What do you think of when you hear the term “email marketing?” Does it bring to mind images of bulging spam folders or clunky subject lines like, “%CUSTOMER, we miss you!” Or does it strike you as a mostly obsolete marketing tactic, one that is going extinct in the age of the smartphone?
The reality is, email marketing doesn’t have to be spammy, irrelevant, or awkward. And it’s far from obsolete: According to a recent study, every dollar invested in email can return $42 in value. It turns out that people are still sending and receiving email—billions of them a day. Smartphones have changed the way people access email, but not their reliance on it.
When email marketing is done properly, it can be a powerful tactic for turning window shoppers into customers, and customers into lifelong brand advocates.
What Is Email Marketing?
Email marketing is a digital communications strategy for sending messages to customers or prospects via email. It can include direct sales, marketing messages, customer service updates, news, tips, newsletters … anything that gets to your customer via email.
Does Email Marketing Work?
In short, yes! It’s a valuable component of any modern marketing strategy. Email marketing can be used throughout the customer journey: To attract new customers, enhance the customer experience, upsell existing customers, and even assist customer support.
MailChimp estimates that the open rate for emails, across industries, averages 22.71%, with a click-through rate of 2.91%. By comparison, the CTR for a search ad is only 1.91%, while a display ad averages just .35%.
Here are a few unique benefits to email marketing as a tactic:
- Control: Unlike some other forms of digital marketing (such as social), a business retains complete control of the messaging and design of its email campaigns.
- Reach: Every email will be delivered to every opt-in subscriber with a valid email address—no algorithms will limit your organic reach.
- Engagement: When people subscribe or otherwise opt-in to receive messages from your company, they’re more likely to actually read them.
- Data: Email campaigns generate rich data for broader marketing analytics purposes.
- Optimization: A long-term email marketing strategy offers regular opportunities for testing (including A/B campaigns) and optimization to improve results.
What Are Email Marketing Best Practices?
An effective email marketing strategy is usually highly programmatic. This means that the sender has developed a long-term plan and schedule for their email campaigns and audiences, as well as their corresponding goals.
Rather than a series of one-off emails, those who opt in should have an email journey planned that takes into account their previous brand relationship, communications with the brand, and purchase history. When email is strategically deployed, the customer sees the messages as welcome and useful, rather than an irrelevant intrusion.
As such, the biggest best practice for email marketing is smart use of customer data. Customers expect personalized, highly relevant messages—not just fill-in-the-blank for names and locations.
Email marketing at scale practically demands thorough and intelligent automation. Your email drips and nurture campaigns need smart solutions to make sure they’re reaching the right customer at the right time.
What Do I Need for Effective Email Marketing?
A customer data platform (CDP) can be a powerful force multiplier for scaling up your email marketing. The right CDP can not only send messages automatically based on rules you generate, it can create its own rules over time through machine learning.
For example, the CDP can analyze thousands of customer profiles to determine that customers who buy a particular set of headphones from your online store tend to search for wireless charging pads on their next visit. The CDP could then automatically send your promo email for wireless charging pads to any customer who buys those headphones, complete with personalized text, without human intervention.
How Do I Measure the Results of Email Marketing?
Another advantage of email marketing is how easy it is to measure performance. There are a few key metrics that you’ll want to benchmark and optimize against as your email marketing strategy matures:
- Open Rates: This refers to the percentage of email recipients who clicked on the subject line, versus those who left it unread.
- Click-through Rates: This is the percentage of recipients who clicked a link in your email.
- Conversion Rates: What counts as a conversion will vary from campaign to campaign—it could be signing up for a webinar, downloading an eBook, or requesting a demo, for example. Whatever the goal is, conversion rate measures the percentage of those who clicked from the email and then took the next step offered.
- Unsubscribe Rates: This is a powerful metric for seeing how relevant your emails are. If each email you send generates a flood of unsubscribes, that’s a clear sign that the messages aren’t offering value to the recipient.
Integrate Email Marketing into Your Marketing Strategy
For the best results, email marketing can be closely coordinated with other marketing tactics like display ads, SMS marketing, even direct mail, and in-store advertising. With a CDP to coordinate and consolidate data, you can send smarter emails that are more likely to appeal to recipients.
For example, a customer who clicked on a display ad could receive a follow-up email offering a discount for the advertised product, or products that complement the one they clicked on. Or, a customer who made an in-person purchase could get an email with the option to receive an SMS coupon the next time they’re in the store.
With the right automation in place, you can use email throughout the customer journey to help customers take each next step. And all while ensuring the messages are meaningful, relevant and valuable to the customer.
Here are a few customer triggers that are good candidates for email marketing:
- Purchase history: One easy way to personalize emails is to base your offers on what customers have bought in the past. That could mean simply offering more products in a particular category, or analyzing what other customers who purchased a particular product bought next.
- Loyalty Data: Connecting customer data from the loyalty program to your email strategy is essential—it’s a treasure trove of potential personalization just waiting to be tapped.
- Abandoned Cart: A simple “your cart is waiting for you” or “pick up where you left off” can turn a missed opportunity into a sale.