The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing

Ever wonder if you’re getting the most out of your email marketing? Or if you could do it better? Or maybe you’re not sure where to even start when it comes to email marketing. I’ve put together the golden rules and best practices of email marketing to help you engage with and reach your customers so you can move more products off the shelves.

The Golden Rules of Email Marketing for Consumer Products Companies

1. Why email marketing? And how to get started.

2. Building an email strategy.

3. Choosing an email service provider.

4. Contact management & segmentation strategy.

5. Sending your email.

6. Write for your audience.

7. Design your email to be more engaging.

8. Testing your emails.

9. Lead nurturing.

 

Why Email Marketing?

First up, why should you be marketing to your customers with email? What’s in it for you anyways? 

Email marketing is one of the best ways to stay in front of your audience and top of mind. I tell my clients if they start with one thing, start with email. Social media gets all the hype these days, but email marketing, although a long-term investment and a slow build, will pay dividends in the end. Here are just a few of the benefits—

  • You own the contacts.
  • Your audience isn’t scrolling past you on social media.
  • You get more bang for your buck. On average, email generates $38 for every dollar spent, a 3,800% return on investment. (Source HubSpot)
  • You build relationships and trust with your customers.
  • You can boost your brand awareness.
  • You generate sales and leads by promoting your products.
  • You help your customers succeed and reach their goals by delivering helpful content.

Did You Know? Email is 40X more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined when it comes to customer acquisition.

– Source HubSpot

How to Get Started

Whether you’re a big or small company, define your email marketing goals upfront. Do you want to:

  • Create brand awareness?
  • Get more leads?
  • Grow your email list?
  • Improve open rates?
  • Increase engagement?

And remember, it’s okay to start small. Small steps can mean more brand units sold at the shelf level. 

Building an Email Strategy

Talking to the Right People

Start with your audience. Do you have a buyer persona for them? You want to talk to your customer at the right point in their buyer’s journey. This means sending the right message to the right people at the right time. 

What is the buyer’s journey? It’s the process your customer goes through leading up to purchasing your product. There are three stages: 

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

Make It Easy

It should be easy for your customers to take action. Give your customers multiple ways to sign up for your email. You can do that in several ways

  • Create a pop form (like the one from Blueland below)
  • On a landing page offering relevant content or a lead magnet
  • On your meeting request forms

Don’t feel bad if your list is small to start. It takes time and effort to build a list. It’s a slow build that will pay dividends over time.

Be Real About Your Send Schedule

Don’t over-extend yourself. Make your email send schedule realistic and decide how often you send emails to your list. And be sure to let your audience know upfront what to expect. Will your customers hear from you 1x, 2x, or 4x a month?

Make It Personal

Personalizing your email marketing goes beyond just putting your subscriber’s name in your email. It means sending relevant content at the right point in the buyer’s journey. Here are some ways you can personalize your emails to engage customers, create more brand awareness, and sell more products.

  • Abandoned shopping cart emails
  • A birthday coupon
  • Triggered emails: Welcome emails reminders
  • Segment your list by role or demographics, and speak directly to your customer’s pain points
  • Send emails from a natural person, not just info@mycompany.com
  • Put your face in your email signature instead of your logo to add a human touch.
  • Celebrate an anniversary or achievement, like the Hydrow one below
  • Personalize content by making your copy less formal. 
Hydrox Achievement Email

Analyze It

After you’ve pressed send, your work isn’t done, my friend. You need to see what’s working and what’s not and pivot if necessary.

Track metrics that give you feedback on your goals and learn what those metrics mean. Then optimize and improve your email based on the feedback from the data you’ve collected.

Choosing an Email Service Provider

Email Service Providers are companies who provide email marketing services. Some examples are—

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to service providers. Pick one that integrates well with your existing software. Do you need it to integrate with Salesforce or another CRM? 

