the elements that may impact your email marketing activities. This is applicable for existing and brand-new email strategies.
• SWOT –> Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
What does your current email marketing performance look like? Analyse the performance of key metrics such as Open Rate, Click-through-Rate (CTR), Deliverability Rate, Unsubscribe Rate, ROI. What is working well and what isn’t. This can also be internally
focused – for example, maybe it is taking a long time to create email content, or the creation process is inefficient.
Think about everything!
The situational analysis stage can be as detailed or high level as you need. It can be done alone, or with three or four members of your team. It's a flexible, free-thinking piece of strategizing which usually brings out important revelations and ideas.
To get started, use a flip chart or whiteboard and merely draw out the current email marketing program. Just remember to take precise notes and title each section – it is vital that you understand what you were talking about when you review your notes
Even if you haven’t started sending any email marketing yet, you can still analyse your marketing environment. Determine what your internal strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are by completing a SWOT and then do the same for the external
environment using a PESTEL.
Begin by considering what the organization is trying to achieve from email communications. This could be
Prospect to client conversion
Increase in website traffic
Next step is to review your current subscribers
What number of email addresses do you have in your database?
Do you have a single database or several different systems?
What’s the main reason that subscribers signed up to your email marketing?
How did you acquire the data?
Did you use single or double opt-in?
Do you have any offline data capture for email addresses?
What information do you hold for each email address?
Then assess the metrics
How many addresses do you collect each month?
How many people unsubscribe each month?
What is the key source of new email subscribers?
Do you measure your best source of acquiring new email addresses?
How much, on average, does it cost to acquire a new e-mail address?
How complete is each record for each subscriber?
By now, you should have a basic view of where your email marketing is, what you are achieving with it, what you want to achieve with it, and what your data situation is.
Review the sign-up process
it’s in the data
Now, review the sign-up process for all the different data capture methods you’re currently using, such as your website, send to a friend, in-store data collection etc.
Firstly, draw out all the different ways in which data can get into your database. This can take some time, but it’s worth going into in detail for this stage, so do check that you’ve covered everything!
Next, go through each data collection process and familiarise yourself with how it works.
This exercise is often very enlightening, as it helps you to identify areas for improvement within your existing data collection methods.
Remember, data collection is a two-way street. People won't give you their data for anything. So, think about how you are managing your subscribers' expectations. How clear is it to new recipient what they are going to be receiving from you? Try and get a good a feel for the experience of the person receiving your data collection methods as you can at this point.
Review your current campaigns
Once you’ve gained a good understanding of your email database, you can begin to review your current email campaigns. What emails are you sending and how are they performing? There are a few questions to ask yourself such as:
How frequently do you email your subscribers?
Does the frequency vary per recipient or is it the same for everyone?
Do you send different types of emails such as newsletters, offer emails etc, what are they?
What content do you send and where does that content come from?
Do your emails meet the recipient’s expectations and if so how?
How do you measure email performance?
How often (and how) do you assess deliverability, opens, clicks and revenue?
What other performance metrics do you measure such as the number of calls to the contact centre, number of leads generated, average order value…?
Do you measure any other metrics?
Look at the bigger marketing picture
After reviewing your current email campaigns, assess the other marketing that is live both online and offline and consider how does relate to the email marketing activity?
Complimentary, with campaign strands feeding into and dovetailing one another - or is everything currently running in isolation?
What other online marketing you doing?
How well do other kinds of brand campaign perform?
Do these campaigns relate to email marketing?
Once you have assessed the bigger marketing picture, you can then review your current situation.
Time to SWOT
At this stage, it’s time to do good old-fashioned SWOT analysis on your email program and the factors that can influence it. As your email marketing strategy evolves, you will be returning to your SWOT analysis and playing on the strengths you have identified.
Don't take too long on this part – only write down the things that are jumping out at you. Use the example below as a steer, which includes the list of points in priority order, to make it clear what could drive success and what could be stopping you
from achieving your goals in the future.
Open rates and click through rates are above industry average
Experience across the team in email marketing
We have access to our email marketing data & can use it to inform our campaigns
It takes a long time to create our email campaigns
It’s difficult to get sign off for new technology or email investment
New website has launched, which provides an additional channel for acquisition of new email
New products are launching in 3 months
New competitors are taking market share
Our existing email subscribers have a low engagement rate
A quick word about flexibility
The important thing to always remember is that ‘A strategy is choosing what not to do’ - Michael Porter.
This kind of initial research and analysis is incredibly important. If you include anything which you haven’t subjected to research, analysis, insights, experience, and expert opinion, it simply won’t fly. This is important. Everything these days has to be tailored very specifically to your brand and your personal customer experience. Your competitor might have an amazingly successful marketing strategy (and it's good to learn things from what they're doing!), but that doesn’t mean that the same kind of thing would be as successful for your brand.
