Email marketing provides the highest median ROI (124%) among all digital marketing activities. ZoomOwl brings these guidelines to do it correctly and profitably.

Let’s talk email, shall we?

Out of the 4.15 billion people in the world who use the internet (Internet World Stats, 2017 Dec), nearly 3.8 billion have email access.

Evidently, email users outnumber any other social network: Even the most populated social network, Facebook, enjoys only 2.23 billion users (Ref: Statista).

While social networks serve various purposes—sharing photos and videos, updating statuses, playing games, and getting news—email’s primary purpose is communication.

People put a lot of value and trust on the content they receive through their primary email address.

According to McKinsey & Company’s iConsumer survey, email marketing is 40 times more effective than social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Image 1e.1. Email Is 40 Times More Effective Than Social Media

Image 1e.1. Email Is 40 Times More Effective Than Social Media

Email’s median ROI surpasses that of any other digital marketing activity.

Image 1e.2. Email Marketing ROI (Source - DMA)

Image 1e.2. Email Marketing ROI (Source – DMA)

Also, email marketing is effective for both B2B and B2C companies: While most B2C companies perceive email as a tool for sales and brand engagement, B2B companies use email for lead generation and increased brand engagement, according to DMA.

Image 1e.3. B2B vs. B2C Objectives of Email Marketing

Image 1e.3. B2B vs. B2C Objectives of Email Marketing

So, an email marketing strategy is vital for any organization.

But you have to execute it carefully and wisely to avoid some serious risks:

  • Email spam causes domain blacklisting and inability to send any more email.
  • Noncompliance could get you sued under several legislations, such as the CAN-SPAM ACT of 2003.
  • Your campaigns will cause more harm than good by alienating the customers.
  • Your brand reputation may be tarnished irreparably.

How can you do email marketing successfully and profitably? Here are some important guidelines for that.

1. Do not send commercial emails without permission

Image 1e.4. Email Consent

There are two types of consent: Express consent, in which the recipient explicitly opts in to receive your emails, and implied consent, which you already have with your seasoned customers.

In the United States, the commercial email marketing is governed by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. But it doesn’t require express permission from a recipient for sending commercial email.

But in many other countries, such as the UK, Canada, Australia, and the European Union, you need express consent before sending commercial email.

It’s just commonsense to initiate commercial emails only after express permission from your recipient. You can seek permission in several ways: verbally, orally, or through a form (online or printed).

Image 1e.5. Online Email Subscription Form

Image 1e.5. Online Email Subscription Form

Also implement double opt-in, in which email confirmation is required after signup.

Why the permission-based email marketing works better?

  • Express consent boosts ROI. SmartInsights estimated that the permission-based emails create $40 for every $1 spent. That is an ROI of 3900%.
  • Permission-based emails are opened 30-40% more than unsolicited emails. Also, they give a CTR of around 20%.
  • A user receiving a permitted email seldom marks it as spam.
  • You will adhere to the regulations as well as maintain your account with your email marketing company. Most email marketing companies want you to send mails only to opt-in subscribers.
  • You will maintain your domain and IP reputation with your ISP.

A few guidelines for the permission-based emailing

  • Do not keep the permission opt-in box checked by default.
  • Do not buy email list. Ever.
  • Keep the form simple. In most cases, you only need the name and the email address.
  • Do not make subscription mandatory to get a resource or offer from your website.
  • Clearly state your company information in the form page.
  • Do specify the frequency of emails along with an idea of what kind of content.

2. Adhere to the electronic communication laws

Image 1e.6. Email Legislations

Commercial email marketing is regulated by law in many countries. Ensure a few things to be compliant.

  • As mentioned earlier, do not send email without express permission.
  • Do not use any false or misleading information on your mailers.
  • Identify your business and give detailed contact information and physical address in the website as well as each email you send.
  • If an email is with commercial intent, you have to explicitly identify it as an ad.
  • Provide a clear opt-out method in every email (an unsubscribe button or link).
  • Study and adhere to the legal guidelines for transactional and relationship messages vs. promotional messages.
  • If you are sending email to EU countries, you need to ensure GDPR compliance as well. GDPR requires you to have proof of double opt-in.

