5 Big Ideas to Grow Business with Email Marketing


Email is still the primary communication for most businesses and consumers. A recent MarketingSherpa survey found that the majority of consumers prefer to be contacted via email, and a HubSpot statistic indicates that 66% of U.S. consumers buy as a result of email marketing. Those are persuasive metrics that indicate we need to make the effort to do it right.

Let me share five Big Ideas on how to maximize your efforts and marketing ROI.

Big Idea 1 – Bits and Pieces

Know your audience and speak to their interests. Small businesses may not have the resources of a Google or Amazon to mine Big Data, but any business can organize their contacts into targeted mailing lists. Effective emails are targetedYour subscribers are busy. And, frankly, they’re a little spoiled by how well the masters of Big Data understand them. An unfocused, one-size-fits-all email blast is a waste of everyone’s time. Even worse, it can alienate the very audience you’re trying to connect with.

CRM systems (even basic contact managers) enable data segmentation. In the B2B realm, the contact’s location, role, company size, and product interest are standard details gathered during lead development. As a lead develops into prospect, and then becomes a new customer, knowing their project budget, recent purchases, and buyer personas enable even more precise targeting.

Big Idea 2 – WIIFM?

Be clear about the value proposition. If a message isn’t relevant to the recipient the email is just another interruption in a busy day – the delete button and unsubscribe link lurks. Answer the unspoken question, “What’s in it for me if I open this?” Even targeted emails will be ignored if the subject line is ambiguous or too sales-y.

Email-marketingMake the subject line clear, direct, and focused on a tangible benefit. Many marketers agonize over the brevity of the subject line. If you can inspire confidence and communicate your value proposition in 40 characters or less, swell. But when the subject lacks clarity, you have a failure to communicate. Consider this quote from Flint McGlaughlin of MECLABS Institute:

“The marketer’s art is not persuasion; it is clarity. . . . when the marketer represents an authentic value proposition, clarity is persuasion”.

Austin McCraw, also of MECLABS, outlined In a recent web clinic how the sequencing of subject lines can significantly lift open and click-through rates. How the offer is presented in a subject line – the actual word order and the picture the words paint – have a measurable impact. MECLABS tests demonstrate that a campaign does better if the subject line leads with what the customer “gets”, rather than by what the customer must “do” to get it. The following example assumes that the recipients have an interest in the offer. The concept applies to B2C and B2B markets.

Instead of “Book now to save 30% on your hotel” (starts with the “Do”), consider “Sand dunes, clam chowder and life-long memories are waiting for you in Provincetown (focused on the “get”).

You may get fewer opens with greater specificity, but so what? Is a 15%, 20%, or even 30% open rate meaningful if no further action is taken? Natural curiosity may entice a peek at the email. However, there is a measurable drop-off of click-throughs on offers when the offer is irrelevant.

The goal is measurable action on your offer, not just eyeballs on the screen.

Big Idea 3 –  Door number two, Monty

If you’ve never participated in “Which Test Won” comparisons, you should. The exercise compares two treatments of landing pages, email campaigns, subject lines, and other content. Your challenge is to vote on which treatment was more successful, A or B. Results consistently demonstrate that seasoned marketers often guess wrong.

A/B testing - don't guess. Test.Perform A/B tests on subject lines, content, and other variables to be certain you get the best return for your marketing efforts. No matter how experienced you are, you can’t rely on your best guess or the accepted wisdom of your peers.

Consider the test that revealed that a purposefully ambiguous subject line was more successful in reaching inactive subscribers. Does that result turn Big Idea Number 2 on it’s head? No. The approach was valid for this audience and this offer and was used on the basis of the test. I would never had guessed that it would have been more effective. Oh, wait! We don’t guess, we test.

Big Idea 4 –  You. Had. One. Job.

The purpose of the email is to present an offer. It’s not intended to make the sale – that’s the job of the landing page. Your job is to target your incredible offer to this customer’s interests and entice him to click to the landing page. Resist the temptation to also announce the launch of your new website, your promotion to VP of marketing, or to cajole a newsletter sign up. Trying to do too much is confusing, distracting, and counterproductive.

Make it easy for the reader to take action – a single click to the landing page will do the trick. Be clear about what action needs to take place and how to take it. For example, a “Click here to register” hyperlink provides the instruction of how to take the next step and what they’ll accomplish by taking it. Easy peasy.

Big Idea 5 –  Sweet harmony

Keep on message. Just as the email message reflects the promise of the subject line, the landing page content is consistent with the email message. It’s a harmonious journey from one point of communication to the next. You need to minimize friction at every step of the way.

If your landing page employs a form, keep it a short as possible. Form length and field requirements should correlate to the customer’s place in the buying cycle. If s/he has just begun the process, requiring much more than name and email can feel intrusive. If the customer is further along in the buying cycle – perhaps ready to register for the offered course – then more details will be required. The customer will be willing to exchange information when the exchange of value is equitable.

Email marketing is still the most cost-effective approach to getting your message in front of your buyers. Go forth, and market wisely.


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