With this in mind, keep returning to these analytical markers throughout your eventual campaign. Continual research and analysis give strategies, the ability to roll with the punches and evolve following current events.
The best strategies are not set in stone. With the ever-changing digital landscape, it is vital to leave a bit of flex within your overall strategy.
It needs to be agile enough to change if necessary – and quickly. The world of marketing is throwing our rapid-fire new norms. Old certainties are now probabilities, and genuine change is happening in real time. You need to accept this and build it into every campaign if you're going to survive (and thrive!).
What do you want to achieve with this email marketing campaign? Do you want to build brand loyalty? Get your name out there? Promote a new product? Alter your image? All (or a combination of) the above?
Defining your objectives will give you a much clearer idea of the shape of your campaign. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve is the first step towards aligning your tactics and aims into a coherent, overarching strategy.
Sometimes, you can hash out objectives pretty quickly in a meeting. However, it's worth putting a bit of extra thought in nonetheless.
Make sure that your objectives are:
Specific - clear and precise
Measurable – easy to track
Time-specific – when are you aiming to achieve your objectives?
This means defining the key results
you want to gain from each objective
and working out how you can best
work towards these results.
Learn from the best. The most successful brands out there all have clear and defined objectives.
Apple consistently states their commitment to be the most innovative tech company in the world.
Tesco engages in price-matching and has an award-winning loyalty scheme as part of their
widely-known objective of making life a little bit easier for the shoppers of Britain
McDonald's marketing, in recent years, has all focused hard on the objective of improving the
image of their food quality. This kind of commitment, determination and success all stems from
some serious early work on establishing key, clear objectives.
Aims and Objectives
The terms ‘aim' and ‘objective' are often used interchangeably. However, they are not the same. Aims are an overarching end goal (and are usually
specific). Objectives are steps along the road to that goal (and can be a bit more flexible). Aims are long-term outcomes, while objectives are short-term targets. Different objectives work towards different purposes. For example:
Digital channel contribution objective – Achieve 10% online revenue contribution within two years.
Acquisition objective - Acquire 50,000 new online customers this financial year at an average cost per acquisition (CPA) of £30 with the average
profitability of £5.
Conversion objective - Increase the average order value of online sales to £42 per customer.
Engagement objective - Increase active customers purchasing at least once a quarter to 300,000 in a market
Typical examples of email marketing aims and objectives are:
Grow subscriber lists –> Reach more people, gather more data
Increase open-rates –> Reach more people
Improve email click-through rates –> Drive up web traffic.
Build customer loyalty –> Gain brand advocates
Building subscriber lists is a common need for email marketers. The important thing to remember with this objective is that your email marketing should be focused on quality and not quantity. Because you could gain an additional 1,000 subscribers but they aren’t really interested in your brand and are therefore not going to add much value to your email database or your business.
Here are some examples of list-building objectives for you to review:
List size - Aim to increase your email marketing list size over the next 12 months with an additional 5,000 subscribers to the monthly newsletter.
Email address quality – Aim to increase the proportion of valid or active email addresses on your list (i.e. those that don't bounce back or the percentage of customers who are ‘email active,' i.e. they open or click through on emails within a defined period).
List value – Aim to increase the amount generated in total or per 1000 list members in terms of sales/leads in one year.
Targeting quality – Increase the number of subscribers that qualify as leads for you products from the profiling information you have collected.
Data quality – Increasing the proportion of valuable and up to date and accurate profile fields held about individuals. The next section describes a range of offline and online techniques to increase email address capture and make sure that the accuracy is as high as possible.
Let’s look at how a real-life brand worked through objectives to achieve its email marketing aims:Dominos worked hard to define their overall email marketing aims and objectives. These were:
Reinforce the brand
Ensure that their key data asset (their CRM database) was as engaged as possible.
Their email marketing strategy and plan was to
optimise their email subject lines
because this was the first place that their customers would engage with. To do this, they used an AI generating subject line tool called Phrasee. There are plenty of increasingly sophisticated AIs out there which can do this kind of thing. Phrasee worked for Dominos because it capitalises upon being specific to brand voice, and is optimised to drive action.
Extensive experimental testing phase was conducted for the machine to learn from subscribers’ behaviour. The results were a 26% uplift in email opens, 57% increase in clicks and a 753% increase in ROI.
So, by clearly defining their objectives, Dominos was able to concentrate on specific courses of action, identify tools and tactics which would enable these actions, and ultimately to smash their aims out of the park.
