Everything You Want to Know About Email Marketing

Email marketing tends to get lost in the shuffle every time a new social media feature is released, yet it’s one of the most cost-effective channels in your marketing toolbox.

We’ll tell you what you need to know to get your bearings and incorporate it into your marketing stack (the right way).

Table of Contents

What is email marketing?

Understanding email marketing services

Email marketing software reviews

Email marketing best practices

Starter email marketing strategies

Quick email marketing tips to get started

What Is Email Marketing?

The most effective small business marketing strategies are usually digital—and they’re often more cost-effective than traditional advertising, to put it bluntly.

What Is Email Marketing? It’s Cost-Effective Remarketing

The technical definition of email marketing is to target and contact people through electronic mail, generally used as a more technically advanced and convenient evolution of direct mail marketing.

However, good email marketing doesn’t just involve spamming people with digital flyers. It works by sending offers and valuable content to leads who have signed up for your very own email list of their own volition.

Online email marketing works by capturing a lead’s email address in exchange for something of value, which lets you contact them with offers and valuable content more or less for free.

At its core, email marketing is a remarketing strategy.  That means you should only email people who have already entered your company’s orbit as qualified leads.

The Key Email Marketing Statistics That Will Make You Believe

Email marketing generates an average return of $38 for every $1 spent. It doesn’t get much better than that.

That’s the most cost-effective digital marketing channel that you will find out there. Its return on investment gets that high because you don’t need to keep paying for leads after you’ve acquired them. You only need to pay for a good email marketing platform to make it work, and those don’t have to be expensive.

The best part is that email marketing conversion rates get quite high over time because properly cultivated lists are comprised of leads who opted to be there.

Take on these email marketing stats for size:

It’s hard to argue with stats like that, and most companies don’t even implement sophisticated email nurturing funnels. There’s a lot of untapped potential in email marketing.

The Benefits of Email Marketing Have Only Improved in 40 Years

It’s been around for four decades, so is email marketing dead?

Not even close.

In fact, the importance of email marketing has only grown in that time. Everyone has an email address for home, work, and school. We all need email addresses to login to Facebook and order stuff on Amazon.

A large part of marketing is messaging your customers where they live—and just about everyone lives in their inbox in the age of mobile phones.

The best part is that email has become the core of marketing automation, which lets you establish a one-to-one customer relationship at scale while people progress down your sales funnel.

A Quick Note on How to Do Email Marketing Properly

“Email blast” is a dirty word in digital marketing, and you should run away from people who use it.

Instead, send the right message to the right segment of your audience—and make it useful. Send marketing emails only to leads and prospects that have a) signed up intentionally and b) actually fit the profile of the message you’re about to send.

Leverage automated drip campaigns to onboard and nurture leads to the point of sale. Mix those with regular campaigns that deliver genuinely useful content, and you’ll be well on your way to nurturing those leads effectively.

That means you should never buy a list of emails, nor should you bombard them with one-size-fits-all messaging.

B2B Email Marketing Works Really, Really Well

B2B email marketing is a staple that cannot be ignored. It’s one of the best channels through which you can build a customer relationship based on trust and credibility.

Email not only sends a marketing message directly to your B2B customers where they live on a daily basis (their inboxes), but the content inside pulls them toward your website, ever closer to the point of:

  • Ordering a demo
  • Booking a consultation
  • Entering a sales meeting

If you’re really clever, then you might even know of a way to source individual email addresses for specific gatekeepers in your prospective customer organizations.

Ask us about it. We have some answers for you.

Understanding Email Marketing Services

It’s important to understand what you’re getting—and what you’re not getting—with email marketing services. It nurtures leads to the point of sale, but it doesn’t pull leads out of a hat, either.

Done properly, email marketing solutions capture and nurture leads to the point of sale for eCommerce businesses, or the sales hand-off in service-based businesses.

Setting that up takes planning and experimentation, both in concept and in technical execution. If your agency is doing it effectively, you’ll receive a mix of automated marketing funnels and ongoing campaigns that nurture leads with content until you have an offer or promo to send.

Email marketing should not include buying contact lists or spamming people every few days with unwanted emails.

Email Marketing for Small Business is a Must

Small businesses need to nail the fundamentals to get the highest possible return on investment. SMBs don’t usually have gigantic budgets to pour into advertising, let alone the time, energy, and expertise to run campaigns professionally.

That’s what makes email marketing for small business so important. It lets SMBs reach scores of qualified customers, achieving touchpoints and conversions for your company while you do what you do best (running your business).

And the cost-effectiveness of email marketing is what makes it so fundamental. PPC advertising has a higher barrier to entry because it requires a monthly budget, whereas email platforms can start for as low as $9 USD per month. If you’re able to create content on your own or on a budget, then email will help you amplify the content’s benefits without spending much money.

