Email marketing is one of the most effective digital marketing activities for many businesses and something most businesses should definitely use some resources to. The priority depends on the business but in general email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels at least for B2B -businesses like ours. Hubspot has actually measured in their State of Email Marketing -report that ROI of email marketing can be astounding 3800%!
Obviously, this is not always the case and it really depends on how you measure it and I cannot really say our email marketing would have been as good as those numbers say, but it has still been really useful. To go more in-depth we should divide email marketing to a few different categories to get a better idea about it. In the big picture, email marketing can be divided into email marketing for warm contacts and email marketing for cold contacts. A lot of the times email marketing for cold audiences though is not really even thought about as a marketing activity, but something that sales or sales enablement do.
For us we actually do both. Email marketing for warm audiences and for cold audiences. In this blog my focus will be specifically on email marketing for warm contacts and what concrete steps to take in terms of email marketing in different situations to really make more sales. Cold emailing is sort of a completely different subject, that should be discussed in a different blog.
What you should consider when thinking about email marketing implementation?
The biggest factors that influence effective implementation of email marketing are:
1. The product or service being sold
The product or service being sold has a pretty radical impact on what email marketing should focus on. If a product or service is such that it is bought over and over again, or an online store that sells a lot of different products, the situation is completely different than selling a once-in-a-lifetime product.
An example would be a company selling wedding photography services. It is not very effective to send sales emails to customers, who have already bought from you once, as repurchases are rarely made. Okay maybe nowadays it is not that rare anymore, but you get the point.
In contrast when selling shampoo, for example, it’s a lot more useful to send sales emails as a reminder to get a re-purchase. As people tend to buy Shampoo over and over again during their lifetime.
This is something that a lot of time not so experienced email marketers miss completely as they implement email marketing to new businesses. Tactics that work for one kind of businesses, might not work at all for different businesses.
2. Size of the target audience (how many people are on the email lists)
Size of your email list is the second thing you should think about when thinking about the implementation. If there are not many people on your mailing list, you should probably focus more on growing the list than building amazing campaigns… Other thing the size of the target group also influences is the segmenting of the list.
For very small lists, list segmentation is mainly a disadvantage as it makes testing very challenging. Even though for larger volumes, segmentation is a key part of email marketing. This is a mistake that can actually bite you quite hard if you just follow some system to the teeth.
Email marketing for a company that doesn’t sell a product that can be purchased repeatedly
For a company that does not sell products or services that will most likely be repurchased, email marketing should focus mainly on pre-purchase emails and post-purchase emails trough which you get reviews and testimonials that you can use in your marketing later.
Typically in such situations, email marketing is divided into three parts:
- Automation focused on warming leads
- Automation based on on-site behavior
- Post-purchase automations to get more testimonials
As you can see, it does not make much sense for a company whose products are not typically re-purchased to implement newsletter-type email marketing. Sure, a newsletter can be used for communication, but it does not play a relevant role in terms of sales.
In automations that focus on warming up leads, usually, the situation is so that person x has been subscribed to an email list, but he or she is not so close to buying that a salesperson might want to contact him. This is when email marketing aims to warm up cold contacts to warmer contacts.
In practice, this means building an automation for the list, with the goal of leading the customer towards the purchase decision. The practical implementation of the Welcome Series, of course, depends on how warm the contacts are already and how well-known your company is, but here is one example of the welcome series:
- Thank you and welcome to the list (delivering the promised material and initializing what’s to come)
- Key points about how a company helps its customers and how the company ended up at that point (company’s story)
- Emails that bring value, trough which you indirectly educate customers about your company’s services (not really straight up selling your service, but reassuring customers, that such things are worth doing, even if the company you have wouldn’t be doing them)
- Discount or something similar that makes the problem feel more acute and get the customer to book a meeting with sales rep or buy straight from the site (in case of e-commerce)
Automations based on site behavior
Such automations are, for example, those that start when a person has visited product pages. In practice, making use of such automation requires that people who visit the site have to be on the mailing list you have. In addition, the email must have a cookie associated with the user’s browser, but if the person has clicked on the email or filled out the form on the same computer / browser shortly, that cookie will be found in the browser. For most users though you either don’t have the email address of the user at all or it is not connected to cookie that can be identified on-site.
Typically, such behavioral automations are, for example, message series sent to shopping cart abandoners or messages sent to a people who have visited the price page. Often, these types of automations are just simple reminders, in the style of, “Did you forget your shopping cart?” Or “Did any questions come up out of our pricing page?” And a lot of the times they work quite well.
