How to run a successful email marketing campaign

A close up of hands working on an email marketing campaign.
A close up of hands working on an email marketing campaign.

Imagine you're networking after an event and discussing best practice around engaging prospects, existing customers, and driving marketing revenue. Email marketing is mentioned as one channel to leverage. Half of the group nod their head in agreement with the benefits described, while the other half proclaims that “email marketing is dead."

I'm sure you've been there. I certainly have.

"Email marketing is dead" is a quote that’s often used in communication circles, which I find interesting, as research proves that consumers beg to differ.

Campaign Monitor found that 72% of people actually prefer to receive promotional content through email over other forms of marketing channels. So why is this phrase frequently cited by marcomms professionals?

The problem isn’t that email as a marketing channel is dead. The problem is that companies are failing to build engaged email lists and craft emails that strategically move audiences along the customer journey.

Today, consumers are inundated with emails. According to McKinsey, the average person is said to receive around 120 emails per day. And email shows no sign of slowing down! By the end of 2023, Radicati Group predicts that worldwide email users will grow to more than 4.3 billion.

There's still clearly a lot of opportunity for brands here. That’s why we’ve dedicated this article to help you find the right consistency of urgency, attractiveness and effectiveness to successfully implement in your email marketing strategy.

Read on to hear our email marketing tips that can be used to grow email lists, develop relationships with subscribers and increase the ROI of your efforts!

What is email marketing?

Before we share our top email marketing tips, let’s first make sure we’re all on the same page by clarifying what exactly we mean by the term.

We like how email marketing experts, Mailchimp, describe email marketing as: 

A form of direct marketing that uses email to promote your business’s products or services.

So why invest in this communication practice? Well, the benefits of email marketing are vast! We’ve listed some of the reasons why email marketing is so important below.

  1. Increase brand awareness: The chances of your landing page getting in front of consumers is much higher when leveraging email compared to social media. You see, 90% of email marketing campaigns get delivered, whereas only 2% of your Facebook fans see your posts in their News Feed due to updates in algorithms reducing organic reach. Furthermore, the reach of email is much greater than the reach of social media. In 2019, the number of global e-mail users amounted to 3.9 billion, over a billion more than Facebook’s 2.6 billion monthly active users.
  2. Nurture relationships: Not only are email campaigns a great way to educate prospects and customers, but they're also fantastic at nudging audiences through the customer journey. By communicating with audiences in ‘lull’ moments, for example after they abandoned their cart, brands can develop deeper relationships with customers and speed up the sales process as a result. 
  3. Benefit from cost-effectiveness: According to an eMarketer study, the median email marketing ROI is 122% - that’s four times higher than any other digital marketing channel. To give you a monetary ballpark figure, DMA found that for every $1 spent, email marketing generates $38 in ROI.
  4. Drive action: Whether you’re trying to get customers to fill out a form or visit your website, the purpose of email lies in intent, which makes them a great marketing tool for driving leads and revenue! 24% of visitors from email marketing buy something as compared to 2.49% of visitors from search engines and 0.59% from social media, according to a survey conducted by Monetate.

    And it’s not just those who work in marketing that benefits from email, PRs also see value in leveraging this as communications tool too, as we discussed in our previous webinar Email Marketing for PR Pros. But while the above advantages might sound appealing, there's one thing to get started with email marketing and another to build a solid email list. In the next section of this article, we'll offer marketers tips for growing their marketing database.
A hand reaching out to an email icon signifying you have mail.

How do you grow your subscriber list?

There's no denying that brands who see high return in email marketing are those that build and maintain an engaged list of subscribers who actually want to read what they have to say. Marketers based in the EU know the importance of this all too well...

In May 2018, the GDPR legislation took the marketing world by storm when it wreaked havoc on the number of subscribers to marketing databases. And even outside of the EU, buying lists are now either illegal or frowned upon - and rightfully so! Since the volume of opted in subscribers has a key role in how successful an email marketing campaign and strategy is, many marketers are having to rethink how they sustainably go about growing their marketing database.