You may be forced to modify your email strategies depending on the law in the countries you operate in.

In the US, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 governs email marketing. For violations, you will be charged penalties of up to $41,484 for each email violation.

Here are the details of email marketing laws for several countries.

3.  Stay away from spam

Image 1e.7. Email Spam

In many countries, email spam is a punishable offence.

Spam still accounts for about 48% of the global email traffic.

Image 1e.8. Email Spam Statistics

Image 1e.8. Email Spam Statistics

The express consent and abiding by the spam laws is one way of good email marketing.

There are also important content considerations when it comes to spamming.

You cannot send spam even with express consent.

Beyond its definition of unsolicited mass email, spam takes many forms: Phishing, malware, image spam, email spoofing, etc.

Engaging in spamming puts you in great trouble.

There are legitimate marketing mistakes that may cause your email to be marked as spam:

  • Ensure that you have express consent (more effective than implied consent). Do double opt-in with a confirmation email to be surer.
  • Do not let your list age. Send the subscribers a welcome email as soon as they are confirmed. Also, stick to the regular emailing frequency.
  • Do not link to spammy content on your emails.
  • Do not use misleading subject lines or titles (avoid using “Re:” and “Fwd:”)
  • Ensure your emails are designed well for all devices. Messy emails tend to end up in the spam folder.
  • Do not use all caps anywhere.
  • Do not use unauthenticated sender IDs.
  • Ensure you segment your customers well and send them relevant emails.

4. Identify yourself properly

Image 1e.9. Email Sender Info

As mentioned earlier, law requires you to identify yourself and your company on every permission-based email you send.

Also, you won’t win any heart by sending emails from a generic ID, such as “noreply@yourcompany.com.”

Imagine what will happen if you have permission to send email to a recipient but you failed to identify yourself in your first email to them.

Here is an example of an email I received recently.

Image 1e.a. Spam Email Without Any Sender Information

Image 1e.a. Spam Email Without Any Sender Information

The sender has failed to identify themselves properly anywhere in the email. And it’s a clear sales pitch. So, I have no idea whether it’s a legitimate newsletter that I signed up for or pure spam. Needless to say, it was immediately trashed.

Do not send such emails; they will be marked as spam.

You have to give the following company details in your email footer as required by the CAN-SPAM Act.

  • The company name
  • The street address
  • City
  • State

5. Craft your subject line with care

Image 1e.b. Subject Line Makes a Difference
What is the most important element of your email? It’s the subject line, the very first thing a recipient sees.

35% of email recipients open an email and 69% mark an email as spam based only on the subject line, according to Convince&Convert.

The subject line should be crafted perfectly to ensure that you get maximum open rate for your emails.

Give a sales pitch on your subject line, such as “Introducing our new, topnotch blah blah,” and you may see rising unsubscribe rates.

Follow a few rules while crafting your subject line.

  • KISSS: Keep it short, simple, and specific.
  • Mention a CTA within the subject line if you want the reader to act.
  • Imbibe the objective of your email; it will allow you to craft better subject lines.
  • Refrain from spammy language.
  • Avoid the use of all caps.
  • Don’t make any false promises.
  • Write down the objective of your email first. Craft the subject line after finishing your email.
  • Incite emotional response from the reader.

6. Avoid sales lingo

Image 1e.c. I Hate Sales

Why would you sign up for an email newsletter? It’s because you believe that the newsletter may give you valuable insights, not sales trash.

Having said that, MarketingSherpa estimates that over 72% of recipients would rather receive promotional content over email than any other media.

Why then am I suggesting you not use sales lingo?

People hate sales pitches. They have hated it in cold calls and unsolicited emails. They are still not gonna enjoy it even if it comes from permission-based emails.

