What is Email Marketing?

What is Email Marketing and What are the Best Email Tools?

Email marketing is undoubtedly seen as a key pillar of most companies’ digital marketing strategies. It allows businesses to easily open customized and personalized lines of communication with their most valuable customers. Email marketing can include anything from a simple newsletter that is blasted to every customer in a company’s email database, to much more specific and bespoke campaigns. These can feature content that is customized to a recipient’s particular needs.

Due to the variation in companies’ approaches to email marketing, there are a huge number of tools available, all of which actually do slightly different jobs. In order to select the best email marketing softwares, it is important for a company to fully understand what are its requirements and what it is looking for in a tool. Working that out will make it far easier to evaluate the tools that are on the market and select the right one.

It’s also important to be realistic about the amount of time that it is possible to dedicate to email marketing. Some businesses find that they are talked into buying complex tools with advanced features that they simply don’t have the time and energy to learn to use. This means that they find themselves locked into long contracts and paying for an expensive email marketing setup for months when a much simpler option would have done.

Finally, it’s very important to do as much research, and prep work as possible before choosing an email marketing solution because moving from one system to another can be very time consuming and difficult. Companies do manage to do it occasionally, but it is far better to spend a fraction of that time, making the right choice in the first place.

The Basics of Email Marketing

All email marketing tools let you create emails and send them to a list. At the most basic level, there are a few features that serve as useful comparison points between different email marketing products.

The first is the quality of the email building tool that they offer. Almost all email marketing products offer some sort of HTML builder with an interface that allows you to add images and text to your email and move various elements around. However, the various solutions differ substantially when it comes to how easy they are to use and the amount of time it will take you to craft a great email using their built-in tools.

If possible, potential buyers should try to take the builder tool for a test drive before they commit to paying for the product and, at the very least, try to get a demo of how it works from one of the company’s sales reps. The key question to ask is how easily the email builder will fit into a standard day-to-day workflow and whether or not there will be too steep a learning curve to make it useful for the team in a particular company.

Next, potential users should check out how easy it is to import recipient data into the system, manage it, and build lists from it. Companies that already have another CRM in place that they are using to manage these records should look for an email marketing product that is compatible with it. Finding a system that syncs easily with an existing CRM solution tends to make it a lot easier for companies to implement their chosen email marketing system and to get a buy-in from the existing team when it comes to using it.

If it’s not possible to find a system that syncs automatically with the existing CRM, then it’s best to map out exactly how the CRM and email marketing system will interact with one another and what steps will be put in place to make sure that the two systems stay in sync with one another as much as possible. This may sound like the type of dull and dreary process that could stop companies from getting value out of their new email marketing system for a significant period of time, but in reality, it’s likely to save a huge amount of time and frustration at a later date. A successful email marketing system implementation takes a lot of planning, and companies that skip this stage tend to find themselves trapped in a problem of their own making a few months later.

Campaigns and Automation

Different email marketing tools have various names for these types of features, but in the end, it all boils down to being able to send an email automatically to a certain contact at a specific time. Exactly how this is implemented and how complex the rules that decide which email is sent when can vary enormously between different email platforms. While it can be tempting for companies to go for a complex solution that allows them to slice and dice their contact base in hundreds of different ways, it’s always best to keep in mind what the day-to-day usage of the tool is actually going to look like. There is no point in a company spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month on a complex email segmentation tool if they do not have a team that is going to make use of it. Companies that believe their future growth may require this type of advanced tool at a later date should check whether it is possible to pay for a cheaper version of the email marketing service that they are considering at the outset, and only pay for the more advanced options once they have found a case for them.

A good campaign will gradually entice the recipient to find out more about a product or service. It’s best for businesses to ensure that their emails include genuinely useful content that is likely to be valuable to the types of people that they expect to buy their products and services. Examples of this include whitepapers, free guides, templates, and free consultations. Starting off with a very sales-based message tends to put people off. It’s important for potential customers to understand why a business is worth listening to before going in with a sales message.

Content to Include in Emails

As well as the technical setup of an email marketing platform, it is important for businesses to spend a good amount of time considering exactly what content they plan to run in their emails. Far too many businesses end up falling into the trap of simply churning out dull content that their prospect and customer base isn’t really interested in. This leads to low engagement rates and often results in the company abandoning email marketing altogether after deciding that it isn’t right for them.

The easiest way for a business owner or marketing professional to understand the type of content that is likely to resonate in their email marketing campaigns is to place themselves in the recipient’s shoes. This can be done either by looking at the content on an existing website that gets good engagement rates and feedback, by surveying people to find out what they would be interested in reading about or by looking through what competitors are sending and reusing some of the best ideas.

It’s important for businesses to be as systematic about this process as possible. This means sending emails and then actually taking time afterward to look at the engagement rates that the content is generating before planning out the next email. This is the part of the process that many businesses find that they struggle with. This is usually because they regard it as a less important part of the process that they can skip if things become particularly busy. This is absolutely the wrong approach to take and is the same as a business deciding that they don’t want their email marketing campaigns to perform for them. It may seem a little tedious at the start, but the only way to generate a high-performing email campaign that delivers results is to put the time in to understand how it is performing and what improvements can be made.

A good way to start this process is to come up with the ten questions that are most frequently asked by prospects and customers, come up with the answers to them and then build content around those answers. This content can come in many forms, such as a whitepaper, blog article, video, or podcast, and using different types of content as part of this process is a very good way to test an audience’s appetite for a particular medium. With the FAQs, businesses can draw up a content plan that answers these questions and then send that content out via their email marketing system before monitoring results and making changes in the next campaign. This is a common approach which many businesses take as it produces content that is very likely to resonate and allows them to test the strategy without the risk of customers being disengaged by poor-quality and irrelevant content.

How to Collect Email Signups

The website is the easiest place for people to sign up to an email marketing campaign, but there are many other options as well. As a general rule, it’s best for businesses to resist the temptation to buy lists of email addresses and blast their email marketing out to them. This is because engagement rates from people who have not opted-in to receive email communications from a particular company tend to be very low. In addition, some email marketing services explicitly prohibit the use of purchased email lists in their terms and conditions. Companies that use these lists anyway and then receive spam complaints may well find that they are barred from using the platform in the future.

Other potential sources of sign-ups include any events that the business attends, physical stores and retail outlets, and any partnerships with other relevant businesses. However, it’s generally best for companies to ensure that they have the right content mix in place before deciding to aggressively grow their email marketing list. There is no point in adding hundreds of people to a list if the content is only going to turn them off and cause them to unsubscribe. Businesses only get one chance at a first impression!

Email marketing is an often-misunderstood type of marketing that has huge potential to make a difference to companies. Its bad reputation stems from years of companies misusing it and misunderstanding how to get the best out of it. By taking the time to choose the right email marketing system and put a fully fleshed out email marketing strategy in place, businesses can overcome these barriers and achieve great results with their email marketing campaigns. Investing a little time before launching a huge campaign could truly pay off for almost any business.