For many, the New Year brings a renewed energy towards the pursuit of one’s passions or success. For more than a few businesses, email marketing is a part of that equation.

Email marketing is an incredible opportunity for businesses to nurture meaningful relationships with their customers and leads. After all, better relationships is often a New Year’s resolution many of us have as well.

It’s a new year and with that comes a new list of reasons that email marketing isn’t dead yet. Aside from the aforementioned relationship building reason, here are a few stats that demonstrate why email marketing is still the king in 2019:

  • Can you believe that more than half of the people on planet Earth used email in 2018? Well, they did. A whopping 3.8 billion people used email last year. I’m sure some of the younger generations will be surprised it’s not higher.
  • Additionally, there are projections that show that email will hit 4.2B users as 2022 comes to a close.
  • All those people using email and they’re checking it too. In fact, research has shown that 91% of the consumers in the US check their inboxes each day.
  • Checking emails is actually the first thing that 58% of adults say they do in the morning.
  • Not only is email being widely used, but email marketing is effective. Consumers who have received emails from a brand spend on average 138% more than those who don’t get any emails.

email marketing stats infographic

So, now that we can see why email still reigns supreme in 2019, let’s take a look at creating your email marketing plan for the New Year.

Why is it important to have an email marketing plan?

We’re not all Google or Apple or another tech giant with seemingly endless resources.

Most of us only have a limited amount of time and resources to dedicate to each area of our businesses and marketing efforts.

When you can plan out an email marketing plan for the quarter or even your whole year, you allow yourselves the ability to see what’s coming next and plan accordingly. You’re able to budget the time and resources enough in advance that you can ensure a consistent email marketing schedule throughout the year.

Additionally, when you establish goals for your email marketing efforts, you can track your progress and report back to the team, as well as make improvements when necessary to ensure you’re hitting your marks. With the end goal in mind, it’s easier to see what you need to be monitoring in your reports and then make adjustments to move closer to those goals. That might be improving your subject lines or using a more recognizable From Name as shown by your open rates. It could also mean doing a better job of segmenting your lists to send more relevant content that boosts your click-through rates and ultimately conversions.

Part of the time and resources dedicated to your email marketing plan must involve a focus on growing your list. That way you can choose tactics that fit your schedule and create a plan that you can execute accordingly.

Choose Your Email Marketing Tools

Jordie van Rijn knows a thing or two about helping businesses choose the best email marketing tool for their needs. He’s an email marketing consultant and the founder of Email Vendor Selection.

Here are his thoughts on this subject:

With every year comes evaluation and planning. One way to gain more insights into your internal and external vendors is to create a vendor evaluation dashboard as Kevin Hillstrom talks about. I like the idea because it allows you to share your goals with your (internal and external) vendors and keep them awake. Suddenly vendor partners can start to care (more) about your business.

If you are looking for a new email marketing software this year, one consideration I’d like to highlight is to not look at the price or even the email marketing ROI if the solutions are in the same range, but take into account the ROTI: Return on Time Investment. Once you have found the different solutions that seems to fit the bill and you are comparing. ROTI  means the time it takes to create emails, set up campaigns, do reporting, handle data and whathaveyou in the day-to-day processes. But also the time in training, collaboration and internal processes. Time might be the ultimate measurement for ease of use. You can easily find more money, but it is hard to find more time. Jordie van Rijn –

Identify Your Target Audience

Knowing to plan for list growth tactics and where to focus your energy to do so begins with identifying your core customer.

Understanding who your customer is will help you in all aspects of your marketing efforts. It’s what will let you do a customer-centric approach to your email marketing. It also helps guide each decision you make, because you can do so with your core customer in mind.

Who is your core customer?

The first step is the gain an understanding of who is your primary customer.

Consider what that person wants and even more important than that, what they truly need. What problem are you solving for them?  What value are you delivering to them?

Give that person a name. Consider what that person drives and where they shop. Ask yourself what restaurants they dine at, what publications they read and where they spend their time online. This information will help you understand where you should be spending your time for list growth.

The second step for identifying your core customer is to consider who is the supporting customer.

Aside from your primary customer detailed above, there will be a group of people who make the purchasing decisions. They may not be the one that has to use your products or services, but they are the one approving the budgets for your primary customer. You need to know where and how to connect with that group as well.

What do you need to offer your core customer to get them to opt-in to your list?

You need a very good understanding of what is the uncommon offering your core customer seeks from you. It’s what they cannot find anywhere else (at least as good as you do it). The customers you already have are likely telling you what it is that they love about your business.

What you’re offering your core customer also extends to the copy you place in the signup forms at all the various touchpoints you deem necessary to focus on.

What incentive do they have to give you their email address?