If you’re a startup with a small budget, I usually recommend MailChimp due to its low cost, easy drag and drop email design interface as well as a plethora of integrations. 

Here are some more questions to ask yourself to when choosing yours —

  • What are its segmentation capabilities?
  • Does it have a good reputation and is widely used?
  • Is it easy to build emails in?
  • What about automation? Does it have triggered email or workflow options?
  • Is it email compliant with email regulations?
  • Can you A/B test?
  • What analytics can you measure?
  • Can you download reports?

Define your Goals

Why should you define your email marketing goals? If you don’t know the purpose of your email send, then the people on the other end won’t understand why they’re getting the email from you either. Decide what action you want them to take upfront.

Pro Tip: I just picked up this tip from my friend Andy Brentis at Brentis Creative. As a design agency or freelancer, you can now set up your own (free) MailChimp & Co. account that allows you to add multiple clients without adding a paid seat to their account. Sweet!

Contact Management & Segmentation Strategy

Why is contact management important for email marketing? Your contacts are more than just a name and email. They’re real people you can help and provide value to by segmenting your lists. You can provide timely, efficient content to them.

What is Contact Management?

Contact management is a software program that helps you store your contacts information such as email, name, conversation history, and more.

Email Contact Management helps you—

  • See the bigger picture with each contact
  • Sort your contacts into segments
  • Organize your contacts
  • Integrate with other tools

Who is an email contact?
An email contact is a person your company communicates with while doing business. These people are your subscribers, leads, and customers, but they also may include partners, competitors, employees, or anyone else your company is emailing.

What is an email contact property
This is stored information about an individual contact like first name, last name, and email address. Or any additional information you’re collecting on your contacts like their location, product preferences, past purchases, and more.

What’s a contact company property?
Similar to the above but it includes information about a company. The data stored is about a group of contacts and may consist of information such as the company’s name, size, location, and website URL.

Email Segmentation

Email segmentation helps you be more relevant to your audience, engaging, and helpful. It’s also beneficial when creating content because you know exactly who you’re talking to, their pain points, and what they find interesting. The more relevant the message, the better your email’s performance.

You can personalize your email messages by sorting your contacts into groups based on similar interests such as job title, industry, or product preferences. 

Segmenting your email lists will also help you identify where your customer is in the buyer’s journey and provide timely offers such as coupons, a white paper download, and more.

Did You Know? Segmented campaigns receive fewer unsubscribes by 9.37%.

– Source MailChimp

How to Segment Your Email List

  • Lifecycle Segments: this is where your contacts are in your sales funnel
  • Leads: prospects or potential customers
  • Subscribers: People who are subscribed to your lists
  • Customers: those who buy your products or services

Using Email Segmentation in Your Marketing

You can segment your list in endless ways. Here are few ideas to get you started—

  • Past purchase history
  • Browsing behavior
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Weather
  • Topic Interest
  • Stage of the sales funnel
  • Click-through rates
  • Occupation or Role
  • Homeowner vs. Renter
  • Education
  • Marital status
  • Survey Information
  • Time zones
  • Inactivity or Unengaged Contacts
  • Device and email client
  • Website activity

Below is an example from Dyson of product recommendations based on past purchae history.

Cleaning Up Your Email Contact Database

You’ll also want to keep your list nice and tidy. Once a year, you should clean up your email database to make sure you’re connecting with the right people.

Reasons to Delete a Contact:

    • Spam submissions
    • Ineligible contacts (see definition below)

Keeping Your List Clean

Segment your lists to keep your email lists healthy and performing well.

Unsubscribed: People who have opted out of your email list.

Hard Bounces: Hard bounces or emails that can’t be delivered.

Ineligible contacts: non-marketing contacts, you don’t have permission to market to them.

Unengaged contacts: those who haven’t engaged with your email in over a year.

Permissions & Double Opt-Ins

Do you have permission to send your emails to them? Be sure to get it, so you’re email compliant, or you’ll end up in the dreaded Junk or SPAM box. 