Even better, you can get a lot more mileage out of your PPC advertising (on search, display, and social) by combining it with email remarketing. It reaches your customers based on their actions and segmented interests, taking your marketing dollars farther.

Yes, effective email marketing calls for specialist expertise for the design, copywriting, automation, and analytics, but that’s not cost-prohibitive. Once set up, much of it can run in the background with minimal maintenance.

Email Marketing Companies Need Lead Generation to Work

We’ve rubbed shoulders with a few email marketing companies before, and all of them worked for large corporations that were too big to know who was actually on their lists.

The nature of those large, cumbersome companies tend to pressure the email marketing agency to send repetitive, boring, and borderline-spam emails to the same customers every week.

Look for more in an email marketing consultant—someone who will not only create an intelligent nurturing funnel, but someone who can use that to multiply the returns of an acquisition strategy (whether that’s from SEO, PPC ads, or social media).

Get an Email Marketing Strategy in Place Before Anything Else

Avoid the mistake of turning email marketing into an afterthought. Most companies build their website, marvel at how avante-garde it is, and then wonder why no leads show up.

Don’t be that company.

It’s because their shiny new websites don’t capture leads! Websites can’t feed your sales funnel unless they capture leads with email addresses for you to remarket to them (and nearly for free).

Every email marketing system needs to work with websites this way, and maybe even your paid advertising campaigns for complex marketing funnels.

Form your email marketing strategy right alongside your website, if you have the chance. Definitely build it up alongside your customer acquisition strategies as well.Otherwise you’ll probably succumb to the inertia of being busy, then just get comfortable sending out repetitive, boring newsletters.

Your Email Marketing Campaign Can’t Be a One-Off

Don’t be the person who sends one email and then gives up. Email has an incredibly high ROI, but not because it’s an immediate win. That ROI gets so high because it pays off to build customer relationships at a fraction of the cost of constant advertising.

The best email marketing campaigns build up trust so that your customers actually trust and know your brand enough to buy from you when it counts.

With that in mind, every marketing email you send should offer value, most likely in the form of content. It’s good to remain useful to your leads and customers, even if you’re just sending them the latest blog content on your website.

Keep at it and warm them up! It doesn’t take much effort to produce ongoing email campaigns once you’ve built the template.

Video Email Marketing is Still Shaky

We get a fair amount of questions about video marketing with email.

Truth be told, it’s still iffy. The most reliable way to pull it off right now is by linking to a video hosted elsewhere (like YouTube or Vimeo), and hope that your email platform will generate a thumbnail preview inside the email. You’ll also need to hope that your customers’ email clients will even display that thumbnail.

You won’t be able to stick a video right inside the email, so don’t stress out yourself or your intern with trying to make it work.

Having said that, video tends to engage people far, far more than just images and plain text. Linking to videos from your email campaigns could still be quite effective—just be sure that the videos add value and bring your leads closer to the point of sale or conversion.

Free Email Marketing Is Never Worth it

Run away from free email marketing services. Yes, Mailchimp, we’re looking at you.

Free email platforms tend to be puritanical with their standards, questioning anything so much as a basic marketing offer or anything containing a $ sign.

We’re not kidding. A lot of small business owners think they’re saving money by skimping on $15 every month with a free platform, when in fact they’re sending money down the drain by wasting their own time trying to wrestle with it.

We’re not saying that because we offer email marketing. We’re saying that because free email marketing platforms are more trouble than they’re worth and industry-leading alternatives can be as little as $9 USD per month.

It’s hard to argue with pricing like that.

Choosing the Best Email Marketing Service for Your Workflow

At the end of the day, choosing the best email marketing service is going to come down to three things:

  1. Does it drive sales or lead nurturing?
  2. Does it work with relatively low maintenance after the initial setup (not including sales follow-ups)?
  3. Does it make the most out of your existing lead acquisition funnel?

Your business needs to be able to run without stopping everything for email marketing, of course, so think carefully about how your agency or consultant will make it work independently of your daily operations.

Email Marketing Software Reviews to Fit Your Operations

Choosing the right email marketing platform is incredibly important, so we’ve assembled platform reviews for you. Not every platform is made equal, though.

Not all email platforms are made equal—in fact, two stand out from the pack. We’d like to recommend ActiveCampaign or Drip, as they’re both industry-leading email marketing apps and affordable.

Like our two recommendations, our email marketing tools should give you these benefits:

  • Automation capabilities
  • Robust design suites
  • List segmentation
  • Tag management

Keep that in mind as you read these email marketing software reviews. Have fun!