Going beyond the products or services you offer what value do you plan to deliver with your email campaigns?

You’re likely casting a wide net in terms of driving traffic to your website, social media and any other place where you interact with your subscribers. You need to find the right words to connect with your core customer in those places.

You can break this down into three steps:

Voice

The head coach of the Chicago Bears keeps a note on his play call sheet for every game that says “BE YOU” in bold font. It’s his simple reminder to stay true to who he is and his personality when managing a game for the team.

Similarly, your voice for your signup form copy should be true to your brand. Infuse the personality of your company into that copy so that it’s not too vanilla, but stick to who you are. Be you.

Here is an example of a signup form from a vocal coach named Felicia Ricci who does a good job of finding a voice that matches her brand.

Felicia Ricci signup form example

Just the simple “Let’s Belt, Baby!” help you to understand what the experience of working with such a coach might entail. It’s fun and makes you want to be a part of it.

Incentive

Once you’ve translated your personality across all your signup forms, it’s time to work on the incentive.

Why should your core customer subscribe to your email list?

You need to let them know you’ll be delivering value to their inbox.

Gaining an understanding of your core customer will let you know what they need. That’s where incentive comes in.

Aside from the goods or services you offer, what value you can you deliver? It can be information, savings or resources. It could even be entertainment. Something that aligns with your brand ideals and will attract the kind of signups who are core customers.

This signup form for a writing course from Enchanting Marketing does a good job of outlining the incentives for signup up:

Enchanted Marketing CTA example

You don’t want to hide the incentive. Make it clear and easy for your core customer to understand the benefits of signing up.

CTA

A strong Call To Action (CTA) is the last step in creating an effective signup form.

Now that you’ve infused your personality into the signup form and demonstrated the benefits it’s time to inspire that signup with a compelling CTA.

Your CTA should be easy to find first and foremost.

While you can test out various button placements and colors, the primary focus when writing a CTA should be on using action-oriented words.

You should also create an urgency by using words like “today” or “now.”

Here is a signup form from Treehouse. Notice all the action words they use:

Treehouse CTA example

“Change,” “make,” “get started today,” and “claim” all action-oriented words to get those signups.

These three steps cover “how” to get your core customer to opt-in to your list. Now, let’s take a look at some of the places you should be focusing your efforts.

Cover All Your Potential Touchpoints for List Growth

You and your brand interact with customers in so many places. Perhaps you’ve never considered there is an opportunity for a signup form at some of them.

No matter the location, you need to make sure that a customer or lead is finding the signup form at each place.

Take a few minutes and jot down all the potential places a core customer may interact with your business. Go beyond online. There are likely offline opportunities as well, such as in-store, at events and more.

Next, you’ll want to consider how those visitors to each touchpoint are interacting with you. How can you seamlessly integrate a signup form into each location?

There are some of the common touchpoints you should be focusing on for your business:

Homepage

Many times, your homepage is the first impression you make on an individual. It’s also always the most trafficked page on your website almost always.

You want a way to keep all those site visitors coming back for more.

For the greatest odds at growing your email list, place your signup form above the fold (which is just jargon for “before an individual would have to scroll down to find it”). That way, it’s right in their field of vision, and if you’ve done the steps above, you’ll be most likely to capture visitors email addresses.

Slack’s entire homepage is built around an above the fold signup form:

Slack homepage signup form example

This signup form also does a good job of demonstrating some of the lessons discussed above. It clearly explains what Slack offers and has a clear CTA. Plus, there’s no way a site visitor can miss this signup form.

If you don’t have room above the fold, there are two other places on your homepage that you can place your signup form. In fact, years of the Internet have even trained site visitors to look for a signup form in these two places.

The first one is your sidebar. If you use a sidebar for your navigation, advertising or to promote additional goods or services, a signup form can fit right in.

Additionally, you can place a signup form in your footer. There are a few benefits to this. One, is that if they make it all the way to the bottom of your page, they’re likely fairly interested in what you’re offering. Second, is that it’s another spot we’ve been trained to look for a signup form. Lastly, it’s also a benefit because if it’s in the footer it will live at the bottom of all of the pages on your site.

Blog

Your blog is a great source of organic traffic to your website. The content your create is a natural lead generator. Are you capturing that traffic with a signup form?

You’ve already got their attention. Keep it by getting their email address.

Again, the sidebar can work here, as many blog designs have a sidebar already in place and they’ll encounter it as they’re reading your blog posts. However, a pop-up can also be effective here. Just be sure not to have it pop-up too soon, as you want to give them time to enjoy your content and want more.

We put this strategy to action on the Benchmark Email Blog, giving blog visitors a chance to subscribe to get updates whenever we add a new post to each category:

Benchmark Blog signup form

The pop-up appears as the readers scrolls through to post, so to give them enough time to fall in love with our content and want more (we hope).

