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Email Marketing: What it is, Strategies and Guidelines

email marketing

Email marketing is a form of direct marketing (DEM) that integrates strategies and tactics to create and distribute email communications with the aim of implementing relationships between brands and audiences or sending information and updates of a promotional nature. What are the competitive advantages that it still manages to guarantee today?

How to do Email Marketing and why

One of the reasons is that email marketing is easily measurable in terms of ROI; the second is that, precisely with regard to ROI, email marketing guarantees the best performing results in terms of user conversion compared to other web marketing channels.

On the other hand, consumers love to receive newsletters from the brands they most appreciate, because they feel a sense of exclusivity and immediacy inherent in one-to-one communication and because they love to receive real-time updates on special offers for products and services.

The evolution of Email Marketing: DEM and Newsletter Meaning

Speaking of email marketing, it is first of all necessary to distinguish between the possible uses that a company can make of the email tool: if on the one hand, we find the use of the company email for communications with customers or for professional communications, from other we can find the DEM and the newsletters.

In the first case, with the acronym of direct email marketing, we identify all those emails sent by a company for advertising purposes. The term newsletter identifies all those e-mail messages sent to subscribers to the service of a website. What are the elements that differentiate them and what do they have in common?

  • Periodicity: the frequency of sending a DEM is occasional, the frequency of sending a newsletter is scheduled almost to be considered a typical appointment with the recipient.
  • Graphic layout: the graphics of a DEM are designed ad hoc for single sending, have a high graphic impact, and a call to action to click on a specific link. The graphic of a newsletter follows a pre-established layout that facilitates the recognition of the message, it can be sent in HTML with images or sometimes be a simple text message.
  • Method of sending: the database from which the DEM draws can be of dual nature: a list of properties not necessarily profiled (mass sending) and a list for rent, a list whose contacts are not purchased but the shipping service. In the case of rented lists, the owner of the personal data processing sends to the lists owned by him and the payment is made per CPM (cost per thousand: a sending to CPM 40 is the payment of $ 40 for every 1000 emails sent). The choice of this type of pricing is linked to the quality of the list and therefore to factors such as the quality of the infrastructure, the cleanliness and profiling of the list, the quality of the sender and leaves the responsibility of the opening to those who purchase the service. which derives instead from the creativity of the object and the message. The receipt of a newsletter is linked to a previous and aware registration of the recipient to the service.
  • Possibility of interaction: both in the case of DEMs and in the case of newsletters, the possibility of replying to the sender’s address is disabled through the no-reply. The alternative proposed by email marketing 2.0 is the reply-to to a dedicated address. In this context of one-to-many communication via email, services can be entered through mailing lists and digest. The mailing list is a list of addresses to which specific information can be sent in multicast and through it, the sender involves the contacts in an asynchronous discussion on shared topics and interests with the aim of informing and receiving feedback. The request for subscription to the mailing list is voluntary and verified to prove its authenticity. In some cases, it is regulated by moderation and sometimes only the moderator can sign up new members. With the digest mode, the contacts who request it can receive multiple messages sent to the list through a single sending.

In the transition from email marketing 1.0 to email marketing 2.0, both DEM and newsletters have undergone transformations. The sender of the DEM holds the ownership of the data processing, the segmentation parameters of email direct marketing are no longer generic but well profiled and the primary objective of the DEM becomes the acquisition of new contacts for its database.

A 2.0 newsletter, on the other hand, provides for personalization of the frequency of receipt and the possibility of making the destination address flexible, greater personalization of the contents, and the possibility of forwarding the message through social sharing.

Email Marketing and user loyalty

How, however, does email marketing turn into a powerful means of customer loyalty? That is, how to establish a consolidated and constant relationship over time with your mailing list without users feeling the need to click the unsubscribe me button? Webtrends, a leading company in the supply of online conversion optimization systems, focuses on a distinct element: personalization.

It is essential to use all the knowledge acquired on the customer base to send precise communications, customized according to the interests, habits, and recent online purchases made by each user. With this in mind, email marketing becomes a formidable lead nurturing tool and facilitates the transformation of leads from prospects to customers.

There are also other best practices to keep in mind when it comes to email marketing: among these, multi-device accessibility – that is to say the provision of optimized communications also for mobile since as many as 48% of emails are opened by your smartphone -; the choice of sending times – studied on the basis of the availability of users to use certain contents -; the determination of specific communication objectives, because sending focused on a single targeted objective greatly incentivizes the conversion rate.

