We know you can, you know you can, so why not have kick-ass email marketing tips in one place?
Marketing trends change up way too fast for everyone’s liking and Google is always on the move. Literally, the only way you can kick ass at any sort of marketing is to keep reading (and reading) and searching (and searching some more).
Research is gold, but there’s also a lot of conflicting information out there: One day you’ll be told you need to be on Snapchat, keyword stuff the heck out of your SEO optimized articles, run a Facebook group, and then the next you’ll be told to avoid them altogether. It leaves you wanting to scream, “WHICH IS IT?” into whatever device you’re using before attempting to cobble a marketing plan together. Through all the marketing trends and growth hacks, there’s one tried and true marketing channel that never fails to deliver – email.
The fact of the matter is, email marketing is coming back. And it's coming back like John McClane in Die Hard: With a Vengeance.
Stats show that more people are checking their emails before doing anything else online – including Tinder and Snapchat. This is especially weird right after the holidays when 75% of the world is lonely enough to use them. But them’s the breaks, and if you think about what you did first thing this morning, was it or was it not checking your email on your phone?
Although there were some marketers who didn’t predict it ever happening, rumblings about the comeback of email marketing began at least in the middle of 2017. When you think about it, email is personal, and that’s the route that marketing is going down in the upcoming year. So, it shouldn’t be a huge shock to the system. We’re all finally going to feel like human internet users again.
Well, some of us.
People talk about messenger bots as if they’re the next great marketing channel. Countless startups have sprung up in hopes of cashing in on the craze. But here’s the thing – not only is email still one of the best marketing channels in existence, it will continue to be for years.
As more insights have been gathered, it's become an undeniable fact that email marketing isn’t just on the rise again; rather, that it never actually went anywhere in the first place.
- Roughly 2.8 billion people on the planet use email as the main tool for digital communication
- No one owns email, unlike Messenger bots, Whatsapp messages, and NSFW Reddit forums. It's also easier to use email, free, and nobody is expected to reply right away. Excellent!
- Email marketing campaigns are the best channel for customer acquisition and retention.
In other words, there are no one purchase stands or hits here.
Taking that into account, gaining new, lasting customers requires a lot more effort than maintaining those you already have. A lot of that effort includes delivering personalized content without stepping over any privacy boundaries. (Thanks, Zuckerberg).
- It's also one of the highest earning channels for a positive return on investment (ROI), with a potential ROI of 4400% where every single dollar invested brings back an average return of at least $44.
Still with me? Cool. Keep reading if you want to know how you can kick email marketing’s ass this upcoming year. The new year is just beginning, and with so much possibility ahead, think of what you can do armed with this information.
This Time, it's Personal
As a species, we crave human contact. Not only that, but we also want to be spoken to like a person and like another person is speaking to us. Personalizing online content is, therefore, the way forward. It’s about building relationships.
Whether this is in part to do with the increase of YouTube personalities or the fact that our brains are tired of the same-old-shit-different-campaign, a brand needs to stand out of its own accord. If relationships are what the people want, then, as marketers, we need to give them that.
Furthermore, standing out isn’t going to be exclusively built on research and data. Although research will always be the building blocks of any good marketing campaign, this year is going to show us just how powerful it is to connect with people.
People want to be noticed for being exactly who they are. Psychologically, it isn’t dissimilar to the reasons people update their Facebook profiles with their current statuses. I mean, don't we all want to be a little bit special sometimes?
Email marketing is now going to need more personalization than just a name in the subject line followed by stock information that isn't catered to the person receiving it. On the contrary, it's going to need to speak to the individual and be a means of calling attention to just how unique everybody in the world is.
While one of the most important things you can do is include the recipient's name, there has to be more to it. People want to feel like they're being spoken to and understood; opening a good email at the right time is like having breakfast with an old friend you haven’t seen in ages.
There are companies out there that use dynamic and targeted content to collect data without any breaches on privacy. We'll talk about those means later. With that information, they're able to group contacts by all manners of interests so that two friends could receive emails from the same company with different, more personalized content.
Furthermore, natural language and an offshoot of it called sentiment analysis are becoming increasingly important. Sentiment analysis is also known as “opinion mining” and it’s the process of being able to read into how your target audience feels about anything from a new toothpaste commercial to the latest Avengers movie.