Why Free Email Marketing Software is Bad

A quick note on free email marketing software: don’t do it. Not even Mailchimp. They simply don’t give you the basic features and level of freedom that you need to do email marketing correctly.

Free email marketing programs also share the same problem with every other free service: if you’re not paying, then you’re not the customer. Free services need to make their money somehow.

Some of them have paid plans with a generous free plan, but you’re not getting a business-quality platform that way. They’re slow and usually built poorly (even some of the paid platforms aren’t great , to be honest).

Don’t be fooled by those plan features to “send 300 emails per day for free.” It’s a red herring. You don’t need to buy any platform through an agency reseller, either. The platforms we recommend come with their own reasonable pricing and you can control them directly.

ActiveCampaign is Your Best Bet

The ActiveCampaign pricing structure is one of the best in the industry, but that’s not even what sets it apart—that’s just what makes it hard to say no.

What makes ActiveCampaign the best email marketing platform in the industry is that it includes everything you need, as long as you’re willing to learn and grow with the platform. You won’t need additional programmers to create customized campaigns or marketing automation.

It includes these core functionalities and features:

  • A well-made drag-and-drop email design suite.
  • Lists and segmentation, along with a tagging system to manage contacts the way you want.
  • A handy email template system.
  • A visual “automation” builder that lets you plan who gets which emails, when they get them, and why they get them.
  • A CRM and custom lead scoring system that tracks contact history.
  • An automatic unsubscribe feature for CASL and GDPR compliance.

Hubspot Email Marketing Is Clunky

Hubspot email marketing provides base functionality, but it’s not intuitive or accessible for most marketers.

It’s simply not specialized email software—it’s one part of a much bigger corporate sales and marketing platform. Hubspot is essentially a contact-driven sales platform with some marketing features built up around it.

To be blunt, Hubspot caters to large corporations who don’t know how to integrate their website, email platforms, and CRM. It sounds convenient, so non-technical decision-makers jump on board. The irony is that doing any real custom work (like your own email design) can lead to dozens or even hundreds of hours spent on manual coding.

On the upside, Hubspot’s email suite gives you these features:

  • A deep CRM with a good interface. This lets you track contacts through most of your marketing stack without technical know-how, once it’s set up.
  • The ability to make “smart lists” that update with the contacts in them.
  • Your contacts will be tracked across most of the marketing funnel in a single spot.

Unfortunately, it also comes with some serious drawbacks

  • Hubspot is super expensive for such basic email functionality.
  • That setup will probably involve in-house programmers, FYI.
  • The platform usually requires annual contracts instead of monthly subscriptions.
  • It lacks some crucial marketing features, like resending.
  • Often requires custom HTML and CSS coding to get things just right.

Campaigner Email Marketing Review

Campaigner is a standard email marketing platform that some big brands use, and it even has a reasonable pricing structure starting at $20 USD per month.

Unfortunately, Campaigner severely limits what you can do based on its price, including these:

  • Workflows (also called “automations” by other platforms).
  • “Custom footers,” which should be standard in every email platform.
  • Suppression lists, which should be standard.
  • Opt-in forms.

That’s a long list of features that you’ll likely need to set up a proper email strategy. You can try the free trial, but it has a time limit. You’ll need to pay up eventually.

It’s trusted by some big brands (the aforementioned large corporations), so you probably won’t have a terrible experience overall… but you could do a lot better for as little as half the price.

Drip Email Marketing Review

Drip comes as our runner-up recommendation on this list. It’s actually very similar to ActiveCampaign, but—as the new kid on the block—it has a sleeker coat of paint and a more intuitive layout. It also has some conversion tracking features that conversion optimization nerds will love.

It’s a great platform overall. The pricing varies from ActiveCampaign, however. You can try it out for free if you have fewer than 100 contacts in your CRM, but the next pricing tier comes to $50 USD per month.

Drip’s coolest feature is that it lets you create custom CTAs embedded on your website. That’s great for A/B testing, but it runs the serious risk of decentralizing your website. You can also just use your CMS for that (like WordPress).

If you’re going to use email has the primary vehicle for your marketing automation and want to manage a lot of your optimization efforts from one place, then Drip could could be a great option for you.

Salesforce Email Marketing Isn’t Unique Anymore

We’re just going to say this right now: Salesforce is not an email marketing platform. Like Hubspot, it’s a sales-driven CRM platform that has added some marketing features to satisfy larger corporate clients.

With that said, Salesforce does have a component called Email Studio—but with a major caveat: it requires extensive developer support to make it all work. It also comes with “enterprise pricing,” which is just industry lingo for “it’s too complicated to work out of the box, requires a lot of money to set up, and we don’t want to scare you off with a big number.”

