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If you’re like most people, you check your inbox throughout the day, but open and read only a few emails. Which do you open, and why? If you knew how your email recipients answer that question, you’d be conversion royalty. To achieve stellar open rates and conversions, marketers must tap today’s email marketing superpower: hyper-personalization. That’s just marketing speak for content written to individual humans rather than “audiences”, and delivered on whatever device, session, or browser those humans are using at the moment you reach out.
Like email marketing entrepreneur Marie Forleo, who leveraged this insight to go from Jersey bartender to best-selling author and coach, you can create hyper-personalized emails that turn prospects into passionate brand evangelists who help grow your business.
We’ll show you how to use this timeless tool to convert customers — B2C or B2B — on all your verticals and keep them scanning their inbox for more.
“Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves.”
― Content Marketing Institute founder, Joe Pulizzi
Email marketing strategy may seem old school to chasers of “the next big thing” in our lightning-fast tech turnover era. Rather than fading away, however, email marketing has been evolving and mellowing like aged wine. If A/B tested and finessed correctly, it can deliver the hyper-personalized empathy that makes customers click.
No longer just a blunt tool for extending offers and generating leads, email marketing is a long-term relationship builder — companies that leverage it enjoy higher sales and cost-effectiveness.
According to Campaign Monitor, email marketing generates an ROI of 4,400%.
Social media may be all the rage, but it only averages a 0.58% engagement rate. Email marketing strategy outperforms social media, SEO, and PPC strategies. Salesforce found that, across all industries, email boasts:
85% recipient reach
22.9% average open rate
3.7% click-through rate
Not seeing those numbers at your company? You’re not alone. According to B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, the majority of B2B marketers do achieve brand awareness and audience education, but they aren’t building lasting relationships with prospects and current customers to promote re-purchases — yet. Read on to surpass that majority.
“Many people ask, ‘Can marketing strategists and digital marketing strategists be used interchangeably?’ No — a marketing strategist is different from a digital marketing strategist.
Once you realize that 319.6 billion emails are projected to be sent daily in 2021, and that 73% of marketers surveyed by Campaign Monitor say email marketing contributed heavily to conversions, you’ll know why you’ve got to get started.
Like everyone else in your organization, you prioritize sales and revenue. If your executives are email marketing skeptics, show them the data and help them understand that a rigorously tested, empathic, and creative email marketing strategy can increase revenue by:
Aligning sales and marketing: When your sales and marketing teams are on the same page and thoroughly understand the pain points and personas they’re speaking to — both verbally and digitally — your brand messaging will be consistent and resonate memorably with your current and future customers.
Gathering and managing lead intelligence data: When you do a deep dive to understand your future customers, why they need your services, and how they respond to each touchpoint, you can adjust your messaging to make it more authentic while nudging them through their buying journey more effectively.
Distributing and segmenting your content: In order to send the right message to the right people at the right time in their buyer’s journey, you’ll need to produce an email nurture campaign with multiple sequences for each distinct persona you discover. Those who drop off after a certain touchpoint may prove to be a new persona that requires different authentic messaging.
Tracking, measuring, and analyzing: Since you can’t be sure exactly when you’ll get the business from each of your campaigns, you should define and track relevant metrics in real time to observe the behaviors of “buyers-in-waiting.” According to B2B Content Marketing 2020: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends, 83% of highly successful content marketers use KPIs to measure content initiatives (only 30% of less-successful ones do so).
Shortening your sales cycle: Targeting the right person at the right stage in their buyer’s journey means only sending messages that are relevant at the moment, encouraging customers to convert sooner — while spending less time and resources courting them.
Increasing staff efficiency: When your team isn’t trying to pursue mass markets in hopes of stumbling upon the customer who needs your services, they can channel time and resources into educating and managing only those prospects with promising behaviors.
Improving cost-effectiveness: When you achieve the efficiency wins above, your costs — both financial and labor — will decrease, along with your stress.
