How to Plan a Successful Email Marketing Strategy in 2017

Many small business owners believe that email marketing is old-school now. The thinking is that if President Obama could create the first POTUS Twitter account in 2015 with zero fans and leave office two years later with more than 80 million followers, why bother with an archaic system like email, right?
In 2015 more than 205 billion emails were sent — and this number is expected to increase to 246 billion by the end of 2019. And according to research, email delivers the best ROI for marketing: for each $1 spent, the average ROI is $38.
Clearly this method of communication is here to stay.
If implemented properly, an email marketing strategy will gain you new customers in 2017 and dramatically increase repeat sales too. The key is getting a solid, easy-to-manage plan in place.
Here are 5 tactics to keep in mind when planning your email marketing strategy.

How to Plan a Successful Email Marketing Strategy

1. Start With Great Content

When creating your email marketing campaign, lose the hard-sell attitude. One Canadian boutique hotel chain used email marketing to showcase their “extras,” like on-site dining and shopping, rather than only focusing on their accommodations. The result was an uptick in dining reservations with more than 100 requests from a single email. The chain also saw a 20 percent increase in store sales and a more than 60 percent increase in new subscribers.
There are a couple keys to getting people to open your emails.

  • Create a compelling subject line that doesn’t sound like spam. To do this, you could mention a problem that your potential customer or client might have that you can solve, offer something of value, or simply make them smile.
  • Personalize the email. This means addressing each recipient by name rather than “Dear Valued Customer” and sending relevant emails. In other words, don’t send an email about denture cream to 25 year olds.
  • Write an attention-grabbing hook. The body of the email should be captivating, too, of course, but without a great hook in your opening line, few people will read the whole thing. Make your emails something that your subscribers look forward to reading!
  • Include your contact details in the email signature. As opposed to signing it “The Team” or “Brand Awesome,” personalize even the email signature to earn your subscribers’ trust.

Not sure how to get started? You don’t have to invest thousands of dollars to get the help you need to create award-winning content that eventually drives sales. You can get a free 60-day trial at Constant Contact that gives you access to planning strategies, great ideas on creating a multi-part sales promotion, and other tips and tricks to increase subscriptions and grow your mailing list.

2. Build Relationships

Email marketing campaigns allow you to announce new products, invite subscribers to invitation-only sales, and introduce prospects to your brand. Rather than simply trying to get a sale out of each email, focus on developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with your customers.
One way to do this is to use a proper email address so that your email readers can actually reply to you. In a world of addresses, you’ll stand out from the crowd by appearing authentic, caring and reachable.
Another way to build relationships in your email marketing strategy is to offer something of value to loyal customers rather than always asking them to spend more money. For example, send customers a free gift on their birthday or a substantial discount coupon after a certain number of purchases. For those who haven’t yet become customers, offer free shipping or a two-for-one discount on their first purchase, along with a money-back guarantee.

3. A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

One of the most successful email campaigns that HubSpot showcased in 2016 was the email strategy used by the nonprofit Charity: Water to keep donors informed about the impact their funding had made on the project.
With embedded visuals — project timeline and an explanatory table — email recipients didn’t even have to read the words to understand the message. Infographics, photos, linked video clips, and other visual elements respect your subscribers’ time. And that tells readers that you care more about them than your revenue.

4. End With a Strong CTA

You’ve probably heard a thousand times that the call-to-action button is vital, but it’s worth repeating. If your email readers don’t read an instruction that tells them to do something, they probably won’t.
Always include a link to your e-commerce store or website, but avoid the standard “click here” wording. Offer them something of value in the CTA: “Explore our product gallery to see which plan is best for you.” Or: “Start my free 30-day trial now.”

5. Never Take No as a Definite Break Up

You should always honor those dreaded “unsubscribe requests,” but on the other hand, you don’t have to slink away without offering a chance to repair whatever damage caused the rift.
HULU won a coveted 2016 Webby Award for its “Thanks for Canceling” email. 
Not only was it entertaining, but rather than burn any bridges, HULU explained how the company had learned from the cancellation and offered the user a free one-week trial of another, better plan.

Your Email Marketing Checklist

Now that you have an email marketing strategy, here’s how to implement it.

Segment the Emails

According to HubSpot, segmenting your lists (or targeting your emails) results in higher open rates, revenue, leads, transactions, and more customers.

Send at the Right Time

The timing of your emails has a lot to do with better open rates. Studies show that Tuesdays have the highest open and click-through rates; weekends have the lowest.

Optimize for Mobile

More than 50 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, so be sure to optimize for these smaller screens.

Automate the Campaign

Automating your emails means automatically sending “trigger” emails based on specific actions from the customer. Think of welcome, thank you, and order confirmation emails. Open rates for these kinds of emails can be as high as 55 percent. Learn more about using automated emails in this short Constant Contact video.
The hardest part of email marketing is getting started. Once you have a strategy in place, the rest is relatively easy. Of course, if you’re just starting your business, your first step should be building a healthy subscriber list. The OptinMonster plugin for WordPress can help.

Megan Hendrickson

Megan Hendrickson is the content manager at Bluehost. She draws on more than a decade of editorial experience — and a stint at one of the nation’s top business schools — to write about tech, small business, and marketing for the Bluehost blog.

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