Reports show that checking email is the #1 activity on the internet with 94% of internet users getting online for this reason alone. This means that email actually surpasses social media usage and online searches. Email marketing’s power comes from its ability to break through cultural, generation, and class barriers. Its effectiveness for marketers lies in its ability to target a specific audience while providing a steady return on investment.
There are 3.9 billion active email users, as compared to 3.5 billion social media users worldwide. 86% of B2B marketers are putting this to good use, reporting that they rely on email marketing campaigns to promote new business. But, keep in mind that American workers receive an average of 126 emails a day. So this means you need to cut through the noise to make sure your content gets noticed.
You also have to keep up with changing technology, because not only is martech evolving to help marketers and businesses streamline processes with automation and other tools — it is also helping end-users cut down on marketing and sales emails in their inbox. For instance, Gmail now offers an easy unsubscribe button right at the top of an email, so you don’t even have to scroll down to the bottom or find it within the content.
So let’s talk about the best programs to streamline your email marketing efforts, and how to use them effectively. Because in order for email marketing to give you a strong return, you must first set up your third-party email platform correctly, or your content is going to end up missing the target completely.
When choosing the best email marketing software for your business, you need to evaluate several factors – starting with your goals for using the system.
What messages will you communicate? What does your audience want from you? How will you best be able to provide that resource while nurturing or converting leads for your business?
Because, let’s remember, yes, this is a sales and marketing tool. But we also need to provide quality content that our audience wants to receive. Only then will it work to our advantage and provide us with leads.
Once you’ve laid out your goals, consider these factors:
Cost & value. Some email marketing tools may seem affordable when you have just a few thousand contacts, so make sure you plan ahead and look at what value you’re getting for the cost.
What features are included? Look at pre-built email templates, whether multiple contact lists are included, whether you’ll have access to A/B testing, automatic send-time optimization, emojis in subject lines, placement for custom code, etcetera. Each business needs different features, so find what appeals most to you.
Is the platform user-friendly? Is the interface easy to use or are you going to spend hours trying to make your template look the way you want on a mobile device?
Does it have a built-in CRM? Unless you’re a big company or already have a separate robust CRM, it might make sense to combine your email marketing tool and CRM. This will be helpful with automation and segmentation… Two more factors to consider as you’re checking out platforms.
Integrations will also be important. You need a system that will connect with your website, and other platforms like webinars, payment systems, and your CRM if you have a separate system.
Deliverability. What good is an email marketing tool if 15% of your emails end up in the spam folder? Some platforms are definitely better than others. Do some research. I like the site EmailToolTester, which includes detailed reviews on multiple services to help as you compare systems.
And finally, don’t forget analytics and support! You need to know how your email campaigns are performing and whether you’ll have tech support if you run into problems. Some platforms do not offer support for the free versions of their systems, so factor that into your decision.
With all of that in mind, some platforms to consider:
- Active Campaign
- Constant Contact
Keep in mind: each business is going to have different needs from email marketing software, which means different platforms may work better than others, depending on your needs. Do you need video to autoplay? A robust e-commerce automation setup? Are you sending a handful of automated emails or thousands? All of these things matter when selecting the right system.
As we’re talking about key features, let’s take a look at current trends.
Some big buzzwords we’ve been using for a while include automation, segmentation, and personalization. Let’s now add to that: user-generated content, interactivity, and accessibility.
Automation: while there will always be a place for one-off emails, alerts, and newsletters, automation rules email. An automatic email campaign is set up once and then automatically sent to a particular individual when that person meets a certain trigger. This can include simple welcome emails, thank yous, asking for reviews, reminders — anything that can be set up with a trigger, like a date, website click, or another piece of data.
Segmentation: is when you break down your email subscribers into smaller segments based on specific criteria. Typically, segmentation is used as a personalization tactic to deliver more relevant email marketing to subscribers based on their geographic location, interests, purchase history, and more. Segments are created so that you can cater specifically to each different email list and that list’s independent interests, rather than creating one mass message for all.
Personalization: takes this a step further by creating a seemingly one-on-one experience, even when targeting users through automation and segmentation. This is a broad term, but our numbers show that the more personal you get, the better your return. This is because people are seen as people instead of just clicks. Instead of receiving a campaign with generic offers and messaging, your subscribers will receive an email that is targeted directly at them, with their name and offers that are relevant to their interests.
