So you’ve created an email marketing automation campaign. Good job. These types of campaigns, also known as email drip campaigns and email nurture journeys, provide your sales team with a continuous supply of leads that are ready to close, thus maximizing marketing and sales effectiveness (as explained in an earlier article). That’s a pretty handy marketing asset. According to MarTech, companies that excel at drip marketing generate 80% more sales at 33% lower cost.

What exactly does it mean to excel? Though an email nurture journey is designed to run automatically, it is not a set-it-and-forget-it tool. There is always room for improvement. Start testing and see how much you can improve open rates, click-through rates, and conversions.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to improve your email marketing automation results.

 
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Bob, owner of Bob’s Home Remodeling Company, has learned about the wonders of email automation at a local marketing seminar. When he gets to work on Monday, he creates a three-series email nurture journey that ends with a link to download his new e-book, Six Ways to Remodel Your Kitchen. He triggers the email campaign for his entire lead list — with dismal results. Why? Maybe many of his leads aren’t interested in kitchen remodels. They might have been considering a bathroom remodel or room addition.

When you look at your email nurture journey, make sure it is relevant to your audience. Simply sending your emails to a list of everyone who has expressed interest in your company will do far more harm than good.

  • Do: Segment your email lists into groups with important commonalities. The way you decide to segment will depend on the nature of your company, but you can segment for things like stated product interest, geographic location, job title, gender, age, and more. Use the data in your marketing automation platform for best results.
  • Do: Personalize your email nurture journey for your segmented audience. In Pardot’s infographic about drip campaign basics, Matt Wesson writes, “The deeper your segmentation, the more personal your message can be.”
  • Don’t: Forget about current or inactive customers. Put them in their own lists and consider creating an email nurture journey to either keep them on board or re-engage them.

 

Your email nurture journey starts with your subject line. Busy customers won’t hesitate to ignore or delete your email if the subject line doesn’t speak to them.

How can you make sure that your email subject lines will snag the interest of your prospects and customers? Test, test, test. Almost all email service providers allow customers to A/B test multiple subject lines at once. Let the best subject line rise to the top.

  • Do: Always A/B test two or three different subject lines. (This is also known as split testing.)
  • Do: If you have a very large list, consider testing different subject lines on a randomized subset of the list first, so you can send the winning subject line to the rest.
  • Look at: Open rates are the best way to measure the relevance and success of your email subject lines.
  • Remember: Keep testing every few months, even after you’ve found a subject line winner. Trends and tastes change, and today’s winner might be next year’s loser, especially if you have a long-running campaign.
 

Great email content is personal, highly relevant, and entertaining or compelling enough to rise above the slew of other emails your prospects receive. In the “Complete Guide to B2B Email Marketing” by Pardot, the writers note, “There’s no better way to impress your prospects than by catering specifically to their needs and creating a personalized sales experience with your email marketing.”

A segmented email subscriber list is crucial to highly targeted emails. For instance, Bob, the home remodeler, will see much better results when he sends his kitchen remodeling email campaign only to leads who expressed interest in kitchen remodels, rather than to his entire lead list.

Even after you’ve personalized your email content, how do you know whether it’s right for your audience?

  • Do: Test, test, test. Just like with your subject line, write a few different versions of each email. For example, try an option that is short and sweet. Test different testimonials. Tell a personal story or lead with a joke. You won’t know what your audience prefers unless you test.
  • Don’t: Test more than one factor at a time. Don’t try to test multiple subject lines and different content at the same time, or you won’t be able to determine which change is driving your results.
  • Do: Consider using a “dynamic content” strategy that sends different emails depending on the prospect’s actions. For example, if a prospect clicks on a video, send them an email with a free e-book. If they don’t click on the video, send them a reminder email about the video in the next week.
  • Do: Look at click-through rate data. It will help you determine if your email content is compelling your readers to take action. Of course, you’ll also need to consider whether you have the best call to action possible. 

You’ve got a great subject line and personalized content, so why aren’t the recipients of your email campaign downloading your e-book, viewing your video, reading your blog, or calling you?

It’s time to test your call to action and consider whether you are giving your audience what they really want. First, make sure you know exactly what you want your prospects to do. Then determine if that call to action is clear in your emails. For example, if you want them to give you a call, putting your phone number in regular type at the end of the email’s last paragraph isn’t going to get your phones ringing. Make your call to action big, bold, and relevant to your audience. (If it’s a phone number, hyperlink it so mobile users can tap it and immediately call your company.)

  • Do: Split test different calls to action in your email. Try placing the button in different places and using various words and phrases. “Learn more,” and “Buy now,” for example, may result in very different click rates.
  • Do: Personalize the call to action. If Bob the remodeler is creating an email nurture journey for leads interested in bathroom remodels, he won’t get very far offering them his kitchen remodeling e-book. Instead, he should consider offering a bathroom remodeling checklist, include a link to his “before and after bathroom remodel” web page, or add something else useful to someone interested in this type of work. 
  • Do: Try different offers. Maybe your leads don’t want to read a 30-page e-book, but would rather watch a video or listen to your latest podcast. Test different offers to see what really intrigues your prospects.
  • Don’t: Be generic. Keep your call to action short and personal. Convey the value of your offer and add some urgency.
  • Do: Look at your click-through rates and conversion numbers. They will help tell you if your call to action is well-targeted and valuable to your audience.

When you spend so much time tweaking every aspect of your email nurture journey, it can be easy to forget why you’re actually doing it all. It’s great to increase your open rates and click-through rates, but the true testament to the value of your efforts is how many conversions it creates. Don’t take your eyes off the prize, whether your goal is to get recipients to download your e-book, request a sales call, or make a purchase off your website.

  • Do: Remember that open rates and click-through rates are not the ultimate metrics. In fact, it might be worth losing opens and clicks if you can create an email nurture journey so well-tailored that it appeals only to your most valuable customer profiles.
  • Do: Continually measure your conversion rate. This will be the ultimate judge of whether or not your email campaign is improving or not.
  • Do: Repeat your success. Once you’ve got one automated email campaign up and running, create another one for a different list segment. If the segments are similar, you may even be able to duplicate your original campaign and then modify it to personalize it for your new audience.
  • Do: Get help. Many email service providers and CRMs provide powerful email and marketing automation tools that allow you to split test different factors in your email campaign, create dynamic content, and analyze your results.
 
See insights on successful email strategies from Marketing Cloud customers.

Improving an email nurture journey is often a process of continually making minor tweaks to obtain small percentage increases in user engagement. While the differences may seem small, increasing your open rate just 4% for a list of 10,000 means 400 more people will be reading your emails. Increasing your conversion rate just 2% on that same list could mean that your company earns 200 new customers. Not a bad return for making a few tweaks, right?

Think of your email nurture journey as an ongoing project that can always be improved. Brainstorm. Create. Experiment. Analyze. You’ll learn new things about your audience every day, which will allow you to continually hone your campaign so you see better and better results. Also, don’t forget to have fun. 

Jessica Bennett is a writer, editor, novelist and is proud to be Inbound Certified.
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