Database Building Techniques

With the expression database building, we mean the set of all those techniques used by digital marketers to expand the business contact base. The effectiveness of these techniques is given by the ability to identify those most suitable for the reference context, contaminate them on multiple channels and be able to search for new ones.

To feed your database there are different points of contact and each of them, both online and offline, presents itself as a potential opportunity to convert visitors into new subscribers. When building a database, quality must always prevail over quantity: the poor interactivity of users affects performance, damaging both the reputation and the deliverability of the sender.

The first thing to do to expand your database is certainly to increase the number of entry points. Among the offline entry points there are certainly touchpoints born at fairs and events during which, sometimes receiving a free gadget, it is possible to fill in the newsletter subscription forms and add your contact in the database of a particular company.

It is also interesting to fill in a contact form within commercial establishments or catering outlets: the postcard delivered together with the bill in a pizzeria or restaurant is a trend that is gradually establishing itself and that allows perfect profiling.

Among the online entry points, there are certainly the classic registration forms, the pop-ups on the website that refer to the modules themselves, the downloads of relevant content used as lead magnets, and of course the organic or sponsored posts on Facebook.

Segmentation of the User Database

Whether it is the launch of a new product or service or campaigns to generate traffic to the company website or sales in ecommerce, email marketing must aim at educating its contact database by offering up-to-date communications on company activities or on products and services and on the establishment of an overall sense of trust based on the possibility of creating original and relevant conversations between brands and consumers.

From a similar perspective, database segmentation and targeting are two essential elements to create an engaging and customized reading experience based on the interests and information acquired from your contact database. The greater the segmentation (and, consequently, the database profiling), the greater the engagement and conversion rate.

The segmentation of one’s contact database can basically take place following two criteria: the demographic (age, sex, location, income) and the one based on online behavior (transactions carried out and browsing habits).

A further option is to think in terms of personas, that is to say, specific archetypes of consumers corresponding to specific demographic segments and who present certain online behaviors (from the ‘compulsive shopper’ to the demanding manager, up to the customer in need of information and news, to do some example).

The combination of in-depth segmentation and the determination of specific macro-groups homogeneously profiled on the basis of interests and socio-demographic criteria allows for the creation of targeted and engaging communications; in addition, customization increases the authority of the brand and the sense of exclusivity of the user who, for these reasons, will be less and less inclined to click the unsubscribe me button.

KPIs to monitor

What are the metrics to watch out for for an effective email marketing strategy?

  • CTR (Click-Through-Rate): the percentage of recipients who click on one or more links contained in a given email. This metric is particularly important for the evaluation and monitoring of A / B testing activities because it returns a complete picture of the engagement capacity of a newsletter and its contents.
  • CTOR (Click-To-Open Rate): it is an even more detailed index of the CTR and represents the percentage of users who have clicked on the message in relation to the total number of users who have opened the email at least once. The CTOR is a useful indicator for defining the reactivity of users with respect to the message received, highlighting the number of those who wanted to click to learn more about the contents.
  • Conversion rate: the percentage of recipients who click on a link contained in a newsletter and complete a specific objective action, such as filling out a form, signing up for a demo or subscription, downloading a paper, or even purchasing. For a correct evaluation of conversions, it is essential to integrate the mailing platform with web analytics, so as to track the browsing behavior of the email recipients and have a complete view of the conversion funnel.
  • Bounce rate: the percentage of emails sent overall but not successfully delivered. There are two types of bounces: a hard bounce, caused by non-existent, invalid email addresses and which therefore provides a clue to the actual quality of the database you have and its relative cleaning; a soft-bounce that indicates a temporary delivery problem, often due to a full mailbox or other critical issues related to the recipient’s server.
  • UOR (Unique Open Rate): the unique open rate indicates the number of unique readers out of the total emails delivered, regardless of the number of times the single reader has opened and closed the message.
  • List growth rate: the growth percentage of the list of users receiving a newsletter that provides a complete view of the breadth of the target audience.
  • Rec (Delivery rate): if speaking of deliverability we indicate the ability of an email message to be delivered to the Inbox without being blocked by antispam systems, with the delivery rate we identify the number of messages delivered to the destination server without returning a message error or bounce. Delivery to the server is not necessarily a confirmation of receipt in the Inbox folder.
  • Email Sharing / Forwarding rate: the percentage of sharing of a newsletter content through social media or the forwarding of the email to other contacts. The latter figure clearly highlights the ability to create new contacts and enrich one’s database through the relevance and relevance of the contents conveyed through the newsletter.

