Email Marketing: The Why, The How, and More

thin line flat design of email marketing

Every time a new media tool comes out, or new social media system goes viral, the marketing world is rocked by cries of “email is dead!”

If this were true, we wouldn’t all have an email address, and we wouldn’t sign up for all of these services with our email addresses, and… honestly, the world wouldn’t be such a spammy place. Email is almost as personal as a text message; emails can be warm, funny, caring, and genuine. They can also be annoying, impersonal, and creepy. This is where it’s important to know both the tone of your organization, and of your prospective customers when you get started with email marketing.

Why start an email marketing list?

There’s several key reasons to use email including, but not limited to: Engage with prospective customers, Encourage first-time purchasers, Increase trust, Drive Repeat Business, and Foster a community. More on each below.

Engaging with Prospective Customers

Not all customers will purchase your product or service at first glance. In fact, a large portion of them may not. By getting your customers into your email marketing pipeline (or funnel, if you must), you give yourself more chances to win them over than their first glance at your website would afford you. You also let yourself more personally introduce yourself to them via email, as you’ll be able to speak directly ‘to’ them in that medium.

Encouraging First-Time Customers

Sometimes people just need a little nudge or extra little something to give your product or service a shot for the first time. This could be in the form of special deals, freebies, or other perks. Your email subscribers are a great group to target and use email marketing to offer them something enticing to try and get them to make a purchase. 

Increasing Trust

Another thing that first time buyers might be lacking is confidence in your brand / company. By engaging with them in an email marketing campaign, you can share experiences of other customers (testimonials, reviews, case studies) to help build trust in your brand and company. An increase of trust, perhaps combined with an incentive, can help overcome initial objections and convert lookie-loos into sales.

Driving Repeat Sales

So you’ve closed the deal and got a sale; but, unless you’re pushing a SaaS, you likely need to keep working. This is especially true with tangible, consumable products. Take the example of a yarn store; you can sell someone some yarn, and then you’ve made a sale. Do you stop there? No! You know that you’re selling them a consumable resource, and that they will use the yarn, and then you’ll be able to sell them more yarn.

Fostering a Community

What’s better than having customers? Having customer loyalty. 

Convert those customers into fans, and they’ll spread the word to their friends, their friends’ friends, and anybody else who will listen. Help your fans engage with your brand, and spread the word about your brand, and you’ll find your advertising costs per new customer decrease dramatically.

This can all be done with the magic of email marketing. But how do you build an effective email marketing strategy?

Automations (Flows)

These automated email tools help you send an email to people based on certain criteria. You create email series decided to specifically target a segment of your email list – whether that’s “everyone”, “purchasers”, or “not purchased yet” – or any other criteria your email marketing platform can support. 

Welcome Flows

You know when you sign up for an email list, and you slowly – hopefully over several days – receive a stream of emails from that company? This is called a “welcome flow”, “welcome sequence”, or “welcome emails”. Basically, a number of emails that every new subscriber gets, optionally with some logic depending on if they’ve purchased or not, to introduce the brand and make some initial connections. Looking back on the 5 points we covered above, a good Welcome sequence should:

  • Engage with Prospective Customers, by introducing them to the brand and company.
  • Encourage First-Time Customers, by providing them incentives to make a purchase.
  • Build Trust, by sharing stories of other customers and of the company itself.
  • Foster Community, by engaging with the customers and inviting them to engage back.

Abandoned Cart / Abandoned Checkout Flows

A statistic that is often thrown around a lot is that 70% of checkouts are abandoned. Having run eCommerce stores, I can see this being very true; it’s way easier to convince someone to put something in their cart than it is to convince them to buy what’s in their cart. A good email marketing service will allow you to identify audience members who have put items in their cart (or initiated, but not completed, a checkout) and send them emails to encourage them to complete their purchase. A successful email marketing campaign, targeting cart abandoners, can help recover a small but significant percentage of these potential customers! 

You’ve likely encountered these emails before. It usually starts with a friendly reminder, then maybe tries to tell you about other customers and their success stories, and then (typically) offers a small discount to encourage you to open up your virtual wallet and place the dang order.

A good Abandoned Cart / Abandoned Checkout flow will help you:

  • Encourage First-Time Customers, by offering them an additional incentive.
  • Build Trust, by sharing reviews and/or testimonials.
  • Drive Repeat Sales, by giving the same nudges to repeat customers as you do to first-time buyers.

