Email first came into limited use in the 1960s, which is astonishing considering only 0.4% of the world’s population had access to the internet in 1995.
Let that sink in... Email is even older than the “mass” use of the internet.
This was during a time when the internet was a shell of what it is today, with dial-up connections and terminals. It was limited, primitive, and most people just didn’t have it. In fact, the author and recipient needed to be online at the same time for email to even work.
Fast forward a few decades and somewhere along the way, along with the many advancements and improvements to everything, marketers realized that they had a powerful tool in their hands. They could directly advertise, sell, and reach their audience.
And everyone’s inbox began to flood with vitamin offers, clothing sale advertisements, weight loss supplement promises, and much more. It was such a problem, it was almost impossible to have an empty inbox.
Everyone began installing ad blockers and filters to keep their email pristine.
Of course, from a personal standpoint, it was a great approach. Keeping your inbox clean is a right everyone should have. But from a work point of view, that was a huge blow for marketers. They could no longer reach their target audience.
Well, they could. But they had to face reality: either they delivered top notch quality, and relevancy, or they were firmly filtered into the spam folder.
These days, that golden rule still stands. And email is still very much alive, and the most effective way of increasing your ROI.
It can make or break your business, because it’s often the first step in the sales cycle.
So, let’s take a deeper look at email and ask the tough questions, like why it still matters, and how you can best use it to meet your business goals.
The Importance of Email
Although it’s been around for decades, email is still very much widely used, and effective. It’s hung around for so long, it’s pretty much safe to say it isn’t really going anywhere, at least not in our lifetimes.
And there’s a reason why it’s used to communicate with coworkers, family, friends, and even customer service reps: it’s just a direct means of communication that facilitates conversations. It doesn’t require a phone plan, or number, it doesn’t require a physical address. It’s simple, easy, and established.
Think of the perks that email boasts:
It directly connects you with audiences.
People often keep their email addresses for years, because it’s such a hassle to change it.
It’s often checked on all devices, like mobile and desktop.
Email accounts are often tied up in several things, like social media, store accounts, loan documentation, etc.
And since it’s pretty much a solid means of communicating, as long as marketers deliver valuable, relevant information in their emails, they can guarantee they won’t be filtered into the spam folder, or unsubscribed.
Quality Email Campaigns
Of course, it’s easier said than done. Being high quality is… Well, complicated. One person’s definition of a quality email campaign may differ from another’s. Blame it on preferences and opinions.
However, all hope is not lost. There are steps taken that are proven effective time and time again. And as it turns out, they’re not difficult to implement.
Avoid Being Spammy
This is an obvious one. Being spammy is what changed the game for marketers in the 1990s. They’d gotten away with so much beforehand, that people took a drastic step to solving a problem that was hindering their quality of everyday life.
Checking email was a chore.
Now, email needs to be valuable, informative, helpful. Anything but spammy. Link to an informative blog post, or offer a free ebook download that you know they’ll find relevant and interesting. Add a coupon code in there, to encourage further sales, if they’re established customers. Whatever do you, make sure the readers get something in return for their efforts (subscribing to your emails, and opening them).
And don’t make the mistake of sending out too many emails. One or more times per day is a bit much. Send out relevant emails, based on funnel stages, in a weekly fashion. Even 2-3 times per week is still considered decent.
Work In Conjunction With Social Media
Consider the last time you were in social media, like Facebook. You’ll see ads here and there, and they’re all relevant. Whether it’s items you’ve browsed recently, or not, chances are they are highly targeted to your specific interests.
And with things like automation, you can connect your marketing across channels from email to social media, including Facebook. In fact, it will allow you to reach out to all parts of your sales conversion funnel.
It even features something called Facebook Lookalike, which connects you to audiences who may be interested in what you have to offer, based on their similarities to your existing customer base.
For instance, maybe you’re an art supply seller. Your existing customers actively browse other craft stores, like Michaels. Facebook Lookalike would allow you to reach people who have never shopped or even heard of you, so long as they too shopped at Michaels, and were interested in art supplies.
Partner Up As Needed
If all of this is starting to sound time consuming, automated, and complicated to you, then it’s time to get serious: chances are you’re going to have to rely on some partners. Most businesses do, so don’t feel like it’s a last resort, or a reflection of your limitations.
As you begin building all of this cross-channel marketing automation, you’ll start realizing you don’t have the skillset, tools, or funding to make it all happen. Obviously, you can just stick to what you know you can realistically accomplish yourself, or with your staff, if you have a decently sized team. But if you want to grow beyond that, you’ll need some help.