One very important thing to highlight about the previous example is that Dominos maintained focus on their objectives. The focus is incredibly
Three key areas to focus your email objectives:
Your email marketing objectives should always be focused about
the customer. Place the customer at the centre of your email
2. Customer journey
Understanding the customer
journey is more important than
ever. It's challenging to create
relevant email marketing if you have no idea of where that
customer is on their journey
Use data (which you have gained with consent!) to tailor individual journeys. Don’t have access to any customer data? Don’t worry - our content section highlights other ways you can personalise
your email marketing.
Your objectives should have given you an idea of the ‘what’ and the ‘why’. Now it’s time to focus on the ‘who’.
When you're using email as a marketing tool, you're working on a pretty personal basis. This isn't ‘drive-by' stuff -you're directly targeting customers from their inboxes. There's a huge amount of potential which comes with this kind of marketing... but you'll only reap that potential if you REALLY understand both the marketplace you're operating from, and the audience you're talking to.
Research and data analysis are key here. You can’t go in blind and hope for the best. Spend as much time as you possibly can diving deep into your data, gleaning insights, getting to know your customers and your market. Interviews, surveys, and data analysis are all your friends here.
How to implement STP (Segment, Target, and Position)
Genuinely effective campaigns segment the market as carefully as possible, and target accordingly. Relevancy is key for getting people to open emails and respond to your CTA – but what's ‘relevant' differs from person to person. If you're going to make your emails as relevant as possible to everyone who reads them, you need to Segment, Target, and Position.
S• Segment. Market research and data analysis heavily inform this first step. You can also use marketing personas and the like to help. Your primary aim with this step is to identify differing customer needs according to relevant markers (e.g. demographic, behaviour, occupation, interests...). You then divide your market into ‘segments’ according to these needs.
T• Target. It may be that not all your segments are relevant for this campaign. So, identify your target segments. Evaluate your target segments further. Identify their key metrics, what they need, what they want, their customer lifecycles, their behaviour patterns – anything which might help you get through to them!
P• Position. Start to define how you’re going to position your message for each target segment.
There are five layers of data segmentation which can help you to target your marketing more effectively:
#1. Customer profile characteristics -> Demographics, geography, and customer set preferences.
If you’re not already segmenting, this is a great place to start. CPC is a strategy-based customer segmentation tool focused on profile descriptor fields. For B2C retailers, this would include age, sex and geography. For B2B companies, this will consist of the size of the company, job role and the industry sector or application they operate in. This example shows a female and male creative with the products that are included in the content changing based on the gender.
#2. Customer lifecycle – groups of categories, including new subscribers or prospects, active customers, and lapsed (or no longer engaging with emails).
Once you’ve established lifecycle groups and set up the customer relationship management infrastructure to categorise customers in this way, you can begin to deliver targeted messages. This can be done either by personalised on-site messaging or through
which can be automatically triggered by different customer engagements or behaviours.
Once visitors are registered, and consent has been provided, they can be tracked through the remaining stages.
Two particularly important groups for our purposes are customers with a one-time purchase and customers who have purchased multiple times. A customer is sometimes not considered to be loyal or repeat customer until they have purchased two to five times, in which case the single purchase segment is more akin to a warm prospect than a loyal customer.
#3. Customer behaviour -in response and purchase (observed and predicted). This is the most powerful segmentation method, but more technology may be required to deliver it effectively.
When you’re working with marketing emails, always think about recipients on an individual level. Consider where each recipient is on their journey with you. Notice opens, click-throughs – any engagements or behaviours, and pin down behavioural patterns which often point to purchase. Every time you send out an email campaign, you'll be collecting behavioural data, use it to inform your
For example, you may analyse the journeys on your website and identify that people who visit a page is more likely to purchase than those who do not visit that page. With behavioural data pointing towards the potential for this page, it would be worth testing whether offering a bespoke content message or
discount offer to users when they arrive at that page drives conversions. It could be that your customers have left items in their baskets and not completed their purchase, like this example here from Nordstrom:
Alternatively, your behavioural analysis might reveal that those arriving from specific search keywords will tend to be interested in a area of product or attribute, enabling the retailer to serve a simple home page to those users.
“Even when you are marketing to your entire audience or customer base,you are still simply speaking to a single human at any given time.”
