Learn about the key principles common to all email marketing strategies for small business In this post, we provide the main guidelines that every small business owner should follow when setting up and running an email marketing campaign. Just like every organized event, we can break down an email marketing campaign into three stages: preparation, […]
There are numerous types of online marketing. One of the oldest and most effective of them is email marketing.
The first promotional email was sent out to a few hundred consumers late in the ’70s, bringing the vendor millions of dollars in sales and giving rise to an entirely new industry — digital marketing. With the number of email users worldwide expected to grow to 4.4 billion by 2023, emails are sure to remain one of the most valuable tools for drawing attention to a brand and acquiring new customers.
To be successful, email marketers need to create an effective marketing strategy. That involves defining the target audience, understanding the goals, picking an adequate campaign type, analyzing the results, and other important considerations.
Apart from those essentials, selecting a proper email marketing service to deliver promotional messages is equally important. Choose the wrong software with limited capabilities and your meticulously designed marketing campaign will fail miserably with dire consequences for your business.
Here are 8 key characteristics of an email marketing service you should consider before choosing one of the dozens of options available on the market in 2019.
#1: EFFICIENT MAILING LIST MANAGEMENT
Managing a list of contacts is one of the staple features of any email service. Why waste resources on trying to reach out to someone whose email address doesn’t really exist or someone whose address is real but all messages sent to it return for an unknown reason? We call these two categories of contacts hard bounces and soft bounces respectively. A good email service provider (ESP) must be able to keep the contact list free of clutter. Whenever a hard bounce is detected, it must be deleted then and there. A soft bounce gets more time since the cause of the problem may be as simple as an overflowing inbox.
Additionally, the software must provide customization options for users to ensure the latest changes (e.g., opt-outs) get reflected in their lists automatically.
MailChimp provides an efficient list management mechanism. If an email returns from a soft bounce, three days later another attempt is made. If the situation is repeated in the course of several campaigns, the status of the contact changes to a hard bounce and it gets removed from the system right away. For more information on managing a contact list in MailChimp, read their guide.
#2: PRECISE LIST SEGMENTATION
Just like the divide-and-conquer algorithm in programming helps solve a complex problem by breaking it progressively into smaller pieces, identifying different groups of customers (segmenting them) in a contact list, and targeting those groups with specific promotional materials helps email marketers achieve their goals.
A good ESP gives users the ability to segment customers in a list based on a multitude of criteria that can be mixed together in a variety of combinations. Among the traits that distinguish one group of contacts from another can be the following:
- Purchasing preferences
- Devices or browsers that recipients use
- Click-through rates
- Recipient’s location
- Email client
#3: EASY THIRD-PARTY SOFTWARE INTEGRATION
What makes email marketing services truly powerful is their ability to integrate with external software. That’s especially true for e-commerce platforms like Magento or WooCommerce. Any ESP worthy of respect should give users a means of combining its features with those of another software by providing corresponding extensions or APIs.
HubSpot also provides an extensive list of integrations in many categories such as Advertising (Facebook Ads, Google Ads, RightMessage), Customer Success (Zendesk, LiveChat, Aircall), Sales (Shopify, PandaDoc, Typeform), Lead Generation (Zapier, WordPress, Instapage), and many others.
#4: FINE-TUNED A/B TESTING
A/B testing (or split testing) is a valuable marketing practice that allows you to find which subject line, content, or design works best for a specific group of recipients. Create two versions of the same email. Then, send the first version to one fraction of your contact list and the second to another fraction that’s approximately equal in size. By measuring each group’s responses, you determine which email version is more effective. Read this post to learn more about split testing and how to implement it.
Marketo is an email marketing service that offers probably the best A/B testing capabilities on the market. Users can experiment with numerous subject lines, dates and times for sending emails, and the “from” line. They can also see how complete versions of different messages perform.
Take the date/time tests, for example. You can segment the contact list so that people who live in different time zones receive your emails at the most convenient time. This way, the chance that they will open your message and convert is higher. To understand how you can use A/B testing in Marketo, download their comprehensive Ebook here.
#5: DETAILED ANALYTICS AND REPORTING
In email marketing, data is the king. Not knowing if your campaign is being effective or not is like staying in the dark. Therefore, a good ESP must provide detailed analytics and reporting tools to its users. There must be a clean and informative dashboard with all the important metrics, including these:
- Types of devices recipients use to open emails
- Actions that contacts perform on emails (removing, forwarding, etc.)
- The time they spend reading emails
- The portions of emails where they click
- Contacts of which gender are more engaged
By obtaining all this data, you can adjust your email marketing strategy for better results.
MailChimp is one of the best ESPs when it comes to reporting and analytics. To get an insight into what MailChimp reports can give you, read this post.
#6: GUARANTEED DELIVERABILITY
What’s the point of bothering with an email marketing strategy, segmenting your contacts, and creating beautiful designs and engaging content if all your emails end up in your prospective or current customers’ junk boxes?
A good ESP must ensure that its users’ messages always drop into the recipients’ inboxes. One of the ways to achieve this is to provide a dedicated IP address. That’s especially important when a business sends a large number of emails (e.g., 100,000 per week or more). A dedicated IP address ensures a higher deliverability rate. Visit HubSpot’s blog to learn why. Additionally, search for an ESP that provides tools to identify potential deliverability issues and report on any that do occur.
As far as deliverability is concerned, we recommend SendGrid. It has a group of highly qualified and experienced professionals whose primary mission is to solve any deliverability problems customers face. Watch this illuminating video where Jacob Hansen from the SendGrid team is giving a detailed account of the team’s processes and suggesting tips on improving deliverability.
#7: FLEXIBLE AUTORESPONDERS
Using autoresponders is a great way to nurture leads, convert them to customers, and ensure their loyalty. Instead of personally writing a “thank you” message to everyone who has subscribed to your newsletter, for example, you can set up an autoresponder to do it. A money and time-saving feature.
A good ESP provides flexible autoresponders for the various stages of the customer journey. A download button clicked? Send an email. A new customer has signed up on your website? Send an email. A purchase has been made? Send an email.
Here’s the best thing: it all happens behind the scenes without your intervention. Just sit down once, consider all possible scenarios, and adjust the system appropriately.
Campaign Monitor provides great autoresponders of different types, doing most of the work for the users. Here are the exact words on their official website: “Basically, you set the rules around when an autoresponder should be triggered and tell us what emails to send. We’ll do the rest.”
#8: A CONVENIENT CONTENT EDITOR
Finally, the design of a promotional email is crucial for acquiring leads and retaining customers. Nothing can spoil the reputation of a brand so much as a badly structured or poorly designed message. A good ESP must provide a convenient and efficient tool for building emails with these basic features:
- The ability to integrate a user’s own HTML or CSS forms into an email
- A set of ready-made templates
- Image-editing tool
- Responsive design
A user should also be able to save previous designs to re-use them with some modifications later.
MailChimp provides an easy-to-use and yet functional template editor. You can easily drag-and-drop the essential elements (images, buttons, etc.) into emails and place them anywhere you want. You can also change the colors, borders, fonts, and perform other important design operations. Just follow the guidelines.
Choosing a proper email marketing service is extremely important for any business that wants to grow and succeed. It helps marketers save valuable time and money while improving the results of their work. Look for the essential features we’ve described above to find what ESP suits you best.
Even with the most sophisticated template editor, though, creating truly unique and effective promotional emails is a job for professionals. That’s where the PSD2HTML email division will give you the real value. With their years of expertise, our developers create beautifully designed email templates that look great on all platforms and in all email clients in just one business day.