So if you’re still struggling to get your marketing database looking like it did pre GDPR, or if you’d simply like to understand how you can quickly boost your subscriber numbers, we've jotted down a few tips to follow! 

  • Install a ‘subscribe to our marketing database’ pop up on your website for first-time visitors
  • Ensure your marketing database subscription button is visible on all landing pages
  • If your marketing database is small, but your social media community is thriving – tap into your online fans!
  • Incentivise new subscribers to sign-up by running a competition or offer a discount
  • Invest in “lead magnet” content. This is content that can be sent in exchange for email addresses, for example, ebooks, cheat sheets, webinars etc.
  • Use email software that can help you make sense of your CRM data and optimise segmentation through advance analytics. 

How do you make an email campaign more effective?

While the benefits of a strong email marketing strategy are clear, competition for eyeballs on emails is relentless. Inboxes are a noisy space and standing out is difficult.

Put yourself in your reader's shoes. You're likely to have 32 tabs open, a ringing phone, a sea of notifications and an eight-second attention span while you skim through your email. When you think about that, it's clear that spending 2 hours putting a witty subject line together isn't guaranteed success. Regardless of how incredible your content might be, if it’s not well put together, then in the words of Ariane Grande, it’s “thank you, next!”

To help increase the chances of winning the attention of your audience, follow the below email marketing pointers.

Make sure your message is clear

Don’t overlook the importance of focusing your message. Trying to cram too many messages in one email can be confusing for your reader. If you have to send multiple messages, then we’d recommend breaking them up into a number of emails so that each can be as concise and short as possible. Attention-grabbing subject lines are important, but make sure the content of the email is aligned so that you don't come across as click-baiting. 

Get personal

These days, “Dear Sir/ Madam” just doesn’t cut it. Personalisation is now expected by customers, so don’t turn them off by taking a generalised approach. We’re not saying you need to know their favourite ice cream flavour (FYI brands, mine is cookie dough) - calling them by their first name is a good start. Next, segment your audience by key characteristics, such as whether they’re customers/ what product/s they’ve purchased etc. Breaking your subscribers into smaller groups will help you send more personalised and relevant emails. In addition to this, segmentation also has a positive impact on open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribe rates.

Find out our top tips for making your email campaign more effective.

Hyperlinks are great for readers who want to navigate to more content and they’re equally as great for us marketers since they’re trackable. By UTM tracking email landing pages and hyperlinks, you can get a much better idea of your customer’s journey and the type of content they’re interested in.

Have a reply address

Having no-reply@domain.com isn’t the friendliest move, nor does it encourage engagement with customers. Instead, it makes it clear that it’s a mass-send and takes away any personalisation efforts you've made. Moreover, no-reply email addresses are also more likely to be flagged as spam, meaning it’s less likely that your email will even end up in your audience’s inbox!

Design to attract

Your design has to be flawless and your content laser-focused, to ensure this, consider the below:

  • Invest in an email builder: We get it, you’re a marketer, not a graphic designer. But what if we told you that a comprehensive email builder can allow you to be both? Builders come with pre-built intuitive templates, so you don’t have to sweat if you you're lacking technical knowledge or graphic design experience.
  • Skip to the good bit: Put the most important information first for people who are short on time (that's why we suggested putting a number of CTAs too). Furthermore, don’t forget to use headings and bullet points to break the content up into scannable bite-sized sections.
  • Create mobile-first content: Research shows that mobile is preferred nearly 2:1 over webmail, so if you’re not ensuring your emails are user-friendly, you’re losing out. Send sample mails and open them on your phone to be certain.
  • Pick a palette: Keep it simple and choose around one or two brand colours so that your design looks clean. Speaking of brand imagery, don’t forget to feature your logo somewhere on the email so that audiences know this is official communication. We’d recommend including this in the header section. 
  • Blank space is good: Don’t feel like you have to cram as much information into the email as possible. Blank space is good as it allows your reader to focus on what’s important, and they’ll become less distracted from your message as a result.
  • Make the form simple: When it comes to forms, only ask your audience to fill in critical fields. If you’re keen to capture more information about them, look into progressive profiling rather than asking for all their information at once.

