Email Marketing Best Practices to Benefit Your Business

New technologies are evolving, but email marketing remains one of the most effective channels for businesses. With more than 4 billion email users worldwide, it’s a powerful tool to build lasting relationships with customers and prospects.
A data-based approach can make email marketing a very successful tactic for your brand. Since companies and their marketing teams tend to manage their own subscriber lists, they can deliver high quality, relevant content tailored to their audience. This can have a big impact on the bottom line, with email marketing having an average ROI of $36 for every dollar spent.
As we settle into a digital-first business world, email marketing can help meet rising customer expectations for personalized content.
A thoughtful email marketing strategy provides valuable, relevant information that educates customers and helps them make smarter purchasing decisions. Simple, straightforward messages will position your company as helpful rather than invasive or salesy. As the campaign journey advances, an authentic connection of trust develops between your brand and your customers as they look forward to your emails.
In this article, you’ll learn how email marketing helps businesses connect with customers and prospects to build lasting relationships – and the ROI they desire. We’ll give an overview of email marketing and provide tips for improving your efforts, including how to choose the right platform. We’ll also show how artificial intelligence (AI) is shaping the future of email marketing.
 
 

What is email marketing and why does it matter?

Email marketing has been around for decades. In fact, the first marketing email was sent in 1978. That email campaign drove $13 million in sales and proved the value of the channel. Today, email is one of the most highly used marketing channels.
Given its long history, email marketing has gone through several changes since its inception. It’s a powerful marketing channel to promote your business’s products or services. It can also assist with lead generation, brand awareness, building new relationships, and keeping customers engaged between purchases.
Digital transformation across industries has pushed the channel to evolve and adapt to meet the changing demands of businesses and consumers alike. As digital experiences exploded with the rise of social media and mobile apps, successful email marketers are now using tools like AI and automation to deliver their messages across channels.
Marketing automation has helped businesses shift away from traditional email tactics — generic messages sent to lengthy subscriber lists — and get more personal. More comprehensive data collection and management now make it possible for emails to focus on the specific wants and needs of each individual customer.
Today’s marketing automation platforms allow businesses to segment their lists by a number of identifiers like age, location, interests, and buying history. This targeted approach to email marketing means customers receive highly targeted communications that are relevant to them. As a result, businesses are more likely to see higher engagement and more conversions from their messages.
One of the top benefits of email as a marketing channel is the ability to personalize messages. Personalization turns a simple marketing strategy into a unique opportunity for customer and brand relationship development. Another benefit is complete control over the message, since there are no third parties involved. You control how, when, and why you connect with your customers.
In fact, email can deliver up to 3,800% ROI compared with an average of 28% ROI on social media. And email is the #1 channel preferred by consumers when communicating with brands, according to Salesforce’s most recent State of the Connected Customer report.
Email marketing’s flexibility and customization make it a valuable channel to achieve a number of marketing and sales goals, including:
  • Building customer relationships
  • Boosting brand awareness
  • Generating and nurturing leads
  • Marketing products and services
  • Promoting content and useful resources
Now let’s examine some strategies you can use to start building successful email marketing campaigns.

How to build an email marketing strategy

Each of your customers receives, on average, more than 120 emails a day. A strong strategy will help your messages stand out.
These are some important steps to keep in mind:

Use data to find the right audience.

The most successful email campaigns start with a single source of truth for customer data. Cloud-based enterprise systems bring together data from sales, marketing, and customer service to provide a full view of your customer.
Unified data gives you the power to segment your audience into groups based on a variety of attributes and characteristics. This means you can send targeted emails to subsections of your audience with information that is relevant to them.
Avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach gives your business the upper hand in your customers’ inboxes as your emails provide real value.

Activate first-and-zero-party data across channels.

Email is only one touchpoint for your customers on their purchasing journey. Successful email marketers make use of first-party data — collected from behaviors, actions, or interests your customers demonstrated while visiting your website — to facilitate future touchpoints across channels. They also use zero-party data, which includes information the customer willingly offers up to the brand in exchange for a more personalized experience.
With an understanding of what content your customer engages with and what they directly share with you, you can tailor future offers with information that fits their needs. Delivering a connected customer journey will bring them closer to purchasing from your business.

Think across multiple devices.

How your customer opens and reads content is an important consideration for your email marketing strategy. The percentage of open rates from mobile devices and webmail continues to increase each year, reaching almost 80% in 2020.
Mobile devices need just as much consideration in the design and development of your emails as desktop. Making your email template mobile-friendly can be the difference between securing a new customer and ending up in someone’s trash folder.

Personalize the content to build relationships with every customer.

Email marketing is built on people providing their contact information in exchange for help finding a solution that addresses their needs. You should take this exchange seriously and think about how you can address the customer’s concerns most effectively.
Using the information provided by the customer along with data collected through an enterprise platform can ensure you give the customer tailor-made content. The more content variations you have, the more opportunities you have to tailor the experience. Product categories, customer lifecycle stage, and recent activity are a few different ways you can start to specify your content for personalization.
You can also collect first-party data through surveys, favoriting features, and more that give customers the opportunity for more personalization.
Personalized content includes everything from product recommendations to anemail where all of the images and articles are tailored to the individual. Building out these personalized customer experiences requires time, planning, and some manual work, so marketers often turn to automation and artificial intelligence to make things more effective and efficient.

Avoid spam and unsolicited emails.

