Email marketing management: Must-do best practices for 2022
Email marketing management
Unless you just time-traveled here from 1998 (and if so, welcome, sorry about how crazy 2021 is), you know that email marketing is the "must-do" of digital marketing today. Just about every business owner I talk to uses email marketing in one way or another; once they find out what I do for a living, just about all of them have the same questions: what can take my email marketing results from mediocre to great?
The answer is deceptively short and sweet: good email marketing management. You can have great content, amazing offers, and killer design. You can become an email marketing platform guru who's got all the tools and awesome landing pages. And none of it will matter if you don't have a strong management foundation.
In email marketing, the name of the game is getting people to open your email, but it takes more than a great subject line to make that happen. Strategy and analysis of your email marketing on the front end and back end of your automated campaigns make all the difference.
By managing your email marketing regularly, you'll be able to prevent hard bounces, soft bounces, and unengaged subscribers from negatively impacting your email deliverability, impacting even more of your email marketing KPIs.
Don't waste the valuable resource you've built by collecting readers' emails. Follow these tips to handle your email list like a pro and get the most out of this powerful method.
Take care of your list
Never underestimate the power of an organically grown, carefully cultivated email list (insert gardening analogy here). It's not exactly the sexiest of the email marketing management skills, but if you take care of your list, it'll take care of you.
Organic list growth is better
A solid email marketing strategy that uses permission-based, subscription tactics is the best way to help grow your email marketing list organically.
I generally advise against buying lists just to look more established. The vast majority of them are full of bots who never open, so the open rate goes down and the company doesn't benefit. You'll have more success with email marketing if you apply an honest process that involves proper list management.
Instead, invest your efforts in a great pop-up that encourages your website visitors to share their email addresses with you. You can get prospects to your site through whatever other digital marketing platforms you like. Once you have their email address, you have a direct, free way to contact them about anything you want.
Practice good contact list hygiene
Properly managing your hard-won list of contacts is crucial for email marketing, but it's often overlooked. Successful companies pay attention to email marketing lists and make sure they're free of invalid addresses and unengaged, uninterested contacts.
As an organic list gets bigger, you'll want to preserve its integrity to prevent duplicating contacts or sending emails to people who don't open them. You don't want hard bounces or recurring soft bounces messing up your statistics over and over again.
The best practice is to scrub your email list about once a quarter and when you're planning a big email campaign. Most email lists get cut by about 25% a year, and that's actually a good thing.
Quality over quantity doesn't just apply to the content of your emails, but also to the people you're emailing. Having fewer engaged subscribers is better than having a long list of people who never click through.
Make it easy to opt-out
Allowing subscribers to unsubscribe is a crucial aspect of maintaining your email marketing list. Though it may seem counterproductive since you want to preserve the number of subscribers you have, it is important to give your contacts an easy way out if they don't want to hear from you. You don't want to force your services on people who aren't interested. That could make them just ignore your emails or mark them as spam.
Besides, CAN-SPAM compliance means all companies must let subscribers opt out. Your unsubscribe button at the bottom of your email should be obvious so no one can accuse you of trying to hide it.
Segment that audience
Email list management is a type of marketing in general, so it makes sense that sending messages tailored to specific members will be more effective than just sending out a single message. The closer your email messages match your subscribers' interests and preferences, the more likely you are to inspire them to take the action you want.
With a single list, every subscriber gets the same message - which doesn't seem very personal or tailored! In contrast, if you can break down your subscriber lists into smaller groups based on key characteristics, you can target the things that make each group different.
This is the fabled process of “segmenting,” and the best email marketing platforms actually make targeting specific segments of your email list very doable. There are two ways you can go about doing it.
Let users segment themselves
The first is to allow users to segment themselves by signing up to receive specific mailings based on shared interests. You simply include a request in one of your emails asking each reading which types of content they're interested in, and then only send content that matches what they'd like to see.
You may have a customer who only wants to receive sales and promotions, while another reader may have yet to buy something, but reads your monthly newsletter religiously. Segmenting is one of those sales tools that the prospect never notices, but can make a huge difference in their relationship with your brand.
Create your own segments based on behavior
In order to begin segment customization, you'll need to analyze how new members get added to your list. If, for example, you get new subscribers from both your website and social media marketing, you find it helpful to segment your list by the specific source of the new subscriber.
Based on the size of each list, you can find out which referral sources are most effective. You could also tailor your email content and offers to each segment.
You can also create additional mailing segments after you've added names and emails to your subscriber database in your email list management program. By doing that, you could create segments containing only customers of your business or people who open your emails - which are great opportunities to offer targeted promotions to people who are already interested in your brand.
