This article is part of the Email Marketing Essential series, an introductory DataValidation approach to all thing email. In the first article, we have gone over the basics of what is email marketing and how it works. From now on, all subjects that we will address are a bit more advanced. That’s something that will help you get your email marketing to the next level.
Email Marketing Strategy - a step-by-step guide
Knowing, right from the start, what you want to do with email marketing and what goals you have in mind will be tremendously helpful in the long run. That’s why, in this article, we will go over the 8 important steps for generating a powerful and reliable email marketing strategy. This will prove important for digital marketing specialists, as well as for sales specialists, as both categories rely a lot on email lists to perform day-to-day work tasks.
Let’s start by explaining what we mean by email marketing strategy. Getting this out of the way will mean we will have time to go in-depth on each step.
What is a strategy?
An email marketing strategy is a plan that includes tactics, rules, procedures and goals related to email activity. Each of these elements need to relate to a company’s overall business plan and must be as detailed as possible.
Now that we have clarified this, we can start getting into the 8 steps to create said strategy
1. Define your goals
Something you always need to pay attention to when talking about email marketing is to be sure what exactly you plan on using email for. There are several goals that might apply to your business:
- To grow your business
- To increase customer retention
- To develop a channel for customer relationship
- To increase ROI for digital marketing efforts
- To distribute content to subscribers
Regardless of the reasons applicable to you, email can play an important role in achieving your goals. That’s why the first step is critical, because if you have your goals defined correctly, you can use various tactics, not just email, to start working toward them.
2. Choose an ESP
An Email Service Provider, or ESP, is the online service that you will be using for managing, creating and sending out email campaigns. Depending on the goals you have set up in the previous step, you will be able to start analyzing some viable options. Analyze their features, integrations, pricing and decide which email marketing platform is most suitable for your needs.
Before making a decision, be sure to read reviews on online platforms like Capterra or TrustPilot, because doing so will highlight the experience other users have had when using the service. On paper, one ESP might sound like a great choice, but they might have problems with support, for example.
3. Define your audience
What you will try to do with your email efforts is to keep your communication relevant. Correctly defining your audience is what will ensure that you can maintain the relevance of each email. You need to understand your audience and to make sure that subscribers fit the criterias that you have created. How do you do that? The most simple approach is to use buyer personas to map all the typologies of customers and/or prospects that you will be interacting with.
For B2C companies, some relevant buyer personas could be:
- Student persona
- Stay-at-home parent persona
- Non-parent persona
For B2B companies, buyer personas should focus on job titles, resulting in the following examples:
- Technical persona
- Business persona
Do your research, categorize your audience and start creating your personas.
4. Start growing your email list
Once you have set up the first steps of creating your email strategy, it is important to start thinking about growing your email list. You know what kind of people you want to attract and convert into subscribers, so now plan out some actions. If you already have traffic to your website or application, you could consider using a form to allow visitors to subscribe to your email list. Most ESPs will offer you a simple way to do so.
Another tactic you could consider is offering some incentives for users to subscribe. Inbound marketing is extremely attractive for subscribers and you might offer a free e-book in exchange for some of their personal information. Also, don’t shy away from giving your customers a discount when they subscribe to your newsletter, because this is a great way not only to grow your list, but also to develop a healthy relationship with customers.
Make sure to comply with anti-spam regulations, don’t buy email lists and don’t get yourself involved in shady practices. While that might ensure you get your message across fast, it is never a viable long-term strategy.
5. Define email types
Not all subscribers will be interested in all your emails. And that won’t happen because what you communicate is not relevant for them. No, it can happen because of how busy all of us are. In this crowded space, it is important to grab your subscribers’ attention with information they are likely to react to.
Start thinking of the content you will be sharing with subscribers. How can you categorize that? Are you going to focus on tips and tricks and occasionally on updates regarding discounts? If so, that sounds great, because you already have two distinct categories. Allow subscribers to choose the email lists they end up in.
This flexibility will eventually pay off, considering you reduce the risk of losing subscribers just because they are not interested in all the types of emails you will be sending out.
6. Create a communication plan
As soon as you have an answer to the following questions, you can map those answers in a long-term plan. How often do you plan on reaching out to your subscribers? What days of the week will you be using to schedule campaigns? Will you be having recurring campaigns, such as for Black Friday or Valentine’s Day?
Make sure to use the resulting plan, keep it updated and adhere to it, for a coherent email marketing communication and for protecting your brand identity. Furthermore, having clear schedules for sending out emails will also result in educating your audience.
7. Format your emails
This is something that we have addressed in the previous article as well, but we are going to also include it here, because of how critical it is. Correctly formatting your emails will not only result in them being properly displayed in all email clients, but it will also mean that customers and subscribers will be able to recognize your email and your brand. This is vital because you want to create a sense of familiarity about your brand and having clear guidelines regarding the format of emails will contribute to that.
8. Monitor and optimize results
Whenever you send out a campaign, your ESP will automatically create a report with the most important metrics that you will need to assess the success of each newsletter. Use that data to determine what approaches work best for you and monitor the evolution of your results.
But, from time to time, you will also want to optimize those results. There are various areas that you can address when trying to optimize email marketing results:
- Test out shorter, personalised subject lines
- Test out newsletters with and without images
- Test out more appealing Call To Actions
- Test out the newsletter on multiple email devices
Optimization could also refer to working on your email lists, segmenting it and sending out emails to a smaller number of subscribers.
Another approach you might consider for optimizing results is to periodically validate your email list. While this will not necessarily impact the metrics you follow most closely, it will, in turn, result in deliverability improvements that are vital for the success of your email marketing efforts. DataValidation offers email list cleaning services for businesses small and large, offering a free report and a free email hygiene service to periodically monitor the health of your lists. Consult DataValidation’s pricing page and the AutoPilot offering for more details.
If we were to summarize the 8 steps for creating your email strategy in three main ideas, those would be:
- A strategy needs to help you reach your goal, dictating the tool, tactics and schedule of your email marketing
- A strategy needs to be aligned with your overall business goals and each one needs to compliment the other
- A strategy is important only if the processes and rules that it contains are actually respected
Having a good email marketing strategy will help you get the most out of your efforts and stay up-to-date with best practices and your brand guidelines.
Continue reading DataValidation’s Email Marketing Essential series.