What is Email Marketing and Why You Need It

| 11 min read
Written by

Our Agency Director, Maureen Shelley, writes our blog on email marketing (email digital marketing, eDM, eDMs). After decades as a journalist in the areas of business, real estate, finance, technology, and gossip (wait, what?) our CEO became an owner at TCC. At TCC, she leads our growing team and delivers webinars and workshops on copywriting, digital marketing, and communications.

In her blog today, Maureen covers:

  1. The importance of email marketing
  2. How to create your email marketing strategy
  3. How to build your own email list
  4. How to craft great email content, and
  5. How to increase your email open rates

What is email marketing and why do we need it?

Email marketing is when we email our clients or prospective clients about our products or services. We may offer information about new products or services, or let them know something useful or educational. Other times, we may have a promotion (sale or discount) that we want some love for, or we may have a newsletter to communicate. The purpose of each email marketing campaign may be different (campaign type) but we undertake email marketing for four main reasons.

We use email marketing:

  • To target our prospects
  • To keep our customers informed, educated, and entertained
  • Because it is cost-effective, as well as getting great conversion, and
  • Because we own our lists (a social media giant can’t take them away from you)

Inbound strategy and inbound marketing

Email marketing is part of our overall inbound marketing strategy (even though it in itself is outbound). So let me explain: Email marketing is part of our inbound marketing process.

What is Inbound Marketing and why should we use it?

Inbound marketing is when our prospects and customers come to us. Rather than us chase prospects or try to make sales, we make offers or position ourselves as providers of valuable content, and our target audience comes to know, like and trust us. Or at least know and trust us – you don’t have to like your customers and they don’t have to like you. But that’s a separate blog topic 😊.

If we demonstrate that we are expert or have the best products in an area in which a prospect is looking to buy, as long as we’re trustworthy they will reach out to buy from us. Email marketing lets them make that assessment (again and again). It provides our prospects with the opportunity to assess us, and it helps to build a bridge of trust from the unknown to the familiar.

Email marketing, as part of our inbound strategy, gives our customers and prospects the opportunity to assess whether we are offering a product or service they want, it lets them come to us when they are ready to purchase and helps them to trust us.

The Inbound Marketing Process

The inbound marketing process is when we take strangers through a process that entices them to become visitors to our digital assets (website, social media channels), from there they enquire about our services or products (become leads) and then they buy (convert). If we are very fortunate and we do our jobs well, they become ambassadors for our brand (brand advocates).

The problem is that inbound marketing, once the province of big brands with bigger budgets, is now practised by every Dora, Jane, and Clarrie. Our prospects are receiving thousands of unsolicited emails a year. As more brands move to inbound marketing, cut through becomes more important.

So how do we cut through? The best way is through storytelling. Our brains are hardwired to connect with compelling stories. So, as business owners, we need not just to become digital marketers but also expert storytellers. The more compelling a story we can tell, the more likely our prospects are to connect with us and start to build that essential trust.

Create your marketing strategy

The first step in developing any strategy is to identify your goals. We can’t know if we’ve gotten somewhere if we don’t know where we’re going.

The next is to know your audience. Then, we need to choose tools so we can deliver way more than our small team would otherwise. After that, we need to grow and build our email marketing list. And then we need to start writing compelling copy that converts.

But before all of those other steps, we start with our goals.

Goal setting – Be Smart

We need to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART).

Specific

Often when setting goals we say, “I want to be more profitable”. That’s good but doesn’t go into enough detail. You could ask yourself, “What is my profit margin now, how much do I want to improve it by and when do I want to see this improvement?” Those are specific goals. It’s a bit like when people tell you to “take a jump” and you ask, “how high?”

For your goals, because you have a business to run, we suggest you target one area to improve. Say you don’t currently send out an email newsletter, decide that you are going to. Then decide on frequency, content strategy and the social media support you are going to use.

Measurable

Everyone who’s ever had a child or been a child is familiar with the dreaded question from a bored child in the back seat of the car:. “Are we there yet?”. Yet, this is a great question. How do we know when we are “there” unless we set a destination from the start?

So take a minute to write down what “success” is. If your goal is “more profit”, you could write “I want my business to be 5% more profitable by second quarter this financial year”. Then work out what measurable steps you need to take to achieve that 5% increase in profit.

And while you are setting measurable goals, build in a review process. So if your profit goal is achieved in a quarter, review your progress each month. In that way, you can adjust your strategy to achieve your goal.

Achievable

So many people in life tell you to reach for the stars, dream impossible dreams, think big, or go big or go home. I’m not going to tell you that. When you are goal setting, reach for the achievable. I don’t mean make your goal so small that you will easily exceed it. I mean, set a goal that you can achieve if you follow the steps that you outline.

If you want more of a challenge, you can set a goal and a stretch goal. “I want 5% increase in profitability by second quarter (Q2) this financial year (FY2022)” and that can be your goal. Your stretch goal could then be 7.5% by Q2 FY2022.