- Ann Handley, Marketing Profs -
Many triggered email programmes can be created from a customer journey with you, including:
Welcome emails when recipients first subscribe to your email marketing
Acknowledgement/celebration emails when they make their first purchase with you
Reminder emails for abandoning their basket
An example would be sending a birthday celebration email to your customers:
Moreover, soon, as the customer lifecycle graphic below illustrates:
Emails are for answers
It is vital to consider the questions that a customer will be answering - the information they will be seeking – at each stage of their journey because your email campaign should provide the answers. If a customer leaves an item in their online basket and they don't complete the purchase, send a personalised basket abandonment email including that very item:
Segmentation is your friend when creating personalised campaigns and will enable you to connect with subscribers. If the subscriber has provided their name use it and include other known information such as any information that has been provided in a preference centre.
Use the behavioural and purchase information you have gathered and personalised the content, e.g. ‘Because you purchased this; we thought you might like this.’
#4. Customer multi-channel behaviour -> Targeting based on channel preference
The focus of this segmentation style is on identifying the channels that the customer prefers. No matter how enthusiastic you are about digital, some customers will prefer more traditional channels. You want to deliver the perfect message for each customer, which means working out where they hang out, and where they’re most responsive.
A lot of this is about weighting. If you can determine which customers prefer email, increase the email activity for them. For customers who prefer more traditional communications, reduce the frequency of email and social media for them, while upping conventional messaging.
The most important thing to do here is working out who likes what. Rather than asking explicitly for channel preference (although asking this through surveys can also work well), test the same message sent in different channels, including email, MMS (mobile messaging service) and DM. You can then segment your channels based on ROI.
In all fairness, this is rarely a simple thing to determine. People’s multi-channel behaviour is complex, and often very situational. You’ll probably find that email performs well based on ROI, but the type of message (and ease of action) also makes a huge difference.
Messages which require online action work better in email than DM (direct message on social media), whereas calls-to-action to text to a shortcode or download a mobile app work fine within a DM. RFM and response analysis will indicate channel preference since customers with a preference for specific online channels will be more responsive in them and will make more purchases online.
#5. Customer value -> The value a recipient represents at this moment, and future expected value.
There are a few ways that customer value can be grouped:
1. Most profitable customers
These are the customers who contribute the most profit. Typically, this group of customers will represent a small proportion of the total customer base. These customers will likely have purchased more or higher-value products. A direct personal approach may be the best performing approach for this customer group.
2. Customers with the most growth potential
Customers demonstrate the potential to become more valuable customers. These are profitable when assessed in terms of lifetime value, but the number of product holdings or current value is relatively low compared with the group above. Recommendations about relevant products based on their purchasing and browser behaviour can be an effective approach with this segment.
3. Unprofitable customers
The strategy for these customers may vary –typically expenditure will be minimised if it is felt that it will be difficult to change their behaviour. It’s best to assess this customer group against potential future value.
Putting Customer Segmentation to Work Effectively
There will probably be one main style of segmentation which works best for your brand, but the most successful strategies tend to mix up a few (if not all) segmentation methods.
What’s more, it is possible to over-segment, which leads to targeting which is too tight. If you over-segment, you risk excluding potentially valuable customers. So be careful!
Once we have reviewed and selected from the five segmentation approaches above, a final step to think about is to design personas for typical customer types.
Harnessing Customer Personas
Personas provide a multi-dimensional method of targeting. They’re based, as the name suggests, on a projected persona for each customer ‘type’. Get it right, and personas can help you enormously in both predicting behaviour and personalising your communications. Personas are a powerful technique, and they’re increasingly used to improve the usability and customer centricity of communications.
On the broader marketing world, persona-assignment can get very complicated, involving psychometrics and detailed profiling. Don't worry! Email marketing rarely dives that deep into people's heads! Our metrics are much easier to work with.
Having said that, creating personas can be complex depending on how broad your userbase is, and how big your product range is. If you've knuckled down to your work in segmenting the market, it will be easier to assign personas – but you may still need to do some sophisticated demographic and behavioural pattern-spotting if you're to get it right.
How to Work Out Customer Personas?
Digital customer personas summarise the characteristics, needs, motivations and platform preferences of different groups of users. There’s no sure-fire way of creating an entirely accurate customer persona, but it helps if you can encourage customers to describe their own personas. This is possible by offering tools like customer preference centres.
Customer preference centres (or settings) are a site area which allows subscribers to edit their profile details or communication options to their satisfaction. You can make preference settings as detailed as you like – for example, offering customers the opportunity to tell you the frequency and type of email marketing they'd like to receive.
Today’s CRM systems are reasonably cost-effective, provided they be tied into a strategy that acknowledges the importance of gathering the profile and preference data. This means that even smaller companies can use these tools.
If you’re going to get your email targeting correct, you need a structured approach to customer data collection. It feels invasive to pester customers for a load of data at once – customer preference centres give your customers control over what and how they share, while simultaneously ensuring that you get a constant feed of data.
