Many tech pundits talk about the death of email marketing. They believe that other tools, like social media, are taking over.

But we’ve found that’s just not true.

Through our 2015 Digital Marketing Survey, we found that over 70 percent of consumers still prefer to interact and receive information from a company via email.

Email marketing is alive and well — but only if you do it right. Don’t become a victim to the “unsubscribe” or “delete” buttons.

Here’s your guide for better email marketing — how to do it right so that your customers engage with you, read what you’re sending them, and never unsubscribe.

The power of speaking directly to the consumer

Your email subscription list is a captive audience. These are people who have opted in to receiving information from you.

Unfortunately, most companies still think the point of email marketing is simply to sell something.

The primary purpose for an email marketing campaign is to get the recipient to take action — click through to a link, learn more about a new product, and position you as a leader within your industry.

It’s about creating measurable action — and connecting with your customer in a meaningful way.

Many marketers miss this step. They make the mistake of thinking that an email newsletter can be filled with just about anything. But a story about your company picnic does nothing for your customer.

This is a problem I see a lot. People don’t know what content to create, so they take a template and try to fill it with whatever they can think of: office news, filler photos, a Q&A with the CEO, etc.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is this newsletter for?
  • What do we want them to know, feel, or do as a result of receiving it?
  • What kind of engagement do we expect to get by sending it?

When you create an email marketing campaign or newsletter—whether it’s industry news or content that educates—you can’t just guess. You need to do the work to figure out what customers care about. Then give them that.

It all starts with tracking data and building off of what is working. Once you do the research, suddenly there’s an opportunity to have a conversation that no one else is having.

Utilize data to inform your decisions

Your marketing plan cannot be about filling a blank space. Staying relevant with your customers isn’t dependent upon getting the email to their inbox — it’s about what you put inside.

Many business owners think that the most important thing is to just get something out there into the universe, anything to show that their business exists.

If this is you, here’s the truth: you’re doing more work than you need to. If you test what works and then stick with a plan that support what works for you, you can stop spinning your wheels.

The reason I love email marketing is because it allows you to collect data that can help you understand where you should direct your content. Within seventy-two hours of sending out an email, you can get some pretty good stats simply by using a proper email marketing tool.

Your opinions mean nothing until you have data

We recently did a test with a client who was sending out safety guides. We tried to determine if the information was better suited for senior managers or for safety supervisors who worked on the shop floor.

The sales department of this company thought that safety managers were going to love these guides. But we thought the content was better suited to senior managers who had safety as a part of their jobs but not as their main focus.

Ultimately, the people we actually wanted to connect with were the senior managers, since they were the ones making the buying decisions.

We tested this by sending out an email campaign that had two columns: one with copy for the safety managers and one with copy for the senior managers. Both columns led to the same download, but doing it this way allowed us to test who was downloading the material the most.

The data showed us that the open rate was a lot higher for the safety managers. Since safety is their number-one priority, the headline appealed. But then as soon as they clicked through, they bounced.

Within the second column, the one aimed at the senior managers, there was a higher conversion rate. These were the people looking at the big picture for the company and trying to find new ways to do things.

How to become Data-Driven

Start small with simple tools that are easy to understand. Look at what your click rate is, what your open rate is, and how many conversions you’re getting from a particular email.

Once you get better at it, become invested with your strategy, and spend more time on content, you’ll learn what works best.

Knowledge is power. The kind of information you can glean from understanding your analytics is the difference between an email campaign that goes nowhere and an engaging newsletter that leads to a longterm relationship.

It’s all about learning to use information in a way that supports a better conversation with a potential or existing customer.

Always Be Testing

In order to take advantage of the data available to you, you’ll need to constantly test what works so you can also determine what doesn’t work.

The companies we consult for work in increments of ninety days. Rather than setting up a hard and fast plan for the whole year, they work in three-month intervals where they look to see what’s happening, and then they adjust.

If one email template isn’t working, they switch it up and use another. A modern marketing program has to be based on the assumption that it’s a series of tests. It’s a process of monitoring, assessing, and adjusting.

For most businesses I would say twenty months is way too long, and daily is just too fast. When you start to get fixated on the data within a day-to-day basis, it can actually work against you.

You need to have a bit of distance to make sure there’s a vision for mapping where you are to where you want to go.

An Extension of Your Value Proposition

Once you find your sweet spot with what’s working, it will help to reinforce why you matter to your customers.

Good email content starts with developing a value proposition spectrum that spans your business, from your company’s overall purpose to the problem you solve for your customer.

A value proposition is the primary reason somebody buys from you. (Read more in “How to Ignore Vanity Metrics by Focusing on your Value Proposition.”) This is what builds a brand and ultimately leads to a sale. Compelling and clearly stated values move a person quickly from simply doing research about you to becoming a customer.

Some companies think what’s most important about them is what they do, that it’s all about the features and functions. But in fact, what’s most important is what a company’s customer finds important.

Determining what the customer wants

All that testing you’ve been doing will give you valuable insights into your customer.

The first step is to determine how to get them to open your emails in the first place.

Start with the inverse: What are some of the reasons why people may not open it? Maybe they don’t recognize the sender, or the subject line doesn’t resonate with them, or they don’t think the email applies to them. You want to be seen as a trusted source—regardless of the topic.

Once they’ve opened your email, now what? You want them to read it, engage with the content, and take the next step that drives them to your site, your content, or your products. How do you get them to do that? That next step needs to feel natural and draw them in easily via great content.

You should always be asking yourself these two questions:

  • Why would somebody want to hear from me on this topic or about this product or service?
  • What is the value (in the customer’s eyes) that only I can bring to the table?

A great email campaign rests in figuring out what is most important to your customer. If you skip this step and continue to create content anyway, all you’re really doing is throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

But when you know what resonates with your customer, you create a strategy where, more often than not, the content you make is going stick.

Taking advantage of a captive audience

Maybe you don’t realize it, but you already have people who are interested in what you’re doing. If you’re a nonprofit, they’ve donated and given their email address; if you’re selling a product, they’ve subscribed for more information.

Elevating your email marketing content strategy isn’t about becoming a better writer or coming up with fancier or funnier copy.

Better content comes out of understanding what your customer wants from you and testing the best way to deliver that information.

If you think you’ll just build out a plan and leave it undisturbed for the next six months, then it’s not going to add any value. You have to continually test and reinvest.

This is a captive audience that you have to get to know. Rather than constantly reaching out for new leads, new prospects, or the elusive idea that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can double down on your existing audience and leverage the customers and patrons you already have.

You are already sitting on gold—it’s time to mine it.

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