In short: Analyzing people’s positive and negative reactions to existing campaigns can help us strengthen our relationships, plan better campaigns, and send more personalized content to the person opening the mail.
In other words, enough with the formal wording and the avoidance of contractions and grammatical faux pas. Depending on the kind of company you're running and the type of emails you're sending, you're going to have to adjust your brand's voice to what your customers want to hear.
Make it more of a drink with the guys after work than a hardcore Avon sales pitch – what is this, the 90s?
Doing this can also help you to reach better levels of product or brand awareness. Which, hello? Isn't that why we're email marketing in the first place? (Yes. The answer is, "Yes.") The use of natural language is key in making a long-term impact on consumers. Just as another example, using a personalized subject line (or even emojis) makes your email 85% more likely to be opened.
Email personalization to-do list:
- Use the recipient's name and information if you have it
- Make your subject lines more relevant to them – e.g. Did you enjoy your Jeff Goldblum concert?
- Base your email around the customer's persona, online behavior, purchase history, etc.
Getting to know somebody can be beneficial for both parties. Oh wow, who knew?
Once upon a time…
Another way to build up personalization is to tell a story in your emails. Open them with a tale of epic proportions, but one that's relevant to your brand rather than just rewriting Twilight fan fiction a la 50 Shades of Please Stop. People like to be told stories. Stories have been told for as long as human existence, or at least the 70s, and if celebrities get to write pointless autobiographies, surely we should be able to share our own stories with our mailing list.
Storytelling is super effective in grabbing people's attention, as well as influencing their decisions and their behaviors. Although that sounds borderline creepy and kind of Orwellian, the difference between us as digital marketers and advertising executives is we care about our customers.
Again, by relying on targeted marketing and segmenting, you can tell stories that feel deeply personal to those reading them. As a bonus, it can maximize your email marketing ROI potential tenfold. To make it even easier, as well, there's even a template to it:
STORY > AGENDA > POINT > VALUE
What happened that inspired you to open this email to talk to your new friends about? Forget the conclusion, that's for later. Open it up on a personal level. One-to-one, rather than one-to-dot-com.
Carefully ease into your agenda. What do you hope to come out of this story you're telling? What do you want them to feel? Done wrong, this section can be murky. Done right, you're looking at further reading.
Okay, now you've started the story, what's the point of the email? Why are you telling them this story? Why do they need to know it? Or, better still, why did you think of them when you thought of the story?
Wrap up the story by letting them know what they can get from it that's of value. What can they take away from it? Just remember: You don't have to be Confucius to write an inspiring quote.
Then again, you could just quote him.
“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” – Confucius, 2018 AD
Target: more than just a store
Targeted marketing has been a huge thing for years now. Within reason. If you're in need of a pair of boots, is the first thing you want to see when you hit up ASOS really going to be a pair of stilettos? (No matter how good they make your calves look). But even so, trends are shifting in a better direction where content is being delivered directly to the audiences that want to see that content.
Basically, to be personal, you've got to know their personality.
You can use data such as their gender or their age-group to tailor the campaign exclusively to them. Similarly, if they’ve visited a specific web page a few times or opened specific emails more than once, segmenting and targeting means you can follow up with them and nurture that relationship a little more.
Essentially, it's like having a relationship-relationship, except it costs you less and isn't emotionally taxing. You're just showing people you care and understand them. It's a much better way to deal with relationships in general, which is something we'd tell Meghan and Harry if they were interested in email marketing trends.
- Segmented emails account for 58% of all earnings from email
- If you're targeting relevantly, then those emails can increase your profits by up to 18 times
Dynamic content: better than chocolate
Some research may suggest that dynamic content might even be more prevalent in the upcoming year than targeted. It's still based on the collection of data, but in a more upfront and integrated way. Dynamic content will also capture your reader's attention within the first few seconds of them opening it.
With information such as demographics, firmographics, behavioral analytics, and psychographics, you can create content that caters exclusively to the specific type of person that you want to attract.
However, dynamic content whittles that down to the bare bones so it becomes more personal and enables you to send emails that are legitimately just targeted to that person. (Or, at least, they'll seem that way).