What is a Double Opt-in?
A double opt-in is an added step in the email opt-in process. It requires the users to confirm their email address and interest.

So why would you want to add an extra step? Here are a few reasons why you might want to go for the double opt-in:

  • You’ll add more qualified contacts
  • You can avoid potential GDPR issues
  • Improve your deliverability

If you’d like to learn more about Double Opt-ins, check out this article by Campaign Monitor

Or go to Big Commerce’s blog for tips on improving your double opt-in rate.

Also, be sure to brush up on your CAN-SPAM laws with the Email on Acid article to keep your email healthy.

Sending Your Marketing Email

Before you press the send button for your next email campaign, understand two things.

  1. Why are you sending the email?
  2. What’s the value of the email to your customer?

We talked above about sending the right email to the right person at the right time. But what does that look like in practice?

The Right Email

Are you talking to your customers at the right stage in the buyer’s journey? Your content should change as your customer goes through the buyer’s journey. 

Here are some content ideas for each stage

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision Stage

How to Personalize Your Email Marketing

You can trigger your emails around a specific topic or action. Look at your data. When is your customer most likely to open your email? Also, look at when is the worst time to send an email to them.

If you can’t tell already I’m a big Hydrow fan. When everyone got Pelotons I decided to get a Hydrow instead because I didn’t want to be hunched over a bike, rowing is low impact, and you work over 80% of your muscles at once. It’s a good workout! 

Since joining I’ve really come to appreciate and marvel at their brilliant email marketing. In November, I reached 100k meters and as a “reward” I was sent a triggered email asking me to fill out a form for my 100k water bottle. The email was timely and came about 24 hours after I hit the 100k mark and the water bottle came about a week later. It sits on my office shelf now kind of like a trophy to remind me it’s about taking the small steps everyday to get where you want to go over time.

 My next goal is 250k and then I get a nifty pair of socks. But these simple rewards and check-ins are building brand loyalty over the long haul. I’m a loyal and delighted customer now. So much so I’m evangelizing them on my blog. Don’t we all want those types of customers?

Hydrow Email Personalization Example

Write for Your Email Audience

First, decide what conversation you’re trying to strike up with your audience and the goal of the email.

Your copy should have a consistent tone and reflect your brand’s voice. Stick to one topic. A piece of advice that’s on repeat in my head is from my marketing coach Ilise Benun: “it should be more letter than a newsletter.” In other words, don’t talk at your audience. It should be more about your audience and their pain points. I like to pick one person from my audience each time I sit down to write my newsletter. I pretend like I’m writing it directly to them. 

Your emails should also be friendly and avoid sarcasm or negative sentiments, which your audience can easily misinterpret.

Don’t forget to proofread it or run a spell check. I use Grammarly, which helps me with my poor use of commas and my tendency to be wordy.

Crafting the Perfect Subject Line

Your subject line should grab your audience’s attention and be clear. Don’t make them guess what you’re talking about. Read this article on Email Marketing: Writing Your Subject Lines to Increase Open Rates. 

Preview Text

What is preview text? The summary of the email below or next to the subject line tells you what the email you’re receiving is about. And it’s super easy to add.

Preview text length can vary from email client to email client, but a good rule of thumb is usually about 90 characters. Most email service providers will give you a warning of some kind if you’re going over it.

Your preview text should support your subject line and be an extension of it, enticing your audience to open and read more. Want to dive deeper into this subject Litmus has put together the Ultimate Guide to Preview Text.

Design Your Email to Be More Engaging

With email marketing, the simpler the design the better. Emails with a clear message and consistent experience will see better performance. So how do you design your emails to be more engaging? Try some of the tips below.

Images

Your images should be optimized and sized appropriately for mobile and responsive viewing. They should also be exciting and relevant to the topic at hand. 

