By Nina Delacruz

If you’ve been thinking about using email marketing, now is a great time to move to action. Email marketing ROI – the impressive $44 per each dollar spent! – is at its peak, and if compared to a decade ago, the learning curve is relatively short even for a complete newbie.

Here are three more fascinating facts showing exactly why email marketing is worth the try, especially when you are a growing business carefully spreading the budget across channels:

  • Customers purchasing products via email tend to spend 138% more than those who don’t receive promo messages in their inbox (Wordstream).
  • 80% of retail professionals claim that they see the highest customer retention rates from email (eMarketer).
  • The average value of an order received through an email campaign is 3 times higher than from social media. (McKinsey).

So, what do you start with? In this article, we’ll walk you through the key steps from goal-setting to email newsletter optimization. Consider it a brief checklist on preparing for your first campaigzn.

Establish Your Goals Before You Start

Your email marketing strategy may vary drastically based on what type of business you’re in and what your goals are. And that will dictate most of your further steps from how you acquire new subscribers to how you design your emails.

Notice how different newsletters can be when sent from an ecommerce brand (example above) and a personal brand (example below). One uses an HTML template, the other one is plain text. In the first case, an email was acquired through a product giveaway, in the second case – through a webinar registration. Finally, the tone and the frequency are completely different. Yet both emails are perfectly aligned with their goals.

What will it be for you? Sales? Sign-ups? Content promotion? App or service usage?

Before you start, you should have clear answers to the following questions:

  • What’s the primary reason you decided to use email marketing?
  • What action do you expect your subscribers to take when they receive an email from you?
  • How are you going to measure success? What is your KPI?

Now, after we’ve established that, let’s move on and talk about building an email list.

Define Your Email List Building Strategy

Many entrepreneurs find this stage especially challenging. The reason is obvious: getting people to subscribe to your email list gets harder every year. And if you were planning to use the good old “subscribe to our newsletter” opt-in forms, think twice because this doesn’t sound enticing anymore.

The leading method of building an email list in 2019 is providing real value to your audience. It can be any “ethical bribe” you can afford to offer in exchange for an email. Think of your customer persona and an incentive that will sound irresistible to them. Most incentives fall into a category of “lead magnets” and there is plenty of ideas for any type of business.

Here are just few examples you’ve probably seen on various websites:

  • Discounts, free delivery, special offers
  • Cheat sheets, PDFs, eBooks, reports
  • Content upgrades
  • Product or service giveaways
  • Demo version of an app, free updates
  • Access to a webinar
  • Even a free consultation!

Build an Email List (or Grow Your Existing One)

Although lead magnets (typically offered on a popup or a slide-in as illustrated above) have proven to be a great way to collect email subscribers, you shouldn’t eliminate other sources that can bring signups. It’s that plain opt-in form placed at the bottom of each page or in the sidebar. It’s your social media channels, your email signature, a floating bar, and any other idea you may come up with.

Here is a case study by Buffer showing why you should make use of all possible ways to collect emails. Their team was able to double the number of email signups when they switched from relying on slide-ups to using 9 different email capture channels including social media and floating bars.

And the best part, you don’t have to be very tech-savvy or understand coding to replicate a success story like this one. There is plenty of affordable tools to help you collect emails in different ways:

  • Creating custom popups and floating bars
  • Running contests and giveaways via email signups
  • Adding basic sidebar opt-in forms on WordPress
  • Adding an email signup tab to your Facebook profile

Choose Email Marketing Software

Making the decision about the right email marketing platform might take some time because the options are numerous, and the final choice is often quite subjective. So before recommending the most affordable yet feature-rich solutions, let’s talk about the two most important factors you should keep in mind when looking for a tool.

First, pricing. Remember that the price tag for most software will grow in alignment with your subscriber base. Some providers including MailChimp and Drip offer free plans for campaigns involving a couple of hundreds of email contacts. Others have a free trial for you to get the hang of the software. Overall, for having 1000 subscribers you may be paying as little as $15/mo (MailChimp, GetResponse) or as much as $199/mo (Infusionsoft).

Second, usability. Modern email marketing tools are developed with non-techies in mind. You’ll find a drag-n-drop newsletter builder with templates and detailed guidance on how to get started. Not all the tools are created equal though, and this is where we get back to your initial goals.

If you’re looking to start with a simple solution for sending occasional newsletters and basic automated emails, MailChimp, Aweber, and GetResponse are probably among the simplest ones. If you’re planning to build campaigns based on user interactions (triggers), apply audience segmentation and advanced automation, you may want to check out solutions like Drip, ConvertKit, and Active Campaign.

Track Results and A/B Test Your Emails

Sending out your first newsletter will be thrilling! But how do you set expectations and what do you do if they aren’t met? Two things: benchmarks and A/B tests.

Email marketing benchmarks provide average results businesses receive when they run campaigns. The main metrics you need to know are open rates and click rates. The first one indicates how many of those who received your email opened it; the second metric shows you how many of them clicked on your call-to-action.

These numbers vary drastically depending on the industry so you may want to get familiar with the stats using reliable sources like WordStream. Plus, the email marketing software you’ll choose will most probably provide additional data as well. The screenshot above shows a campaign report from MailChimp allowing you to instantly compare your results to the industry average.

Now, your numbers don’t have to be lower than average for you to be willing to increase them. After all, there is always some room for optimization, and A/B testing is probably the best tactic here.

You can test practically every element of your campaign as long as you stick to the rule of having just 1 variable per experiment. For instance, it’s well-known that a subject line directly affects open rates. Therefore, you can play around with its length, its content, and the level of personalization to find the winning combination of words (and probably emojis).

Here is what else you may want to test:

  • Sender name
  • Message preview
  • Send times
  • Email length
  • Call-to-action (CTA)
  • Creatives and overall design

Read a detailed guide on email campaign A/B testing on Yesware blog.

Wrapping Up

The amount of information on email marketing on the Internet may seem overwhelming but getting started with it is way easier than it sounds. In fact, given that there will be some trial and error path anyway, it’s probably better to start early and set your mind to thorough optimization than taking too long perfecting your first newsletter.

Are you planning to use email marketing in 2019? Or have you started experimenting already? Let us know in the comments below.