These are the core features you can expect:

  • An email design suite.
  • A/B testing functionality.
  • Automation/workflow capabilities.
  • Lists and segmentation.
  • “Live content,” which claims to let you change an email’s content after it’s been sent—most often in the form of an image.

That last one sounds very appealing because it offers a new level of control. That will manifest most frequently as an email offering time-sensitive promotional material, either displaying the offer while the sale is still running or something else if the sale is over when the recipient opens it.

It sounds like a useful feature, especially if your organization plays a little fast and loose with marketing campaigns. But committing exclusively to the Salesforce CRM and paying developers a fortune to set up email functionality to your exact preferences might be a bit much to chase a single feature.

Some companies think this is great because it’s heavily customizable, but you shouldn’t be paying thousands of dollars per year just to have to pay a development team again to set it up.

That’s bonkers.

Shopify Email Marketing Really Operates on Integrations

Shopify has become a popular eCommerce platform, but it doesn’t actually have an email marketing component—and that was a wise design choice, as it happens.

Instead, Shopify has made an effort to integrate with existing email platforms that already specialize in this area. Don’t write it off because of that—it’s the future of marketing technology, and exactly what we would recommend to software developer clients.

Shopify recommends the same core functionalities and features that we do:

  • Analytics
  • Templates
  • Opt-in forms
  • Lists and segmentation

Those are some of the most basic features you’ll find in any platform, so use that four-point list as a standard for the bare minimum. Anything less and you should run away screaming.

Campaign Monitor, Emma, and Delivra Email Marketing

Campaign Monitor acquired Emma and Delivra, bringing all three are under the same umbrella.

Campaign Monitor has one of the most competitive pricing structures in the industry, putting it on par with ActiveCampaign in this regard. It even has a free trial, which is always a good sign.

The pricing structures of the other two brands start much, much higher, though:

Both of these two acquired companies have plans meant for large customer lists starting at 10,000 people and up. They’re not priced for small businesses and start-ups.

Campaign Monitor has a much more affordable entry level plan for $9 USD per month, which includes:

  • Email templates
  • Basic automation (this one is important!)
  • Analytics

If ActiveCampaign seems a bit confusing, then definitely give Campaign Monitor a try. It’s affordable and boasts high user ratings.

Interspire Email Marketer Review

Interspire email marketer takes a more basic approach, offering a set of grouped features that you don’t usually find together:

  • Basic email suite functions
  • Autoresponder functionality
  • Surveys
  • CRM

Surveys are an interesting angle, but you can always use Google Surveys at no extra cost no matter what software you’re using. Additionally, “autoresponders” can be made with automations or workflows—and autoresponders are designed for personal use, not for business.

It starts at $49 per month, but we recommend that you try some other platforms instead. There are more advanced and more affordable platforms out there.

Constant Contact Email Marketing Review

Constant Contact has been around for a while, earning some brand loyalty from long-standing corporate clients.

You can start a free trial for 60 days, and the entry-level plan starts for $26 CAD per month—a significantly higher price point than leading competitors. After accruing more than 500 contacts, however, that price jumps to $57 CAD per month.

Unfortunately, that entry-level plan omits marketing automation and A/B testing functionality. It has fewer tools to master, but that also makes it easier to get started. Still, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay more money for fewer features, especially when some of those features are crucial to scaling your email marketing strategy.

Think about Constant Contact if you’re going to be doing all of the email marketing yourself and you don’t have much marketing experience. Just be forewarned that seasoned marketing specialists might not appreciate working with it.

Godaddy Email Marketing

The Godaddy email marketing platform boils down to the essentials.

It has a basic email design suite, lists, and—on the entry tier—a single sign-up form. It’s not what digital marketing experts would choose, but it’s something simple for the small business marketers who just want the essentials.

We only take issue with the pricing. For such basic features, it should probably be $5 per month. But you can pay $15 per month if you want.

A Quick Note: Expect Email Marketing Analytics in Every Platform

Email marketing doesn’t work very well without analytics, so you’ll find some form of it in every platform. They’ll all list it as a feature, but it’s just part of the bare-minimum package. Do not get talked into paying extra for basic analytics.

Here’s what you should look for in your email marketing analytics:

  • Open rates
  • Click-through rates
  • Quantified clicks for specific images and CTA buttons
  • A/B testing
  • Automation customer journeys

As long as your platform of choice has those, you’ll have all the analytics capabilities you’ll need.

Email Marketing Best Practices to Get it Right the First Time

Recent developments on the analytical and legal side of the industry has prompted a new set of email marketing best practices for 2019 that you should follow.

They’re legally compliant and tend to get the best conversion rates. It’s just the smart way to do things.