So, you need to modify your sales pitches by tactfully avoiding sales words.

Avoid sales words such as:

  • “And it’s all available to you for free”
  • “Exceptional quality”
  • “I’d like to understand your requirements…”
  • “I’d like to offer our…”
  • “We have built years of expertise in blah blah…”
  • “We offer discount”
  • “Sign up today and get your freebie”
  • “Only 48 hours left”

Instead, what should you do? Try to edify your readers with insights and thought leadership. Enrich your emails with text, images, and videos. Also incorporate interactive elements.

Here is an example from Cook Smarts’s weekly product newsletter.

Image 1e.d. Cook Smarts Weekly Email

Image 1e.d. Cook Smarts Weekly Email

Image 1e.d. Cook Smarts Weekly EmailMore examples are at HubSpot.

As part of your rich, insightful content, you can promote your products and services as well. People would be more interested in buying from you if they see clear value in your content.

7. Always personalize your emails

Image 1e.e. Personalization

According to Gartner, companies with fully functional online personalization outsell their competitors without it by more than 30%. According to Salesforce, 63% of millennials, 58% of Gen Xers, and 46% of baby boomers are willing to share their email for receiving personalized offers and discounts.

Image 1e.f. Personalization Research by Salesforce

Image 1e.f. Personalization Research by Salesforce

Still, only 39% of online retailers implement personalization in their campaigns, according to Certona.

It’s clear that many marketers need to improve on their email personalization techniques. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Use personalized subject lines.
  • Ensure your email starts by addressing the recipient by name.
  • Use dynamic content by inserting personal information wherever possible.
  • Do not limit with the name; use all the information you have collected from the customer to personalize the messages to them.

How do you get so much information from the customer to personalize your emails?

One way is directly from the customer, through your form. Have two forms developed for your site—one simple popup form with only two fields, name and email, and one full-fledged, but non-intrusive, form that collects a lot more information from the subscriber.

Make sure that your form doesn’t collect unwanted personal data.

Image 1e.g. Topshop Signup Form

Image 1e.g. Topshop Signup Form

You can collect data also from other types of forms on your website. If you have an integration to your CRM system, that’s another way to gather more information about your customer.

Your email marketing tool also will give you additional integrations that can be used to collect data.

For instance, GetResponse provides over 121 integrations across ecommerce, CRM, social media, CMS, and analytics platforms. Some of them are WordPress, Joomla, Magento, Salesforce, Google Ads, PayPal, PrestaShop, Shopify, Zencart, and Freshbooks.

These integrations allow you to build detailed customer profiles over time that you can use to personalize your messages.

8. Use responsive emails

Image 1e.h. Responsive Emails

Litmus’s Email Client Market Trends report of 2018 suggests that nearly 47% of the emails are opened on a mobile device while only up to 20% are opened on a desktop.

Image 1e.i. Email Client Market Share

Image 1e.i. Email Client Market Share

According to DMA, 40% of transactions involve multiple devices and 30% of customers complete a transaction through a mobile device.

This means, you have to ensure your emails look good on smartphones and tablets.

Your visitors use multiple devices to read and interact with your email, and the email has to look good on all of them.

A professional email marketing tool such as Aweber or GetResponse can give you well-designed, responsive email templates as part of the package.

9. Segment well

Image 1e.j. Customer Segmentation

DMA says over 760% increase in email marketing revenue is achievable by segmenting your users.

According to DMA’s 2018 Statistical Fact Book, segmentation and individualized messaging are the most effective email strategies.

Image 1e.k. DMA Segmentation Is Effective

Image 1e.k. DMA Segmentation Is Effective

What is segmentation?

It’s the classification of your subscribers on various parameters in order to target them with relevant, timely emails.

