With a host of digital marketing and advertising platforms at our disposal, you might be wondering if and why it’s even worth using email marketing anymore. After all, we all know someone (or are that person) with thousands of unread emails in the inbox.
But let us ask you three questions: If there was a marketing format that yields a $36 ROI for every dollar spent, has a CTR of over 20%, and is used by 64% of small businesses, would you want to try it? If the answer is yes, then you need to use email marketing. It’s not dead and consumers don’t hate it as much as you think. In fact, research shows that 46% of smartphone users prefer receiving brand communication through email. To help you master email marketing, we’re sharing some of the best platforms and tips for you to try.
Let’s get started with an overview of three email marketing tools.
MailChimp is one of the most popular platforms. You can get started with a free account for up to 500 contacts. One of the main benefits is that it has an intuitive interface that’s easy to navigate. The free account offers basic audience segmentation and allows you to tag contacts and create customer profiles with its included marketing CRM. It also gives you access to some pre-made templates, although you do have the ability to customize your email with different fonts, colors, and images. The free plan also gives you a basic reporting dashboard to measure your campaign’s performance and single-step automation.
Upgrading to a paid account unlocks more features. The tiered pricing system offers accounts at $11/month for Essentials, $17/month for Standard, and $299/month for Premium. Most businesses get more than enough benefits with the Essentials or Standard plan. You would want to elect one of these plans if you have more than 500 subscribers and if you want access to features like A/B testing, the customer journey builder, and email scheduling.
The main differences between the Essentials and Standard plan are:
Customer lifetime value and purchase likelihood
More features with the customer journey builder
Dynamic content and content optimizer
Live chat and email support are only available for paid plans. Phone support is only for Premium subscribers.
Constant Contact doesn’t offer a free plan, but you can give it a try with its 60-day free trial. The Core plan is $9.99/month and Plus plan is $45/month. Both allow up to 500 contacts and there are monthly add-on prices for additional subscribers. Features include an easy drag-and-drop email editor, access to hundreds of pre-made templates, subject line A/B testing, and an automated welcome email to new contacts. Like MailChimp, Constant Contact plans provide reporting metrics and a CRM. The CRM has audience segmentation and can integrate with other apps. Phone and chat support are available for both plans.
With the Plus plan, you unlock additional benefits such as:
A kick-off phone call
Feedback surveys in emails
Auto-generated engagement segments
Segmentation using best, recent, one-time, lapsed or repeat customers
Conversions and sales reporting
Automated emails for birthdays, anniversaries, abandoned cart, and based on behavior
Similar to MailChimp, Zoho provides a free account – they call it the Forever Free – that allows for up to 500 contacts. Forever Free lets you have an admin and up to five users. For design, you get access to email templates (including pre-designed, responsive newsletter templates) or you can use the drag-and-drop template editor. There’s also reporting and analytics, merge tags, and integrations with many apps. Support is available via phone, chat, and email.
The Standard and Professional plans start at $3/month and $4.5/month for up to 500 subscribers. If you have more than 500 contacts, the monthly prices increase for both plans.
Standard and Professional include:
Customizable header and footer
Scheduling campaigns and sending in batches
Highlights of the Professional plan include:
Notifications based on mailing list and sent campaign
Built-in and custom drag-and-drop workflows
Email marketing best practices
Now that we’ve covered the industry-leading email marketing platforms, let’s talk strategy. These seven tips are some of the best practices you can implement to achieve impactful results.
Call people by their name
This seems so obvious and simple, but a lot of companies overlook it. Addressing people by their names in emails makes the message feel more personalized. It will also help it stand out. People are more likely to stop scrolling through their inbox if they see their name in the subject line or preview. It catches their eye and makes them more likely to open the email.
Share what people want to know
Let’s be honest – the number one reason most people subscribe to your email list is for sales information. Use email marketing to drive awareness about any upcoming sales or promotions. You can also treat your email list as a loyalty program, giving subscribers first access to sales and deals you’re running. People also like to know about new products/services you’re offering (this is probably the second reason why they’re on your email list). Other noteworthy updates could be changing store hours, events, last chance purchases, etc. Get to know your audience to discern what information they would want to hear.
Treat your email content as an extension of your digital presence
Many businesses give little to no thought to writing their email copy. The result is stale, generic messaging that nobody wants to read. Instead, infuse your writing with the same brand voice you use on your social media and website. Use high-quality images and make sure the design and colors are aligned with your overall brand. These small practices don’t take much effort but will help your emails stand out from the rest.
Give people a reason to open your messages
Before creating an email, ask yourself, “What value does this provide my audience?” If all your emails are about pushing products/services and sales, people won’t want to open them. Try interspersing informative or entertaining content into the mix with your more sales-driven emails. For example, if you run a gym, send an email with recipes for the best pre- and post-workout meals. If you have a clothing boutique, give tips on how to remove stains or how to care for different fabrics. If you create content that’s interesting, educational, or entertaining, it will make people want to read your emails.
Collect subscribers, don’t buy them
Your website and social media profiles are easy ways to promote your email list and encourage people to join. You can also have a sign-up sheet in your store or have one at any of your events or trade shows you attend. It’s much better to grow your list slowly and organically than to buy a list of thousands of emails. Often times these lists are outdated and can be very expensive. You’ll probably get marked as spam which can hurt you in the long run.
Test until you find the winning strategy
Utilizing A/B testing will help you refine your email marketing strategy so that you can work smarter instead of harder. These tests can help you find the best performing subject lines, the optimal days and times to send emails, and much more. It’s also a way to have an edge over your competitors who may not be testing their campaigns.
Use automation and segmentation to your benefit
Automated messages and audience segmenting are like having a customer service agent and sales rep that works 24/7. You can set up automations based on an action or behavior, such as when someone abandons their shopping cart or makes their first purchase. By segmenting your email list (by where they are in the sales funnel, demographic data, purchase history, etc.) you can create a more targeted message to the right audience. You can have reminder emails go out to people when their free trial expires, alert people who have bought a specific product when it’s back in stock or if it’s on sale – the options are endless.
If you started reading this as an email marketing skeptic, hopefully this opened your eyes to its relevancy in today’s digital landscape and its many capabilities. Email is one of the most customizable formats you can find. When used strategically, it can be one of the most powerful tools in your marketing toolbox. Get started on your email strategy to stay ahead of the competition and reach your target audience meaningfully and efficiently.