- If you've been in the digital marketing world for a while, then you know that one of the best working marketing tools nowadays is email marketing.
- Everyone checks their inbox at least once or twice a day. This means that you have a pretty decent percentage of chance to connect with your audience through emails, nurture them, and then ask them to buy from you.
- But in order to get started with email marketing, there are a lot of things you should know about such as having a relevant email database, the right content and design that your emails should have and how often to send them.
Twenty years ago, people would wake up in the morning, make themselves a cup of coffee and sit down to read the daily newspaper. These days, the coffee has stayed the same, but the newspaper has been replaced with a tablet or iPhone which is being used to view emails instead.
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or what product you are selling, being a part of your audience’s daily routine (and getting their attention before the stresses and distractions of work and life set in) is a hugely valuable marketing activity.
It can drive traffic to your website, online store, blog, and social media channels and help you reach your marketing goals quicker than many advertising platforms can.
Why Is Email Marketing Effective?
The reason that email marketing is often a more valuable marketing activity than advertising platforms like Google AdWords or Facebook Adverts is that people have actively opted in to receive these marketing messages.
They have a base level of brand awareness and know who you are and what you do – so you don’t have to try to educate them at the same time while selling to them.
But for many SMEs who have never entered the realm of email marketing before, getting started can be a bit daunting – how do you get your messages and content in front of people before they’ve had breakfast if you don’t even have a database? Where do you go to create an attractive branded email? What messages and content do you send to your users?
In this article, I am going to answer all of these questions and more. I will tell you exactly how to get started with email marketing including how to build a database, how to set up an email marketing account and what types of messages and content to send to your audience.
How to Create a Winning Email Marketing Strategy
Follow these 6 steps to create an email marketing strategy:
- Build an engaged database
- Don’t forget to clean your database!
- Don't buy a database
- Choose an email marketing platform
- Create engaging content and messages
- Use data and split testing
1. Build an engaged database
The first step in email marketing is having a database of people to send your content to! Creating, growing and managing a database is no easy task and is going to be half of your email marketing battle. You may have an existing list of customers in your CRM, but if they did not actively opt-in to receive your email marketing when they provided you with their contact details, you cannot assume that you can just start sending them content out of the blue.
The first step in creating an email database is to provide your customers and audience with a way to opt-in to your list – add an email signup box or page to your website and an opt-in box on all contact forms and touch points you currently have with clients. This will help you grow your database organically.
Database Growth Tip: Run a Comp
Depending on how much traffic you get on your website and how fast you want to launch your email marketing, you may wish to jump start your database growth with a competition. Try doing a giveaway where users provide their name and email address to go in the draw to win a prize – promote the competition primarily to your existing audiences on social media, your blog, your website, in-store and anywhere else you feel is relevant.
You will find an above-average unsubscribe rate with this method of database growth as there will be people who only join to try and win the prize, but if you are promoting the competition to your existing audience you should find that a decent amount stick around after the competition is done and dusted.
If the competition proves to be a successful way for you to grow email signups then you may want to consider running one every 3-4 months to ensure that you are achieving continuous growth rates.
2. Don’t forget to clean your database!
You’ll also want to ensure that you are doing some fairly regular spring cleaning on your database – removing any spam accounts as well as any accounts that are not engaging with your content (your email marketing platform should be able to help you with that). There are a few different reasons that we need to manage our database:
- Cost: A lot of email marketing platforms will charge you per email you send – so if you are sending your emails to 2,000 people but only 200 people are regularly opening your emails, you are essentially spending a lot more on email marketing than you need to be.
- Spam Filters: Sometimes, rather than unsubscribe to your email, people will just mark it as spam or junk. If too many people mark your content as spam then certain email clients may start filtering out your emails to everyone, not just those who have marketed it as spam.
- Spam Accounts: As your database grows you’ll find that it collects a lot of ‘junk’ – accounts that are clearly fake email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, you’re paying to send these emails, so it is in your best interest to clean out any that you don’t think are real audience members.
3. Don't buy a database
Should I buy an email database? NO! No, no, no, no, noooooo!!!!
There are a lot of companies out there selling databases – you’ve probably seen them, and they’ve probably already tried to sell you their wares…. more than once. If it feels dodgy, that’s because it is.
There are a lot of reasons that you shouldn’t purchase a database, but the top reasons are as follows:
- You’ll piss people off.