When you do partner up, you’ll see what their technology and numbers allows them to handle automation for you. But it will involve plenty of time to set up in a way that is reflective of your brand, while still being functional and effective. It takes plenty of effort, so don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way.
This is why it’s so important to be picky about who you work with. Ideally, you want your partners to be well-equipped, knowledgeable, friendly enough to make your interactions as stress-free as possible, and available to talk as needed. They also need to understand your business model and goals, so they can better design the automation with your brand in mind.
Don’t make the mistake of settling for the first partner you come across. Keep your options open, talk to different options, and do your research in advance. Get a feel for how they work, and what sets them apart.
Covering The Basics
If you’re not ready for automation, partnerships, cross-platform marketing, etc. not to worry. Oftentimes, it’s the small initial steps taken that have the most impact.
And this is no exception. Stripping it all down to its simplest steps, there are only four major steps you’ll want to take above all else. You can grow from there, so think of them as a solid starting point.
The steps are as follows:
Create a consolidated customer view that aids your ad targeting. Combine social media, email data, and mobile.
Email databases are going to be relevant far longer than other tracking methods, like web cookies, which are temporary.
Marketing databases allow advertisers to segment users based on historical data. That means it’s easier to reach them with the right message, at the best time, on the most optimal platform.
Be honest about your budget. How much are you spending, and how much are you generating? Are you breaking even, or are you too close for comfort? Email can help combine data across marketing platforms.
Tracking With Email
Clearly, email can be used for more than reaching people directly. It’s also a great means of tracking, for better advertising, and targeting.
But how, and why?
For one thing, it’s way more reliable than cookie data. It won’t disappear like cookie data does. More so, people browse the internet on several devices per day. Tablets, phones, desktops, laptops, work computers, etc. So email tracking allows marketers to track all of those browsing experiences across the internet. Everything from websites to social media, on every device.
It comes in handy, when everything you use is pretty much tied to your email. You can group everyone into segments and then reach them at multiple touch points.
This is done for two reasons: everyone’s place within the conversion funnel will be different, and user intent within their place in the funnel will dictate your email messaging to them.
It helps to envision yourself shopping for something. Maybe you need a new coffee maker, and you’ve been reading blogs and reviews. You’ve looked at comparison lists too, several of them in fact.
But for some reason you’re not running to buy a coffee maker yet. What’s going on?
It’s likely that there is so much information to process, especially with some of the latest coffee maker models out there, that everything feels… unclear. Which one is really good, and which one could be eliminated from the list? More importantly, which one meets your specific needs?
This would be a good time for the business to send out an email linking to a valuable resource, preferably one that made everything clear. This would help propel you from the conversion stage, to conversion.
The marketing objective there is to maintain your interest enough to get you to make a purchase. Otherwise, if all you’re doing is getting frustrated, you’re likely to go to a competitor.
Now imagine what would happen in the same scenario gone wrong. You’re looking for a coffee maker, you’re considering different models, you’re confused. And what type of email do you get? You get one that links to the company story.
That won’t help. And you’re likely to become frustrated with the brand for not offering you more information that allows you to make a smart purchase.
This means when someone reaches a new stage in the marketing funnel, you absolutely need to send the right email. Here’s a little list to help you remember what to do:
Brand Awareness - Use social media and ads to tell people about your brand, and use free content to entice email signups. Blog posts are particularly helpful here.
Issue Awareness - This is when potential customers realize they have an issue that your product/service could potentially solve. Try linking to your page from social media, and keep pushing those signups. Once you have enough, you can share a blog post that talks about their specific problem, the one you specialize in solving.
Consideration - The people in this stage are now considering your brand, so use FAQ pages, landing pages, and YouTube videos to offer content that showcases your brand and its offerings the most. Remember to provide informational content about your products/services, so everything is nice and clear.
Conversion - Send out coupon emails to entice further sales, send out helpful shipping and tracking emails, and always thank them for their purchase. If you can suggest helpful items based on their purchase, even better.
Retention - Long-time customers should get access to things like membership discounts. Give them ways to save their favorite products to a list of some kind in their account. This encourages repeat business, while simultaneously making things easier for your customers.
Of course, the driving force behind every single one of these stages is buyer intent, which will change drastically in B2B vs. B2C.
The good news is that because of this, figuring out user intent isn’t as difficult as you might think. You don’t need to figure out user intent variations by product, or service.