Follow these best practices in all of your campaigns and automations:

  • Include unsubscribe buttons in every single email for CASL and GDPR compliance.
  • Test everything before you send it. Twice.
  • Segment your lists into audiences with different interests and send them relevant messages only.
  • Build your own email lists out of naturally acquired campaigns. Opt-in forms work best for this.
  • Include calls-to-action (CTAs) in every email sent, even if it’s not an offer.
  • Measure engagement analytics in every message.
  • Don’t spam your contacts. It’s bad for multiple reasons.
  • Add value in every email. Don’t just make noise—cut through it.
  • Make the “from” address a real person.
  • Run re-engagement campaigns to bring back uninterested contacts, but keep them out of your regularly scheduled campaigns until they’re back in the fold.

There’s more to email marketing than a list of best practices, but they’re solid guidelines to keep your operations above reproach and successful all at the same time.

Put Customers into Different Email Marketing Lists

Targeted email marketing works on a foundation of segmented interests. Use different lists to send each identifiable group the messages that they’re most likely to appreciate.

The reasons for this are twofold:

  1. People engage more with messages that relate to them in an obvious way.
  2. Everyone’s eyes glaze over when you throw them one-size-fits-all messages. Ours certainly do.

Using “email blast” marketing tactics doesn’t work for those simple reasons. We don’t even use that phrase except to make fun of it mercilessly. We strongly recommend you do the same.

Mass Email Marketing Doesn’t Work the Way You (Probably) Think

Mass email marketing is antithetical to modern best practices—and it’s the equivalent of a blunt instrument.

It’s not just about following the law (although that’s reason enough). Email marketing is so much more effective when you send tailored messages at segmented audiences.

Bulk email marketing brings you a few steps closer to spam, which turns people away. They’ll unsubscribe from your list and then you’ll have no one to market to for free.

And you do need to include an unsubscribe button in your emails, by the way—that’s not optional.

Bulk email campaigns also tend to stray into unethical territory, including “acquired lists.” Say no if anyone suggests you buy email lists for marketing. It’s illegal in many parts of the world. Read up on the penalties you can incur from violating CASL and GDPR legislation if you don’t believe us.

Permission-Based Email Marketing isn’t Optional Anymore

Permission-based email marketing is kind of a stuffy textbook term, but it’s still important.

The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation and the General Data Protection Regulation prohibit mass email marketing, making permission email marketing central to all of your operations. Don’t think you’re exempt if you’re in the United States, either—they have clauses that empower citizens or the crown to prosecute your business in their domestic courts.

Just remember that it’s the bare minimum standard for any email campaign you launch and any platform you use. It’s not really a “feature,” even if companies treat it like one.

Double Opt-In Email Marketing is the Safest Approach

Permission-based email marketing is the way to go, of course—but why do people use a double opt-in method?

It’s a mechanism that only adds people to an email list if the leads reaffirm their desire to be on it by clicking on a button in that first email.

It’s usually used as a legal safeguard for large companies over-protecting themselves from culpability. A rare few digital marketers treat the double opt-in as an additional threshold to prevent the wishy-washy leads from entering their email lists.It helps them maintain super high conversion rates at the cost of a wider reach.

After you get to a certain level of email marketing, it becomes a useful filter that lets you focus your time and effort on the most qualified customers-to-be.

What’s the Best Time to Send Marketing Emails?

CoSchedule (a corporate marketing platform in a similar competitive space as HubSpot) has written a great piece on the best days and times of day to send campaigns.

Here are the best days to send emails:

  • Tuesday tends to be the best day to send emails.
  • Thursday is next-best day to send emails if they go out twice per week.
  • Wednesday comes in second place in more instances than not.

Here are the best times of day to send emails:

  • 10:00 am, when people get into their work day.
  • 8:00 pm – 12:00 am, when people check email right before bed.
  • 6:00 am, so people can check email as they wake up.

2:00 pm gets an honourable mention, as it sees success because people hit a slump in their work days.

You should also be aware that other companies read much of the same stuff, and will use it to their advantage. With that in mind, this information could saturate the market. Here’s what you should do to avoid that:

  1. Start your campaigns with these days and times, since you don’t have your own campaign data to analyze yet.
  2. After a month, look for correlations between day, time of day, open rates, and click-through rates.
  3. Gear your next campaigns toward the best days and times of day. If no obvious winners emerge, then A/B test new schedules against the ones you’re already using. Good email software will let you do this fairly easily.

The Best Email Marketing Strategies and How They Work

The key to making email a successful channel isn’t to find a silver bullet. The key is to find a handful of the best email marketing strategies and combine them in a way that drives your business forward.

We can’t tell you the single best strategy to follow without learning about your business and customer profiles, but we can give you a list of the most successful tactics we’ve employed so far.

Let’s get to it!