To achieve these goals as quickly and effectively as possible, make sure to get a digital marketing strategist on your team ASAP.
“Loosen up. Authenticity trumps perfection when connecting with readers.”
― Epic Content Marketing Institute founder, Joe Pulizzi
The duration of your email marketing strategy should always be informed by authenticity: what are the recipients in each buyer’s journey phase feeling and needing? How do they prefer to define, explore, and resolve their pain points?
With authenticity and empathy as your guides, define the purpose of each campaign. Is it to introduce your brand to fresh leads who know nothing about you and who aren’t yet aware that they need you? Is it to engage and further educate brand connections, followers, or clients who are familiar with your offerings, but may not be prepared to leverage them at the moment?
If you’re marketing exotic desserts for foodies and dessert connoisseurs who are already seeking new taste sensations from across the globe, a short-term email marketing strategy brimming with immediacy and product detail is ideal.
A demographic that isn’t as well versed in exotic foods and desserts, on the other hand, may not yet be aware of your product’s value. It requires a longer strategy that aligns with, then expands their dessert aspirations before fulfilling their freshly activated appetites.
Re-engaging leads who’ve gone cold after interacting with or downloading your content requires a short-term middle- and bottom-of-the-funnel email marketing strategy. Attract the attention of B2B or B2C prospects quickly by reminding them about the content they’ve already enjoyed, learned from, or interacted with.
Re-engage them with three to four emails expanding on that original content by requesting feedback. For e-commerce sites, you can bring in sales with product details, testimonials, or special offers delivered in interactive emails.
Strategizing a campaign for fresh, top-of-funnel prospects who are merging toward the middle requires a longer, educational sales cycle that will gradually nudge prospects closer to a “maybe” or a “yes.” Keep your brand fresh in their minds by nurturing them with 7–10 empathy- and data-packed emails.
“Don’t push people to where you want them to be; meet them where they are.”
— VP Marketing HubSpot, Meghan Keaney Anderson
Whether you’re targeting B2B, B2C, or e-commerce prospects, always talk to your future business partners or customers like you would to your friend or neighbor in a specific industry, with a specific amount of expertise and a specific attention span.
All email strategies leverage automation to nurture leads through the same stages (top-, middle-, and bottom-of-the-funnel).
Turning website visitors into B2C leads and guiding them through the often sporadic buyer’s journey requires lead-nurturing automation to make these actions quick and easy:
Subscribing to emails
Downloading content offers
Acting on cross-selling and up-selling offers
Recommendations and review displays
Useful, actionable content offers
Onboarding and subscription functions
Win-back campaigns designed to re-engage lapsed customers
In all verticals, segmenting your campaigns to send only the content that each recipient type is truly interested in will net you the biggest return.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”
— ancient Chinese philosopher and military strategist, Sun Tzu
Successful email marketing requires spending just as much time and energy on strategy as you do on tactics.
Strategy reflects the high-level intent — the “what” and “why” behind your large scale plan and long-term framework. Strategizing requires outward focus on the future direction your organization has defined in its mission, goals, and key performance indicators.
Leadership defines a strategy that may include revenue and reputation assessment goals. It may define a specific dollar or target market or industry award win, but it provides no detailed plans on how to execute and achieve those goals.
Tactical plans are the “how” which channel strategic intent into action. They clearly define smaller-scale, short-term, easy-to-follow frameworks. Tactical plan specialists are usually inward-looking managers who execute strategy by defining how the concrete implementations align with the strategic direction. Their primary focus is efficiency — executing high-quality campaigns with the fewest resources — which requires strict adherence to timelines.
“Quality content is brimming with … relentless empathy for the audience.”
— MarketingProfs CCO Ann Handley
Your industry and business will determine whether the overarching goal of your email marketing strategy will be to re-engage leads, nurture leads, create brand awareness, or drive traffic to your websites to generate sales.