For the first goal, you work out what’s my profit margin now, what do I have to do to increase that by 5%, and then what do I have to do to make that 7.5%?

Timely

Whether it’s a good sour dough, a vintage wine, ageing a cheese or any other wonderful thing that we love in life – the good stuff takes time.

But there are two aspects of time. Our goals need to have time to mature, and they also need to be made at the right time.

It’s no good deciding in April to publish a book in time for Mothers’ Day (May in Australia). You need to have the book written by November, published in December, promoted throughout February, March and April to make your sales in time for Mothers’ Day. But, if you want to publish a book, the best time to do so is in September/October for Christmas sales (just sayin’).

Research and understand your audience

Who are you talking to? Did you know:

  • 1 in 3 Australians is born overseas
  • 1 in 4 Australians lives with a disability
  • 4 in 10 Australians have a low level of literacy
  • 1 in 3 of your prospects read on their mobile phone

The message for you to take home from this is that you need to make your content accessible to all! We recommend that you follow the Style Manual published by the Australian Government: https://stylemanual.gov.au. It’s a great resource for understanding how to write in Plain English.

Create Buyer Personas

The next step in understanding your audience is in creating a summary of your ideal customer.

You can use quantitative analysis or market research; you could jot down notes of your own observations about who your customers are. You can use other data sources (check what your competitors are doing) or see what businesses that you admire do.

You want to create a picture of this client that includes their gender (if appropriate), age, life stage, location (if relevant) and anything that you can determine such as do they access material on their phone, laptop, or desktop, what browser do they use, when do they access your material.

We have a handy buyer persona template you can use, so if you’d like a copy please get in touch <Buyer Persona Template link>

Getting started with email campaigns

Now that you understand where email marketing fits within your overall inbound marketing strategy, you’re ready to start creating campaigns. I’m going to guide you through it step by step. 

Step 1: Choose your tools

Before you get started, you need to choose your preferred email marketing tools. There are plenty of easy-to-use tools out there so your choices will depend on your needs and budget.

Here are a few that we recommend to our clients. Many of these have free plans with enough functionality for some small businesses. For businesses with bigger needs, there are comprehensive paid plans.

  • Mailchimp

One of the most widely used email marketing tools. Great for beginners.

  • HubSpot

For those who love HubSpot’s CRM. It has a freemium email marketing tool.

  • Zoho Campaign

Integrates with the suite of Zoho apps for a comprehensive marketing strategy.

  • Drip

Perfect for ecommerce, Drip is a marketing automation platform that includes email.

  • Trello

A workflow management tool that lets you plan, draft and execute effective campaigns.

  • Airtable

This workflow management tool lets you automate manual tasks to make your campaigns more efficient.

  • Excel Editorial Calendar from TCC

Our tried and tested editorial calendar helps you keep on top of email campaign organisation.

How to grow your email list

There are a lot of ways to grow your email list, from buying emails to grabbing them from anyone who makes an enquiry. While tempting, these methods are only going to work against you in the long run. A user who finds herself subscribed to a list she never subscribed to is going to unsubscribe, mark you as spam, and feel disgruntled towards your business.

Instead, here are a few ways to grow your email list ethically.

Sign up form on your website

Create an email sign-up form on your website. Usually in the footer or a side bar, it lets users voluntarily opt-in to receive your news and updates.

Subscriber opt-in at checkout

The best way to get users to subscribe is to allow them to opt in by clicking a checkbox. Some brands use the slightly more aggressive method of having that checkbox already ticked so the user must uncheck it to avoid subscribing.

Capture Leads with a Web-to-Lead form

Get your audience to voluntarily enter in their name, email address and other information into a form. The form can be on your website or on another site such as a social media platform. The users personal information will be captured in your CRM as a lead. How do you entice users to fill out this form in the first place? That brings us to our next email capture strategy.

Lead magnets

A lead magnet is something that you offer in exchange for a user’s contact information, especially email addresses. You will have seen lead magnets when you go to an online store and sign up to receive a discount on your first purchase.

Lead magnets must provide value to be effective, but don’t worry, it doesn’t always have to be a discount or coupon code. It can be something as simple as content that’s useful, informative or even entertaining.

You can also use paid advertising to run lead capture campaigns to great effect. Social media platforms such as Facebook give you an easy way to create lead magnets and capture forms, and they integrate with your CRM.

Lead magnet ideas

So what kind of lead magnet should you use? The only way to answer this is by trial and error as you  see what works for your audience. But it’s useful to remember that today’s savvy internet users are more discerning about who they give their email addresses to and for what purpose.

Webinars are a popular and effective way to capture leads because they offer real value and build a relationship between brands and their audiences.

Here are a few lead magnet ideas:

  • Calculator
  • Cheat sheet, tip sheet, resources (magic PDF)
  • Discount coupon
  • eBooks
  • Free consultation
  • Free trials or samples
  • Quizzes or a self-assessment
  • White papers or case studies
  • Webinars

Step 2: Campaign types

One sure way to annoy your audience and generate a tsunami of unsubscribes is by blasting random emails at them. But, by knowing your campaign type and purpose, you can send strategic emails that your audience greedily open and look forward to receiving again.

