Maureen Flaherty, Email Marketing and Campaign Specialist at Salesforce’s Pardot, discussed with Engage Magazine key email strategies that bring results.
SL: Why is email such an effective marketing/selling tool or for content distribution?
MF: Email is not dead and is in fact still one of the most successful ways to distribute information about your product or brand. It allows you to strategically distribute content to a large, targeted audience and ensure that you are sending the right message to the right people at the right time. With many advanced email tools, you are able to create a personalized journey and tailor your message based on the information you know about your audience and the actions they take.
According to eMarketer, there will be around 236.8 million US email users by 2017. That’s an eye-opening statistic and really highlights how important it is for marketers to be in this space along with their consumers. Marketers must really understand how to make their marketing message stand out against the noise and nail down a clear email strategy.
SL: What are five of the biggest tips that marketers can do right now with their email strategy that will bring results?
MF: I think the following five tactics are very important for seeing positive results with your email strategy:
1. Targeted marketing — It’s important that you are tailoring your message to your audience and not blasting out the same message to everyone in your database. Based on the information you collect, you should build a message based on the interest of your audience. With Pardot marketing automation, I am able to use dynamic content within our emails so that within the same email I can populate different messages or CTAs based on custom information we have about our email recipients.
2. Mobile — According to Return Path, 43% of all emails are now being opened via mobile device, and that number is going to continue to grow. Your email design must adhere to the growing use of mobile. Using responsive design is a key tactic for creating an experience that adjusts to the device your recipient is using.
3. Automated journeys — This applies to both B2C and B2B. Creating a custom, automated path gives a unique experience to your audience while also making work easier on the marketer. Let’s say you are sending an email with a CTA for an email marketing ebook. If your audience clicks and shows interest in that specific topic, have an automated email that will share more resources on the same topic to adhere to their specific type of engagement.
4. Opt-in program – A sure way to see higher opens and clicks is by creating an opt-in program. By doing this, you are ensuring you’re your audience has specific interest in the messages you are sending. Quality over quality applies here. You want an engaged and active audience more than a large, disengaged audience. Also, a list of opted-in emails is the best way to avoid spam complaints.
5. Testing – 33% of email recipients open emails based on subject line alone (Convince and Convert via Salesforce.com). Make sure you are using A/B testing features to see what resonates with your audience. Take it a step further and test out your CTA’s and overall email designs as well.
SL: Is it difficult to have “engagement” using email as a tool?
MF: I would refer back to the previous question here. If you are being strategic with your email strategy and making sure that you are being targeted and testing different you will continue to see a positive impact on your engagement results.
SL. How does content marketing apply to email marketing? Is it just a matter of great headlines or content or does it go deeper than that?
MF: Content is a very important aspect of an email program. If you do not have a clear message or offer that your recipient finds valuable, you will probably start to see higher unsubscribes. The content within your email makes your credible and makes you a valuable resource for your audience. As important as the content itself is, the way you present the content is just as important. This is where testing comes into play. You also want to make sure the content in your email is not too long and overwhelming. If you send too much information at one time, you risk your message being lost and your email being ignored.
SL: Why is it so hard to get results using email? Or is it?
MF: One of the biggest challenges with email marketing is getting past all of the noise and competing with different messages going to someone’s inbox. Once you’re in the inbox, you need to make sure your email stands out (so keep on testing those subject lines), but even once the email is opened, you need to make sure your message is relevant and valuable to your recipient. If you are getting high unsubscribes, you may want to take a look at your email program to see what you can do to keep your audience engaged.
SL: Why does email work so well as a content marketing tool – especially since we have mobile, LinkedIn, social, etc?
MF: Email marketing is a very effective way to share new content and encourage engagement because you are able to send to a specific audience and you know it’s getting to their inbox. Although social media is great for building a relationship between your brand and your audience, sometimes it’s impossible to know if the message is hitting your entire target audience. With 91% of consumers reported checking their email at least once a day (ExactTarget), brands should benefit from sharing their content through this channel.
SL: What is the Holy Grail metric when it comes to email as a tool? What is the number that you want to grow — click-throughs? Subscribers? Referrals? And why?
MF: I think that it’s very important to take a look at click-throughs, both from a unique and total click-through standpoint. Open rate is important, but when it comes to engagement and how valuable your message and CTA is, click-throughs can tell you how many people are interested in following the path you created. Unique tells you how many individual people are engaging with your email, but total also shows you how many people are coming back and engaging again. If large portion of your audience is opening our email, but not clicking through to your offer, it’s then time to think about what you need to adjust in your email.
SL: What are other key metrics you should pay attention to with email campaigns?
MF: I think that paying attention to amount of subscribers and opt outs is very important. You want to make sure you are promoting your email program effectively to encourage subscribers and that the program is successful in retaining those subscribers. I also think paying attention to the read rate and skim rate of an email is a good indication of the level of engagement with an email. Even though someone may not click, if the email shows that people have spent a good amount of time on your email, that speaks to the interest they have with your content.
SL: If you are starting an email strategy — what should businesses consider and do to lay the groundwork for success?
MF: First, it’s very important to figure out a goal for your email. Is it to sell a specific product, encourage a form-fill, or just to serve as a means of thought-leadership? This will help you figure out your intended audience and also help you build the best email for your purpose.
Second, you want to make sure that you are optimizing your deliverability rate so that the emails you are going to send will actually hit the intended inboxes. Having a clean database is extremely important in your overall email strategy and performance.
Third, craft your email to align with your goals. Remember to try to use responsive design so the email renders well in mobile, tablets and desktop. Send test emails to yourself to make sure you aren’t missing small errors and that the email will render correctly in various ESP’s. Tools like Pardot have built-in email spam analysis and rendering so you see how your email will look across email clients and also make sure you don’t have barriers with your deliverability. Finally, after the email sends, make sure you report on performance. This is the best way to see how you can change and adapt your emails for future sends.