Browse Abandonment Flows

These are a more controversial type of email marketing. They can come across as invasive and creepy, but the facts are facts: browse abandonment emails work. Use them with caution, and make sure they don’t send to the same people every time they visit the site, but at least consider them as an option for your email marketing efforts.

If you choose to use them, Browse Abandonment Flows can help to:

  • Encourage First-Time Customers, by giving them a friendly nudge
  • Drive Repeat Sales, by nudging them and/or offering incentives.

Campaigns (Email Newsletters)

Campaigns are things like weekly updates, general email ‘blasts’, and other at-the-moment or scheduled communications. These digital marketing tools are the emails that you may write up from time to time, or tell yourself you’ll send every Tuesday or Friday or whatever works best for your brand. Sometimes its every month. Sometimes it’s only when you have news to share. Whatever works best for you, your brand, and your customers – that’s how often you should send email newsletters.

An example of an effective campaign could be something simple and lighthearted, maybe a snippet of ‘behind the scenes’ talk saying what’s going on at the company, perhaps a fun anecdote, and then whatever products / services are new (or that you’d like to feature at the moment). You can even include your best recent review or testimonial to help build trust and credibility.

We’ve found it beneficial to offer exclusive ‘subscriber only’ sales and promotions through an email list, giving your loyal subscribers something the general public doesn’t have access to. You can also ask questions of your subscribers, and encourage them to reply directly to the email – helping to build community and trust.

Structure of a Good Marketing Email:

There’s no hard and fast rules about how to build a good marketing email; in fact, I’ve talked to a lot of experts about how best to structure marketing emails, and have received a number of contradictory points. All of which, I’ve been told, are ‘research driven’ and ‘well documented’ – but contradictory regardless.

These are the points that have served me the best over the past several years I’ve been doing email marketing. Hopefully they can help you structure your emails in a way that works for you, too!

A good promotional email should contain most or all of the following elements:

  1. Header
  2. Introduction
  3. Call to Action
  4. Outro
  5. Footer
  6. Unsubscribe Link

I’ve seen a lot of marketing email content designed with massive header images; ones that take up the whole first screen on mobile. While they are very pretty, what they aren’t is effective. You want your users to be able to see three important things when they open the email:

  • Who you are
  • What you’ve got
  • Where you want them to go

That’s why I tend to start my emails off with a logo, a brief menu (2-3 links), and then dive straight into the main offering of the email. They see at a glance what the email is about, have links to the website if they want to dive straight in, and can scroll down to find my primary CTA on the next page.

The second section of the email will have the product(s) I want to feature with links to each relevant product (your email marketing tool should have the ability to do this. If it doesn’t, you’re using bad tools).

The (optional) third part of your email is a repeat of your second part with a different set of products.

The second-last part of your email is your outro / footer.

The final part of your email is always going to be your obligatory company information and unsubscribe link. As much as you don’t want people to unsubscribe, you legally must give them the automated means to do so.

Choosing An Email Service Provider

There’s so many tools out there for email marketing. The big ones are:

  1. Mailchimp (Best for general purpose and services, also very friendly for beginners)
  2. Klaviyo (Best for eCommerce, but not very beginner friendly)
  3. ActiveCampaign (Best for people who like having their WooCommerce integrations break)
  4. ConstantContact (Best for people who already use ConstantContact, I guess?)

In all honesty, the best email marketing tool for you is the one you’re the most comfortable with. There are so, so many of them out there. Do some research on the individual tools, make sure they do what you want, and give them a try. Key features to look for in email marketing software would be: 

  • Email Design: You almost certainly want a drag and drop builder to help create an email.
  • Email Personalization: Ways to personalize your emails, including using people’s names and past purchases!
  • Segmentation: The ability to segment your email list based on various criteria. 
  • Templates: Having many email templates to work from helps get you off the ground faster, and saving your own templates will reap dividends in saved time in the future! 
  • Marketing Automation: I mean, it’s pretty obvious, but you want this to be automatic as much as possible. 
  • Opt-In Forms: While you can certainly build your own forms, having pre-built options in your email marketing tool to help you build your email list can be invaluable.

Almost all of the email marketing tools out there offer a free trial period for you to get your feet wet, so dive in and see which one works for you!

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Allen Pooley

Allen is a self professed geek and technology lover. He's always playing with one of his various websites, and loves helping customers with theirs. He can often be found with a coffee (light roast, please) in his hand and a smile on his face... or trapped under a pile of yarn.

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