User-Generated Content: is just what it sounds like: any form of content (text, images, audio and visual) created by the product’s end-user. Use your email campaigns to collect this content. Ask for reviews, send polls and surveys. Find ways to incentivize your client to contribute content to directly help your conversion. The E-commerce platform, 3dcart says that 82% of consumers consider user-generated reviews extremely valuable and 70% of all consumers will look to reviews or ratings before making a purchasing decision. We also know that email subscribers are 3x more likely to share content on social media, so email marketing works in tandem with social media when creating UGC.
Interactivity: 2020 could be the first year that more emails are opened on a mobile device than a desktop or laptop environment. Given that ⅔ of mobile users will delete your email if it’s not optimized, emails must be responsive in design. Keep this in mind when designing emails to be interactive. Animated buttons, calls-to-action, rollover effects, interactive image and product carousels are some key elements.
Accessibility: Having a strong code-base behind your email is the best way to assure accessibility. Make sure you use alt text for all images, so screen readers can read them for the visually impaired. Voice search also skyrocketed even more than expected in 2019, so this is another reason to optimize your email campaigns for accessibility. This is a trend that is not slowing down anytime soon. Roughly 250 million smart speakers are expected to be installed worldwide by the end of the year, so big brands are already designing with accessibility in mind.
As you’re focusing on the tech trends, make sure the basics don’t get left out. Here are our five basic tips to make your email marketing more effective:
- Pay attention to your email tech setup.
- This includes the information in the header, which controls an email’s transmission, making it vital for getting the email into the inbox.
- Make sure you have verified your domain with the provider and have followed all proper setup to ensure your email doesn’t get blocked.
- Never use “firstname.lastname@example.org” or other obscure addresses in the “From” field, which could get your email stuck in the spam folder.
- Don’t forget about the quality of your content. The best way to court leads is to impress them with the content they want.
- Use a strategic subject line, so they know they want to read your email. According to a Consumer Pulse report, 47% of survey respondents use the subject line to decide whether or not to open an email. The ever-important subject line should pass spam filters and entice the recipient into opening the email.
- Use offers, curiosity, questions, and personalization. Avoid all caps, numbers, or special characters. And remember, you can use your automation to re-send the original email to those who didn’t open it!
- Keep email subject lines under 50 characters. This accommodates shorter attention spans and the increasing use of mobile devices to read emails.
- Several web clients provide preheader text to preview the email’s contents. Be sure to use this preheader text because most people will see this in their email preview pane.
- Always use alt text if your email has graphics.
- This is the only way those who are visually impaired can hear the design of the email. Especially if you use a beautifully designed image with text instead of code.
- Plus, slow networks, security software, and other issues may prevent an email’s images from loading. Always use brief, descriptive alt text embedded in the image’s HTML code so that it appears even if the image cannot be downloaded.
- If you’re not sure what to use for alt text, think about what information the image is meant to convey, or what actions you want it to trigger.
- Avoid using an all-image design in marketing emails. If you do choose to use one, keep your email size as small as possible.
- Include a specific call to action (CTA) in your marketing email. Make the next step clear to your audience, so that they take it. Although it usually comes at the end of an email, the CTA should be one of the first things you consider.
- The CTA should be short and simple, but also specific. What exactly do you want the reader to do after reading–visit your website? Share the email? Call your office? They won’t know until you tell them!
- If you are directing your readers to a link, do not use Bitly or other link shorteners. These are a big trigger for spam filters.
- Always include social buttons. Adding social buttons can encourage readers to share the email’s content or follow your organization on social media.
- Follow buttons can create visibility for your social media pages and increase your organization’s reach. Any and all content your organization produces should have share buttons, which help introduce your content to new readers.
The right combination of details can create an attention-getting, effective email. Don’t hesitate to experiment with these ideas. It may take some time before you learn what approach works best for you. In the end, the time you spend crafting and creating — will save you time and help you generate stronger leads.
Julie Holton is the Founder and Principal Strategist of mConnexions, a full-service marketing and communications agency. Prior to launching her agency, Julie spent more than ten years working in top television newsrooms across the country, as an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and executive producer. Julie coached reporters, producers, writers, and videographers. She also worked with her news teams to develop digital and social media strategies. Julie currently hosts two podcasts and is a featured author in numerous blogs and publications. Follow her directly on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.