Don’t forget to use ALT tags. You never know when Outlook will decide not to display your graphics, making your email inaccessable to everyone.

Create Consistency for Better Brand Recognition

You’ve heard it time and time again. Consistency is key. And when it comes to email marketing, the same rules apply. Use your brands, colors, logo, and tone to convey a consistent brand experience.

But one caveat you might not have thought about when it comes to consistency is designing across mobile devices. Test your emails and ensure they display correctly across all devices.

Use a template. Not only does using a design template make being consistent a breeze, but it also helps you have a guideline for creating content time and time again. 

Design Your Email for the User Experience

Use plenty of white space to make it easy to read and guide your customer’s attention. You can use the inverted pyramid pattern, like seen in the Example below. Do this by putting the logo at the top, followed by a header and main image. And put your CTA above the fold if possible.

The example below is from Sashco’s Log Home Segment HOPS program. HOPS stood for Homeowner Product Samples. From the main website the customer could click on a free samples button that would take them to a landing page with and embedded form once they filled out the form and chose their three samples they would get the confirmation email below. We wanted our customers to be successful applying the stain so the call to action included was to reach out to customer service with any questions.

Sashco Log Home HOPS Email Order Confirmation

Use Typographical Hierarchy

Typography is your friend. Use it to create a hierarchy. This simply means that your headline should be the biggest and your subtitles smaller than your headline. See the sample below.

If you want something to stand out or emphasize, bold it or italicize it. Avoid underlining your text because this is reserved for links only.

Make Your Emails Accessible

Email clients are more unpredictable than websites and don’t always display correctly. Follow these tips to make sure your email can be read by everyone.

  • Use headers, subtitles, and body text to create a logical hierarchy for your text
  • Use alt tags to put a meaningful description of your images
  • Be mindful of the color combinations that may be a challenge for those who are color blind
  • Keep the links easily clickable by putting plenty of space around buttons and bolding fonts

CTA (Call-to-Actions)

As far as the optimum size of the CTA button is concerned, 44×44 px works the best. The font size of the CTA copy should be 16 px or more.  

Make It Responsive

There are so many different email clients out there, from Outlook 2016 to Office 365 to Windows 10 and iPhone 12 mini to Gmail and so on. It’s essential to test your email designs. Does your email display correctly from device to device? Add sentence here that explains how software can test on various email clients.

And don’t forget to test for Dark Mode and image blocking.

Email Footer

Your email footer is just as important as the header of your email and should be consistent across all your emails. Make it easily readable, you don’t want your user squinting to find the unsubscribe link. Add space around the type to make it easily clickable. And don’t forget to add your contact details. They have to be included according to anti-spam laws.

Testing Your Emails

Besides the regular testing for deliverability, know why you’re testing your emails and what you hope to get out of testing. 

A/B Testing

A/B testing method of comparing two versions of email to see which one performs better. You can test your emails for:

  • Open rates
  • Subject line
  • Preview Text
  • Number of emails you send to your list

Test These for Click Rates:

  • Email body copy
  • Email body design
  • Email body images
  • Email CTA
  • Email signature

Want to know more about A/B testing? Check out this article by HubSpot.

Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is really just fancy talk for building relationships and trust with your customers. So when they’re in their time of need, they think of you as the solution to the problem they’re facing. You do this by being timely, efficient, and targeted with your communications.

Keep in mind, lead nurturing is a long-term game, so be patient. Learn more about lead nuturing here from HubSpot.

Below is an example of a follow up email from the Sashco’s HOPS program. It includes a photo of all the samples and materials sent to jog the customer’s memory in case they forgot and again because we want them to have a successful stain experience includes a human and helpful call to action asking if they need any help or have any questions.

HOPS Samples Email Check In

That’s all folks…

If you got this far give yourself a pat on the back. It’s a lot to take in.

I hope this guide was helpful to you. f you have any questions or think something should be added to the list give me a holler or a reply at the bottom of the page.

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