Once you get the hang of it, advanced audience segmentation will make a huge difference in your conversion rates.
Send the right emails & email campaigns
Before we dive into this section, I'd like to take this time to impart this little nugget of email marketing wisdom: every email should have a goal.
Don't send an email just for the sake of sending an email. Each communication you send to your subscribers should have a clear goal, which can be measured to determine its success. You might track:
- Sales from coupon codes in your messages
- Sales for products featured in your email
- Click-through rates to specific products or posts
- Response rates to emails requesting user feedback
There's no rule that says you need to include sales requests in all of your email marketing messages (and doing so might make you look kind of slick and sleazy). But if you get readers accustomed to interacting with your messages, it will be easier to get your engaged audience to act on future sales and promotions.
Every brand should have some version of these emails in their email marketing automation pantry.
The welcome email
When a subscriber signs up to get your emails, send them a welcome email thanking them and confirming their subscription. It builds brand recognition and rapport, but a welcome email is so much more than a hello.
As part of the welcome email, you can tell your subscribers what to expect from their list membership as well as what kind of content they can look forward to and when they'll hear from you.
It's also your chance to ask them to add your email address to their approved sender list so your emails don't languish in the Promotions Tab or spam folder.
And give potential customers your contact information or link to live chat support in case they need to get in touch due to an issue. You can also let them know how to change their email preferences, or opt-out if they no longer wish to receive your emails.
To best nurture leads, drip campaigns are often a stronger choice than a single welcome email, but if you're pressed for time, at least one welcome email is a must in any email marketing playbook.
The post-purchase email
People like to know that their order went through, and they want a way to track shipping and delivery. Need I say more?
These emails can be a bit intimidating to set up than meets the eye because you need to integrate your shopping platform with your email marketing software. However, the customer satisfaction and relationships these emails build are worth the effort of figuring out marketing automation features like these. Most email service providers have email templates that make integrations simple, as well as more advanced features like making recommendations based on previous purchases.
The re-engagement campaign
If you're already finding out which of your subscribers aren't opening your emails as part of your email list hygiene, you can use that information to change unengaged subscribers' minds with a re-engagement.
It's possible that unengaged subscribers have a valid email address, but haven't opened or clicked on one of your emails in the last six to 12 months. They might have mentally unsubscribed from your brand without actually hitting that opt-out button at the bottom of the email. Subscribers who ignore or delete your emails directly affect your open rate, resulting in a low sending score.
A re-engagement campaign is one of the most straightforward email marketing campaigns that utilizes the power of automated emails. Acknowledge that they haven't interacted with your emails in a while and ask if they still want to hear from you. You can include some sort of re-engagement incentive, but you don't have to.
After the campaign ends, you're able to weed out those who are truly unengaged. But you'll have re-engaged some of your audience and have gotten some of them back in your marketing funnel.
Analyze your email marketing campaigns
Effective email marketing involves a commitment to data-based excellence before, during, and after you send out your marketing campaigns. Just like you should regularly prune your email list, you also need to utilize email marketing tools to see how you can increase your number of engaged users.
Track email frequency
One of the top reasons users unsubscribe from email marketing lists is because they get too many emails. Many companies send the same kinds of emails way too often, making subscribers frustrated and pushing them to unsubscribe. As with most things in email marketing, the key here is quality over quantity.
This is another important reason to encourage your new subscribers to manage their email preferences and customize the content they want to get from you. By doing this, you give your contacts control and create a level of understanding instead of disregarding their preferences and bombarding them with unwanted emails.
Keeping your list of subscribers nice and lean will also help ensure your company's compliance with CAN-SPAM and keep you from losing contacts when volume or content becomes an issue. A good email service provider (ESP) or marketing automation platform has built-in functionality that works as long as it's enabled.
Be strategic with your send time
As you're creating these segmented groups in your email list management program, look at the times when your messages have been opened. Most email marketing platforms - including Klaviyo, Constant Contact, and MailChimp - offer some kind of analytics.
Track your audience's open times if you can and see when they're most active. You can use this knowledge to make future mailings so you're reaching your subscribers at the time when they're most engaged. You could even segment your users into time zones so that one key segment isn't always getting your emails at a really inconvenient time.
ABT: "Always be testing"
Whether you call it "split testing" or "A/B testing," one of the most important aspects of email marketing management is continually testing out what works best for your target audience. You can test just about any aspect of your email in each of your segments. I recommend only testing one element at a time, so you get a 1 to 1 comparison and don't have to try to figure out which element made for a successful email.
If you don't have a lot of time to devote to tons of A/B testing, the testing that will get you the biggest bang for your buck is...