Website Email Capture

Your website is your best asset for growing an email list, especially when paired with content that actually adds value to the reader.

Include your email capture mechanisms all over your site, and pair them up with lead magnets!

This should manifest as email capture forms. We’d recommend short ones for any quick downloads you might be offering, saving the longer forms for the meatier lead magnets served further down your sales and marketing funnel.

Personalized Copy

Did you know that you can insert personalized “tokens” into your emails that correspond to a contact’s information? It makes emails look like they were written specifically for the recipient rather than just some piece of spam. They’ll still be useful even years after customers come to expect it because it will be considered the professional norm.

This kind of in-message personalization includes:

  • Name
  • State or Province
  • Position or Title
  • Income Range
  • City or Address

That should get you started. Don’t forget to use these in automations as well!

Content Drips

Content drips are a fantastic way to onboard leads and recent customers, especially if your business sells complex products or subscriptions.

Selling a complicated sound system? Email customers tips on how to optimize it and connect it, one day at a time. Selling athletic supplements or protein drinks? Email your customers with ways to maximize the effects via workout routines, schedules, or related recipes.

It keeps your customers engaged with your brand, builds trust, and makes them feel like you care more about them and their well-being than just their money.

All of that counts for something when it comes time to make a carefully presented offer to those leads.

And don’t worry if people don’t buy from you on the first or second offer, either. Customers usually need 6-12 positive interactions with a brand before trusting it enough to buy.

Gear for Mobile First

Mobile usage has climbed steadily over the last 5 years to become the dominant way to view emails. You probably check most emails on your phone as well.

The wisdom here is clear: put in the extra effort to plan for mobile emails first. Make sure your emails look sleek for desktop as well, but prioritize for mobile first and foremost.

ActiveCampaign has a nice mobile preview function that allows you to see what your campaigns look like on customers’ phones. We suggest using it for a quick quality assurance review before every send.

Look at the image below. Can you read that tiny text? Do you know which of the seven links you’re supposed to click? Did you even notice those, or did the side banner of ads distract you from them? This is why you need to keep mobile emails clean, crisp, and focused on the one action you want people to take.

Recurring Content Delivery

One of the simplest and most effective ways to make email marketing work is to amplify your best content to the right segments. This is just more of an ongoing form of content drip, even if it’s not as structured 

Even if you just publish one blog per month, then you should share that with your leads and customers. Just make sure the content you’ve made is genuinely useful. No one wants to read a 300-word fluff piece, and very few people actually read community newsletters. You’ve been given fair warning!

Email can amplify great content on a regular basis, but don’t rely on it to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Use it to build traffic and trust systematically.

Cart Abandonment Campaigns

This one’s for the eCcommerce businesses out there. Statistically, we feel confident saying that you’re trying to solve a problem with shopping cart abandonment.

You can close the gap this way by reconnecting with customers who abandoned their carts, so, so close to the point of sale.

It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just employ these tactics:

  • Include product snippets of what they put in the cart. Use images.
  • Give them a discount code for this one instance.
  • Remarket to them with those product snippets on Facebook or the Google Display Network.
  • Send them reviews of the products they almost bought. Make sure they’re positive.

People who get that far into the sales funnel have far more intent to purchase than a brand-new lead. Spend the effort to make them full customers—even repeat customers.

Give Away Lead Magnets for Free

Lead magnets exist to convert website visitors into market-qualified leads.

But what about existing leads?

You can send them new or different lead magnets to them for free, just to add value. Why do that if you’ve already acquired them? Great question! It squeezes more value out of them (for you) because they build stronger relationships with your customers.

“Surprise and delight” is the motto to follow here. What better way to do that than to give your leads something handy, like a checklist or a handy work template for free?

It generates good will, exudes confidence in your business, and builds your status as a trusted advisor (which has to be earned).

Email Marketing Automation is the Key to Scale

Marketing automation begins with email. There’s more to it now with the rise of chatbots for Facebook messenger and live chat plugins for your CMS, but it starts with email.

It comes down to two things:

  1. Everyone has an email address.
  2. Email is the most cost-effective marketing channel in existence.

Automated email marketing works in tandem with a solid content strategy. You shouldn’t just email people at regular intervals to ask them to buy from you. Automation works best to onboard and nurture leads to build trust—crucial for the sale.

Here are the elements you could consider when making an automation:

  • Which messages do you send to which lists?
  • How do you segment contacts?
  • How do those contacts change as they progress?
  • What kind of lead scoring will you apply?
  • What’s the incentive for each stage of the automation?
  • Will customers buy at the end of it, or do they sign up for an event?

Remarketing to Email Lists

Not everything about email marketing has to happen in an email. You can use your segmented email lists to create advertising audiences, too.

