Email has endured the test of time. While new mediums, like social media, have sprung up over the past few decades, email still remains a dominant force in revenue generation for businesses small and large. Yet, in the face of so much new media, many small businesses relegate their emails to the back burner.
This is a mistake. Email still has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing channel, so if you’re not using it, you’re leaving money on the table.
In this article, we’re going to cover 6 essential tips for small businesses looking to up their email game. By the end, you’ll have a clear idea of how you can make your email campaigns effective and relevant.
Tip #1: Use Automation and Drip Campaigns
It’s not 2013 anymore, so don’t run your campaigns like it is. Email marketing tools have come a long way since the 2010s, but far too many small businesses are still stuck in the mindset that simply sending out email blasts is the key to success. While newsletters should undoubtedly be a cornerstone of most businesses’ email efforts, they should be viewed as a piece in a larger puzzle that includes automated and reactive emails.
If you don’t already know what an email drip campaign is, check out our article on it here. In short, it’s a campaign that automatically sends emails either on a predetermined schedule or based on user actions. For example, a drip campaign might include a welcome email immediately upon signup, a follow-up email a week later, an abandoned cart email if the subscriber added items to their cart without checking out, and another follow up email after a month.
According to some studies, automated emails generate 320% more revenue than non-automated emails. Plus, customers who receive abandoned cart emails are 2.4 times more likely to complete their purchases.
Tip #2: Segment Your List
It shouldn’t come as news to you that there are lots of different types of customers and leads out there. There are customers who have made a couple of purchases, customers that have made dozens of purchases, and leads who have been browsing but haven’t made a purchase. Plus, depending on your business, you may also have customers interested in different types of products or services.
Treating these distinct groups the same is a serious mistake. Each of these customer archetypes is at a different point in the sales funnel, so your approach should vary accordingly. Email list segmentation allows you to split your list into sublists based on set criteria (behaviors, funnel stage, interests, demographics, etc.) to ensure that your customers only receive the emails that are most relevant to them. When emails are relevant to your subscribers, they’re more likely to open them, engage with them, and ultimately convert.
When it comes to list segmentation, the numbers don’t lie. Marketers have noted a 760% increase in revenue generated from campaigns that make use of segmented lists. The click-through rates for segmented campaigns are 100.95% higher than non-segmented ones, and segmented emails generate 58% of a company’s revenue on average (PDF).
Segmenting tends to go hand in hand with automating your emails. With automation, you can immediately group subscribers together based on even more specific criteria, like opening an email, adding a specific item to their cart, etc.
Tip #3: Make Sure You Comply With Anti-Spam Laws
While large businesses and enterprises may have entire teams dedicated to compliance, small businesses often don’t have that luxury, leaving them to figure out how to comply with anti-spam laws on their own.
Unfortunately, breaking spam laws is no small misstep: businesses that violate the US CAN-SPAM Act can face fines of up to $43,280 per email. If you sent out just one hundred non-compliant emails, you could be staring down a fine of several millions of dollars.
Needless to say, you need to do your research before you start any serious email marketing efforts. Luckily, complying with the law is pretty straightforward. Your first step should be to look through the official compliance guidelines here.
Essentially, the laws state that you can’t use false, deceptive, or misleading subject lines and headers, you must provide a physical mailing address in your emails (typically in the footer), and allow subscribers to easily opt-out of your emails. The law also states that even if you hire a third-party contractor to manage your emails, you’ll still be liable for any violations they commit, so it’s important to closely monitor their work.
If you have any customers or subscribers outside of the US, you’ll want to make sure your emails comply with those laws as well. However, most spam laws are fairly similar at heart. Some international laws to keep in mind include Canada’s CASL and the European Union’s E-Privacy Directive and GDPR.
Keep in mind that even aside from any legal concerns, sending out spam is simply not an effective strategy. Anti-spam filters have gotten better over the years, so you’re likely to waste a lot of money and end up with a blacklisted email account. Follow the directives above, and you should have fairly smooth sailing.
Tip #4: Keep Mobile in Mind
Over the past few years, there has been a marked shift towards mobile. In fact, about 50% of US web traffic is now from mobile devices, and if the upward trend continues, it will soon become the majority. Email has not escaped this transition, with 42% of emails opened on mobile environments compared to approximately 18% on desktop and 40% on webmail.
For the most part, major email marketing tools will sort out the technical side of mobile optimization for you. But there’s still a lot to do as far as making sure your copy, images, and layout work well on mobile devices.
In general, you’ll want to keep your email copy concise and to the point. Hit your readers with a captivating headline and then follow up with an image to keep them scrolling further. Bullet points are often very effective on mobile as they can be read quite quickly, whereas prose takes a bit more concentration. Finally, you’ll typically want to include a CTA at the bottom.
Overall, a well-designed email should work across multiple formats, but you’ll still want to try to imagine how it will look on mobile while you’re making it. Ideally, you’ll also test it out on a mobile device or a mobile emulator to see how it actually comes across.
Tip #5: Remember to Test, Test, Test
Email marketing is as much an art as it is a science. Although there’s a lot of creativity that can go into emails, like eye-catching designs and snappy copy, none of that means a thing if it doesn’t have a positive effect on your bottom line. If you’re not consistently testing all of your creative and seeing what works best, you’re leaving money on the table.
The concept behind split testing is simple: you split your list of recipients in half (many CRMs will do this for you), send group A one version of an email, and send group B a different one. Ideally, you’ll want only one difference (the independent variable) between the two versions so that you can more easily identify what prompted the change, i.e., a different headline, image, layout, etc.
After you’ve sent your email, take a look at your analytics to see which one performed better. This will give you a clear idea of how to move forward in the future. It’s particularly useful for email drip campaigns since those reuse emails. If one version is outperforming another, swap it out and abandon the lesser version.
Over time, continually testing your emails will help you figure out what the most effective parts of your emails are so that you can optimize your campaigns and get more conversions.
Tip #6: Be Consistent and Stick to Your Plan
Even if you follow all the other tips on this list, it will all be for naught if you don’t send any emails. As they say, the first step to doing a good job is simply showing up.
In email marketing, consistency is key. To really make the most out of this channel, you need to make a plan and stick to it. If that’s only sending one email a month, that’s fine, but you need to actually send one email a month without taking a few months off every now and then.
This is both the simplest advice and the hardest to follow. If there’s anything you take away from this article it should be this: even the best plans will amount to nothing if you don’t put them into action and follow them through to their conclusion.