Other Website Pages

Your homepage and blog are probably the two most familiar places to put a signup form, but in reality, any highly trafficked page on your site should have a signup form.

You can check your Google Analytics, or wherever else you’re monitoring your website traffic, and come up with a strategy for each page that gets a lot of visitors.

Contact and About Us pages are usually on that list. Same with key feature pages or resources. Think about where a site visitor is in their user experience with your brand and what might be helpful to them in that moment and then promise to deliver it if they opt-in.

Social Media

For many business, social media is where they’re creating engagement with their audience.

It’s important to remember that your social followers are not always your subscribers or customers. Use your social media channels to grow your email list.

After all, your marketing efforts will be most powerful when you using all channels together.

On Facebook, you can use their CTA button to link to a signup form or place one in a tab, you can also link to a signup form on Twitter or Instagram.

One other strategy to promote list growth on social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram is to run “gated content” offers, which require an email address to unlock the piece of valuable content. Share a link which brings them to a signup landing page that will allow them to opt-in to receive the desired content.

Phone

Do you have customers or leads calling in via phone for customer support or any other reason? It’s another opportunity to grow your list.

It’s not rocket science, either. All you have to do is ask! Train the individuals who are speaking on the phone to explaining the benefits of being on your email list and ask them if they want to be signed up.

In-Store/On-Location

If you have a brick and mortar location that customers can visit, you should also prepare some offline solutions for list growth.

You can go as low-tech as a signup sheet next to the register, or as high-tech as using a tablet or computer with a station for signing up. You can even display signage that has a QR code which makes it easier for in-store visitors to sign up.

If your signup opportunity is near your register, you get the added benefit of a salesperson being able to explain the benefits of subscribing to your list. Don’t underestimate the power of personal interaction!

Tell those customers exactly what to expect for signing up, whether it be new products, coupons or other discounts, special offers or anything else that will entice them to subscribe.

Some stores even make email acquisition a seamless part of the in-store process for checking out.

Other bring and mortar locations, such as coffee shops, offer free wifi in exchange of an email address.

Events

Does your business host events or do members of your team attend expos, conferences or the like? Use that as an opportunity to grow your list!

It’s hard to make your mark when an event attendee is encountering dozens of other businesses. However, if you can get them to give you an email address, you can follow-up with them after the event.

It could even be an online event, like a webinar. If they register with an email address, you can do pre-event promotion and follow-up after the fact.

Print Ads

Even as print media seems to be fading away, they’re not gone and print ads can help you to grow your email list.

If you’ve got ads in newspapers or magazines or if you’re printing flyers, brochures, postcards or standees, you can place QR codes on them to make signup quick and easy for everyone.

Benchmark Email Tip: Any signup form you create comes with a corresponding QR code. Place them on any of your print marketing materials or on your displays and signage at your brick and mortar locations.

As with all your touchpoints, remember to make it easy to find, include a compelling CTA and simple instructions on how to opt-in.

Segment Your Email List(s) for Targeted Campaigns

With all those touchpoints you’ve covered, you’re sure to attract different sorts of folks.

Sure, if you’ve got a clear idea of your core customer, they all likely have something in common. However, they may like different goods or services that you offer or have different needs at different times.

Say, for example, that you’re in the business of skincare.

Some customers may suffer from acne. Others dry or oily skin. If you sent a one-size-fits-all email campaign, some topics may not be of interest to portions of your list.

However, if you’re able to know your subscribers individual needs, you could sent targeted campaigns based on that information and ensure that everyone is receiving the more relevant emails possible.

That’s why list segmentation is so important.

Here are some tips on effectively segmenting your email lists to nurture better relationships:

Begin at the Signup Form Data

Sorting your subscribers can begin at the signup form. That way, the work is being done for you from the start.

If you’re collecting that data from the beginning, it makes it very easy to create list segments when you’re ready to incorporate that strategy into your email marketing plan.

Here are a few of the ways you can segment your list based on signup form data:

Gender

Sure, nowadays gender lines are being blurred and what is created for men and women matters less and less. However, there are still plenty of people out there who will tell you they want content intended for men and women.

Below, you can see how shoe company Clarks creates separate email campaigns gearned towards men and women:

Clarks gender segmentation example

The goal of the email is the same, but the content is varied for a targeted audience. Each intended audience will have no problem finding the footwear they need.

Location

This form of segmentation is especially important for businesses who have multiple locations, but it can be an effective form of targeted marketing for any brand.

It’s also helpful if you host events at your brick and mortar locations.

If you want to send out an email to advertise a promotion at a specific location or event that’s only being held in one place, it won’t apply to a large audience, only those within the area.