Another helpful way to get customer preference data is to use social sign-on. This integrates social profile information with email and CRM databases. However, do be sure that your customers give informed consent for data gathering of this kind!
Watch and Listen
You can reduce your need to ask your customers a lot of interruptive questions by watching a subscriber’s behaviour and sending emails that have then heard by sending relevant content based on that behaviour. These work by registering customer behaviours (for example, clicks) and following up accordingly.
For example, someone watching a programme on an online streaming site may trigger an email requesting a review. The quality of any ensuing review will provide data on customer preferences, allowing the site to target content more effectively for this particular customer.
This kind of persona-building and targeting is particularly useful as it works with real-life behaviours. There's often a significant difference between what we say and what we do. We may SAY (for example) that we want to watch artsy, intellectual films, but in fact, we are more likely to binge on reality TV.
Ways of Using This Technique
You can assess the interests of individual list members by monitoring which pages they land on, and where they go from there. The process is explained by this example from Airbnb. They use click behaviour to ascertain the destination preferences and travel styles of customers and base their follow-up emails on those preference profiles. It's intensely specific, but it gets results!
Monitoring individual engagements.
By carefully watching subscriber trends of open and click-through behaviour, you can gauge the level of interest (or likelihood of interaction) for every single customer. What's more, you can monitor changes through time. Why is this latter point important?
Well, if someone engages frequently but rarely buys anything, you can learn from this and scale your follow-up comms accordingly. The same applies if someone rarely engages but usually follows an engagement with a purchase. Being able to adapt your communications to customer's time-proven behavioural patterns is an invaluable skill.
Lead scoring and nurturing.
‘Lead scoring' is what we think of when we consider ‘marketing automation'. Everyone knows by now about assigning a value to leads, so I won't bore you with the fine details here. The important part of lead scoring, which often gets missed out, is the follow-up. Nurture your best leads by following their engagements closely. Gauge their communication preferences, assess their buying behaviour, understand their journey, and communicate accordingly.
Targeting & Positioning
So, a quick recap. Thus far, you have:
Undertaken a situational analysis
Defined your objectives
Built customer personas
Dived deep into your data
Segmented your market
Gathered data to enhance your customer personas
By now, you probably think you’ve got a good grasp on your market and are ready to start thinking seriously about your email strategy tactics. But don’t be quite so hasty. There’s another thing you need to do before you’re fully armed with all the info you need. Your next step is to define customer journeys.
Every customer’s journey is different, but there are key points you can pick out to determine journey styles for your own brand’s customers.
Questions to consider
How do your customers first find out about you?
How do your customers purchase your products or services?
What happens after your customers purchase from you?
What – if any – is your process for repurchasing?
When, how, and why do your customers lapse?
How do you respond when lapsed customers re-engage?
Working out your customer's journeys is crucial in defining the kinds of communications you send to them. But remember, the journey will vary from customer to customer and product to product (that's why we did all that segmentation and data analysis stuff earlier. See? It does all fall into place in the end!)
Choosing the kind of communication to use
The versatility of your communications ultimately depends upon the versatility of your team. But there are a few tips which can help you to pigeonhole comms types with customer personas.
First, go back through the stuff you’ve already done (yes, I know, but it is worth it!). Look at where you are, where you want to be, your objectives for achieving that, and the customer profiles you’re working with.
Now, work out the kinds of email communications which are appropriate and manageable for your brand. Newsletters? Generalised product promotions? Targeted product promotions? Order confirmation emails? Product reminders? All or a combination of the above? Work out what’s appropriate for you, and work out what’s appropriate for your personified customers, at each stage of their journey.
What they want to receive
Someone who has never made an online purchase
Convert them from browsing to purchasing and move them into the customer category
Someone who has made up to 6 purchases within the last 6 months
Encourage repeat purchases and increase the average order value of each spend
Specials offers that are targeted to them and reminders about products they have purchased previously
Someone who has purchased previously but not done so in the last 6 months
Understand why they have stopped purchasing and encourage them to purchase moving them into the customer category
Someone who has made 7 or more purchases in last 6 months
Ensure that they remain loyal and encourage them to spread the word about your business
Special offers that are targeted to them and reminders about products they have purchased previously. Recognition that you know and respect them as a customer.
Think about erosion
Everything declines with time, including customer engagement. If you don’t protect it and take measures to freshen it up, it’s inevitable that time will work its erosive magic even on your most solid customer loyalty.
So, the most important thing to think about when you’re targeting content is how it’s going to keep your customers engaged through time.
Of course, nobody can predict the future, and every brand is different.
Few things which may help!
• A Welcome Series – First impressions matter
First impressions count, and it won’t do any harm to endear yourself early on.
