How to Create an Email Marketing Strategy

Does your organization have an email marketing strategy? Contrary to popular belief, email is one of the highest-performing marketing tools available — the average ROI of email marketing is $36 for every $1 spent, according to Statista. Despite being an older medium, email remains an effective marketing strategy. Read on to learn how your business can develop, implement and grow your email marketing efforts.

Is Email Marketing Still Effective?

The very first email was sent in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson, the computer programmer who implemented the first email program on a system that was the precursor to the internet. Today, inboxes of more than 4 billion users are overflowing with messages, as email is still a cost-effective and popular marketing method.

In fact, 87% of B2B marketers use email as a distribution channel, according to the Content Marketing Institute. The only outlet above it is social media. And email has over a 90% penetration rate among American internet users, while only 69% of American adults use Facebook.

Why You Need an Email Marketing Strategy

A successful email marketing campaign requires strategy. Email is a highly competitive medium, and without proper planning, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd — especially considering that the average office worker receives 121 emails every day.

An email marketing strategy is also necessary to determine the return on your investment. Though many people believe that email marketing is completely free, sending at any kind of scale comes at a cost. On average, mid-sized businesses typically spend up to $1,000 per month for self-managed email marketing and $300-$1,500 if working with an agency.

An effective email marketing strategy can not only help businesses acquire new customers, but also maintain current ones. That said, subscribers to your emails can become easily fatigued by too many emails, so it’s critical to make every email worth their time.

How to Create an Email Marketing Strategy

Are you ready to create your email marketing strategy? Here are the steps to take.

1. Start with a Content Strategy

A content strategy is defined as a documented plan that outlines the ideation, creation, delivery and governance of an organization’s content. It includes words on the page, of course, but also images, videos, social media posts, press releases and more. A solid content strategy ensures that you have usable content that is well structured, which improves a user’s experience.

Your email marketing should support your overall content strategy. To do so, first figure out what goals an email will help you achieve that other channels can’t or don’t do as well. For instance, the average click-through rate for email is over 3.5%, whereas Facebook is .07% and X is.03%.

Your content strategy should also define your audience. Refer to this section to understand how your current and potential customers want to interact with your organization via email. For example, do they want to be introduced to new products? Get news and updates? Or are they looking for promotions?

2. Set an Email Cadence

Understanding your audience is also important when it comes to setting an email cadence. You want to send email frequently enough to stay top of mind, but not so often that you overwhelm your audience. If you’re not sure, you could always ask your subscribers to select the email frequency they are comfortable with.

Look at the types of content you plan to send, such as newsletters, promotions or announcements, and then look at how you’ve segmented your audience. Since different types of content go to different segments, it’s important to eliminate any recipient overlap, which could cause email fatigue.

Once you’ve established the proper cadence — which may take some testing to finalize — create an email calendar. This way, you have a high-level view of each month’s email marketing strategy that will also help you stay consistent.

3. Understand Email Marketing Ethics

Before hitting send, it’s important to know there are actual rules about email marketing. Certain marketing and data protection regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM act and GDPR, serve as gatekeepers to email inboxes. Breaching those regulations will direct your email to the junk folder. On average, one out of every six emails is forwarded to spam.

Another good way to get sent to spam is not including an opt-in/-out or unsubscribe option. So be sure to include that and any necessary disclosures.

4. Establish a Measurement Framework

Most email marketing tools will provide basic metrics, including open rates, click-through rates and bounces, but you also want to know if your email program is helping you accomplish your content strategy goals. How will you measure email’s impact on sales, retention and other key performance indicators?

Consider adding UTM codes to all links in your email in order to track their individual performance.

Key Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Email Marketing Program

What Email Marketing Tool or Software Will You Use?

While it’s entirely possible to manually enter email addresses and segment audiences, it’s far more efficient and effective to automate the process. There are many email marketing tools available, such as Constant Contact and MailChimp, but it’s important to choose one that integrates with your other business systems, including your CRM and e-commerce platform. Different programs offer different features, like trigger-based automation, advanced segmentation and even content curation, so what tools will you need?

Also keep in mind that a new tool will come with a learning curve. Research how user-friendly the tool is. What kind of training does it require? How helpful is the product support? And how long will it take to onboard?

What Will Your Email Sender Name and Address Be?

An email always comes with a “from” field, so who will you put in that spot? Email users are more likely to open an email from someone they trust, so consider sending the email from an actual person as opposed to an organization. It could be the CEO of the company or a hired spokesperson, but sending an email from this person’s address with their name in the “from” field will personalize your email and help to build trust over time.

How Will You Grow Your List?

With your email marketing strategy in place, now it’s time to maintain and grow your list of subscribers. Because there will always be a certain level of churn — from unsubscribes or deactivated email addresses, for instance — continuing to grow your list is critical. In fact, email marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% annually.

So how will you promote your email? Create a compelling call to action on your website and social media channels encouraging people to subscribe. You could even offer something valuable, such as a discount code, in exchange for their email address.

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