MNB (www.mynewsletterbuilder.com) delivers extraordinary email marketing services for companies and individuals looking for more: more tools, more media, more templates, more accessible design capabilities, more professional account options, more management options, and more customer support.
Our industry amasses so much criticism related to unsolicited, ineffective, blase` emails that it warrants a discussion on what makes good (and better) email marketing.
We’re developing a comprehensive 10-step series on what you can do (all the time) to make certain your email marketing is performing well. This series is a soup-to-nuts, start-to-finish type of an assessment with a focus on small-to-medium sized businesses. It asks you relevant questions and expects reasonable responses.
There is lots of information to cover; you will find the basics here. Sign-up on our website to get the detailed process.
For now, lets jump right in.
Step 1 and 2 likely need to happen simultaneously as there is significant possibility that you had an egg before you had a chicken.
Step 1. Identify Your Audience
A simple step I take in establishing a business plan for any organization is identifying who your [potential] customer is. This relates directly to email marketing as you will want to market to each differently. Who do you think can be your customer? Who are your customers? What former customers do you think you can win back?
Essentially, you are looking for any viable group of individuals that comprise or demonstrate similar habits or behaviors. You can identify segments based on your products and services, demographics, purchasing habits, longevity as a customer, or customer status (current/former).
Step 2. Identify Your Content
What is your value proposition, and how do you present it accurately and succinctly to each of your audience segments? Some of this work was likely accomplished in Step 1, but go deeper here. Where is your expertise? What content can you create that will support and enthuse an audience. This is probably starting to read like building a business plan for your Intro to Business 101 class, right?
Step 3. Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
How are you going to know if your email marketing campaign is successful? You need goals and a way to measure progress toward those goals. If your goal is sales, then you need a way to track a conversion from your email towards your sales. If your goal is awareness, you can simply use an open rate. If your goal is getting people to your website, tracking and evaluating your click-through-rate may be pertinent.
The key here is actually identifying a purpose to your campaign and identifying what metrics you can utilize. Later on, we will cover making changes to your campaign (based on the metrics) to better achieve your goals.
Step 4. Establish Frequency
There are two major considerations here: 1) what does your content warrant and 2) what will your subscribers bear. If you can generate interesting and compelling content weekly then you can send weekly – it is as easy as that. Pair that with a poll of your subscribers’ preference (on frequency), and consider setting up a weekly newsletter, a bi-weekly newsletter, and/or a monthly newsletter. Let them decide what they want, and then give them what they want. If you have a smart enough system, each of these can be automated… but I cover that later.
Another factor to this is watching the response rate from your readers. You can tailor your frequency to get the best open rates and click-through rates, but the real determination should be against your KPIs. You could start with two newsletters a month and move to either weekly or monthly depending on the response. Every business and every subscriber set is different; no generic answer fits every campaign.
Step 5. Build a Newsletter
I propose two rules for any newsletter: 1) keep it short and sweet and 2) apply the rule of three. Less is definitely more; email is not a viable format for long-form content. Your website is. Give the reader a solid call to action and get them to your site.
My rule (well, it is more like a guideline) of three states no more than three articles, three font sizes, three colors, three images, three of anything. When you move past that, you risk too much distraction, too much length, too many changes to get filtered. Quick note, I am not suggesting your images be black and white; the rule of three as related to colors means colors in the template (backgrounds and fonts).
Lastly, with Litmus and Hubspot’s latest “Science of Email 2014”, the best click-through-rates in marketing emails was earned with 250 words and one image. That should weigh heavily into how you plan your newsletter.
Step 6. Consider Automation
You now have your content in newsletters and are sending based on an intelligently selected frequency to your well segmented lists – this is a great start. You may now be wondering (as I think most in the email marketing business do), isn’t there something that will just do this for me? Oh yes there is.
We build automation tools not because we are lazy, but because we like to be lazy. It is the motivation that is important, right?
Regardless, every system has built-in tools to allow you to communicate more without having to work more. Automatically send welcome messages, drip-campaigns (auto-series), newsletters initiated and populated by an RSS URL, or responders based on subscriber activity. If you find yourself doing something over-and-over, ask how it can be automated.
Step 7. Collect More Audience
This step is fairly obvious as everyone I’ve dealt with understands that a newsletter sign-up form on their website is critical for collecting a bigger audience.
Do you also have a sign-up form on your Facebook page? A link on your LinkedIn page? A link in your email? Are you promoting referrals? Are you promoting your newsletter via your other marketing channels? Are you promoting your other marketing channels in your newsletter? Do you have a text-to-subscribe system?
Give people incentives to join, and give people what they want and need in a newsletter, and your list will grow. Differentiate yourself, make a real difference and your list can explode.
Step 8. Measure Results
Sending, collecting, sending, collecting – the process doesn’t really stop. After every send you should be evaluating your metrics and KPIs to see how you did. The important factor here is that you actually look at what you did,and tie that into the results.
Did changing your subject line to have a compelling deadline increase your open rate?
Did having only one call-to-action inside the newsletter increase your click-through rate?
Did offering an additional 5% on the discount earn you more purchases? This one, in particular, is a good one to watch as sometimes the obvious answer isn’t the best one. You may offer an additional 5% discount, but if you aren’t increasing your sales, why take the hit in revenue?
Last quick point here, real testing needs to happen over time. Seldom are the results apparent or obvious with a single change in a single newsletter. Most times, you evaluate over time and over a few sends.
Step 9. Revamp
The most important lesson in all of this is learning how to change what you did to improve your results. This is not solely related to metrics, but your entire campaign. Change things up and be different. Look at what your competition is doing. Sometimes you will benefit from doing something similar, and sometimes you will benefit from doing something completely different.
The ultimate take-away: you need not fear when you change your approach and the results are lower; learn from that and change again.
Step 10. Repeat
I dare say ad-nauseum, but the key to a healthy email marketing campaign is repeated contact, repeated changes, repeated offerings, repeat customers. Run through this 10-step process and execute for three or six months. Then revamp and repeat. Keeping your email marketing static (like a two year old website) is going to cause significant attrition in your list, reduction in response rates and engagement, and tedium for a work environment.
I appreciate you reading all of the way down here. If you want to get more in-depth with each of these, my company is writing up individual articles on each step. We spread the writing love around to a few folks to give you a variety of perspectives. We ask you to reflect on the articles and offer homework assignments. You can sign-up for (what we call) the How-To Primer here.