Find out the best time to send marketing emails

We’re often asked, “when is the best time to post on social media?”, and the answer applies to email too.

Truth is, there isn’t a one size fits all best time to send a marketing email.

The best time to post depends on when your specific audience is active. There are industry averages that you can use in the first instance, but it’s important to A/B test when you send emails so you can find your own audiences sweet spots. Good email marketing platforms will provide this information for you, which leads me on to the next point!

Use email marketing software

You can make your life a lot easier by following in the steps of the majority of marketing professionals and investing in an email marketing platform, also known as email marketing software. The application of email marketing tools are wide, but they're most commonly used to automate email workflows, A/B test messaging, manage subscribers, and optimise reporting. There’s a whole bunch of email marketing platform vendors out there, however, we’re big fans of the below:

  • Mailchimp
  • Hubspot
  • Marketo
  • Klaviyo
  • Drip

Psst. If we’ve missed out your favourite email marketing platform, drop us an email on hello@meltwater.com and tell us why you’re advocates and we’ll look into including them!

Monitor key metrics

While the metrics used to understand if you’ve been successful at email marketing depends on your campaign goal, the most common metrics adopted are open rate, click-through rate (CTR) and unsubscribes. Let’s take a look at each of them in more detail.

  • Open rate: Your open rate will tell you how well you’ve built your relationship. If the number is low, it means that people have started to delete upon receipt, which means you need to work harder on providing value and/or managing expectations.
  • CTR: If your CTR is low, it means that your message is either not targeted enough, or simply not getting through. In this case, focus on improving your copy.
  • Unsubscribes: If your unsubscription rate is high in relation to your opt-in rate, then you’ve passed the point of building value and writing good copy – you’ve got some work to do.

Wait until open rates and CTRs are high and unsubscriptions are significantly low before you take action – if it’s just a couple here and there, don’t take it personally

What does a good marketing email look like?

Before we wrap things up, we thought it would be cool to leave you with a few email marketing examples; we’ve tried to include a good mix of B2B and B2C campaigns to inspire you. Enjoy!

Asana: 

The reason why we love it: This is a great email that triggers intent. Asana cleverly encourages new subscribers to get involved with the app by highlighting key features and showing how easy it is to use them.

The reason why we love this email marketing campaign: This is a great email that triggers intent. Asana cleverly encourages new subscribers to get involved with the app by highlighting key features and showing how easy it is to use them.

Uber: 

The reason why we love it: It's clean and straight to the point.

The reason why we love this email marketing campaign: It's clean and straight to the point.

Slack: 

The reason why we love it: It's a very clever way of driving referral subscriptions as well as brand trust.

The reason why we love this email marketing campaign: It's a very clever way of driving referral subscriptions as well as brand trust.

Starbucks: 

The reason why we love it: The layout makes it easy to understand the three key focused messages of the email.

The reason why we love this email marketing campaign: The layout makes it easy to understand the three key focused messages of the email.

Trello: 

The reason why we love it: The email is a cleverly disguised #humblebrag that also gives the reader something free - what's not to love!

The reason why we love this email marketing campaign: The email is a cleverly disguised #humblebrag that also gives the reader something free - what's not to love!

So there you have it, a list of email tips to use and squeeze the most out of your marketing database. Hopefully by now you have a better idea of what goes into a successful email marketing strategy and best practices for optimising your efforts. Eager to learn more? Check out our on-demand webinar How to Win at Email Marketing. Want to add to our email marketing tips? Our inboxes are always open – tell us what worked for you and drop us an email on hello@meltwater.com