The Unsubscribe Rate

One of the dilemmas of web marketers struggling with an email marketing strategy is the constant monitoring of the Unsubscribe rate, i.e. the percentage of users who decide to unsubscribe from the list of recipients of a newsletter. There are many reasons why a user no longer wants to receive updates, proposals, and contents of a brand in their online inbox.

The first reason is to be related to the saturation of the market: an increasing number of users complain of receiving too many emails and, at the same time, too many emails from the same companies. It is, therefore, necessary to act to optimize the frequency of mailings, to avoid excessive and inexplicably aggressive communication.

The second reason, strictly connected to the frequency, is the relevance of the contents. Users’ tastes are changing, you know, but this is not the only problem: it is very likely that you have strayed from what was the main promise that prompted users to subscribe to company updates. It is good to have a highly segmented database, not only to optimize the mailings based on specific categories of interest perfectly in line with the target audience, but it is also good to separate the databases based on macro themes.

The reason is obvious: if a user has chosen to receive a newsletter to find out about the latest special offers on a company’s goods and services, he or she may not be interested in other institutional content.

The third reason, a corollary of the previous one, is that users should not be disappointed: the expected contents must always be provided. If you have promised the advantage of receiving information and updates in advance, for example, it is good that these promises are kept, thus making sure that your newsletter retains that character of exclusivity with respect to your audience.

Fourth reason: readability and usability. Today an ever-increasing number of users check their e-mails and use the contents via smartphone. A newsletter that is not designed to be displayed correctly on mobile is destined to lose more and more subscribers: slow loading, inconspicuous clicks, poor usability are some of the main causes that push users to clean up their inbox.

It is good practice to always test the layout of the newsletters on mobile devices, check the accessibility of links and buttons, study a simple graphic format that facilitates the reading and use of images and contents, and, above all, make sure that the call-to-action is evident and easily clickable by users.

In addition, two additional factors must be considered: familiarity and boredom. It is true that users can feel irritated by too frequent and aggressive communication, but it is also true that if you only send sporadic updates you risk losing contact with your target audience. In general, two weeks is a maximum period of time to maintain relevance, especially with an audience that is not always fully involved. Speaking of engagement, uninteresting content, repetitive and outdated news, old-fashioned graphic layouts are just some of the causes that push users to get rid of unattractive and boring newsletters.

On the contrary, it is good to diversify the content, focus on user involvement while respecting their expectations, and in some cases exceed them: only in this way will the unsubscribe rate travel on negligible percentages, and your email marketing activities will achieve success.

Examples of Email Marketing campaigns

Email marketing is a field that leverages both the strategy used to achieve certain objectives and the creativity deployed by agencies. Among the most significant cases it is possible to identify:

  • Promotions reserved for members. An interesting case of an email marketing campaign is that of Lavazza to present “Lavazza Firma”, an office coffee machine. The email sent to the contact database contained a personalized coupon code to receive, even before any purchase, a welcome kit and a set of design cups. Similarly, the Reynaldi cosmetics laboratory’s campaign also offered a 50% discount on the purchase of a product from a new line to anyone who made the purchase via the link in the email. In both cases, there is no recourse to particular graphic tricks but it was decided to focus everything on offering something before even asking and doing it using the email channel as a preferential option.
  • Remind to cart. Subscribers to the Privalia database, through an email marketing automation system, receive reminders on the contents of the cart not yet emptied. In this case, the strength of the campaign is given by the text of the call to action which, leveraging desire, states “Do you want it? It can still be yours ”.
  • Focus on graphics and tone of voice. Email marketing also passes through transactional email and two examples come respectively from immediately.it and from Airbnb. The ad portal, in the process of restyling the corporate image, included the graphics of the welcome emails: in the intentions of the agency that oversaw the project there was the idea of ​​making the welcome even warmer through clear texts and warm tones. The case of Airbnb, on the other hand, is linked to detail in the footer: next to the social media icons there are the words “Sent with the heart from Airbnb”.
  • Storytelling via email. Email marketing can also be used in personal branding and is what freelance journalist Ann Friedman does through “Weekly”. The story of the world he lives in is the subject of his newsletters sent every Friday to over 25,000 subscribers.