A properly-implemented email marketing program is a tool that can improve the impact of your overall content marketing effort by keeping your audience engaged, driving traffic to all of your content, and helping build stronger relationships.
It's also important to note that email marketing is not a successful marketing strategy on its own. Rather than using it as an isolated tool, your marketing efforts will be far more successful if you properly integrate email marketing into as many inbound campaign channels as you can.
1. Build Your List at Every Opportunity
One of the most basic principles of good email marketing is that it must be permission-based. Your prime objective is to deliver high-quality, timely, relevant content to customers who expect it and want to receive it. And you simply cannot do this with any kind of purchased or rented list. Instead, you must build your list, slowly and deliberately, by asking members to join (opt-in), and ideally by then confirming that they want to stay (double opt-in). It takes time to build a substantial list this way, though, so to maximize your progress, integrate your email data collection at every possible opportunity: include a sign-up form on every blog and content page, include a link to a sign-up form in your social media posts, build in “forward to a friend” functionality in email campaigns themselves, etc.
2. Leverage All of Your Content
You put a lot of effort into your content-based marketing: you write blog posts, create eBooks and white papers, post regularly on social sites, tweet, and so on. You may even generate good content through customer service forums, technical support documentation, and more. Email campaigns can significantly extend the reach of all of this valuable content. Take advantage of the work you’ve already done, and leverage all of these types of content in your email newsletters. Even older content is fair game: there’s no reason to assume that your readers have read all of your old blog posts or white papers, so if they’re timely and relevant, put them to work in your email program.
3. Segment and Target Wisely
Database segmentation can be a powerful tool for targeting email readers based on any number of factors. But all this potential can also create a trap for would-be email marketers who get bogged down in all the possibilities. In practice, detailed and nuanced segmentation may be more valuable for businesses with vast product ranges, huge libraries of content, millions of ecommerce transactions, and especially an active and high-volume email marketing program. For many brands, though, more basic segmentation—if any—likely will be highly effective, especially in the beginning. Some of the easiest and most useful target criteria include:
- Product interest
- Purchase history/sales pipeline
- Location (especially if your distribution includes brick-and-mortar stores or a reseller network)
So consider starting with a relatively simple and direct email strategy. As you gain traction and experience, look for practical ways to refine and improve your targeting
4. Include Email in Analytics
Today’s marketing goes well beyond the boundaries of your website. As a result, individual analytics for your website, social media, email, and other channels just aren’t enough anymore.
Every professional email marketing platform includes tools to analyze your campaigns: delivery vs. bounce, opens, clicks etc. These metrics are very helpful for improving your email marketing efforts through understanding what works and what doesn’t. At the same time, though, it’s important to track your email campaigns as part of your complete marketing analytics (e.g., via Google Analytics). Marketing analytics data can answer cross-channel questions, such as:
- how many people clicked through on your email but didn’t convert?
- are there email contacts that would be better nurtured through social nurturing, as opposed to email nurturing?
- which email contacts convert into customers at a faster rate -- those who subscribe to the blog first, or those who enter the database through another channel?
By building your emails with trackable events, using named actions or sources, and passing variables that identify segmentation, you can see clearly how email fits into and contributes to your overall success.
5. Think Mobile First
Several reports claim that 2013 was the tipping point at which the number of mobile devices and mobile usage surpassed desktop/laptop. This is especially relevant for email marketing, given the number of users who check email on their mobile devices first. So, just like designing your web content to be responsive and mobile-friendly, your email campaigns must also be designed for smaller screens. That includes not only visual elements, but also content: keep your messages brief and relevant, and make it easy for mobile users to follow links to your content.
Here are few other things to consider when making your email strategy mobile-friendly:
- Ensure the landing pages and forms your email links are optimized for mobile users
- Offer both plain text and HTML versions of your email.
- Use descriptive alt text under your images in case they don’t display.
- Test your email templates to see how they comes across in different mobile devices (see Pardot's mobile test below)
Make 2014 the year when you improve your email’s ability to help customers identify the content that is meaningful to them and influences their decision to take action. Taking the appropriate steps to segment your database, optimizing your email for mobile, and targeting your content towards your buyers journey will help make make the difference in emails that flop and ones that generate revenue.