The days of “batch and blast” emails are over. Generic emails sent to massive subscriber lists are likely to be ignored by your customers, if they aren’t delivered straight to spam folders.
You should also avoid buying email lists. The worst thing for a customer is feeling like they are on the receiving end of an unwanted sales pitch. Grow your subscriber list organically by offering relevant content and personalized recommendations that build trust between your business and your customers.
Email inbox providers pay attention to engagement at the individual subscriber level. If a subscriber doesn’t open any messages, the inbox might automatically start moving those messages to the spam folder. This also affects your overall sender reputation with that inbox. If you have a very large unengaged audience that you’re sending to with a high frequency, it could impact your delivery rate (how many emails make it to the inbox), meaning some email sends could bounce.
However, if you’re sending messages that subscribers have actively signed up for and frequently open and click, you’ll have a favorable reputation in the eyes of the inbox providers.

Optimizing email marketing success

Once you have an email marketing strategy in place, it’s time to build on that foundation to maximize your results. Successful marketers use every email as an opportunity to learn more about their customers. Here are a few ways you can do that:

Take a data-driven approach to creating content.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to use your customer data to create emails. With all of your data unified in a single source of truth, you can get a well-rounded understanding of who your customer is, what they want, and how you can help.
Using this data allows you to deliver content your users actually care about, increasing the likelihood that they will open your email and engage with your business. You can take it one step further by personalizing your emails based on past engagement and first-party data you’ve collected on each customer.
These personal touches in your emails let your customers know they aren’t just another email address on a long subscriber list. By wielding your data the right way, your emails become a source for both relationship and profit-building.

Automate the email journey.

The chances that you have enough time and resources to create a unique, personalized email for every subscriber are not very high. This is where automation can play a big role in your email marketing efforts.
A marketing automation platform makes it possible to send emails automatically after a customer performs a specific action. These automated emails ensure you are reaching out with timely, relevant information that supports the customer in their decision making.
You can also create branching email journeys using marketing automation based on customer personas and actions. Segmenting your subscribers and identifying what is most important to each group allows you to deliver personalized content that speaks to their specific needs and wants. In turn, you save valuable time and resources while continuing to move customers through the funnel.

Measure performance and optimize your emails.

Creating and sending emails is only half of the battle. Measuring their performance and using those metrics to fine tune are just as important.
Email marketing metrics include deliverability, open rate, click through rate, unsubscribes, and more. It’s important to identify which metrics are most relevant to your marketing goals. You can then look at your success rates based on these KPIs and make adjustments to optimize your email campaigns.
You can also implement multivariate or A/B testing to get even more in-depth results about which emails perform best with your customers. Create two versions of your email where one variable is different — subject line, CTA, images, etc. — and then review your results to see which version performed better. This will give you an idea of what content your audience prefers and is more likely to engage with.

Use AI to create personalized messaging.

None of the things we discussed above have to be guesswork. AI is a powerful tool that can help you reach current and new customers with the right content at the right time in their buying journey.
AI can take all of the data you’ve collected on your customers and help you identify opportunities and gaps in your email marketing. It can help you gauge when to send an email, how often you should send, and what kind of content to include. With these data-powered insights, you’ll maximize your engagement and see better results from your emails without much manual work.

How to Choose the Right Email Marketing Platform

An email marketing platform is essential in order to maximize your efforts.
The right platform for your business will allow you to create, personalize, and optimize emails that look professional and perform well without requiring code or platform customization. Most of the offerings on the market, like Salesforce Email Studio, have a wide selection of features that allow you to tailor messages to your business goals with a few simple clicks.
The platform should also provide access to in-depth metrics so you can analyze your email marketing performance and share the data with your team.
These are some of the questions you should ask yourself as you look for the right email platform for your business:
  • How often will you send emails to your customers?
  • How many subscribers do you have?
  • Does it have templates that help you quickly create eye-popping and engaging messages?
  • Does it have the AI capabilities needed to automate and personalize sends?
  • Does it offer useful metrics to help you run A/B tests and optimize your email program?
  • Does it have the ability to build next-level emails that are interactive and allow for updates after the send?

The Future of Email: Interactive Email

The next iteration of email marketing is interactive — emails that provide the web-like functionality necessary for recipients to take actions within the inbox. This means customers have the ability to add items to their cart, book a hotel room, watch a video, and more without leaving the body of the email.
The main benefit of including interactive elements in your emails is a boost in engagement. Interactive content gives your customers something to do versus just reading an email. Visual and interactive elements can even lead to a 300% increase in click rates.
By using interactive emails, you have the opportunity to update the email in real time, even after it’s been sent. You can also include form-fills in the body of the email. These options ensure your emails are providing the most recent information and giving customers a chance to get even more personalized content from you.
Examples of interactive emails include:
  • Booking an appointment via a form
  • Seeing up-to-date product information in a shopping cart
  • Quizzes, polls, and surveys about interests or experience
The most powerful email platforms support interactive and personalized messages to expand the possibilities of your email marketing. For example, Salesforce Marketing Cloud supports AMP for Email, which allows you to embed interactive elements like carousels, purchase buttons, and more.

Preparing for your next send

While the world of email marketing is constantly changing, one thing remains constant: email is one of the most effective channels for building personal relationships with your customers. Keeping your customer front and center is paramount for any marketer building out an email marketing strategy.
Your subscribers want to interact with you — that’s why they signed up in the first place. Make your content authentic and relevant, and they will treat your emails like a message from a friend.
Start reimagining your email marketing today and get better results. When you power your email marketing with the #1 solution, you lift other channels, engage more subscribers, and stretch every dollar.
 

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