How do you get effective email segments in your marketing? You can do it based on an endless array of factors:

  • Their position in the sales funnel: Do not send a welcome email to a seasoned customer.
  • The purchase history and wish list
  • Amount spent by them
  • Customer surveys or quizzes
  • The content your subscribers download from your site
  • The preferences they set in their account
  • Their location & ZIP code
  • Their demographics: age, sex, marital status, etc.
  • Occupation
  • Your website analytics
  • Whether or not they open your email
  • Whether or not they reply to your email

A beautifully segmented customer list is a goldmine of opportunities. It allows you to send finely targeted product recommendations. Segmentation will provide huge improvement in open rates.

MailChimp has seen the following improvements in various metrics by the incorporation of segmentation in campaigns.

Image 1e.l. Global Stats Across Segmented Campaigns

Image 1e.l. Global Stats Across Segmented Campaigns

10. Preview your email before sending

Image 1e.m. Email Previewing

Your email may not look the same across all devices and email clients. So, testing before sending is extremely important. Testing allows you to spot errors on your email font, colors, images, or dynamic content.

Most email marketing tools allow you to see the preview of your email across multiple devices and email clients.

You can also do a spam test to detect whether existing spam software could mark your email as spam.

The test could simulate how your email would look on top email clients.

Campaign Monitor allows you to preview your email on clients such as: AOL, Gmail, Office 365, Outlook, Yahoo!, Apple Mail, Lotus Notes, iPhone Mail, Pixel, etc. It also allows testing against spam filters like Symantec Cloud, Spam Assassin, Outlook 2013, Gmail, and Yahoo!.

Image 1e.n. Email Preview Test

Image 1e.n. Email Preview Test

11. Email marketing analytics

Image 1e.o. Email Marketing Analytics

Are you sending emails to thousands of subscribers? You need to analyze your campaigns extremely well to understand whether they are effective.

Here are some of the key metrics you must track for your email campaigns.

Open rate: Percentage of how many people opened your emails.

Click-through rate: Percentage of people who click the CTA and come to your site.

Click-to-open rate: Ratio of clicks to opens.

Calculation: Clicks = 50; opens = 190: CTOR = 50/190 = 0.263 or 26.3%

Good CTOR, according to Campaign Monitor, is between 20 – 30%.

Unsubscribe rate: Industry-standard unsubscribe rate is less than 0.5%. Some reasons why people unsubscribe can be:

  • Lack of segmentation
  • Too frequent emails
  • Change in the customer’s email address
  • Spammy or unprofessional looking emails
  • Irrelevant content
  • They signed up only for the initial offer.

Engagement time: How long do your recipients spend on your emails? Many email marketing tools provide this as a part of their analytics.

Sender reputation: Are you maintaining a good sender reputation? Sender Score can provide you with a report of your sender reputation in a scale of 0 to 100. The higher, the better.

A report looks like this.

Image 1e.p. Sender Score Sample Report

Image 1e.p. Sender Score Sample Report

12. A/B testing


Image 1e.q. A B Testing

A/B testing is beyond the normal email preview test. It’s an analytical method to identify which email is better among two alternatives.

You have to first build two versions of the same email, with minor variations in subject line, content, and sender email address.

Then, half of your recipients receive the first version while the other half receive the alternative. Based on the analytics, you can identify the most effective version.

GetResponse provides this as a standard feature. It also allows you to see the results in real time and fix the most effective variant.

According to GetResponse, 51% of marketers still haven’t adopted A/B testing as a way to analyze and improve their email campaigns.

Conclusion

ROI of email marketing campaigns is the highest among any digital marketing activity.

Image 1e.r. ROI of Email Marketing

Image 1e.r. ROI of Email Marketing

That is an ROI of 3900%.

It’s clear how important email is for your marketing success. But do follow the recommendations in this article to ensure that you are attaining that success.


Lenin VJ Nair

Lenin Nair has years of experience in marketing for software and technology domains. He is a certified specialist in marketing and enjoys exploring new ways to market products and services for small and medium businesses. He enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and ideating. He holds an MBA in marketing and a bachelor's degree in IT.

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