• Reactivation – Reviving the Inactives
You miss your subscribers! Let them know! Remind them of what they’re missing and make it as easy as you can for them to hop back into their defunct accounts.
• Newsletters – Be on top of their mind
Newsletters are long-haul engagement. They serve as check-ins with your subscribers, as well as offering generalised engagement points. Newsletters are a way of both driving and maintaining engagement – at worst they serve as a reminder of the relationship the recipient has with a brand, but usually, they do a lot more. Provide as many engagement points/links as you can within your newsletters, and you'll be surprised at what crops up!
Tagging – Effective tactic to measure performance
One of the things which separate larger strategy from minor tactics is analysis. A tactician creates and actions tactics, while a strategist assesses their success.
Tagging Offer types can be a real help when analysing what’s working and what’s not. It allows you to track successes,and monitor engagements with greater specificity than might otherwise be the case.
Some email marketers put tags on different kinds of links within their template, to ascertain which parts of their template are getting the most engagement. A link tag can help you to establish, for example, the engagement difference between a link for a hero product and a link for a featured page.
One of the great things email has going for it is that it can adapt on a dime and turn on a penny, meaning that it has the potential always to be relevant and timely. This is very different from social media posts, which are less intensively targeted, less time-focused, and work on more of a broadcast basis. The capacity to intensively segment, target, and stream your email marketing also helps you to narrow your analysis to certain points. By doing this, you can learn a lot about your brand, your customers, and your marketing profile in general.
The success of daily deal email illustrates this. Customers gain value from a ‘daily deal' email and will come to anticipate the email in their inbox every morning. Tagging links in ‘daily deal’ emails will tell you a lot about the journeys within a given customer profile, as well as about preferences and behaviours. The ultimate sell is not important – what you are doing with ‘daily deal' (or ‘weekly tips') email content is building a relationship with your customers and learning more about how journeys within your brand work. All this information is important and can be put to use on later campaigns.
You know why you're campaigning, you know what you want to achieve, and you know whom you're targeting. Now it's time to think about how you're going to do it. It's time for tactics.
The ‘From Name’
Often called the ‘Friendly From Name’, this is an email which seems informal, as it comes from a named individual. Often the ‘name’ that the email is ‘from’ is more important than the subject line, but this depends a lot on your brand’s relationship with the recipient, and how well they trust your brand.
A Catchy Subject Line
Your subject line needs to give an apparent reason for the recipient to open the email. It also needs to be eye-catching and engaging, or you’ll be consigned to not being opened, deleted or worst of all, marked as spam.
The subject line should link seamlessly to your main headline and then to the lead copy and into the body of the email. Ensure that the subject line is relevant to the content and incites a relevant expectation – clickbait is bad, folks! Open rates are not the only metrics by which to measure success (I’ve heard it said that open rates are ‘vanity’ and clickthroughs are ‘sanity’).
The most important way to discover your optimize subject line, is to test it and to keep tracking the results. Using an AI tool can help you do this at scale.
A fantastic example of this is Buzzfeed. If you’re signed up to their emails, you’ll know that their subject lines are never bland or generic. Usually, they raise either a smile or an eyebrow.
Email Introduction (above the fold)
If your email is going to be opened, it’ll be because of what your customer sees here. So, always try to keep it clutter free, with your messaging clear, don’t try and say everything in this area. Be clear and concise to achieve the best results.
The Preheader references the area before the main content. It's an excellent opportunity to grab a bit of extra pre-content web real estate. It's got a degree of prominence in the inbox, so it would be a waste not to use it for promotional purposes. Try popping a couple of links in here. Some companies find that they get the most clicks on links within their preheader
The headline should link seamlessly from the subject line and lead into the primary body copy. It needs to be text based so that it is visible if images are turned off by default when viewed on incompatible devices.
This should follow seamlessly from the headline, and link seamlessly in turn to the first CTA. You want to lay a trail for your reader’s eyes to follow. Does the first paragraph encourage the reader to continue with the rest of the email? If not, why not? Consider the way that your email looks, as well as the way it reads.
The CTA is your main way of getting the reader to do what you want. Primary CTA's should be easily visible and transparent – always sitting ‘above the fold’.
As email marketers, we want people to visit our websites, from where we are better able to track them and get them to convert. Therefore, to build effective CTAs , we need always to be thinking about the following from a reader’s perspective:
What’s in it for me?
What should I do next?
How do I do it?
There’s many options including, Book Now,Find out More,Download your Copy Now and Don’t miss out to name a few.
Make it as easy as possible for your subscribers to understand what you want them to do – what action are you driving to drive?
Main Email Copy
This is where you get to put the nitty-gritty of your message. What are you offering your customer, and what should they do about it next?
