Email marketing is undeniably one of the most effective marketing methods available. For that reason it’s a favourite tactic of marketers and is known for reasonable response rates whilst allowing you to talk directly to your own database.

We recently had some very popular events on email marketing and I wanted to share some of the key themes and advice shared across these events with you.  We were lucky to have the following five talented marketers sharing their thoughts and learnings with us:

  • Kaylah Buckman, Digital Communications Specialist, Brisbane Airport Corporation
  • Eloise Gillespie, CRM Manager, Ladbrokes
  • Darren Sutton, Digital Strategist and Partner, XCOM Media
  • Kate Cook, Marketing Manager, Melbourne Sports Centres
  • Dan Bruce, Email and Marketing Automation Specialist, Heart Foundation

Whilst each speaker presented their personal approach and recommendations to us, there were definitely some key themes that came through around how to use personalisation, managing data, knowing your customer and more. But first, let’s recap why this channel is a favourite to many:

Why Email

Email is one of the few channels that marketers have full control over. In this channel the data is ours to access and use as needed. It has the potential for a high volume of messages to be set at a relatively low cost. Dan shared that 58% of adults check email first thing in the morning, plus he believes it’s 40% more effective than Facebook.

It’s a channel that can get cut through, drive engagement and lead to customer acquisition and sales.

For these reasons it’s a highly coveted channel and several speakers spoke of the requests they receive from inside the organisation with various departments and teams requesting to send bulk emails to the database. One part of a marketer’s roles is now the custodian of the customer database, developing guidelines for what we will send out, when and why, and learning how to persuade others that sometimes their message doesn’t quite align with these plans.

Eloise shared how Ladbrokes have calculated that email marketing provides a great return for the business where $1 invested brings a $38 return. It’s recommended that you try to assign a dollar value for your customers, which might also help with the internal discussions and decisions around what to send.

Across the two email marketing events we recently held at Interactive Minds, there we several key themes covered as follows:

Connect Email to the Customer Journey

Several speakers talked about connecting email to the customer journey and nurturing customers throughout the journey once they subscribe. Darren from XCOM highlighted how 81% of companies use email as their primary acquisition channel and it was recommended that a welcome sequence be used for new subscribers as this typically delivers a higher engagement rate.

Kate Cook showed how she mapped the customer journey touch points as a first step in evaluating Melbourne Sports Centre’s email strategy and then identified the data dependencies and gaps. Kate has a process for categorising subscriber’s likelihood to purchase as cool, warm or hot. Then depending on that category, she supplements her email funnel with advertising funnels to deliver the right messages to the right audience, with the aim of moving them through the purchase cycle. It’s a great process to integrate email with other digital marketing activities and provide cross-functional value.

Data data data

Email marketing is of course reliant on the customer data that we have. What data do you currently have? Whilst we all dream of the connected database that speaks to all relevant systems in the organisation, that is the reality for very few marketers. If your systems are disjointed, our speakers suggest that you manually connect them in order to be able to start using your customer data for email sooner rather than later. Kate has done this recently at Melbourne Sports Centre. In many cases (system dependent) you can use triggers and tools like Zapier or IFTT to give you the connectivity you need.

Also don’t forget to consider what data other areas of the business might have that will enhance your email database. Kaylah from Brisbane Airport Corporation was able to leverage postcode data from another area of the business, helping with identifying location and targeting email sends. Dan also recommended that you consider what mosaic group data or third party data you can consider to add further depth to your customer knowledge to make your emails more personalised.

Deliverability

Deliverability was a key theme mentioned across the event and speakers shared these key tips. If you’re asking your customers to provide their email address in exchange for something, like free Wi-Fi in Kaylah’s example or at Melbourne Sports Centre as Kate showed, make sure you do some data cleansing on subscribers before they are added into the main list. This can include rechecking email addresses, validating the format and spam checking. Some marketers are doing “washer sends” to check for engagement before adding subscribers into their normal email send schedule.

Personalisation

Personalisation was a popular topic at the events and the speakers suggested using dynamic content or multiple versions of similar content in emails. It was recommended that companies should be adding to subscriber’s preferences on an ongoing basis to allow for optimal segmenting and personalisation. There are a few ways that this information can progressively be collected. For example Darren shared how subscribers can signal their preferences through click behaviour or by entering competitions and building affinity by selecting potential prize options. All this data can and should be added back to their profile to enhance information on the subscribers and to allow for more meaningful messages.

Subscribers and Unsubscribes

This topic was interesting as often the focus is on increasing subscribers, but it is just as important to monitor your unsubscribes. Eloise shared that people unsubscribe from emails because of one of three reasons; too many emails, irrelevant content or it looks like spam – all of which are factors within your control. Take a look at your email health, look at whether people are opening and clicking (or not) and if not why.

Content

Email is all about content and the advice from our speakers was to think carefully about what you do send and what you don’t, and to base this decision on what you know about your customers. Storytelling is key!

Dan suggested that rather than sending continuous scheduled email, as has been commonplace, that it is more beneficial to communicate at key decision points. For example, if a subscriber engaged with the organisation at a specific time in the week, it might make sense to try sending them email at the same time next week, rather than on a set schedule.

Kaylah provided a great tip for those looking for new content ideas for email communications. Talk to your customer service team or customer touch point and find out the most frequently asked questions from customers. Use this content to both answer these questions in your emails but also to alleviate the customer service load on the business.

Darren also shared some content examples such as how a travel industry email includes contextual data like weather information, links to maps and is customer focussed. He also suggested some simple animation is a great option to add at this stage (as long as the file size is small and it’s short in length) as emails with animations are currently receiving good response rates.

Reporting

Like all digital marketing, reporting on your email campaigns is an important step in the process. It was recommended that marketers report on their email over time to identify the trends.

Dan also recommends tracking your quality score which can be calculated by the “number of people you’re annoying” (unsubscribers) over those you are delighting (people clicking). He also suggests comparing the time of day in your sends too.

All speakers recommended that the best way to find out what really works, is to test and keep testing, and if you’re tracking everything, you’ll soon see what works.

Although email has been around for decades, it remains a unique and valued channel for marketers. Whilst we might think things aren’t changing in this channel too quickly, this event series highlighted that there are plenty of key elements that marketers need to be rethinking and reviewing to deliver the most value to your customers, and get the most from your sends.