You can avoid inundating your whole list with promotions that don’t apply to them by using simple location-based list segmentation.

This is also helpful for businesses like local real estate, car dealerships, etc.

Here is a signup form from a real estate firm, Robert Paul Properties, based in Massachusetts. You can see how they do their segmenting right there in the form:

Robert Paul Properties location segmentation example

By asking your subscribers to let you know where they live, or what areas are of interest to them, they segment themselves into the proper list. Then they can be updated on new property listings in the area, like the above example, or any other promotion in their area for other businesses.

Industry

Another common field on signup forms is industry.

If your client-base is comprised of multiple industries, it is a helpful one for you to include in your signup forms. That way you can populate each email campaign with relevant content to that industry.

For a company like LiveChat, it’s an important step in their signup process. That way, they can follow-up with onboarding materials that may be helpful to that specific industry:

LiveChat industry segmentation example

LiveChat has years of experience and knows how to service many industries. This step of their process let’s them hone the messaging to be as relevant as possible to each industry.

Job Role

Are you mainly focused on B2B? Knowing who your audience is within a business can also be valuable.

You may want to use different language or provide different content whether you’re sending to developers, consultants, sales, marketing, etc.

Job role is another fairly common signup form field in the B2B sector.

Each job role has its own pain points and you likely offer solutions to them. That’s why they subscribed! Cater your content to each segmented audience.

Segment Based on Interests

Not all list segmentation can, or should, be done from the signup form. However, that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to do.

Aside from the above demographics, you can also segment your list based on preferences.

Every purchase, click and email open is your subscribers telling you what they like. Use that information to better segment your email list(s).

Here are a couple examples for how you can do that:

Purchase History

A review of your customers purchase history will tell you exactly what they are interested in.

That information is invaluable to your business.

When it comes to email marketing, relevance is key. If you continually send emails that aren’t of interest to your subscribers, they’re going to tune out. Eventually, they’ll unsubscribe.

You can use purchase history data to send various types of campaigns.

One way you can put that data to use is by offering a discount to encourage them to reorder or re-up on your products or services.

You can also send an email with complimentary or related products to their purchase. After all, it’s five times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to sell to an existing one.

You can also follow-up with customer testimonials and videos that show your subscribers how the products and services they have purchased to reinforce their decision.

Let’s take a look at how Sephora uses its customer’s purchase history to send more targeted email campaigns:

Sephora purchase history email marketing example

What better way to make your customers feel seen than an email campaign like this?!

Website Activity

The only thing you can sell in an email is a click. That’s why it’s to your advantage to track your subscribers engagement with your website as well.

If a subscriber has looked at a specific product page, you can send follow-ups to help convince them to make a purchase.

Benchmark Email Tip: With Automation Pro, you can track and automate follow-ups with ease. Setup automated follow-ups that are triggered by subscribers when they visit specific pages on your website to tell a complete marketing story from website to email and back again.

Maintenance is a Part of a Good List Management Plan

Great email marketing means you’re sending to people who want to hear from you.

That means removing the inactive subscribers or maybe the ones who have abandoned that address or never entered it correctly in the first place.

That’s why email list validation is an important part of any successful email marketing plan.

We asked Jessica Martinez, Marketing Director of Kickbox, to share some thoughts on why it’s integral to thriving with email marketing:

For many email marketers, the New Year is like the first day of school. A fresh start. Time to shed any bad email marketing bad habits and incorporate new strategies to address challenges you may have encountered the previous year. Or to discover new tactics, like email verification, to help you achieve your email marketing goals.

One of my favorite things about starting a new school year was always shopping for new clothes because no one wants to go back to school in the same clothes as they wore the previous year. You want to put your best foot forward in new kicks and fresh fits.

Similarly, you don’t want to start out the New Year with the same old email list. The New Year is the perfect time to freshen up your list and to create a strategy to keep it clean throughout the year.

List hygiene is an email marketing best practice and an easy-win if you want to see an increase in email performance and deliverability.

By using an email verification service you can easily identify data quality issues within your lists such as invalid and/or poor-quality email addresses.

Removing invalid email addresses is a no-brainer because they provide no value to you as an email marketer since they are guaranteed to result in a bounce.

Disposable email addresses can be just as bad because the subscriber has no intention of engaging with your company, which means every email message you send not only costs you money but your message is unopened or unclicked. A high number of unengaged emails can negatively impact deliverability.

Additionally, high volumes of invalid or disposable email addresses can also be indicative of a larger problem. People may be trying to abuse free trials, sneak past gated content, or simply making typos. A more robust email verification system is needed, like verification at point-of-capture.

