Guest post by Igor Zagradanin.
Many marketers underestimate the continuing power of email marketing. They may believe it’s no longer effective in the current environment of overloaded email inboxes and sophisticated filtering, or that it’s only useful for price discounting.
On the contrary, used properly, email marketing can hep build customer loyalty, nurture leads, and increase direct sales. Email messages that actually provide value also help boost your brand awareness.
In an ideal world, you’d craft each email message individually for maximum impact. And then you’d go lay in a hammock on a tropical beach and sip on a Corona with a lime. Unfortunately, the world is not ideal.
Fortunately, on the other hand, marketing automation tools enable you to craft behavior-based automated email sequences that almost make it seem as though you’re writing personalized messages (though they can’t help with the Corona on the beach).
Why should you use email marketing software?
Marketing automation software enables you to effectively segment and manage large email lists. If you’re not already using a marketing automation system, what will make you consider investing in email marketing automation tools?
Email marketing software is a cost-effective method to stay in touch with your sales prospects and customers. It can help you promote specific products or services, announce new launches, or showcase valuable content.
Here are five specific benefits of using email marketing tools.
Though set-up is rather involved, once you have your lists segmented and your messages created, the sending is automatic.
Typically, you set up sequences of email messages with conditional branching. That is, all of the recipients on list “A” (for example, all of the email addresses you collected at a recent trade show) receive message “A.”
But the magic of automation is what happens next. Those who don’t open the message or take any action will receive message “A1” a few days (or whatever time period you set) later. But those who do click on your call to action (CTA) or respond to your offer will receive message “A2” instead. And so on.
Email marketing software allows you to reach a targeted market at a low cost than channels like banner ads, print, TV, or radio.
You can rent or purchase lists, but if you have built the list of recipients using opt-ins or you follow a permission marketing strategy, the audience targeting is even better. Many marketers start with a purchased list to get initial subscribers, but if you’ve built your list around loyal customers and organic website traffic, you’ll see better results (higher ROI).
Email marketing software can provide in-depth analytics through metrics such as open rate, CTR, forwarded messages, and engagement level.
With a detailed feedback report, you can accurately calculate the cost-benefit ratio, account for each campaign’s budget, and continually test and improve all elements of your campaigns.
Increased customer loyalty
Email marketing software makes it easy to segment your customer list—based on which product(s) they own, geography, industry segment, or other factors—so that you can not only stay in touch with them, but consistently send them relevant information.
Providing interesting content mixed with a “special” deal every now and then encourages repeat purchases, engagement, and customer loyalty.
Email is your direct line to customers to nurture their loyalty, interest, and ongoing business. If the content is compelling enough, they may forward your messages to their friends and family or peers, extending your market reach.
Since campaigns run using email marketing software are completely measurable, you can quickly evaluate the performance of different campaigns. You can also use A/B testing for any campaign element: subject line, send day and time, call to action, etc..
What does email marketing software do?
Most types of email marketing software share similar features. Nearly all email tools are now cloud-based; though it’s still possible to install on-premise email marketing software, this is increasingly rare, even for large organizations.
The most significant difference between systems is the packaging: integrated within a CRM system versus a stand-alone app.
While there are few substantial difference, there are at least six features that are common among nearly all software tools that improve email marketing:
Almost all tools have a user-friendly email builder that enable you to see exactly how your email message will appear before launching. Builders comes with tools like drag-and-drop functionality, responsive formatting, pre-built templates, and photo editing.
Of course, a customized layout can be split-tested, with the best-performing design copied and reused for your next campaigns.
Segmenting your list
Virtually all email software tools will automatically segment opt-in subscribers based on how they signed up, e.g., “blog subscribers,” “white paper #1 downloaders,” “ebook #3 downloaders,” etc.. But of course, as you learn more about subscribers, you can move and add them to other, more meaningful lists (e.g., “marketers at large automotive suppliers”).
This feature allows you to put customers and sales prospects into different groups that match their profiles. Then, you can run specific campaigns for each of the groups so that your recipients get a more relevant and personal experience.
This is awesome if you are aware of the benefits of email personalization. In addition, some email marketing solutions have automatic segmentation methods based on geo-location, auto-responder feedback, demographics, and other attributes.
A/B testing tool
A/B testing allows you to send different email sets to a small group to measure the response top design, copy, subject line, CTA, and other variations. This will tell you what to tweak rewrite, and redesign.
It also shows you your best performing email version so that you can send it to other recipients.
This feature sends pre-built content to your mailing groups based on their actions on your website, engagement levels, response to specific offers, or other key metrics. You can also use this feature for drip email campaigns to nurture leads, welcome or thank the customer, or answer a query or request.
CRM solutions help you align sales and marketing activities, and most email marketing programs have CRM capabilities built into their tools or integrate with popular CRM packages. Leads from CRM can be added to your mailing lists and included in email marketing campaigns.
In addition, your CRM software can provide context to your mailing lists such as demographics, purchase history, and previous engagement.
Social media integration
Newer tools also come with the feature that allows you to integrate your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter pages with email marketing software in order to expand your reach.
This makes it easy to invite your mailing list members to like your pages, share your content, and ask other followers to subscribe to your list for an incentive such as a deal or exclusive content.
Latest trends in email marketing software
There are some interesting trends and technology developments emerging that could revolutionize email marketing software and help marketers do their jobs more creatively and efficiently.
Artificial intelligence may enhance email campaigns with intuitive triggers, adaptive modeling, and automated processing.
In addition, AI is being used for interactive content development, and may, at some point, even be able to feed your campaigns with targeted articles.
Use of slideshows, hamburger menus, carousels, and other interactive features may become more prevalent as email marketing software becomes more sophisticated.
HTML5 can provide a platform to embed videos in emails. Unlike traditional HTML, HTML5 videos are lighter and run smoothly on low bandwidth.
iOS already supports HTML5 video format, which will be useful to email marketers.
While “spray and pray” email blasts are now most likely to end up in spam folders, email marketing can still be highly effective by combining high-quality content with the segmentation and personalization capabilities of email marketing tools.
Keep an eye on the latest trends, stay informed about the best practices, and you’ll be able to capitalize on the superior ROI of email marketing.
Igor Zagradanin is a content strategist Contentised, with a proven track record of helping businesses by adding value to their brands, developing content marketing strategies, as well as educating and connecting with their audiences on a personal level. In his spare time, he plays guitar, produces electronic music, does yoga, and (with more or less success) tries to get in touch with his inner child.