Take a look at the lists below for better insight:
Does this help me justify my worth within my role?
What impact will this have on my business?
How do I make the boss happy?
Will this get me a raise?
What can I possibly improve on?
Will these products or services help me excel?
Will I earn a positive performance evaluation?
How about a bonus?
Notice, in B2B, the driving force is always related to excelling in your career. People inherently want to do well, and keep progressing. This is why we always feel like we want more, to reward our ongoing efforts.
And it makes sense: think of it as putting in tons of effort into your marketing. You want to see results for all your hard work. It’s what makes it all worth it, and keeps you motivated to keep going, to keep making improvements.
How can I make the most of my time?
How can this help me be a better parent, sibling, grandparent, etc.?
How can this help me stay healthy?
What will help my life feel more satisfying, or fulfilling?
Will this help me stay within budget?
Am I getting the best possible price for this?
And how do I look and feel as a result of this product/service?
Obviously, B2C incentives are far more personal, and revolve around satisfaction and happiness in everyday life. What makes life easier, both because of budgeting and time? What makes life feel more satisfying? How does this impact family dynamics and happiness? Or even personal ones (comfortable in your own skin)?
And this is crucial. People want to feel like whatever they’re purchasing is helping them out in some way in their personal life. Even the items you don’t think matter much count.
For instance, a shirt is a shirt upon first glance. But to someone who is focused on reflecting their originality and style through their clothing, in the spirit of self-acceptance and confidence, your shirt might mean so much more. It might be the exact thing they were looking for all this time, and it may be the crowning jewel of their amazing closet.
So, by now we’ve established how important email is. It’s been around for many decades because it’s effective, it allows businesses to connect with customers directly, and it allows them access to track potential customers across the internet to better understand things like user intent.
This allows you, the business, to be able to point at a stage in your sales funnel and say “they are right here.”
And based on that, you’ll know what type of emails to send. Whether it’s coupons for retention, or informative blog posts during the conversion stage, you’ll know exactly when and what to send to who.
But there’s more to email marketing than that. There’s more than the whole of the process, or even the four foundational must-have starting steps.
There’s something called lifecycle marketing, and it’s the act of continuously nurturing your established customer base, and thus, retaining them “for life.” This is super important, since 80% of your future revenue is expected to come from just 20% of your existing customers.
In other words, while your cross-platform marketing may allow you to obtain new business, it’s your lifecycle marketing that keep established customers interested.
And there are four major parts to it:
This stage welcomes people to your brand and offers information on your company story. Think of it as getting to know each other.
Obviously, making a good first impression is the goal here. Your first message sets your business’s tone, and details what’s to come. Language and copy tone play a key role. For instance, if a brand uses millennial lingo, and gifs, chances are their tone is funny, playful, and easy-going, because their target audience is the same way.
Don’t forget to make your company mission statement loud and clear, and don’t be afraid to step outside of the box. This is an email, and it’s an old form of communication, sure, but your emails shouldn’t be plain. There are plenty of valuable resources out there that dedicate themselves to making your emails shine.
Here are a few to consider:
Booster - Subscription based, but provides access to thousands of design options.
Moka - Much like Booster, but with a cleaner, more minimalistic aesthetic.
Destiny - Unlimited layouts, and compatible with MailChimp.
Green Village HTML Template - Minimal and pre-designed.
Responsive Email Template - Customize it as you want, knowing it’s all open source and HTML/CSS friendly. It’s also great on iPhone.
This keeps customers engaged, even after converting. It promotes recurring business by offering sales, discounts, and promotions. Recommendations based on their recently viewed or purchased items also helps.
These things help because although a free trial or sale has been completed, chances are high that your newfound customer still isn’t invested in the brand. It’s too soon.
So, the way you reach out, and what you reach out with, will determine if they fall off the funnel, and into recovery, or if they’ll stay committed to your products and services.
Here’s a mini guideline to-do list to keep in mind during the retention phase:
Plan for 4-6 emails over 10-14 days.
Your first email should be sent after their first transaction has been placed, or just before their free trial ends.
Send out an offer email. Focus on offering things like free shipping, free exchanges, or a free gift with purchase.
Suggest personalized product recommendations. These should be based on previously browsed or purchased items. If you have no clue which items those are, use the information from the signup process to best guess what they would be interested in. Whatever you do, don’t add pricing. Have them “Learn More” so they have to click into your product listing for it. This helps your traffic, and gets them invested by offering more information than you’d ever be able to in an email, at least reasonably.