Verifying email addresses before they enter your database is becoming more commonplace and can easily be achieved using the Kickbox Real Time API. This combined with periodic email list verification is the most effective way to ensure the best inbox placement.

Verification provides you with deliverability information (deliverable, undeliverable,risky, disposable, accept-all, free domain) and a quality score for each email address on your list.

Why should you verify your email list?

The answer is simple. A healthy, clean list of opt-in subscribers is the foundation for any high-performing email campaign. All the strategizing in the world won’t help your email marketing plans if you have a poor quality list.

Oftentimes marketers don’t realize they have quality issues until they start seeing deliverability problems: bounces, landing in the spam/junk folder, or their ESP stopping the campaign. And we all know deliverability issues can be a bear to fix.

Time to develop an email list hygiene strategy

2019 is your fresh start. Start it with a clean email list. From there maintenance is easy.

B2B email lists often degrade at a higher rate than B2C lists in part because of the frequency in which people change jobs.

Your list is constantly degrading and, unfortunately, when you add an email address to your database it doesn’t come with an expiration date. That’s why verification is so helpful and can alert you to quality issues before they become deliverability issues.

How often should you clean your list?

A good rule of thumb: if you have a list of primarily business email addresses (B2B), you should verify your list every 3 months.

If your list consists of mostly consumer email addresses (B2C) once every 6 months is usually sufficient.

Or you can take the seasonal approach. Thankfully, verification is affordable and valuable enough that more and more companies choose to verify their lists seasonally before their big holiday campaigns. This is an easy way to ensure your list is always in tip-top shape and sets your campaigns up for success throughout the year.

Define Your Email Marketing Goals

Setting a goal puts your entire email marketing plan into focus.

If you know what the finish line should look like, you can work backwards from there to determine how you can achieve your goals.

Every business is different. Sure, at the end of the day everybody wants to sell more. However, there is a set of goals that every email marketer should have.

Let’s take a look at what those goals are:

Nurture Relationships with Your Email List

75% of Americans say they use their smartphones most frequently to check email.

Think about it. For many of us, the first thing we do in the morning is grab our smartphone and check our email, whether it be from bed or in the bathroom.

This on-the-go ability to connect with your audience gives you a great opportunity to nurture a relationship with your customers and leads.

To earn those relationships that will lead to sales, you need to take a customer-first approach to your email marketing.

What does it mean to do customer-centric marketing?

  1. Focus on the customer experience. It should be simple, pleasant and convenient.
  2. Appreciate loyalty. Offer rewards for your returning customers and let them know how much you value them.
  3. Develop strong communication. Know how to talk to your audience, how often and what they need to hear.
  4. Variety is the spice of life. If you’re sending the same thing to your audience repeatedly, they’re going to tune you out.
  5. Deliver value. Know what you need to offer to your core customer and deliver it consistently. The already talked about knowing what problems your core customer has. The value comes in the solution(s) you offers.
  6. Listen to feedback. Give your subscribers a chance to let you know what they need or want. Make them feel heard.

Goals for Measurable Improvements in Your Customer Relationships

It’s all well and good to say you want to nurture better relationships with your subscribers, but what does that look like?

As we mentioned before, nurturing better relationships is the end goal. There are wins you need along the way to achieve that. Like we said, see the finish line and then reverse engineer the path.

So what are those objectives that will get you to your ultimate goal?

Reduce List Churn

List churn is an inevitable part of email marketing.

In fact, nearly on average nearly half, 46 percent, of new subscribers churn within the first year of opting into a list.

What can you do to lessen the churn in your email list?

Here are some tactics to reduce list churn:

  • Decreasing the churn of your email list begins at the signup form. Use double opt-in to ensure you’re growing your list with subscribers who want to hear from you.
  • A Welcome Email is your first impression and best shot to get a subscriber hooked on your emails from the get go. Welcome Emails have the highest open rates, so be sure you’re making the most of the opportunity and set the tone for your emails to come.
  • Keep your subscribers educated on everything they’ll need to successfully solve their problems with your goods and services. It could be video tutorials, DIY tips, customer testimonials that show how others are putting your solutions to use.
  • You may be sick up us saying it by now, but to reduce list churn (and any other goal you’re trying to achieve) you need to deliver value to your subscribers. If they’re happy with the content you’re sending, they’re going to remain on your list.
  • You can also create an exit poll that asks subscribers why they are opting out of your list. This feedback will provide invaluable information on where you can improve your email campaigns to reduce list churn.
  • A re-engagement campaign can also help to keep inactive subscribers in the fold by getting them to remember why they opted into your list in the first place. It can be as simple as telling subscribers you’re going to remove them unless they opt back in or you can try something out of left field, as they’re not engaging with what you’re currently trying.
  • Use your purchase history and click-through data to create targeted campaigns for your subscribers. If you cater to their interests, they’re going to stick around.
  • At last, but certainly not least, be grateful. Make sure you show your appreciation for the space you get in your subscribers’ inbox and say thanks. Say it in words, say it by delivering value and say it often.

