11 Steps to Creating a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

By Sean Brown | October 17, 2017

We’ve all complained about email at least once in our lives; late-night sales pitches, endless chains, and cluttered inboxes full of information you just don’t need. Done wrong, email marketing can leave a very bad taste in your mouth.

But in the age of the internet, there’s no way to grab someone’s attention quite like a message straight to their inbox. When reaching out to prospective clients, customers, or audience members via social media isn’t personal enough, email is there to give you a direct line of communication. If you don’t want your recipients groaning when they see your address in their inbox, check out these quick tips to step up your email marketing game.

1. Always Provide Value

With average email open rates sitting right around 25%, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to find unique ways to engage their audience. In the noisy age of social media and fast-paced content consumption, attention can be easily won or lost with the click of a button. To keep those open rates up, make sure your emails always provide engaging content, timely insights, or exclusive offers—whatever form of value the subscribers of your mailing list would be interested in.

2. Get to the Point

Part of providing value and keeping attention is to cut away all of the fat from your email copy. Whatever value that you’ve determined you can offer to your audience is all that needs to be communicated—as they say in the news business, don’t bury the lede.

Don’t try to do too many things at once. Keep your emails simple so you can measure the responses to different styles of copy, content, or audiences.

3. Be Generous

But not tortuous. As the great Gary Vaynerchuk so concisely put it, “Give, give, give, then ask.” Nothing will kill your open rates more than reading like the internet’s caricature of a door-to-door salesman. As you liberally supply value through engaging content, you will end up keeping some of the least expensive attention digital marketing has to offer.

While Facebook ads, Google Adwords, and influencer marketing all play huge roles in creating a successful marketing campaign, building an email list is by far the cheapest. Once a user subscribes, you no longer have to pay for extremely targeted inbound clicks.

4. Speak to Your Reader

When you read an email, it’s a solitary experience. So when writing an email, the key is to make your readers feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

With over 300,000 subscribers and counting, The Hustle has rapidly made a name for itself as “What you’d get if The Daily Show and The Wall Street Journal had a baby.” Want to know their secret recipe for explosive growth? A unique tone.

In a business world cluttered with boring publications and dreary market reports, The Hustle switches things up by adopting an informal (and at times, hilarious) tone to make current events easier to digest for millennials.

5. Know Your Voice

And be authentic to it. Lazy, self-interested copy will be picked up on immediately, and cause users to rapidly unsubscribe from your mailing list; the same goes for emails that copy rather than communicate. Consistency matters here as well—which is why the easiest way to write effectively is to write honestly.

6. Personalize Important Emails

If you’re running a business, it’s probably safe to assume you don’t have the time to personalize 1,000 individual emails two times a week. But if part of your campaign hinges on some key points of participation, don’t be afraid to get focused. Sometimes, 30 well-tailored messages go farther than an email blast to list of 1,000 subscribers. However, as with anything else, a combination of the two is likely to work best.

7. Avoid Over-the-Top Visuals

That is, without reading test emails yourself on both desktop and mobile first. Many of the more complex layouts will deliver in a disjointed manner on mobile, resulting in an unenjoyable read and quick click to your unsubscribe page.

8. Experiment with Personalized Subject Lines

According to Campaign Monitor, emails with a personalized subject line are 26% more likely to be opened. Across the board, the data is clear–play around with your email marketing software and customize as much as possible, or you’re already behind. Even if you don’t have the time to create unique emails for all of the various segments in your mailing list, the majority of today’s email marketing apps allow you to automate the basic customization of your emails.

9. Segment Your Email Audiences

Or outright split them into multiple lists if it makes sense to do so. If you find your target audience expanding, you may be faced with a few different factions valuing what you offer for different reasons or demanding different things altogether. Listening to those new developments in your audience is how you remain relevant to them. Segmenting your email lists can also make it easier to personalize your message, so make sure your offerings are coherent with how you decide to split up your audience.

10. Be Consistent

Human beings are creatures of habit, and as we all know, it’s far too easy to unwittingly fall into patterns of behavior that we never change for inertia alone. Setting your email campaigns to occur on a consistent schedule makes it easier for your readers to incorporate your content into their daily routine, significantly increasing your retention.

11. Always Include a Clear Call to Action

And make it clear, attractive, and easy to access. Emails are likely towards the top of your sales funnel, and as such must be designed to engage, attract, and convert people who have expressed interest in the value you or your company bring to the table. Therefore, providing space in your email to access that value (and convert interest into sales) is of the utmost importance.

A 2017 McKinsey report noted that “the average [inbound] order value of an email is at least three times higher than that of social media”—no laughing matter considering the advertising dollars Facebook reaps in every year. When done right, email marketing is still one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to stand out to your audience.