It’s all just a collection of anonymous numbers to ad platforms, but they can be powerful. With them you can create larger advertising audiences based on the sample of demographic data, frequented websites, and so on. This lets ad platforms like Google Ads and Facebook to target more people similar to your existing list, focusing your acquisition campaigns on more qualified groups.

Imagine what you could accomplish by delivering truly valuable messages and content over email and remarketing campaigns.

Real Estate Email Marketing Strategies

We rub shoulders with a fair number of real estate agents, and they ask us a lot about email marketing.

Real estate email marketing tends to go hand in hand with content and advertising, which are straightforward:

  • Notify your leads about new homes every week—and make them visual.
  • Update leads with weekly, monthly, or quarterly real estate industry reports.
  • Include quick and easy email signup forms in strategic places in your website.
  • Promote open houses via email.
  • Offer free consultations (set a limited amount).

The trick is to deliver good content you’d already be making—something genuinely valuable, not just a message that says “buy from me.” It should keep people engaged with the real estate market (through you) so that you are the natural choice when they’re ready to purchase their next home.

Quick Email Marketing Tips to Get Started Today

While it’s true that utilizing email to its fullest takes thought, planning, and testing, there are a few email marketing tips we can show you to earn some quick wins.

Newsletter Email Marketing is Awful. Don’t Do It.

We’ve learned a harsh truth in our years of digital marketing: nobody wants to read your newsletter.

People don’t like newsletters—not yours, not ours, and not your competitors (but don’t tell them that).

Newsletter email marketing doesn’t fit with modern consumer habits—or technological capability. Do you have 45 minutes to read through 7 blogs and press releases in the morning before work? Would you read that much after work, even if you had the time?

Of course not.

Maybe you’d read one of those in between the main chunks of the day, but you have more immediate things to take care of instead of reading a whole batch of content all at once—we all do. And people get intimidated at the thought of reading your entire newsletter at once, so they just put it off entirely.

That’s why you shouldn’t send newsletters packed with stories about a fundraising barbecue that already happened. Instead, drip-feed leads with promotions and content so that people can focus on each piece individually. One piece of content at a time.

What Are the Best Email Marketing Blogs to Follow?

Aside from training courses (which are quite handy), you can learn a lot by reading blogs on a regular basis.

Check out these email marketing blogs to keep everything digestible:

Pay attention to the pacing in which they send drip-feed content to you as well as reading the actual content itself.

Don’t check all of these manually, either. Sign up to have them delivered to your inbox directly for convenience and perspective on what it’s like to receive content regularly. Alternatively, you can plug them into an RSS list in Feedly.

Should I Buy Bulk Email Marketing Services?

No. Never. Don’t buy bulk email marketing services—it’s outdated, ineffective, and—depending on how it’s executed—possibly illegal.

Bulk email marketing software isn’t a good investment because it leaves you both legally culpable and with disinterested leads. We’re talking about emailing masses of people with the same unwanted message here.

It’s always worth reiterating that good email marketing delivers a specific message with narrowly defined intent to a distinct segment of your audience. Don’t buy lists, don’t “e-blast” your entire audience with one message, and don’t lazily spam anyone with “buy now” messages.

Is Ecommerce Email Marketing a Good Idea?

Email marketing is a fantastic idea if you have an eCommerce business. If you have a B2B model, then you need to think about how to build a relationship with leads over time.. Those purchases take much more time and consideration on the customer’s end.

eCommerce is basically a B2C (business to consumer) retail model handled online. This works well with email because you can send timely offers to segments of your customer base, offering the products and promotions that suit them best. Even better, you can leverage internal data you might have on hand to understand the relationship between customer need and various products, then make timely offers accordingly.

You’ll want to take a look at the Shopify platform if you’re launching an eCommerce business. Going with Magento will just pull you into the Adobe sphere, which is priced too high for SMBs. Since Adobe is looking to create an entire digital marketing suite to compete with the established players out there, you may find that it doesn’t integrate with all of your other platforms as easily as you’d like.

CRM and Email Marketing Go Hand in Hand

Set up a good customer relationship management platform to go with whatever email platform you choose, if it doesn’t come with one already (but the good ones do, FYI).

The reason for this is because, combined, CRM and email marketing form a powerful combination. You can set automations that evolve, qualify, and progress the leads within your CRM according to their actions when receiving emails. And the CRM keeps track of all that, working hand in hand with your marketing automation as the hub.

For example, you can assign and build a progressive lead score for each of your contacts based on which emails they open, which links they click, when, and how often. Based on their actions you can move them between segments, with the CRM keeping track of every lead’s entire history if you want to reach out for a sale.

CRM and email marketing are entwined, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

The trick is to know which platforms can make that happen. We love ActiveCampaign because it provides a CRM without compromising on the specialist email and automation that pushes everything forward.