Improve your Open Rate and Click-Through Rate

If you can accomplish even a few of the points detailed above, your open rate and click-through rate (CTR) should improve.

There are also a few strategies you can put into place specifically targeted at improving your open rates and CTR.

  • Use a familiar From Name. Make sure that it’s something your subscribers will recognize. Your company name is the most common From Name, but if there is a specific person that your subscribers have been interacting with, you can use their name as well (or a combination of the two). Companies who have a very public CEO or celebrity involvement can bank on those household names as well.
  • Crafting compelling Subject Lines will also go a long way towards improving your open rates. Great subject lines create interest about what’s inside, have a sense of urgency and use action words.
  • You need great CTAs in your emails to improve your CTR. You can use a combination of links and buttons and use the lessons you learned on CTAs from your subject lines to entice subscribers to click-through to your website.

Increase Conversion Rate

If you’re following the tips for the previous two goals, you’ll likely already see an increase in your conversion rate.

To focus on this improvement, you need to do a couple important things:

Hone Your Conversion Funnel

Just like there are wins that you can aim for on the way to your ultimate goal, there is a series of microwins that businesses need to hit before getting a conversion.

The first microwin is getting the opt-in, then it’s each step you need to take to get the conversion. Increase trust, reduce anxiety, build excitement about your products and services. This can be done by sending follow-up emails with testimonials, sharing updates on awards you’ve received or other newsworthy stories. Automation can help you do a lot of this work.

Chris Drucker created an awesome infographic to show a very simple:

 

Improve Your Landing Pages

As we mentioned above, the only thing you can sell in an email is a click. The conversion happens on your landing page, whether it be a product page, eCommerce store, registration page or anything else. You must tell one cohesive story from your email to the landing page and make sure that the landing page is set up to seal the deal.

Create Repeat Business

Again, each of the previous goals will help you improve your repeated business (just as the other goals were served by the goals that preceded them).

Repeat business is important. Remember, it’s far easier to sell to your current customers, than to attract new ones.

Again, this is where your purchase history data comes in handy.

Use it to upsell with related products and accessories to promote a better customer experience for a premium product.

Strava promotes their Premium service with an upsell email that paints the picture of what a subscriber’s life will look like if they upgrade:

Strava upsell email example

You can also use it when it would be time to order more or when you need to renew a plan early for a SaaS product, like Carbonite does in this email:

Carbonite renewal email example

By targeting their existing customers with a renew email, Carbonite is delivering value by offering two free months, creating urgency with a CTA of “Renew now” and ensuring consistent repeat business.

Create an Email Sending Schedule

So far we’ve talked a lot about the work that goes into your email marketing efforts even before you even hit send on a campaign.

We’ve also discussed the goals you should have for those efforts.

There has also been some of talk of different types of emails you can send to achieve those goals. However, no email marketing plan is complete without a schedule of all the types of campaigns you’ll be sending throughout the year.

Of course, email marketing affords to ability to riff a bit during the year and send more spontaneous campaigns that will also service your goals.

You don’t have to do them all, but these are the types of emails you should work into your email marketing schedule:

Newsletters

When it comes to email marketing, newsletters are often the first thing people think about.

The purpose of a newsletter is to ensure that your brand is never far from the minds of your subscribers.

Many subscribers expect to receive a newsletter from your business. It could be monthly, weekly or even daily, as long as the content can consistently deliver on value. Your subscribers will stick around and even look forward to your newsletters if you’re consistently sending great content.

Use your newsletters to share your latest blog posts, company news, product launches, promotions and more. These are the things that well help nurture that relationship with your customers as long as they’re focused on your subscribers’ needs.

This daily newsletter from Apartment Therapy hits the inbox every morning with tips for better apartment living. There are tips on saving space, decorating and more each day:

Apartment Therapy daily newsletter example

Holiday Emails

The holidays are also great opportunities for email marketing, because consumers have learned to expect them and even look forward to them.

Plus, there are holidays spread throughout the whole year that give you excuses to pop into your subscribers’ inbox year-round.

Doing holiday email marketing is easy too, as there is no shortage of free holiday email templates available to you.

Here are some of the common holidays where subscribers expect to see an influx of holiday email marketing campaigns:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Presidents Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Black Friday
  • Cyber Monday
  • Christmas and Hanukkah
  • New Year’s Eve

Inboxes will also be most crowded during these times. If you look hard enough, there is some sort of holiday every day. Have some fun with it and celebrate things like National Pet Day with your subscribers, in addition to the ones listed above.