The CliffsNotes guide to dynamic content
- Demographics: Personal information such as age, location, gender
- Firmographics: Work information such as the type of business, location of the office
- Behavioral analytics: Online information such as their purchase pattern, response to offers, browser history/cookies
- Psychographics: Individual information such as a person's interests, hobbies, or their lifestyle
By having a block of dynamic content within your email template or copy, all the subscribers of your mailing list will get the same email but with different images based on gender or age, or whichever targeted information your brand needs.
EXAMPLE: You sell footwear. Send a picture of heels to a woman and boots to a man. Although gender isn't always something that can be determined, you can gauge what people want to see based on the other facts.
This dynamic content will provide trust for you and your brand through relevant solutions to whatever the subscriber's problems or wants are at the time. In turn, that creates loyal customers.
Some of the steps you can take before you start your dynamic campaign are things like creating hypothetical personalities for your future customers. As fun as it is to fly by the seat of your pants when you're the President, as a content marketer you have to plan. We know, it sucks. But, it's profitable.
In one campaign, Campaign Monitor got a boost of 13% on their conversion rates and thousands of extra visitors to the site, just by personalizing the image sent via email with the dynamic method. Additionally, 96% of marketers agree that this targeted personalization significantly improves your business-to-customer engagement.
Don't make Confucius sad again.
It's time everything got a little more mobile
Over the last ten years, mobile usage has skyrocketed. Now basically everyone has a smartphone. Websites and emails need to be optimized for different devices.
What looks great on one screen won't necessarily look great on another. Think of it like wearing a suit off the rack. It can look pretty bad, right?
More email views also happen via mobile than they do on computers. People can check their emails while they're on public transport or are waiting in line at the grocery checkout, rather than waiting until they're at a computer.
As a result, fewer people are using computer-based email programs to read their emails and more for organizing and replying to them.
- 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices (iPhones, tablets)
- 75% of Google’s 900 million active users check their Gmail via mobile device
You need to be dynamic as well as lightweight. It would have been a lot harder to do back in the days when infographics and image-heavy emails were a thing. Which kind of explains why more and more people are looking to receive plain text emails.
What is this, the 90s?
No, but seriously.
Plain-Text Emails: Back to basics
The days of detailed graphics coming to your inbox every day are over. For the most part, all of us do everything we can to avoid reading or interacting with things we can't scroll. Not to put too fine a point on it, of course. What's true of one member of the digital marketing age isn't necessarily true for another, but still.
We're over advertisements and banner ads. They're too numerous and in our faces. More than anything, it feels like advertisers are perpetually stuffing whatever it is they're advertising in our faces. Everyone loves Papa Johns – just not when they're sending emails that are shoving images in our faces all at once. That can feel spammy to a customer who isn’t in the mood for pizza for every meal of the day.
Weirdly, plain-text emails have higher delivery and open rates. That and better engagement numbers, which is what you want to be seeing in your email marketing campaign. Or else why are you doing it? They also work pretty well alongside mobile-friendly content as there isn't a single device in the world that can't read plain text, nor are recipients asked to open any further links.
Also, plain-text emails look and seem way more like a personalized message, like something you'd receive from your friends or your Great Aunt Marta who just figured out the iPad you got her three Christmases ago. However, images aren't all bad, especially if they're interactive.
But wait, you mean you can interact with things?
Engaging emails don't all have to be text, text, and more text. If Buzzfeed has taught us anything, it's that we all love a little interaction. Keeping readers engaged can literally be as easy as slipping some questions or a quiz into your email.
A good thing to consider in 2020 is partnering with influencers. They're good for marketing purposes because they know how to play the field, are respected in your niche, and are another way to interact with your audience. Influencers know what works. That's why their selfies tend to come with questions and snippets of information from their personal lives, like their dog's name or how they felt when they woke up this morning.
Contests can do the same thing as influencers – that is, another way to interact with your customers. Combine them with email for maximum reach and effectiveness. Sprinkle in some deadlines and exclusivity using timers counting down to a special event like a sale or how long until the next time Trump says something profoundly stupid and you have yourself a potent marketing campaign. Each of these means of engagement also brings a new thing to the table.
