Getting Started with Email Marketing (2020) | Email Marketing Guide

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Now that you’ve decided on your goals, built a bit of an audience and selected the type of campaign you’re going to send, it’s time to start building your email.

Email tools like Campaign Monitor make it incredibly easy to create beautiful email marketing campaigns, but there are some fundamentals that you should know to make sure you get the best results from each campaign.

Check out our drag-and-drop email builder and easy photo editing guide.

Structure your campaign for easy reading

Research shows that an adult’s attention span is, on average, eight seconds. With such a short attention span, you can assume people aren’t closely reading your campaigns word for word and are instead scanning through them looking for something of interest.

Therefore, writing long, text-heavy email campaigns isn’t the best approach. You need to structure your emails to help draw people into reading your content while guiding them toward the email’s call to action.

An effective way to do this is by using the inverted pyramid model:

Campaign Monitor - Email Campaign Structure

As you can see from the example above, emails following the model contain a succinct headline that highlights the key message of the campaign, as well as supporting information and visuals to help convince readers about the benefits of clicking-through. The reader is then presented with a prominent call to action button that makes it crystal clear what to do next.

By using the inverted pyramid model to structure your emails for easy reading, you’ll help ensure your campaigns grab people’s attention and get a high click-through rate.

Use Images and Visuals to Boost Engagement

In the above pyramid model example, the bulk of the email is visual with minimal text. Ideally, you want to avoid walls or blocks of text. This is because visuals – both video and images – are more eye-catching.

They’re also more memorable and help content stand out.

In fact, studies have shown that people can recall as much as 65% of visual content up to three days later compared to just 10% of text-based content.

People also follow visual instructions 32% better than written instructions, so it’s a good idea to use visuals when directing your readers to take a desired action.

Personalize Your Email Campaigns

When we surveyed marketers, we found that improving email personalization was the number one goal for 38% of marketers and was also the number one challenge for 36% of marketers. Marketing automation, segmented lists, and third party integrations make email personalization easier and more effective.

Your readers are most likely to respond to content that is most relevant to their interests. Start by adding their name in the subject line, then customize campaign content based on list segments to maximize engagement (more on that next).

Ensure your campaign is relevant to every subscriber

Even in the early stages of growing your email list, it’s a good idea to categorize subscribers into different list segments. List segments make it easy to choose what type of content to send to which subscriber. When you can personalize content and make it more relevant to a certain group you improve response rates.

This kind of targeted optimization is much better than sending blanket emails to everyone.

Why does email list segmentation matter? We know that beyond relevancy, list segmentation is important from a revenue perspective. Data from the DMA indicates that segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all email revenue. On top of this, our research found that marketers who used segmented campaigns noted as much as a 76% increase in revenue–and more than 76% of marketers say basic segmentation is part of their email marketing strategy.

Here are some common email list segments you can create to increase click-throughs in your campaigns and plan more targeted content based on those segments:

  • Geographic location – useful for promoting store-specific information and targeting specific markets while ignoring out-of-location subscribers where the message wouldn’t be relevant.
  • Demographics – useful for customizing campaign messaging to any combination of age and gender ranges.
  • Market – useful for segmenting users based on the market/industry interest to avoid sending the same email to everyone. Instead, tailor the message to industry/product/market specific content.
  • Past activity – useful for segmenting subscribers by past open and click-through behavior. Study behavior to determine what type of content works best for specific segments to customize future campaigns.
  • Workflow activity – useful for creating campaigns specific to subscribers who fall within certain stages of your funnel, like sending a campaign only to those subscribers who are more than 50% through an auto-responder series.
  • Customer data – useful for eCommerce brands who want to send targeted campaigns to VIP customers as well campaigns solely targeting customers in danger of being lost who haven’t made a purchase within a specific time period.

There are two main ways to approach segmentation:

  1. Sort existing subscribers on the back-end using the subscriber data they provided when they signed up
  2. Allow subscribers to self-segment by using separate sign-up lists.

With the second method, your audience sees the same opt-ins throughout your site, but the list they’re added to changes based on the content they’re engaging with. So, if a user visits a recipe site and subscribes from a page featuring vegan recipes, they would be subscribed to a segmented list for vegans.

Global surfwear company Rip Curl understands the value of relevance and executes it well in their email newsletters:

Rip Curl - Email Campaign - Relevant to Subscribers

Although Rip Curl sells women’s wetsuits and bikinis as well, they know who their male subscribers are so they only send relevant products and content to their male subscribers.

By using features of your Campaign Monitor account, like Segments & Dynamic Content, you can ensure your emails are relevant to every one of your subscribers and increase the chances they’ll click-through from your campaign and make a purchase.

