Even though it’s been around for a few decades, using email as a part of their marketing campaigns is still a point of contention for many inbound marketers.
The issue? They can’t decide if email marketing is inbound or outbound.
In truth, email can be classified either way, depending on the components of your strategy. Do you utilize less-than-ethical email list generation practices? Are you sending email to people who haven’t opted in? Are you sending email too frequently? If that’s the case, you’re firmly in the outbound camp.
How do you turn your email strategy around to ensure that it’s on board with your inbound marketing campaign?
Elements of an Inbound Email Strategy
Ok, so what makes an email strategy congruent with inbound methodology? It IS possible, despite what the detractors might say. In fact, our friends at HubSpot have created a list of some of the most effective email campaigns in the business today. Take a look and see what these email gurus are doing that’s changing the game.
Eager to get started? Let’s break down the steps you need to take to stay in step with inbound.
#1: Identify Your Buyer Personas— If you’ve already implemented inbound marketing, you’ve probably created buyer personas that inform your content, website layout, and everything in between. If you haven’t? Now’s the time to do it.
Gather the demographic info and identifiers that represent your specific customers, determine what their goals and challenges might be— why are they looking to you for help?— and create a character that will represent this section of your audience. Rinse and repeat, until you’ve developed personas for the different segments of your customer base as well as the prospects you hope to reach.
#2: Flesh Out Your Marketing Goals— What is your company working toward? Do you hope to increase the number of customers you serve in the 2nd quarter by 3%? Do you want to boost sales by 5% by the end of the month? It’s vital to create a SMART goal— specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
Ok, now that you know your company’s goals, what are your marketing goals— specifically, your goals for your emails? Remember to make them specific. Instead of “Raising awareness,” say “Increase the click-thru rate on our emails by 10% in the 2nd quarter.” Don’t say, “Increasing the email list;” instead, say, “Get 30 new leads every month.”
#3: Find the Right Tools— Fortunately, you’ve got a few options available when it comes to sending your emails. It comes down to deciding between Email Service Providers (ESPs) or marketing software. ESPs, like MailChimp or ExactTarget, will provide you with a platform to send marketing emails— nothing more.
Marketing software, on the other hand, offers you more options. You’ll have access to email management, content management, and even sales support. Think HubSpot or Marketo.
The biggest difference between the ESP and marketing software is cost. You can definitely find free versions of both, but remember— you get what you pay for. Consider setting aside money in your marketing budget to ensure that you have the right tool for the job.
#4: Making Your List, Checking It Twice— Here’s the deal. Your email contact erodes over time; in fact, you might lose as many as 22% of the names on your list every year. In an effort to recoup what you’ve lost, it might be tempting to purchase an email list, but please— resist!
Purchasing lists is easy, sure, but it’s a quick way to create a negative impression on the people who start receiving unsolicited emails from you. The damage to your reputation far exceeds the convenience factor. Instead, grow your list by:
- - Creating informative content and requiring an email address to download it
- - Hosting webinars and capturing emails from registrations
- - Sign-up lists at trade shows or conferences
- - Website pop-ups requesting email addresses for access to newsletters, emails, etc.
- - Encourage email sharing
#5: Create Quality Email Content— The average person receives 94 business emails each day. How can you make yours stand out from the crowd?
Make it interesting to read.
That simple step can keep your email from being automatically directed to the trash can. Creating an email that’s not just a blatant attempt to sell, but rather a thoughtful, educational, or even entertaining read will set you apart from your competition like nothing else. The internet is a big place, and your customers have a lot of choice— create content that will appeal to YOUR customers.
(Not sure you’ve got the skills to write arresting email content? We can help.)
#6: Segment Your Audience— Ok, you’ve got some amazing email content— but is every single email pertinent to every person on your email list? Probably not.
Segment your audience based on simple target criteria, like product interest, location in the sales funnel, or purchase history, and send emails that are appropriate to each segment. For instance, you wouldn’t send a “Thanks for making a purchase!” email to a person who was still at the top of the sales funnel.
#7: Offer the Ability to Opt-Out— You don’t ever want your customers to feel like they’re trapped. Offering a clear way for them to opt out of future emails is just the right thing to do. They’ll feel like you respect their time and autonomy and they’ll appreciate the fact that you aren’t forcing them to get emails they don’t want.
That said, you might consider offering a variety of options; maybe they don’t want your weekly email newsletter, but they’d like to hear from you once a month. Or, perhaps they’d like a quarterly update. If you give them alternatives, you might not lose them altogether.
Anatomy of an Inbound Email
Ok, you’ve got your strategy set— ready for the fun part? Let’s take a look at the components of a truly great inbound marketing email?
Subject Line— This is the first thing a recipient sees, so it’s important that you make a great impression. There are a variety of methods to capture the interest of your audience; you can:
- - Take the educational route (Learn more about overhauling your email marketing with this downloadable guide! )
- - Offer a solution to a problem (Are your email open rates in freefall? Here’s a tip to turn it around)
- - Capture their attention with a current event (Google’s got a new algorithm— how will this impact your company’s website?)
Sender— If you’re like most businesses, your marketing emails are being sent from a general brand name account. While that’s the most common practice, it’s not the most successful one. Instead, send the email from an actual human being within your organization. If users see an actual name in the “From” section, that generates an automatic feeling of trust in the brand.
Personalized Greeting— You’ve probably gotten an email that said, “Hello, [Your Name Here]”-- and last time you checked, you hadn’t changed your name to [Your Name Here]. It’s an immediate turn-off— the rest of the email could be full of valuable information, but you’re not reading any further. Create a greeting that feels intimate and personal, so your recipient doesn’t feel like a cog in the marketing machine.
Copy— Keep it short and to the point. Tell them what you want them to know, and don’t take up any more of their valuable time than necessary. Remember, they’re getting A LOT of email every day— the less time they have to spend on yours, the better.
Images/Animation— Whether you include an image or animation depends on your company’s style. Would an image enhance what you’ve got to say? Include it. Would it just clutter up your perfectly-crafted content? Skip it.
Call-to-Action, or CTA— Ah, yes— the whole point of sending the email. This is the part where you give your audience the directive you want them to take. Whether it’s as simple as a “Click here for more information!” or even “Buy now,” you can’t forget the CTA.
Ok, we’ve walked you through creating an effective email strategy with plenty of inbound marketing infused into it, and we’ve even shown you how to craft a great email. Still have questions? We have answers.