Your subject line!
It's is one of the most important parts of email marketing. We're all overwhelmed by inbox messages, so a business message needs a killer subject line to break through the noise and convince recipients to open it.
Sadly, there's no "hard and fast" rule as to what makes an effective subject line. While you can find tons of tutorials that will give you headline formulas and other suggestions, the reality is that what might work for one group of people might not work for another.
Instead of just following some arbitrary email template, think of compelling subject lines that your audience will be most excited to read and will be most likely to open. Then, look at the open rates by to see which title is doing the best. Analyze what made one subject line more effective than another, and then use the results to make future messages more engaging.
Let's get technical
The concepts behind well-managed email marketing are pretty easy to understand, but you have to have the right tools to go from email marketing strategy to email marketing solutions. It can be really intimidating for both small business owners and successful companies even to understand the difference between email software, an email marketing service, and an email marketing agency.
Email marketing service vs. email marketing software
Most people are more familiar with email marketing services than email marketing software, but they are actually different. Both email marketing software and email marketing services help you reach the same goal, but they do it in different ways.
With email marketing software, you can create and send emails from your device or network. Email marketing lets you do the same thing, only through another agency's network and processing power.
Most email marketing software is cheaper and faster than email marketing services, but it's also more limited. On the other hand, cloud-based email marketing services are slower but more comprehensive and have advanced features that are continually updated.
Checklist for email marketing services
When it comes to the best email service provider, Klaviyo has my vote, but this is what you really need an email marketing service to be able to do. You could go back through this blog and make a list of every tool you need to manage your list, segment, automate emails, and analyze data, but a summary is much easier:
- Contact management: This is key to making sure you're reaching the right people. By managing your contacts, you can group your customers by their interests and preferences, and eliminate duplicates and unsubscribers.
- Email list segmentation: if you can't personalize your email marketing campaigns based on what your users want and their interactions with your brand, you can't add the personalization that makes email such a powerful tool.
- Marketing automation tools: These tools allow you to send targeted emails to your customers when they sign up for your email list or interact with your website, and this saves you time and helps you reach the right audience.
- A/B Testing: Look for software that offers A/B testing so you can find out which emails work best for your audience. Having a good understanding of what works best is important for maximizing ROI, and A/B testing gives you data-driven answers about effectiveness and optimization.
Digital Marketing Agencies
Obvious disclaimer: I own one of these, specifically one that specializes in email marketing for eCommerce. But I don't believe that every business needs an email marketing agency. Small businesses just starting out might not be ready from a branding or budget perspective and would benefit more from a free email marketing service. Really large companies could be better off setting up an email marketing branch of their marketing department. And even if a company would benefit from using a digital marketing agency, not every agency is going to be a great fit for every company.
A marketing agency can create a strategy that's best suited to your business. The agency's team then creates and email campaigns that align with your overall strategy. Plus, they handle the design and implementation.
Additionally, they can help with management tasks that require time and knowledge of advanced features, like A/B testing and even SMS marketing. A good agency will also help you effectively build and segment your contact list.
A huge concern most business owners have is the cost of hiring an email marketing team. There's a lot of variety in this area, but usually depends on how detailed your strategy is and how many email campaigns you want to run every month. Prices can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, but as with all services, be wary of rates that seem too good to be true.
Checklist for Agencies
If you decide that investing in using an email marketing company is the best step for your company, you want to make sure you choose the right one, since email marketing can have such a major impact on your company. Before you hire an email marketing company, think about these things:
- Check if the agency's goals and priorities align with yours before hiring. Like I said before, not every agency is a good fit for every company.
- Check if their platform integrates with your customer relationship management system. If you're using CRM software, make sure your email marketing platform is compatible. This will make managing content, consumer data, and getting an overview of campaigns a lot easier.
- Request a strategy. The agency you're considering should have a short- or long-term plan for your business with measurable goals so you know if it's on track.
- Learn about what they'll need from you in terms of assets, resources, and time. Take a look at how they find and pursue new marketing opportunities for their clients.
- Make sure you'll be working with the same person. Having your account managed by one person ensures management of your email campaigns, and promotes a productive, long-term relationship with your agency. So make sure your dedicated account manager is dependable.
The Bottom Line
Email marketing management is going to require your effort and energy regardless of the email marketing service or agency you use. But the ROI is incredibly high on even basic marketing efforts like keeping your subscriber list clean, having a set of effective email automations, segmenting your audience, and analyzing your campaign data regularly. The email marketing space is very competitive, so knowing what goes into good email marketing management will help you know what to look for if you're on the lookout for a great email marketing agency.