You can find a pretty good list in this holiday marketing calendar from Real Thread.

Automation

There are so many emails that are recurring, but unlike a newsletter, they can be handled with marketing automation.

Emails like your Welcome Email can be automated to send when a new subscriber opts into your list. That way every single new subscriber gets a unified experience.

If your goods or services require some onboarding, you can automate that series of emails as well.

As mentioned earlier, you can also automate based on your subscribers’ engagement with your email campaigns and your website. If an email goes opened or unopened, you can follow-up with appropriate messages or if they’ve clicked on specific links or visited a particular product page you can automate additional messages to move a subscriber towards a conversion.

Additionally, as we’ve discussed, you can also use your purchase history data to automate a sequence of emails to keep customers in the purchase cycle.

Decide Which Types of Emails to Send

While it’d be nice to cover all of your bases and send newsletters, holiday emails on every occasion and several automations, it’s not feasible for every business given their resources.

That’s OK!

Just pick one or a few emails to start sending. You can grow your efforts from there.

If a newsletter is too much to commit to, given that you have to come up with content each month, start with a simple Welcome Email automation. That way, you’ve got a warm welcome covered for all new subscribers that sets the table for all the rest of your email marketing efforts.

You also don’t have to send emails every single holiday, just pick a few that you can manage. Do you have a sale or another promotion during a holiday weekend or maybe for Black Friday? Focus on that first.

Regardless of the type of emails you decide to send, they should all be aimed at your goals.

Each campaign you sit down to create needs to be in service of the goals you’ve set for yourself. Ask yourself why you want to send each campaign and what you expect the outcome to be.

Newsletters are great for getting consumers to buy into your brand story. Holiday emails deliver great value and bring some cheer to the inbox. Automation brings a subscriber into the fold and helds to send targeted campaigns and generate loyalty. All of these are important for relationship building, so pick the ones you can execute within your resources.

Trends to Plan for in 2019

As you’re putting together your plan for the year, it’s important to look ahead to what trends you may want to incorporate into your email marketing efforts.

We asked our friend Kevin George at Email Monks to share some of the trends he thought email marketers should prepare for in 2019.

Innovation with Interactivity

As more and more email clients have started supporting CSS-based interactivity, 2019 will be an opportune time for more and more brands to join the bandwagon. With the provision to replicate the interactivity, which was once only possible on websites using JavaScript, brands can send engaging interactive emails, especially during the holidays or special occasion. Moreover, since the message can be customized to be only visible when the subscriber interacts with the email, interactivity can greatly increase the engagement rates and in turn the chances of them converting. Once, AMP for Gmail is implemented well, emails can soon be nicknamed as Mailable Microsites.

Check out these emails featuring awesome interactivity of hover for the holiday season: Adestra and BrightWave

Gamification

By incorporating game mechanics into non-gaming realms, you can encourage your subscribers to take the desired action. The design and functionality of gamification delight the subscribers and significantly enhance their user experience. You can know more about your subscriber through the playful interaction in these emails. It has been in trend since 2016 but it will get more popular in 2019.

Here’s an example of a maze game in email from EmailMonks.

Artificial Intelligence

Most email marketers are employing email automation for sending timely emails to their subscribers based on the pre-defined rules. Yet any scope of personalization is dependent on either including merge tags or adding dynamic content blocks (which are coding head-ache in itself). Just like Phrasee is employing artificial intelligence to personalize the subject lines, implementation of AI shall soon advance further to personalizing email content automatically based on the customer interaction.

Improved Accessibility in Emails

Move towards making marketing emails accessible has been going on for quite some time. In 2019, more and more brands will adopt industry-standards for making email accessible, which will not only widen the customer base for all brands but also improve the user experience for all your subscribers regardless of any health limitations.

Plan for Continuous Improvement

You don’t need to be a pro from day one. You only need to be willing to get better as you go and learn from your successes and misses.

Reviewing your Reports also shows you what is or isn’t working and where the areas to improve exist. You need to monitor your results to know if you’re on your way to achieving your goals.

These are some areas you can focus on in your reports:

Open Rate

Your open rate is how many of the individuals on the list you sent a campaign to opened that email.

It’s a simple metric to follow, and it shows if you’re clearing your first hurdle on the path towards ROI from your email marketing efforts. It’s how you know if you’ve separated yourself from the rest of the noise in your subscribers’ inbox.

No additional engagement, much less a conversion, can take place if your email isn’t being opened.

Your open rate tells you if two specific things are working right for you: your Subject Line and the From Name you’re using.

Does your subject line entice your subscribers to open it? Does it tease enough value?