Post-purchase automations to get more reviews
In its simplicity, this can be a simple email: “How likely would you recommend us?”, Asking for an answer to the NPS question and gathering free feedback and permission to publish recommendations by name or anonymity. Of course, it is worthwhile to bring the best feedback from these to the website and other marketing communications. (Recommended: How to use social proof in marketing)
Email marketing for a company that sells repeat purchase products
A company selling repeat purchase products has all the same elements in email marketing as a company that does not have products for repeat purchases but adds a fourth and fifth element. Namely post-purchase automation and newsletter.
Automations driving repurchases
These kinds of automations are, after all, more of an art than a science. The most typical parts of repurchase automations are the upsell / cross-sell automation triggered immediately after the purchase, which aims to sell, for example, a conditioner onto the shampoo. Another typical component is the repurchase automation for the buying cycle, which aims to get a repurchase when the product itself is depleted. So for some products it might be in few weeks for some in few months.
Of course, buying cycles can be explored with data, if there is data for it, and it is common to implement some sort of discount ladder, for example, from the moment the likelihood of a repurchase begins to diminish significantly. But the problem usually is the variance in the data is huge and in the end if your business is not subscription based to begin with, you probably cant really make data-driven decisions on this one.
In theory repurchase automations based on buying cycles work in the following manner. First let’s assume that there is no insane variance in the buying cycle of buyers and that the average buying cycle is 30 days and after 40 days it is already unlikely that a repurchase will be obtained (meaning usually a customer bought from a competitor). If the customer does not purchase on the basis of a reminder, a small discount is offered for 35 days. If the customer does not use the discount, the discount will be gradually raised. In this way you will not offer discounts to those who are willing to pay a higher price, but can also attract customers who are not ready to pay the full price but are still profitable.
Newsletters are, for most people, the most common form of email marketing. Manually sending emails to the list usually 1-4 times a month. E-commerce usually uses newsletter mailing to highlight products, and latest offers. Lead generation companies, on the other hand, often distribute the content they generate, thus seeking to activate the most potential customers from the mailing list into sales leads.
The benefits of newsletter come only when volumes exceed a certain limit, maybe a couple of thousand people. If the volume is too small, the resources put into sending can be higher than the expected returns. Volume also typically adds extra power, meaning the more people on your mailing list, the more sales you make from it.
Email marketing softwares and tools
Personally I prefer bigger companies, over small providers even though there is also a lot of smaller companies. From the softwares named I use ActiveCampaign personally, but the first four are all something that I have used. For me ActiveCampaign has just been the most cost-effective option this far.
Due to cost efficiency, ActiveCampaign is my favorite for most cases except online stores. In other words, for a business that generates leads, ActiveCampaign is the number one choice. You get automations that are super easy to build, with a drag and drop builder. There are deep data integrations in online stores too, but I do not have enough in-depth experience to comment on their functionality.
ActiveCampaign allows you to define different triggers for pinging salesreps based on site or other activity, or send emails based on site behavior. Everything you need in one package and starting at only $ 9 a month.
The marketing automation software. With everything from email marketing to CMS, ad tools, CRM and a million other features. Everything relevant to email marketing can be found when it comes to the business of generating leads.
In email marketing sense HubSpot is quite similar to ActiveCampaign, all key features are the same. Sure, HubSpot has more features compared to ActiveCampaign overall, but similarly, Price Range is very different. Starting from $ 740 a month, however, you get a lot of everything. HubSpot is not the most cost-effective software for email marketing, but there is much more to the package.
Starting at $ 0 per month, MailChimp works especially well with small e-commerce. Software has ready-made integrations with the most well-known platforms, and cart abandonment emails, for example, get off the hook quite easily.
Compared to ActiveCampaign, automation building and customization in general are at a poor level, but the software itself is doing a great job especially in e-commerce. With regard to lead generation and warming up leads, it is relatively weak due to a lack of custom triggers.
An excellent software for e-mail marketing. Special mention for dynamic coupon codes that are easy to create directly in Klaviyo (works with at least some versions of Shopify and Magento). To my knowledge, the only software that can handle even more sophisticated discount ladder setups with personalized discount codes.
Pretty pricey with small volumes, not the first choice for a small e-commerce, but a relevant option for a larger online store.
There are other alternatives and plenty of working softwares are sure to be found. Here are just a few withdrawals from the market. Different softwares work best for different needs. My own rough experiences are: ActiveCampaign for cost effective lead generation, HubSpot for big companies doing lead generation, MailChimp for cost-effective online store, Klaviyo bigger online store.
E-mail marketing can be done in many different ways, and with a good implementation, it often also brings back good ROI, assuming there is a client / mailing list that is big enough. It’s not a magic pill, but a viable way to get people’s attention even in 2020.
Hope this article was helpful to you. If you would like to see our email marketing, please download one of our guides, from the resources section.