With each business, customer wants and needs vary. However, these six steps to creating an email marketing campaign promote engagement across the board.

Crafting an effective email marketing campaign can produce big results for your small business, but you can’t expect to attract and retain customers without the right message, links, contact list or timing.

By planning carefully and following best practices, your marketing emails stand a better chance of getting viewed and acted upon.

Create a call to action.

The most important component of any marketing email is the call to action (CTA), which is the part that encourages readers to engage and take the next step. Examples of CTAs include “Click here to get 20% off,” or “Download our latest report.”

“An effective CTA amplifies the value of proceeding, not the act of proceeding itself. Its goal is to speak to a problem and provide the solution,” said Ari Saposh, senior vice president of Data and Strategic Partnerships for Bridge Corporation, a digital marketing agency. “Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think of a problem they have. Then solve that problem in the same phrase.”

Based on what that customer needs or wants, the CTA may be different.

“It’s a clear, concise prompt to the next step toward conversion,” said William F. Humphrey, Jr., assistant professor of marketing at Florida International University College of Business (FIU Business). “Depending on the product, it may not be ‘buy now.’ Some products or services will have milestone or micro conversions; and studying the buyer journey will uncover them.”

The most effective CTA “gives your target a reason to act while creating a sense of urgency,” said Ryan Goff, chief marketing officer for MGH, Inc., “such as ‘Redeem this code within the next hour to save an extra 10%.’”

Create a landing page to increase optimization.

The links in your CTA should, once clicked on, take your customer to a carefully designed landing page.

“An effective landing page acts as an extension of the email that continues the flow of the conversation and drives them to a conversion,” said Saposh.

Your landing page is also a great place to highlight your CTA.

“For instance, we encourage our targets to subscribe to our blog using a landing page,” said Jaime Eschette, marketing director at marketing and communications agency EvansHardy+Young, who recommended using landing page tools offered by Mailchimp, Hubspot, SharpSpring and others. “Landing pages help make conversions seamless for your customers. They should be 100% focused on what your top goal is—whether it be a sale, subscription, webinar registration, or content download.”

To optimize your landing page, make sure the message is clear and easy to understand, Saposh said. People will disengage if there are too many action points going on. Make your landing page easy to navigate, too. If your goal is for them to fill out a form, just have the landing page be the form itself, he said.

Additionally, your landing page should have tracking codes for analytics so that conversions can be measured.

Segment your audience.

Measuring your CTA and landing page clicks is equally crucial. This metric, called click-through rate (CTR), is defined as the ratio of how many people clicked on a link in an email compared to how many merely opened the email.

“CTR measures the effectiveness of your message and is a reflection of proper audience insight. If you know your audience’s behaviors and patterns, you can effectively curate a message that encourages higher CTRs,” said Saposh.

Saposh’s formula for CTR success is simple:

audience insight + curated message = higher CTR

To improve your CTR, he recommends:

  • properly segmenting your audience to optimize performance;
  • utilizing dynamic content to personalize your email; and
  • creating a subject line that makes a great first impression.

“There are a lot of factors that can impact your CTR,” Eschette told CO—. “First, did they open your email to begin with? If not, you need to work on your email subject line and preview text. If they did open it and didn’t take an action, are you sure your messaging was on point? Did you make your CTA clear and easy for them to find?”

Since every brand and list is different, it's wise to test your campaigns to find out when your audience responds best.

Jaime Eschette, marketing director, EvansHardy+Young

Write great content.

The heart of your email is the message itself—the actual words you compose. Writing an effective email message is an art unto itself, but any marketer with decent writing savvy can pull this off.

“The key is to be relevant and helpful to your audience. Find out what works for your audience and start building your content to address the needs most important to them,” Eschette said.

Most agree that a brief message is best.

“Shorten your copy, and then shorten it some more. Your customers are inundated with emails, texts, and social media posts every hour. If it's too wordy, consumers will quickly move on to something more rewarding,” said Goff.

Pick the best day to send your email.

Timing your email delivery for maximum exposure is vital, too.

“Since every brand and list is different, it's wise to test your campaigns to find out when your audience responds best for each type of message you’re sending,” said Eschette.

When in doubt, Tuesday mornings around 8:30 a.m. are ideal. If you miss this window, then Tuesday evening, Thursday morning or Thursday evening are your next best bets, said Eschette. Wednesday is your third option. Most marketers stay away from Monday and Friday to avoid the beginning of the week rush and the end-of-week early checkout, he said.

If you’re running a B2B campaign, it might be best to mail out your message on weekdays either between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., or 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. This is because most people are likely to check their emails either before work or after work while relaxing at home, Saposh said.

Start with clean data.

Ensuring that your email gets distributed properly involves three major components: data, consistency, and content.

“Make sure you know the source of your data, take steps to verify and clean your data, and regularly analyze data behaviors,” Saposh said. You also need to build up an email reputation among internet service providers (ISPs) by demonstrating consistency with your email deployments and user engagement. If you send too many marketing emails, your audience will engage negatively, damaging your reputation. Send too little and your customers won’t engage at all and ISPs won’t allow you to establish a reputation. You need to gradually build up your sending volume to properly establish your reputation.

Lastly, focus on your content by enticing the user to interact with your email while playing by ISP rules.

“That means making sure that you own the domain you’re sending from, the subject line is not misleading or malicious, the messaging of your content is clear and direct, and you are compliant with CAN-SPAM, GDPR and COPPA rules,” said Saposh.

Having a clean distribution list with bona fide customers and prospects “helps ensure that your audience is engaging with your emails and not relegating them to their spam folder,” Eschette said.

You can build your recipient list from opt-in, purchased or rented contacts, said Saposh.

  • Opt-in means that the individual has voluntarily provided their contact information and requested to receive your emails either signing up on your website, following an event or after an e-commerce transaction.
  • Purchased is where you work with either a data broker or email contact list provider and buy a list, which allows you to more easily target a specific demographic or your competitor’s audience that you might not have in your current audience.
  • Rented is similar to purchased, except you do not own the data—it is single-use or temporary. With rented lists, you typically provide the content of your email to a list provider and they send it on your behalf.

For more on creating an email marketing campaign, see How To Setup and Run an Email Campaign.

CO— does not review or recommend products or services. For more information on choosing the best email marketing services, visit our friends at business.com.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published March 27, 2019