Brevity, as always, is key. You’re providing a bit of extra background information in the main copy, but your main objective with this section is to funnel customers’ attention into the main CTA.
You'll want to make your content as easy to read as possible. Use bullet points and chunking to make things look more enticing. Also, remember that a lot of readers will be skimming through their emails on the go, so make sure to make the central message clear and easily digestible.
Lengthy paragraphs are off-putting, but I do appreciate that brevity is a tricky skill to master! If you struggle with short copy, write your main body copy out in the manner that feels natural, and then take a (metaphorical) knife to it afterwards. You’ll be amazed at what can be cut without losing any of the sense or feel of the piece. If you really can’t cut it down, try chopping your copy into sections, or offering a ‘Read More’ option leading to the website.
Here’s an example of an effective email marketing strategy by the flight operator EasyJet.
The goal was to drive an emotional response from the email campaign. More than 12 million unique emails were sent, with the email content personalised to the individual recipient with information on distances the subscriber had travelled, interesting facts such as how many football pitches that would be and other destinations they could have travelled too.
This campaign was very positively received by its subscribers, so much so that within minutes it was being shared on social media, with an estimated reach of 685,000 people and more than 1.1million impressions. Because Easyjet’s objective was to drive a positive response, they included social media listening within their analysis and discovered that 78% of posts were positive and some even added the word “love”.
It’s not every day that you hear that word used by customers to describe an email they have just received! Although encouraging a booking wasn’t part of the campaign’s objective, 7% did make a booking within 30 days after the email campaign.
Proven Tactics to Take Your Email Marketing to The Next Level
If you've been anywhere near the marketing sphere over the last couple of years, the term ‘personalization' will be ringing in your ears. However, there's a good reason behind the ‘personalization’ cacophony: it works! Email is an absolutely amazing way to connect with your customers on a personal level.
In this post-GDPR world, your email subscribers have permitted you to contact them directly and personally. That's a fantastic opportunity, and you shouldn't waste it with generic content. Equally, however, you shouldn’t personalize to the point where you sound like a creepy stalker.
Alternatively, at least, an eye-catching design. It’s worth letting a proper designer have a go at prettifying your emails. Customers are often opening emails on the go, so you need to work hard to grab their attention. Making your emails nice to look at is a brilliant way to hold their eye. Netflix put time and effort into making their emails stand out, personally and visually – and it pays off for them!
If you want to drive engagement, it helps enormously if the
itself is beautiful and responsive. Brands which embed clickable content in their emails will get a lot more follow-through than brands which make their customers put a bit more legwork into responding.
Live & Real-time Content
Live and real time content is where the content updates automatically at the time of opening and changes based on contextual data such as time, location, weather etc. It could be that when you sent to your email it was sunny outside, but your customer is in a different city and it’s raining.
When they open the email, the content changes to reflect this different weather using location data. Like this example below that includes content specific to the weather to tell its customers they best bring sunglasses. If it were raining this would change to carrying an umbrella.
Video in Email
Embedding images, animation, and vids in an email are tricky, as these elements often mess up during the transfer from one platform to another. A multitude of email clients, operating systems, and connection speeds make this an area in which to proceed with caution. Videos and animation are undeniably eye-catching and engaging, so it may be worth the risk of a dropoff to include them.
OK, at the end of the day we marketers have a job to do. However, going straight for the hard-sell without nurturing the customer, or adding value for them – well, it's very off-putting. Modern marketing is about gives and takes.
Automation is an excellent thing for
email marketing, but you can't sit back
and leave it all to the ‘bots’. Put effort into
segmentation, personalisation, and
follow-up, and you’ll be rewarded. Generic
emails generated and distributed via the
machine will leave customers cold. The
example below from this charity,
demonstrates to their donors the impact
their money has had over time. It illustrates
the journey of their donation through
Demonstrating a great track record is excellent, but continually bragging about your clients and prestige comes across as arrogant. Nobody wants to give their custom to an arrogant, self-satisfied brand.
People tend to think of evaluation as something you do at the end of a campaign. In fairness, doing a full evaluation at the end is a massively important part of any campaign strategy. But it’s also helpful to evaluate as you're going along. Lots of brands make the mistake of closing their ears to ongoing issues and save any feedback for the end of campaign evaluation.
Modifying and adjusting according to feedback as you go along can not only improve your campaign results, it also makes for a much more nuanced and informed evaluation. If you can see defined changes in your metrics after you alter your tactics – well, that tells you a lot more about your audience than would otherwise be the case!
Here are some key questions to ask yourself during evaluation
Do you really know your customers?
How do the figures stack up against previous campaigns?