Baseline Your Email Marketing Average Open Rate

But treat it as the most important marketing metric for the channel. Your open rate reflects the quality of your subject line, but what about the click-through rate?

Everyone wants to know the average email open rate so that they can compare it to their own. Unfortunately, it differs between industries.

According to Hubspot, the average email open rate sits around 35%, but it can range anywhere from 20% to 45%.

Just remember that’s for established companies with healthy lists. Your rates could be all over the place as you start your email lists with your first year or so. It also varies by industry and time of year.

The important part is to measure your average open rate so that you can understand what improvement looks like and which factors can bring about those improvements. It’s a process of iteration, just like everything else in digital marketing.

Pass on Hiring an Internal Email Marketing Manager

Unless you’re a giant corporation that has an entire team dedicated to email marketing (which still isn’t the way to do it), then you probably don’t need an email marketing manager.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Organizing your marketing team into silos by channel cuts off communication within your marketing team.
  2. Email should fall under the purview of the general marketing manager or CMO to make sure that whoever manages the email channel gets a holistic, bird’s-eye-view.
  3. Email is a delivery mechanism, which means that you’ll use it for content that lives elsewhere—like blogs, videos, event pages, and so on. It doesn’t usually operate on its own.

Hiring someone on salary to manage nothing but email doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially since you can just apply templates to skip the most painstaking design details after you’ve made them once. The exception here would be for marketing agencies that need to scale email expertise for multiple clients, but we’re guessing that doesn’t apply to you.

The average salary for an email marketing specialist is $53,000 USD, whereas the average salary for a marketing manager can range between $85,000 and $98,000 USD, as of September 2018.

To pay for an email marketing manager’s salary, you’d probably need somewhere between $60,000 USD and $75,000 USD per year. That’s a lot of money for a single marketing channel that often delivers content from other channels.

Your alternatives include:

  • Hiring an agency to handle email as a part of a larger marketing campaign.
  • Hiring a consultant to execute on your own email strategy.
  • Hiring someone to create visual email templates for you to manage independently.
  • Hiring a consultant or agency to create the automation running in the background for you.

Less Is More with Email Marketing Design

Most companies we see, big and small, want to cram as much news and content into a single email as is humanly possible.

That’s bad.

Good email marketing design keeps the message simple and the content focused. Remember that the goal is to get your leads to take a specific “next step,” which means you need to remove all other distractions from the equation.

To that end, include these components in your emails:

  • A header banner featuring your logo or wordmark.
  • A colourized button with a call-to-action.
  • An unsubscribe button, even if it’s just hyperlinked text at the bottom.
  • A headline and body copy to support your message. Keep it on-point.

Avoid these rookie mistakes at all costs:

  • Uploading a PDF or a single image file as the email itself.
  • Sending plain text emails (unless your customers prefer or expect it).
  • Trying to send videos inside your emails.
  • Promoting multiple news stories and content pieces at the same time.
  • Forgetting to make emails mobile-friendly.
  • Using weird fonts or comic sans.
  • Enlarging or shrinking the title and body copy sizes.
  • Using square images that force readers to scroll.
  • Expecting people to call instead of just following a link.

Use Freelance Email Marketing to Build on an Existing Strategy

While we’re on the topic of paying for email marketing, you should have a go-to strategy for freelance email marketing arrangements.

A lot of small businesses try out email marketing by hiring a freelancer to send individual emails, in some kind of on-call style, whenever they want to promote something.

That’s not going to work. One of us has been that freelancer before, so take it from us—you need a long-term plan and a commitment to see it through.

If your freelancers know what they’re doing, then they should be able to produce automations and finely tuned emails as well as any agency, if not better. Just realize that freelancers may need more time since they’re working during the evenings and weekends.

Let them develop successful campaigns and automations to make the most of your existing marketing strategy. A single freelancer can’t pull a rabbit out of a hat for you, but they can maximize the value of your leads by engaging with them through smart, lean, and effective email marketing.

In practice this looks like:

  • Segmenting your audience (if relevant data is available to do so).
  • Creating weekly or monthly content drips.
  • Setting up email capture mechanisms on your website.
  • Creating some fundamental marketing automation for your funnel, such as sign-ups and onboarding.

It’s not rocket science, and it adds a lot of value to your sales funnel. Let the freelancer take on one or all of those points listed above to create a measurable impact on your company’s bottom line.

Time to Get Out There and Earn Some Leads!

That’s it for our email marketing guide!

We hope you find the reviews, strategies, and immediate tactics useful. Check back every once in a while to see the new ideas we’ll add, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any question (even if you’re going to tackle email strategy on your own).

Happy hunting!

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