Ensure your campaigns are on brand and build trust

It’s likely that your email campaigns aren’t the only interaction your subscribers are having with your business. In fact, your subscribers probably visited your website or social media page to sign up for your email.

Because of this, it’s important that your email campaigns are aligned with the colors, fonts, and branding you use across all your other customer touchpoints so that your customers have a consistent experience with your brand.

Campaign Monitor customer Freshbooks does this effectively in their email marketing campaigns. The fonts, colors, buttons and even the iconographic style they use on their website are perfectly replicated in their email campaigns.

Freshbooks - Email Campaign - Aligned with Branding

By ensuring your campaigns are aligned with the branding your subscribers see elsewhere, you build trust that the email is legitimate and increase the chance they’ll click-through.

Make it easy to convert

To drive your subscribers to click through from your email campaigns, you must make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

According to our research, 41% of email opens are happening on mobile devices, so if your campaigns aren’t optimized across all devices, then there’s a good chance you’re making it unnecessarily difficult for your subscribers to convert.

Check out our email newsletter as an example:

Campaign Monitor - Email Newsletter - Drive Conversions

Because the template is responsive, the middle three sections of content stack on top of each other when viewed on a mobile device. This ensures the text and buttons remain a useable size (as opposed to being shrunk down) and make it effortless for subscribers to convert.

Take a Strategic Approach to Timing Your Campaigns

When creating campaigns, we recommend taking a strategic approach so that your emails follow a promotional or editorial calendar. Planning your campaigns helps you avoid waiting too long between sends or, worse yet, flooding subscribers with too much content.

Frequency matters, and how often you send emails can have a significant impact on your revenue and email engagement (and unsubscribe) rates. Send too much and subscribers can suffer email fatigue causing them to disengage and unsubscribe. Send too few and you lose the attention of your audience. They may even forget why they signed up leading them to unsubscribe.

So, how often should you send emails?

Fortunately, there’s some data on how often people like to get emails. The chart below from MarketingSherpa gives you an idea of optimal send frequency:

The data was compiled from a survey of 2,057 adults who answered the question, “How often, if ever, would you like to receive promotional emails (e.g., coupons, sales notifications) from companies that you do business with?”

The data shows a spread of interest leaning toward higher-frequency email campaigns. There’s one thing to keep in mind though: these aren’t your subscribers.

If you’re unsure about email frequency the easiest solution is to ask your subscribers. Let them choose frequency settings or poll them to discover how often they want to hear from you.

Send More Than Promotional Content

In 2015, Marketingsherpa ran a study asking consumers “in which of the following ways, if any, would you prefer companies to communicate with you?”

More than 70% of respondents chose email, dominating a list of other choices including sms, social media, direct mail, and online/print ads. Not much has changed since then and consumers still prefer email.

But just because they want it doesn’t mean they want every email to be blatant promotion.

That’s a sure-fire way to get your list to hate your guts.

When plotting your email campaigns and choosing the content to include, aim for an 80/20 mix using the Pareto Principle. Simply put: 80% of your content should be devoted to valuable and useful information, and 20% should be devoted to the promotions, sales, and products/services you’re selling.

Take a look at these predictions and trends shared by Convince and Convert, compiled from both Litmus and our own reports:

It’s important to note how a number of growing trends revolve around content of value – not promotional content. Things like personalization and subscriber lifetime value, bite-sized content that’s easy to digest, stronger narratives and storytelling, richer experiences… that’s all key to crafting highly engaging emails that will grow your open and engagement rates.

Find Inspiration for Sending More Valuable Email Campaigns

If you’re coming up short on topics and what to include in your emails beyond general promotions, fear not. Every business, in every industry, has plenty of information to share. Whether or not that information is relevant or interesting in the eyes of your subscribers is what you need to determine.

Don’t worry, we’ve already done some leg work to come up with plenty of ideas to source content for your email campaigns. The following are a few ideas drawn from our complete guide featuring 50 content ideas for your email campaigns and newsletters:

  • Company information like career opportunities, press featuring your company, and behind-the-scenes content
  • Product updates and information like how-to content, product videos, upcoming releases and discounts
  • Value-driven content like infographics, industry studies, survey results, and recent blogs
  • People-focused content to humanize your brand like new hire bios, executive interviews, customer feedback and testimonials, and team-member blogs
  • Support information like FAQ updates, case studies, success stories, and free resources
  • Event information for community and corporate events, webinars, and trade shows

Look for every opportunity to share valuable content over promotional content to keep interest and engagement high.

By applying these fundamentals of high-converting campaigns to your first email, you’ll be able to create and send a campaign that captures subscriber’s attention, presents them relevant information and makes it easy for them to convert.


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