10.08.17 | Matt Kalina, V.P. of Membership, American Marketing Association, Phoenix Chapter
No, email marketing isn’t dead yet, not even close.
Email marketing is still a critical—well—useful and many times effective component of nearly every business-to-business marketing program, according to Adam Q. Holden-Bache. And he would say that, because he is director of email marketing for Enventys Partners, Charlotte, N.C., and the author of How to Win at B2B Email Marketing: A Guide to Achieving Success.
Holden-Bache likes to flash a Charlie-Sheen-influenced-slogan on slides that says “Email = Winning,” but he makes a solid case to prove the point, too, with a lot of wild and wacky statistics, such as:
- 204,000,000 emails are sent every minute of every day.
- The average U.S. worker spends 28 percent of the work day reading and answering emails. And probably half asleep, too.
- A email can return $40.56 return on investment for every dollar spent.
- Marketers spend 16 percent of their budget to email, contributing to a 24-percent return.
Holden-Bache gave a 90-minute email pep talk to a group of about 75 at a networking event organized by the Phoenix chapters of American Marketing Association and Business Marketing Association, at DeskHub, Scottsdale, Ariz., Sept. 28, 2017.
Make a Plan, Stan
“Have a goal,” Holden-Bache said. “Establish benchmarks for every campaign and try to improve on them each time.”
Constant improvement? It never stops, does it? It does pay, however, to try to understand your audience. Take a few minutes to look at the characteristics of a few people in the database, and check them out on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
“It will change the way you market if you can put a face to the audience you are trying to market to,” he said. “We don’t always put ourselves in the position of the person receiving the email and often keep things too promotional.”
Some simple but effective questions to ask:
- Who are you sending it to?
- Why are you sending the message?
- What do they expect?
- What don’t they want?
- Is the email focused on the goal?
- How will you measure success?
No. 1: Build the List
Your email marketing efforts are only as good as your list, and increasing the size of the list should be a top priority, Holden-Bache said. Stick to quality over quantity, because the list size is irrelevant if the list is mediocre. Meanwhile, attract the audience you desire.
The opt-in proposition should:
1. Provide value.
2. Disclose frequency.
3. Allow the subscriber control to manage the number and type of communications.
4. Ensure privacy.
Never pre-check a box in the form, but don’t be afraid of the pop-up, which can result in a 400-percent increase in signups. That’s a lot, yeah?
Here’s a whole bunch of places to collect contact data and build a list:
- Exit intent.
- Gated assets.
- Business card
- Offline events.
- Point of sale.
- Facebook sign-up page.
- Menu or collateral.
- Sweepstakes and promotions.
- Email signatures.
- Print ads.
- Direct mail.
- QR codes (ahem, yes, they are still around).
- Mobile apps.
- Mobile text.
As for paid lists, don’t waste your money, reputation, risk of spamming, because deliverability and effectiveness will suffer, he said. Thank you. That might be worth the price of admission right there.
The Three Stages of Email Marketing
Stage one is reaching the inbox, he said. Stage two is the content of the email itself, and stage three is the website or landing page to which the email links.
Stage One: The Inbox
The goal in stage one is to get the email opened, working effectively with the from line, subject line and pre-header. Either a business or personal name can be used effectively, but test both to find out for sure. If in doubt, use a name plus a business name, but don’t exceed 23 characters and be consistent with the name.
In the subject line: front load main points first and keep it short—50 characters or less. Create interest and urgency, but beware of personalization as it barely moves the needle. If you do use personalization, use something other than a first name, which works pretty well. Above all, use clear language.
For the preview or pre-header text, provide a call to action, generate interest, summarize and always support the subject line.
As many as 75 percent of emails are displayed with preview text in the in box of email applications.
Be aware that the pre-header defaults to first bits of text in the email message, which, if you aren’t careful sometimes brings in the boing gray text all the way on the top, he said.
Stage Two: The Body of the Email:
The goal of stage two is to get the click, and to get the treasured click:
- Don’t sell, but educate.
- Solve a problem.
- Save, time, money and resources
- Entertain if you can.
Subscribers respond positively to emails that educate and entertain, but remember that a giant image of the text will boost spam recognition. Use actual text instead.
A few things to remember about copywriting:
- Talk to your customers, not at them.
- Start with the benefit at the top of the email.
- Be helpful.
- Lead the recipient.
A few things to remember about design:
- Use headers and subheads, not big chunks of copy.
- Use bullets and numbered lists.
- Use typeface variation and strategic treatments to bold, underline, italicicize text.
- Readers will scan messages.
- A 400-charter length is the sweet spot.
- A short, quick email tends to get the best reaction.
Stage Three: The Website or Landing Page
The goal of the web site or landing page is to get the conversion. A simple landing page includes a form and then a finishing thank you page. Remember to build a clear path to the landing page, one that flows seamlessly for the conversion, using similar design elements from step to step to show uniformity.
Optimize for Mobile
As much as 79 percent of smartphone owners use smart phones to to read email, Holden-Bache said. Growth in mobile email opens has plateaued at 56 percent.
To optimize the experience for mobile:
- Use less content. Less is more.
- Break down the content into chunks.
- Make it easy to click buttons with a thumb.
- Stagger content and avoid columns.
- Remove or link to low-priority content.
- Use responsive design that adapts to the dimensions of different devices.
- Use Campaign Monitor, Litmus or EmailonAcid to check previews of the layout.
Overall, deliver relevance, because relevance equals results, Holden-Bache said. Achieve this through personalization and segmentation and paying attention to the fundamental components, including the subject line, message, body copy, images, design, layouts and content.
List segmentation can be based on market segment, behavior, geography and psychographics, or classifications based on aspirations, attitudes and other psychological criteria, he said. And, email is a tool that can be used effectively provide touch points in the traditional sales cycle stages of awareness, consideration, decision, purchase and retention.
Once the email campaigns are online, test and adjust the frequency of the emails by looking for where sales plateau and negative actions go up. Subject lines, images, headlines and copy can be tested in A/B and multivariable testing. Make broad changes in subject lines to A-B test messages.
Delivery times certainly may be tested, too. Generally Friday afternoons in the summer and holiday weekends should be avoided, but Sunday evenings can be good as people check email to clean up their in boxes before the workday starts, he said.
One thing to remember: Increasing opens and clicks should be secondary to conversion, Holden-Bache said.
A few additional email marketing tidbits from Holden-Bache:
- Focus on designs that improve R.O.I.
- Know the value of goals.
- Design campaigns to be measurable.
- Test and analyze results.
- Animated GIFs are good, especially for explaining something better and quicker than in a still photo.
- Use an emoji if you can truncate it and use it in the marketing message. It might, however, get the open but not the conversion.
- Serve an ad through Facebook and load up email lists for look-alike list.
- Data is just as important as the message today, maybe more so.
- You may need to do paid ads to build up a list at first.
- Dynamic real-time information.
- Count-down clock.
- Changes on where the reader opens the message.
- Hyper personalization.
- Real-time social media content.
As director or email marketing at Enventys Partners, Holden-Bache oversees the email marketing strategy, production, execution and analysis of email marketing campaigns. He was CEO of Mass Transmit, a B2B digital marketing agency based in New York City, which he sold to Striata, also headquartered in New York City, in 2015. He is president of the Carolinas Chapter of BMA.