The immediate goal of any email marketing strategy is to elicit an action from your prospects — whether that’s visiting your website, reading your content, signing up for your webinar, scheduling a strategy session, or purchasing your product or service. To close more deals and increase revenue, you’ve got to build trust in your solutions with each email.
To achieve those goals, hone these strategies carefully:
Lead magnet selection: Incentivizing people to submit their email address requires choosing the offer (downloadable PDF, report, e-book, video, checklist, or self-assessment) that addresses their needs or pain points via email sequences that usher them gently through your funnel. If you solve a problem or promise a quick win, they’ll be back.
Relevant campaign structuring: Present only the content that’s relevant to your prospect at each buyer’s journey stage: awareness, consideration, decision, and retention. Expose them to your message and your value gradually, in increments that mirror their mindset.
Email length: This choice will be dependent on your business, sales cycle, and funnel structure. If the value of your product or service requires specialized knowledge or scientific research to explain, do so succinctly.
Email frequency: When your leads are fresh and your offerings are new to them, they’ll enjoy more frequent emails and you’ll remain top-of-mind. After you’ve made a lasting impression and they’ve fully understood your value, slow down your nurture campaign so you don’t overwhelm them with a hard-sell tone.
According to Invesp, it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current one, so think before you send. Get inside their hearts and minds before you write.
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”
— Marketing guru and best-selling author, Seth Godin
Before deciding on new email nurture tactics, do an audit to determine whether any old blogs, podcasts, live streams, or webinars can be repurposed into stories that address the current needs, desires, and pain points of your prospects.
Hearing the story of someone who has resolved a similar dilemma can comfort struggling readers. A detailed behind-the-scenes story of how your product is sourced or manufactured can inspire curious readers. All readers remember stories of victory and transformation — and where they found those stories.
Case studies and testimonials bring real people with real problems to the fore and humanize even dry, technical products or services. Frequently asked questions are appreciated, but some products and services require interviews with trusted experts who infuse new brands with authority.
A/B testing all your campaigns is the most effective tactic you can employ, no matter which form your content takes. If open rates aren’t thrilling you, test shorter and longer, more direct and more nuanced subject lines. Try different ways of personalizing your message — direct appeals aren’t always preferred over intrigue, suspense, or humor. Step inside your prospect’s shoes and walk in them for a while to understand the journey.
Here are a few basic tools and capabilities you’ll need to secure before creating a successful email marketing campaign.
The software you choose should be built by marketers, like the creators of HubSpot. Make sure it features advanced segmentation logic to let you know exactly who enrolls in your workflows and when.
It should allow you to personalize your emails for each recipient using specific details from your contacts database or CRM, and to create automated messages or sequential email series that don’t appear sporadic. Once you’ve got the platform implemented, you’ll need a content development team to fill in the content.
A content strategist determines the goals and KPIs, structures the flow and branching logic of each campaign, then tracks and reports results. If they’re not satisfied with the number of conversions, strategists will A/B test various options and continue tracking until they achieve the desired results. The strategist outlines the purpose each message serves for each persona in each stage.
A copywriter studies your persona and buyer journey stage as well as your product or service to extract pain points and solutions. Then, they make the “why” and the “how” sound like a personal note from a friend or colleague. Most importantly, the copywriter crafts the subject lines — which should be A/B tested rigorously — that inspire people to open their emails.
Nobody wants to read an email that’s not aesthetically pleasing. A designer lays out each email with graphics, images, GIFs, videos, or interactive features to make it easy on the eye. The colors, fonts, and outlines a designer chooses influence the reader consciously and subconsciously — so design is both an art and a science.
Executing a successful email nurture campaign is not an exact science. It takes rigorous research, marketing savvy, and creative instinct to achieve conversion goals that make the effort worthwhile.
If you don’t have the right technology, talent, and strategic experience in-house, it may take a bit longer, but you won’t be sorry you invested in an email marketing strategy.