These days, you’re probably spending some time thinking about all the new trends and technologies that will affect your business this year. This is definitely important, but while you’re reading marketing predictions and contemplating how you’ll react to them, it can be easy to forget about your existing strategies.
Take email marketing, for example. Email marketing has been around for a long time, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. In fact, it remains a great channel for engaging customers and prospects directly. But all you have to do is look at your inbox on any given day to see that many marketers aren’t approaching their email communications strategically. They are simply bombarding people with more and more emails they won’t open.
With that in mind, take this opportunity to think about your email strategy and outline a few email marketing resolutions for 2019. I’ve taken the liberty of putting together a few that you might want to consider. Let’s dive into them!
I will focus on the basics
If you’re looking to improve your email communications this year, you should start at the beginning. According to Jon MacDonald, Founder and President of The Good: "Your list, your messaging, your follow-ups. Those are the fundamental components of an effective email strategy. Within that framework are the building blocks: List sanitation, your content strategy, your campaign automation. Every piece is critical. Every piece leads prospects along the journey from interest to purchase. Every piece must be in place."
This year, you may be looking to invest in new technology or try eye-catching new subject lines to improve your email marketing success, but make sure you focus on the foundational elements first. Do you have a defined email strategy? Is your list a mess? Does your list segmentation make sense? What does your process for content look like? Chances are, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the activities your team does every day without thinking. Focus on those things first in 2019.
I will reevaluate my KPIs
While not always the most exciting aspect of marketing, metrics are essential. The KPIs you track end up guiding how your team thinks about your emails. Litmus has found that brands track an average of 4.3 email marketing metrics — while roughly a quarter track six and over 5% track 10 or more!
Referencing this data, Chad S. White, Research Director at Litmus, says, “The majority of brands should probably be questioning whether the KPIs they’re tracking are the right ones and all necessary. The more KPIs you use, the higher chance that you’re focused on the wrong ones.”
The new year is a perfect time to evaluate your KPIs. What are your email KPIs telling you about the success of your emails? Will improving those KPIs actually improve your email success? If not, you’re probably not tracking the right ones.
I will focus on long-term relationships over short-term open rates
In a similar vein, looking at the wrong metrics can lead you to adopt some practices that aren’t actually helping your business. Take, for instance, a reliance on open rates. If you put too much emphasis on generating more opens, you may find yourself writing endless clickbait subject lines that improve the metric, but ultimately frustrate your subscribers.
In the words of Chad S. White again, “Getting the subscriber to open an email that was irrelevant to them could cost you future opens, clicks, and conversions by causing the subscriber to ignore subsequent emails, could cost you the ability to reach them via email if they opt out or complain, and could cause you brand damage if your tactics generate negative social media buzz or word of mouth.”
Rather than focus on getting as many people as possible to open your emails, focus on getting the right people to open your emails. One person that regularly opens and clicks through on your emails is worth a lot more to your company than one hundred people that open one or two emails but never click through to engage with your offer or content. So make sure you’re considering the long-term impact of your emails. A misleading subject line may improve your metrics in the short term, but don’t forget about the damage it will do in the long term.
I will write copy for my audience, not for me
This probably sounds obvious, but as someone who has written an email or two in her lifetime, I know it’s actually really hard to remember to write copy for your audience. You know your company backwards and forwards — and the message or promotion you have to share is probably very important to you. It takes a little longer for many of us to think beyond what this message or promotion means to us and translate it into what our subscribers will care about.
Put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes every time. Ask yourself: “If I were a busy person who received this email in my inbox, along with many others, would I open it? Does the content interest me enough to click to learn more?” With each email, take the extra few minutes to figure out how to phrase your message in a way that resonates with your audience. And if you can’t do that, is the email worth sending?
I will send better emails, not more emails
As your open rates and/or clickthrough rates decline, it can be tempting to send more emails to keep your KPIs constant. But that’s a dangerous spiral to find yourself in. As you send more emails, your subscribers get more annoyed and opt-outs increase, so you need to keep sending more and more emails to achieve the same impact. It will never end.
This year, take yourself out of the spiral. Focus on making your emails as individually relevant to each person as possible. Leverage all you know about a person from their engagement with you across channels (what content they have engaged with or what items they have shopped or purchased — and what that activity says about their unique preferences) to populate the content of your emails with uniquely relevant content for each individual.
Send those personalized emails to all or a subsection of your list, or trigger emails to each person based on some criteria such as actions a person has taken or not taken, updates to your product or content catalog, or external conditions like the weather.
Once your emails provide real value to each person, you won’t need to send an infinite number of emails just to get a few clickthroughs. Your subscribers will want to engage with your emails because they’re meaningful to them.
I will stop relying on best practices from lists like these
I know I’ve just made a list of things you should be doing with your emails this year, so it doesn’t make sense for me to tell you not to listen to it. But just like there is no one-size-fits-all experience for each subscriber, there is no one-size-fits-all email marketing plan for each company.
Take the ideas from this list that make sense for your company.
The new year is a great time to revisit your approach and think about how you can do better. If you think you’ve slipped into complacency with your emails at all in recent years, now is the time to resolve to change.