What’s your experience of this campaign been?
Think as well about the kinds of metrics you're evaluating. You probably know that interaction with email campaigns is measured through open and click-through rates. While it's meaningful to review email response in this way, if this is all you measure, you're missing the bigger picture of the value of email to your company and its customers. These rich metrics in the email are great. However, there is a distinction must be made between:
These could also be called output metrics. They measure the contribution the channel has to the business goals. Think about the conversions and revenues for example.
These are the metrics you use for email marketing performance and diagnostic purposes. Click rates, for instance, may help you to understand how well you are doing with offer, content and targeting. Complaint rates can be important to deliverability management, for example, but will never be a business metric.
Helpful Methods to Measure Email Performance
The CLTV Model
CLTV stands for ‘Customer Life-Time Value'. This model positions the market as a kind of social network, in which people are either more or less engaged. It's a handy tool because it concentrates on loyalty and returns custom rather than (as too many marketing evaluations do) focusing too heavily on new custom and ROI.
Essentially, a customer has greater ‘lifetime value' the more that they interact with their brand. Some actions (purchases, for example) have higher ‘value' than others, but all engagements add to a customer's LTV. Evaluating CLTV will help you to identify existing high-value customers and potential high-value prospects moving forward. This, in turn, will enable you to refine your message and target it where the true value lies.
We all know what market research is, so I won't waste your time on too much detail here. Ask your market how useful they found your marketing. You can do this via review requests, surveys, focus groups – whatever works best for you!
The people who know your marketing best are the people working directly with it. Get as much feedback as you can from sales teams, vendors, the people picking up emails. Are customers happy? Is the market expanding? What are people saying? How would your vendors themselves improve your messaging?
If you're doing something right, and it's making an impact, your competitors will pick up on it. If your competitors start changing their own strategies and tactics, and if it seems like they might be doing this in response to your campaign, it's worth looking into. Identify your main competitors and analyse how their own email messaging has changed (if at all) during your campaign.
Metrics to Monitor and Measure
Positive responses – Opens, Clicks, Click-to-Open rate (CTO) and Conversions
Negative reactions -Unsubscribes and Complaints
At a database or list level, do look at how much of the list is responding to email; but it’s equally important is to see how much of the list is not responding to your emails. You can learn as much – if not more – from a negative as you can from a positive.
Revenue and Conversions
This seems pretty straightforward. It’s about matching email metrics to your marketing objectives (remember them?) If it’s all gone well, your email conversion rates and financial metrics should track closely with your marketing objectives and customer journey. But, if it’s not doing that, don’t throw your hands up in despair! Look into the data, see what’s happened, work out why, and extrapolate some lessons for future campaigns.
Revenue and conversion metrics commonly used for evaluation include:
Average order value
Downloads, registrations if this is the main objectives instead of revenue
Spend some time thinking about your
Deliverability is the measurement of how well your campaigns are reaching recipients. Here are key areas to keep in mind:
Your sender reputation
This is effectively your ranking as an email sender. It’s used by mailbox providers and email domains to help them decide whether to accept your emails or not, as well as how quickly they allow you to send. It also helps email clients determine how to categorise your email – are you spam, priority, or promotion? Which would you prefer to be?
Don’t sent emails to address that are no long in use, invalid or poorly-authenticated and don’t sent to data collected without valid consent. Doing so can you to be blocked or blacklisted.
The email content
Be conscious of the email content you’re sending as this too is assessed by ISPs to identify spam and other malicious emails.
Your email infrastructure
To prove that your emails really are genuine you need to maintain a secure email and website infrastructure and authenticate your emails. DMARC is worth investigating if you haven’t already implemented it.
Monitor your sender reputation closely
Consistently high response rates across your email marketing programme will not only improve your sender reputation, but in turn will also improve your deliverability and give your campaigns a greater chance of success in the future.
Strategizing is the key to a good email campaign. Without a good, clearly structured, well-researched, and long-lasting strategy, your email campaign will be flabby and insubstantial.
Remember, the precise metrics you use, segments you choose, and journeys you map will vary greatly depending on your customers, brand message, and business model. That’s why it’s so important to put in that early work to define your marketing status and objectives. There’s no one-size-fits-all guide to strategizing but hope this guide has given you a good grounding in the direction your thinking should be going.
There’s a lot to think about here, and a lot of data-analysis to get stuck into – but, if you follow all these steps in the appropriate amount of detail, your strategy is off to a good start.
Email Uplers in partnership with Jenna Tiffany have created this guide on email marketing strategy, to assist businesses in creating a compelling and exhaustive strategy for a perfect email campiagn. To know more about Jenna, follow her on social media or blog