With quizzes and GIFs, you'll see an increase in customer footprints due to being 'of the time' or 'hip with the kids'. Whereas with countdown timers, you can create a sense of urgency along the lines of, "If you don't do this now, you'll miss out. Would you want to miss out on the new Taylor Swift album?" #fomo
Some of the most popular interactive emails also include a call to action. In fact, call to actions are kind of a necessity across all levels of digital marketing. It gives readers a chance to see the point of the email and also get something out of it at the end. Win/win, really. And that's just by doing something as simple as saying a more user-specific version of, "click the link."
One final idea you might be able to implement in your email marketing plan is other ways for your subscribers to engage with the email. Maybe they can edit an order through it, track their order, update a wish list, or even add something to their cart.
Functions like this will decrease the amount of time people need to spend on doing a specific action. Also, because most of us are so busy all of the time, the less time something takes, the better for everyone.
Micro-moments are what makes the world go around
They're also totally underused and underestimated. Their power serves as a forward-thinking alternative to segmented marketing. Ironically, this kind of marketing serves to amplify the customer's decision-making journey.
The philosophy behind micro-moments is kind of the same as plain text emails. We're all being bombarded by so much content, targeted ads, offers, tweets, texts, emails, notifications… and you get the picture. It's hard to focus. In general, the world as we know it has reached the point where a little content is also too much content.
In the industry, it's known as "content shock". We prefer the term, "If I get one more notification, I am literally going to punch a baby."
Instead, what you need to do in 2020 is embrace the idea that you have around three seconds to capture the reader's attention. If you don't, they'll delete the email because it'll be yet another that’s destined for the spam folder anyway, whether it's targeted for them specifically or not.
Content that can be consumed quickly while also delivering a lot of value is exactly what people are looking for when they wake up and check their emails in the morning. There should also be more emphasis on the value of the content. In other words, quality over quantity. Tell the reader what they'll get out of reading this.
It's a capitalist world. Everybody wants to get something.
Jokes aside, a series of short, valuable interactions that will eventually lead to the reader doing the research for themselves will make it feel like more of a decision than something they've been forced to do. It's Psych 101. People want to be the driver and Miss Daisy.
In return, marketers gain more incremental revenue and lead generation.
What that means is that you can gain a lot from actually listening to people. Isn't that weird? It’s easy to see why people tried things such as “socializing” in the olden days of 1985 when you look at it like that.
These are the droids you’re looking for
Like it or not, artificial intelligence is a trend that is growing faster than celebrity babies. In fact, nearly every avenue related or adjacent to marketing is going to see AI all up in their biz next year, and email marketing isn't any different.
AI is already being used to help email marketers with a bunch of helpful functions such as keeping up-to-date with the most effective subject lines or the images that a person wants to see. Bizarre and Terminator-y as it may sound, they're also able to predict how a potential lead is going to interact with the email they're sending and thus, adapt it to be much more personal.
Because apparently, we're able to program AI to do what we can't.
And that's all right. Or at least, it's going to have to be alright.
That said, AI is already proving to be so successful to the point in which AI-driven marketing alone is estimated to account for $2.29 billion by 2025. Not to make you feel old or anything, but that's literally six years away.
Adobe also conducted studies that found that email users opened at least 80% of work and 60% personal emails that were sent this way and that they actually liked to be contacted. Using all of the tools we've talked about today and then adding it to an equation alongside AI is the future.
Lastly, AI studying the behavior of recipients means measuring their responses which it does on its own. Thus, there's no extra output to human resources. Basically, you won't necessarily need an email marketer. You'll have C3P0.
If there's one overwhelming theme to marketing trends for 2020, it's personalization. Individualism and personality now run through everything, leaving Mean Girls culture in 2004 where it belongs.
As for the AI, tools like smarter chatbots can be utilized to give us, as human beings, more time to do human being things. Like meet real people in person, see things in real life, and take selfies for Instagram.
For successful marketing campaigns, data collection should occur in order to make better decisions. Data that can turn someone's shitty morning into a good one by waking up to an email that has a voucher code and a personal greeting. In order to personalize emails to your subscribers and customers, you’re going to have to build a homebase; a brand whose subscribers feel comfortable enough to be leads.
2020 is going to see an uprise in humanity, and it's up to you, as marketers, to give them meaningful B2C relationships where, as a bonus, everybody gets what they want.