Elements of a Winning Email Marketing Program

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I’ll start with declaring that I would consider email a “mature” marketing channel. Yet, there are still many out there trying to figure out how to do email marketing right.

After years of experience doing email marketing, I would say that there are 4 key elements to create a winning Email Marketing Program, maximize the ROI, and take email from a nice-to-have tool, to the must-have tool in your marketing mix!

Test, test, test

As I’ve said before, one of the great values to online marketing is the ability to measure. But, online marketing and email marketing is still about the customer–human beings who make unpredictable choices. So, make sure whatever infrastructure you’re setting up, it is implemented to include robust testing capabilities.

Make sure you’re doing A/B testing and multivariate testing. Test your subject lines. Test your content. Test your segmentation strategies. Test your email cadence.

Then, gather all that data, and make sure you have solid analytic talent on your team to help you drive insights into your ongoing efforts. Unlike direct mail or other traditional marketing channels, you can measure how your email marketing is doing. And then, you can fine tune and imrpove.

Learn from others

As I said before, email marketing is a mature channel. This means thousands of companies are already doing email marketing, and there is countless resources that provide insights into lessons learned. The bottom line: follow best practices. These should include external sources of best practices and what has worked within your industry, but it should also include best practices from outside your industry. But, most importantly, go back to the first element (Test, test, test) and determine what is working for your email campaigns.

Most of the big players in the email marketing industry publish extensive amounts of data and learnings. One of my favorites is The Email Institute. http://www.emailinstitute.com/ Search the internet and make sure your email creative are optimized for mobile experience. Make sure you’re taking the impact of image suppression into account. Make sure your email lists are kept clean, and follow industry standard opt-in process for your list building practices. And, please, please please–don’t ever do email appends!

Last thought: one of the essential parts of email marketing is the deliverability. This area of email marketing can be highly technical, so make sure whoever is your Email Service Provider is also providing you with strong ongoing deliverability support, and that they have good relationships with the major “postmaster desks”.

Integrate your marketing efforts

I believe email marketing and website content marketing are quickly becoming the center spoke of any good marketing effort. Because email is not usually the only marketing channel in the mix, you want to make sure you’re measuring your other channels. You want to have a clear picture of how each channel is impacting your marketing efforts.

Today’s consumers are becoming more demanding than ever and their expectations of advertisers are huge. The average consumer expects a very unique, targeted, and custom experience. Measure across all channels, and make sure you know your customer’s prefered communication channel, cadence, and message.

Get smart

This takes me to my last key element of smart email marketing. One of the best ways to ensure your communications are relevant and well-targeted is to set up and use rule-based emails.  Once your website, as well as other marketing channels, are integrated with your email program, you can trigger emails based on website behaviour, shopping cart actions, or any number of other tracked interactions with your customers.

For example, you could set up a rule-based email campaign that triggers an email to customers after they visit your brick-and-mortar store. Or, you could trigger an email after a customer support call. The number of options are limitless.

Finally, part of getting smart is actually making use of all that data you should be collecting. You might have heard about “Big Data”, which is just a catchphrase for the analytical treasure trove of the digital revolution. What it means for you is that you can look at what your customers are doing, and develop pretty good insights into their preferences. This is going to require pretty strong analytical talent, which will be worth every penny you spend.

So, do you have these 4 elements in your email marketing program? If not, which one are you missing? I’d love to hear about your challenges in email marketing.

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