What is email marketing?

By Shoshi Weinstein
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Introduction - email marketing

When people talk about content marketing, others usually assume they’re referring to blogging, or are confusing it with social media marketing. This makes me cup my face in my hands and shake my head from side-to-side. What about email marketing? It’s used to engage contacts by created personalized and valuable content along with relevant and engaging calls-to-action, to move them through the buyer’s journey. If that’s not content marketing, I don’t know what is.  

I’ll be honest, optimized email marketing is just about my favorite channel of inbound marketing. Here are some reasons why:

  • Unless you’re buying lists, email addresses you have in your database are intrinsically inbound triggers. Your contacts gave you their email addresses because they’re expecting to hear from you. It’s your job to impress them with your content, wisdom, and offers.
  • These emails can be highly personalized. Through list segmentation of implicit and explicit data (more on those soon) and personalization tokens, no email can be marked off as irrelevant.
  • It allows for research and tweaking. Using a/b testing, you can optimize your email campaigns by testing what factors in an email create more engagement and adjust your future emails accordingly. This way you can create the best emails possible.

But that’s just the tip of the email marketing iceberg. Let’s go back and create a foundation of what email marketing is, how to build a personalized and action-oriented email marketing workflow, and optimize for the highest conversion rate.

how to strategize and boost your email marketing performance

Ready to start drafting? Think again.

Before you write a single line of content, you’re going to want to head on over to your CRM or contact database. In order to run a great email marketing strategy, start segmenting your contacts into buyer personas. Your buyer personas are the different types of people your content speaks to AKA the kind of people you’re looking to connect with. Maybe they’re CEOs of hi-tech companies or customer success managers at travel agencies. By catering each piece of content to one of your various personas, you will make each message feel relevant and personalized to your readers.

But that’s not all. What you’ve looked at so far is only explicit data - or data that is shared by the contact within the company. But there’s also implicit data that is information gathered from user behavior. Consider the buyer’s journey and lifecycle stage which address where each contact is in their journey from your marketing team to your sales team to your customer success team. These will work as the basis for how to personalize your approach to your contacts.  Has the contact downloaded a specific eBook that can shed light on their current state? Are they a new customer? By creating lists that reflect the digital engagement of those contacts with your company, you can then go on to create content that speaks to who they are and their relationship with your company.

Pro Tip: if you’re using HubSpot’s marketing tool, make sure to track all actions the contact has taken on your website. What blog posts did they read? What pages did they visit? Tailor your emails to correlate with what you know about the contact.

content and design ilustration 

Content & Design

Now that we know WHO we’re talking to, can we starting writing content yet? Patience.

Before we start writing, we have to talk about goals, structure, and design for your emails. Figure you’ve looked at your newly revamped and segmented contact list and think: “I seem to have a number of contacts that are CEOs that have subscribed to our blog, downloaded a consideration stage eBook, but haven’t contacted us about a demo, free trial, or consultation.” For this group, you’ll want to move them one step further down the buyer’s journey. You’re so close to finding out if they’re strong leads for your sales team to approach! So you decide you want to set a goal for this group to take a decision stage action. To do that, you choose to write for them a sequence of emails to get them to request a free consult. Awesome!

Before you start writing or typing, here are some points to consider about the design and content for your emails:

  • At the top of an email (and this goes for any inbound outreach) you’re going to want to give a reason to get in touch. This isn’t a spammed message but one that comes with intention for who they are and where your relationship stands. By grabbing their attention this way, you’ll get them curious enough to hear you out.
  • When building anticipation, one great design tip is whitespace. While we tend to think of whitespace as making content look empty, it’s actually needed to help readers who are scanning the content. By cutting the clutter of your content and creating space that frames your words, your message will be easier to read and hold a sharper presence.
  • Another comment about design. Use fonts, colors and bold text to help capture the reader’s interest. Tip: Don’t underline. Underlines can look like they should be links that don’t work. Find other ways to get your point across.
  • Try not to offer more than one CTA. We think that our prospects want options, but the reality is less is more. When contacts get multiple offers that they’re interested in, there’s a good chance they’ll just close the email simply because they can’t decide which one they want more. Sounds like a nice problem to have in theory, but this can really hurt your conversion rate. So remember, less is more.

The picture below of the inverted pyramid is a format to follow for writing all your marketing emails. You want something big and bold to grab the reader’s attention, then build anticipation that they have a challenge or situation that you can help with, and lastly offer a clear and pointed (no pun intended) CTA to collect that offer.

attention pyramid: Grab attention, build anticipation, Call to action

(HubSpot Academy)

Building a sequence

Zooming out, let’s see how an email is going to work in a larger email sequence. (Not sure how to build an email sequence? Check out some tools and tricks to get started here.) By using a sequence, you can do two things: provide a content offer a number of times (because there’s always a chance they won’t bite the first time) or push people through their buyer’s journey.

Before writing an email sequence, consider the following template:

Sequence Goal:

Starting Criteria (who will be you be sending the emails to?):

Email 1:

Email 2:

Email 3:

Follow up email:

Let’s go back to our example from earlier and fill out the table:

Sequence Goal:

Request a free consultation

Starting Criteria  (who will be you be sending the emails to?):

CEOs that are blog subscribers, filled out a form to download a consideration stage eBook, but haven’t requested a demo, trial, or consult

Email 1:

Send them consideration blog posts related to the consideration eBook they downloaded

Email 2:

Send a case study

Email 3:

Send offer to request a consultation

Follow up email:

Thank you email + schedule consult                                                                  

By creating an outline for your sequences, you can ensure that every email you send in a sequence provides relevant and compelling value and a CTA that pushes them to your goal along their path to purchase.

Some final words about optimization

83% of marketers aren’t optimizing for their email marketing campaigns.  Scary isn’t it? That means that 83% of marketers are planning and writing emails without any follow up to see what’s converting and what isn’t. Aspects of your emails like send time, subject line, images, device email is opened on, and CTA design can all affect the way your contacts interact with your emails. Try a/b testing to see if changes in your emails affect the way people engage with them. But only switch one variable at a time! Try to alter more than one thing at once won’t help you find the piece that makes a difference. One more thing: don’t stop a test too soon. Reliable results take time, so run a test for at least a month (if not for a whole quarter) before changing your strategy to something new.

Looking for more tips and advice before you start writing? Check out our How to Strategize and Boost Your Email Marketing eBook below!

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About Shoshi Weinstein

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Shoshi hails from NYC, and is addicted to the startup life. She holds a degree in psychology and communications (IDC Herzliya) and is a published researcher. Your basic millennial, Shoshi loves gluten-free baking and sees her life through the lens of her instastories.

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