Then an offer sequence. This begins with creating two series: one for high Customer Lifetime Value (subscribers who receive higher discounts), and one for low Customer Lifetime Value (lower discounts). Vary your promotions and keep them relevant. Meaning, don’t send higher discount codes to the low Customer Lifetime Value group by accident.
Note, the reason you want to create two series is because not every single one of your customers is looking to make expensive purchases. By creating two series, you’re meeting the needs of both sides of your established customers.
This focuses on the people who fall off during the retention stage. This is likely to occur when customers who purchase something from you find that you don’t offer anything else that strikes their fancy.
And it happens more often than businesses care to admit. It’s a product of poor marketing practices, or even poor outreach at the right time. Remember touch points? You want to capitalize on them as much as possible, and get them accurate.
So, plan for 4-5 emails over a span of 30 days. Your focus is people at risk of churning, as well as those who have recently churned, meaning those who have moved out of one of your funnel stages over a specific period
There are four tactics to use:
The “Miss You” email. Straight and to the point, this email should be on brand and delivered on an optimal day. Use your data to determine the best days of the week, and times, to reach people. Also, make sure your CTA is loud and clear.
The Win Back offer. Remember your two series? Depending on the Customer Lifetime Value, you should send out high or low discounts, but make them time sensitive to encourage immediate sales.
The reminder. Send out an email as a final encouragement to use the offered discount. Make sure that the discount expires in no more than 5 days total, so when you send your reminder, it’s 24-48 hours before that expiration.
And the plain email. This email is designed to look like it’s from one person, and it features the customer’s name and profile information, if at all possible. The content of this message is often along the lines of “You weren’t enjoying your X, so shoot me an email if you want to try a different one. I can help you find a much better option to suit your needs.”
This is the final stage of the life cycle, so it needs to go out with a bang. Think rewards. Offer exclusive promotions, access to special events, and other incentives to essentially pamper your most loyal customers.
Nurturing a sense of exclusivity helps out a lot here, since these are the people who are most invested in your brand. Showing appreciation goes a long way.
If you’re having issues identifying them, remember you have sales and behavior data you can sift through. Use your resources. Determine how often they purchase from you, and how long they’ve been a customer.
Plan for a max of 3 emails in a span of 90 days (one monthly email), and give out things like thank you incentives, exclusive sales and events, and even anniversary emails. These can be in relation to your brand’s birthday, or a celebration of the day they began purchasing from you.
Email Marketing to Meet Business Goals
The key to successful business is consistently obtaining new customers, while simultaneously cherishing established ones. After all, for every 5% increase in customer retention rates, there’s anywhere between a 25-95% increase in profits.
And email marketing is at the center of it all. It allows you to directly reach out to curious onlookers, new customers, loyal customers, and even those who churned at some point along the way.
That’s a powerful tool that when used to the best of your abilities, can really share the right information at the right time to make a significant difference. A curious passerby may suddenly get ahold of the information they needed to finally make their first purchase.
The trick is to ensure that your emails are high quality, helpful, relevant, and of course, automated.
This is where things get a little complicated. It’s a lot of work for one person, so unless you have a skilled team, and the numbers to make it happen, you’re likely to outsource your marketing automation efforts.
Just be sure to ask the right questions when that time comes, if it does. Your goal should be to not only automate your emails, it should be to be on brand, and helpful. Your customers come first, so their experience with your emailed content should be nothing short of exceptional.
Because when you strip away all these marketing tactics, and jargon, customers are people. There’s a real life person on the other side of the screen, reading that email. They have lives, issues, wants and needs that absolutely must be acknowledged. Your duty as a business is to help resolve at least one of those issues in the best, most hassle-free way possible.
Because if you don’t, then you’re not an essential. You’re not worth the investment. And that means you’ll be consistently fighting to obtain the smallest of sales.
That’s no way to run a successful business.
So, remember this next time you’re scoffing at your email, wondering how ancient it is, and if it’s even a smart way to conduct business anymore: email isn’t going anywhere, because it’s much too useful. The more you optimize it for your business, the better off you’ll be.
It may be older than the mass use of the internet, it may be prehistoric by our modern standards, but email is still the preferred method of contact in business. It’s still the best way to get in touch with your customers directly. And that is extremely valuable. All you need to worry about is using it to the best of your ability, to maximize its potential.
Based on all of this, do you feel your email marketing methods need some work?
Leave a comment below with your answer, I’d love some feedback!