Three common email campaign types include:

  • Weekly newsletter
  • New product release
  • Useful or interesting blog

Always remember to stick to a purpose that benefits your subscribers, whether that be to educate, inform or entertain. As I explained earlier, as an inbound method, email marketing can never serve the purpose of converting leads to sales.

Step 3: Crafting compelling emails

Sadly, many of us are snowed in by a daily deluge of emails. With all that competition, it takes compelling content to grab our attention. Let’s look at some of the ways you can entice your subscribers to open and read your valuable emails.

Subject lines

Aside from the sender name, the subject line is the first thing we see when we get an email. Therefore, it’s the single most decisive factor as to whether we open or delete!

Craft engaging subject lines through a little thing called personalisation. Make sure the subject line conveys what’s in your email succinctly and address the subscriber by their first name. You don’t have to do this manually, your email tool will show you how to do it using merger tags.

Adding emojis has also been shown to increase click-through rates by over 50%. Use CoSchedule’s Subject Line Tester to help you craft irresistible subject lines.

Email content

Like any other digital content, emails should be scannable so people can “snack” on them in those spare moments throughout the day. Use plenty of headings, subheadings, and small paragraphs to break up your emails into a readable form.

Once you’ve mastered these basic readability principles, you can use some of these techniques to make your content compelling.

  • Mystery: Entice your readers in by stimulating their sense of intrigue
  • Measurement: Use percentages to help readers quantify what you can do for them
  • FOMO: Stoke your readers’ Fear Of Missing Out
  • Power words: Refer to CoSchedule’s power word bank to strengthen your copy
  • Value: Useful, interesting or entertaining content has value

Graphics and Images

Graphics and images can add colour and interest to your emails, but make sure to use them when relevant and appropriate. Use your email campaign tool to size images correctly so that they don’t take too long to load in people’s inboxes—because readers won’t have the patience to wait around for them. Give your graphics and images sensible alt text, so that they’re accessible and can be read by screen readers. 

Step 4: Split testing

Don’t let the marketing jargon scare you. Split testing is a simple concept and it’s easy for small businesses to do. Also known as A/B testing, it’s your way of figuring out what sorts of emails your audience like to receive.

In split testing, you take two nearly identical emails and change just one element to test which works better. For example, you send out your weekly newsletter to a group of subscribers. Half of those emails have subject line A, and the other half have subject line B. After the campaign, your open and click-through rates will reveal which subject line worked better.

Use split testing for:

  • Send times
  • Send days
  • Subject lines
  • Headings
  • Body copy
  • CTAs

Split testing is a powerful tool to learn more about your audience.

Step 5: Create audience segments

As you start getting strategic with your email campaigns, you’ll start to realise that your subscriber list consists of different groups of people with different relationships to your business.

When you split these subscribers up into groups, they are called audience segments. For example, you might like to send an abandoned cart reminder to people who browsed your site but didn’t make a purchase. In this case, you obviously don’t want to email the abandoned cart reminder to people who already made a purchase.

Your CRM and email marketing tools will allow you to create audience segments like:

  • Website visitors
  • Landing page visitors
  • Blog subscribers
  • Facebook followers
  • Insta followers
  • Twitter followers
  • LinkedIn followers
  • And more

Be segmenting your audience, you can send more strategic emails that are relevant and timely. The more relevant and timely your emails, the more effective they will be.

Step 6: Use the Tools to Analyse

Analysing the results of your campaigns will help you run your campaigns more efficiently, save money on your marketing budget, and best of all, make your email marketing more effective.

Most email marketing platforms (e.g. Mailchimp), CRMs (e.g. HubSpot), and social media platforms (e.g. Facebook) have their inbuilt analytics tools. They also integrate with each other, so you can pull data from one platform into another.

Your two key metrics to look at will be:

Open rates: The percentage of subscribers opened your email

Click through rates: The percentage of subscribers clicked links in your emails

Keep your email marketing on track

With your email campaigns off to a good start, it’s important to review regularly to stay on track. Reviewing your campaigns means reflecting on how email marketing contributes to your overall business goals and progress.

Here are some questions to ask to ensure you’re running “on budget, on time, and on target”:

  • Do we reach our audience?
  • Do we email at the right time?
  • Do they like our content?
  • Is our audience growing?
  • Do we convert leads?
  • What sales come from email marketing?
  • How much does it cost?
  • How much do we make?

Use these considerations to inform your email strategy for cost-effective campaigns that add to your bottom line.

Ready to improve your Marketing skills?

Contact us today

About

Maureen Shelley is CEO and owner of TCC. She is an experienced digital and content strategist and was a nationally-syndicated journalist. Our all-round guru. Maureen manages corporate, digital and government projects for TCC. She loves helping clients and, with three masters degrees, knows lots.

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