They don’t know who you are and they didn’t opt-in for your emails, so best-case scenario, they will unsubscribe straight away. Worst-case scenario, they will mark you as spam, which, as we have already discussed above, can affect your ability to send emails to the people who actually want to receive them.
- Costs (again).
Same deal, you’re spending money buying a list of names and then you’re spending money emailing them when they won’t even open the emails.
The type of business that makes money from selling consumer’s contact details is probably not the type of business that you want to be involved or associated with. This industry is infamous for scams and rip-offs, and it is quite likely that your purchased database will be padded out with fake email accounts or accounts that don’t fit your demographic requirements.
When it comes database growth for email marketing think quality over quantity – a small engaged audience is better than a large angry mob who are being sent unsolicited marketing messages.
4. Choose an email marketing platform
Once you’ve got your database sorted, the next step is to find an email marketing program that meets your needs. There are heaps out there and most of them have free trials so that you can take them for a test run before committing. For the purpose of this article, I’ve used a platform called MailerLite, but I recommend having a look at and comparing a few platforms to find the features and pricing model that suits your needs the best.
Some of the features that you might want to consider are:
- A drag and drop editor that is easy to use,
- Mobile-friendly templates,
- Automated email marketing features,
- Tools to schedule future emails,
- Tools to do split A/B testing,
- Database management features,
- Good analytical dashboard so you can track the performance of your campaigns,
- Integration with other platforms you use like WordPress, Salesforce, Shopify, WooCommerce or your CRM.
Once you’ve selected your email marketing platform, create an account and jump in to get started.
You’ll want to start by building a template or two that are branded, ensuring that all your emails have a consistent aesthetic and are easily recognisable by your audience. If you’re stuck for inspiration, I’d recommend touching base with a graphic designer or research to have a look at what some of the big brands and companies are doing.
I would recommend creating a few different templates to suit the different types of content that you plan to send your audience – if you spend the time at the beginning setting up your email marketing framework then you will find that the process of creating, scheduling and sending a new email will be super-quick and simple.
The specific instructions for creating your templates will vary from platform to platform, but most – including MailerLite – include a handy drop and drag tool that allows you to build your templates with little to no design or coding experience. You may also wish to pair this part of the process with other handy tools like Canva to create attractive email headers, footers and internal graphics.
5. Create engaging content and messages
Ok, so you’ve got a list of people to send your marketing messages to, and your account is all set up and ready to start sending. So now you just need to figure out what you’re going to send them!
You’ve spent a lot of time and effort creating your email marketing database, so the last thing you want is for half of them to unsubscribe as soon as you start sending emails. The biggest and best piece of advice that I can give you here is to ensure that you are nurturing your audience – they gave you their contact details, trusting that you would give them something valuable in return. If the only time you ever send them emails is when you want something from them – like their money – then you will find that you will end up with a very high unsubscribe rate.
Email marketing should contain a mix of different themes and messages – yes, some of those messages will be promotional and sales-driven, but there should be some informative or educational content in there as well that keeps your audience engaged.
For example, if you’re in fashion, you might want to send styling tips and current trends; if you’re in the building and construction industry then put together some easy DIY projects; if you sell a product then create some content around the different ways that product can be used or video tutorials etc.
Figure out what your audience wants – what their interests are and what questions they have – and create content in the form of blogs, video and imagery around those topics. Chances are, you are already creating this as part of your content marketing strategy for use on social media and other channels, so your email marketing will just be a compilation of this content.
If you are struggling with this part of your email marketing strategy and you don’t know what to send, you may wish to try setting some goals. Yes, you probably want to generate direct sales from your efforts, but an increase in website traffic or new subscribers to your YouTube channel would be nice as well, yeah?
If you are regularly sending your audience something juicy that they love – something informative, interesting or educational that they see value in – then they will be a lot more receptive to your sales and promotional messages.
6. Use data and split testing
Like all digital marketing channels, the best starting point is often to look at the data on user behaviour – think about what times of the day you look at your emails, which emails get your attention, which emails annoy you and which emails you thoroughly enjoy receiving.
Use that information as a starting point for scheduling how regularly you send your own emails, the time of day that you send them and the content and messages that they contain.
You can then use the tools in your email marketing platform such as A/B Split Testing to test and trial slight alterations, constantly tweaking your campaigns to improve your open rates and click-through-rates.