Is your From Name familiar to your subscribers? Do they recognize it?

These are the factors that determine whether or not a subscriber is opening your email.

To boost your open rates, test and improve your Subject Line and From Name.

Click-Through Rate

This is the metric in your reports which helps you with the next level of your email marketing efforts. It shows if the content and CTAs are working well enough to get a subscriber to click-through to your website or landing page.

As we’ve mentioned, the only thing you can sell in your email is click and this is the metric that tells you if you’re getting exactly that. This is the next micro-win you need to achieve when reaching for your goals.

To improve your click-through rates, review your reports to see what type of content is getting you clicks. Focus your emails around that.

You can also survey or poll your subscribers to ask what type of content they want to receive.

Better segmentation of your lists and targeting of your campaigns should also work to improve your CTR.

Additionally, you can test button placement, using links and buttons combined and improve your CTAs to increase your CTR.

Opens By Hour

This metric shows you when people are opening your email campaigns.

Opens By Hour is helpful for asking the old question: when is the best time to send my emails?”

Every audience is different and the honest answer to that question is “it depends.” That is, at least, until you review your opens by hour reports.

If you’re doing true customer-centric marketing, you’ll be paying close attention to when they’re opening their emails and imagining what’s going on in their day when that happens. Then you can not only know when to send, but what might be helpful content to them in that moment.

Unsubscribes and Abuse

These two metrics are obviously not the fun part, but they’re an important aspect of your reports nonetheless.

If you haven’t done a good job of focusing on your customers’ needs and delivering value, unsubscribers or, worse yet, abuse complaints occur.

An unsubscribe or abuse complaint can be the result of sending too often or even not sending often enough to the point that your subscribers forget they subscribed in the first place. It can also mean that your content is no longer relevant.

Some subscribers will hit junk or report abuse, because it’s easier for them to find than your Unsubscribe link. That’s why it’s important to have a clear and easy-to-find link for your subscribers to opt out.

Following the tips and advice detailed above and focusing on customer-centric should help you to reduce your unsubscribe and abuse rates. Working on your goals from the signup form on will help you to keep these numbers low. Paying attention to what’s in your reports will help you continue to improve and reduce those numbers.

A/B Testing

Going beyond your reports and learning what is and isn’t working in your email marketing and identifying areas of improvement is one part of the process. Testing is the other.

A/B testing is like having a crystal ball, which lets you know how your subscribers are most likely to react to your email campaigns.

If you’re wondering which of two subject lines you wrote would be more effective, what design elements would work better, what CTA would be more likely to get a click or anything else in your email, A/B Testing will give you the answers you seek. You can even test entire campaigns against one another.

With A/B testing, you can send your variants to small sections of your list to see how each variant works in terms of opens and clicks. Then, the winner is sent to the remainder of your list.

With A/B testing, you’re doing continuous improvements as you send campaigns.

Here are the types of A/B Tests you can put to use:

  • Subject Line. This is the most popular type of A/B Test. It’s your first impression and will help to boost your open rates. See if a longer or shorter subject works, test with personalization, emojis or any other tactic that you think might increase engagement with your emails.
  • From Name. It’s important to make sure this name is familiar to your subscribers. You can try a name of an individual in your company, if they have a lot of contact with your subscribers, or use your business name. Getting it right will increase your open rate.
  • Entire Campaign. Not sure if an email focused on one product or another would be more effective? Maybe it’s two entirely different designs that you want to test. Just make sure you don’t introduce too many variables, so you know which elements that you’re changing are working.
  • Delivery Time. As we mentioned, the best time to send an email changes with every audience. Test to find out what is best for yours.

Wrapping Up

For any beginning, all of this might seem like a lot. It doesn’t have to be!

Take this article in small pieces and attack one tip or strategy at a time.

If every email you send is aimed at improving your relationships with your subscribers and customers, you’re already on the right path.

Start with how you’re growing your list and see if there are easy wins you can achieve for adding new subscribers. Just having an understanding of your core customer will help direct the rest of your email marketing planning.

Then, take the time to learn a bit about the individuals in your list. Consider the people behind the email addresses and see if you can sort them into segments that let you send more targeted, relevant content.

After that, consider your goals for your email marketing efforts. It’s an important step for creating an effective email marketing plan.

From there, you can pick and choose the types of email campaigns you want to send. Start with whatever you’re most comfortable with and add more from there.

Lastly, review your reports and test different strategies to continuously improve your email marketing efforts. That way you can achieve even more of the goals you set out for your business.

Are you ready for a smarter way to engage with your customers?

Benchmark helps you do email marketing the practical way. Create an ongoing relationship with your subscribers that leads to increased sales and happier customers.

Content & Social Networking Manager

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