This post has been updated as of May 2019
“Email blasts” was a long-used term for sending a mass email to every subscriber on your list. It’s now mostly a thing of the past, due to a greater demand for personalized messaging that engages subscribers.
But sending personalized messages to each subscriber can seem challenging. How do you send the right message to the right person at the right time?
We recently surveyed marketers about what their goals and challenges were for their email marketing strategies. Increasing customer engagement rates was the most important goal for 58% of marketers and the most significant barrier for 44% of marketers.
These statistics are eye-opening when it comes to the significance of customer engagement and the importance of overcoming this challenge.
In this post, we’ll share six insanely effective tactics you can begin using today to engage your email subscribers.
1. Create dynamic and storytelling content
Content that engages in storytelling and inspires its readers provides a unique value to their online experience. And, when creating email campaigns, it’s important to include relevant content that relates to your brand’s message and the interests of your subscribers.
One of the best ways to do this is through creating an email newsletter that’s rich with value-add content, including news, customer success stories, tips, and more. According to Forbes, millennials no longer become engaged through pure ads—people expect more from brands and online content.
Catrinel Bartolomeu, Head of Editorial at Duarte, put it best when she wrote, “We’re wired for well-told narratives…even though credibility counts for a lot, you ultimately must make an audience feel things to compel action.”
Connecting with your subscribers in a personal way through interesting content can encourage them to convert into customers and explore your products.
An example of engaging content is OkCupid’s article, A Dictionary for the Modern Dater. OkCupid appealed to its customers by helping them navigate through the different dating terms people use today in the confusing world of online dating. This dictionary is both humorous and slightly risque for a brand—it doesn’t directly promote OkCupid or appear as an ad. Instead, it works to connect with its readers.
When a brand is able to connect with their audiences on a personal level, they’re able to build a long-lasting relationship and drive customer acquisition and conversion.
2. Use powerful subject lines
Inboxes are constantly flooded with personal, professional, and promotional emails each day. While we sift through our inboxes, deciding which emails to open and which ones to skip over or delete, we usually make these decisions based on the subject lines we see at first glance.
It’s crucial to create subject lines that appeal to your readers and lead to higher engagement rates. Strong subject lines are short, descriptive, and promising. You can explore different styles, like informational, personal, clever, how-to, etc.
3. Create polished email designs
If an email is difficult to consume, chances are that a reader will stop engaging with it. Having a clear, crisp, and creative email design is essential to customer engagement, and using eye-catching and relevant images with short blocks of copy will encourage customers to read through the entire email.
It’s not only important to have a strong desktop email design; you also need to make sure that your newsletters are easily adaptable to mobile. In 2016, over 68% of emails were opened on a mobile device. Using responsive design for mobile is crucial to grabbing your reader’s attention in an engaging way.
4. Personalize your emails
When we surveyed marketers, we found that improving email personalization was the number one goal for 38% of marketers and was also the number one challenge for 36% of marketers. Marketing automation, segmented lists, and third party integrations make email personalization easier and more effective.
Your readers want content that’s most relevant to them and their interests. Adding their name in the subject line is a great start, but there are even more ways to engage in a personal way. They want to feel as though you understand who they are.
Using segmented lists can enable you to create personalized and targeted email campaigns across different demographics. Through using accurate data, you can send individualized email messaging and behavior-triggered emails as a way to improve your email personalization.
5. Segment your email lists
Emails with personalized subject lines generate a 760% increase in email revenue. Segmenting your target lists allows you to personalize emails and connect with your audiences in a powerful way. Information that’s relevant to one customer might not be relevant to another, so personalizing emails based on targeted lists will improve your email engagement rates.
One of the best ways to effectively segment your lists is through capturing data about your customers in a signup form. You can gather information from subscribers like geographic location, gender, marital status, profession, age, and interests. You can also segment lists based on their buyer’s journey or recent email activity. For example, you can send every new customer a welcome email, and send dedicated customers VIP email content.
After developing segmented lists, create separate email campaigns that are most relevant to each list and their interests. This increases the relevancy and personalization of each email you send, which, in turn, can increase your ROI.
What about some of the other ways you can segment your email list? You’ve learned about buyer’s journey and email activity, but what about landing page activity? Sometimes the journey starts well before a person is a customer. Potential customers could be browsing your product pages, about page, or contact page for more information.
Segmentation by user behavior, not just customer journey, is an effective way to segment your list. What about those people who only stop in for special occasions? How about those who use your site more than others? Each group has potential for email engagement.
If you see users with low usage rates, for example, it may be a perfect opportunity to send out re-engagement emails to engage inactive customers. You can also help those in a readiness stage right before a purchase to complete the necessary steps forward.
As far as personal traits go, there are some other options outside of the ones mentioned above. For example, rather than just segmenting people by their profession, you can create bigger and more general segments by targeting industry.
This lets you make broader emails that can reach more people and help you determine which industry segments are your most profitable ones. For example, open rates are different, depending on the industry, so subscription data and other engagement metrics could show similar disparities.
Source: IBM/Watson Marketing
Take the first category. Within it, there may be drivers, mechanics, logistics managers, and many other unique positions. Having them in the same segment provides some targeting advantages that aren’t there when separated.
When talking about subscriber engagement, length of subscription also plays a huge role. For example, new subscribers may appreciate a little insight into what your brand is all about. Since your subscriber is new, they may need more information that your existing subscribers wouldn’t.
Take a look at how Lululemon does it. Not only do they provide a warm welcome, but the company lets newcomers know how many emails they can expect, while also providing a handy link to their blog—just in case the subscriber is looking for more content.
Remember, re-engagement emails aren’t just used to engage inactive customers. They can also do the same for inactive subscribers. Your email list can do a lot for your brand that doesn’t involve making a purchase. Downloading eBooks, filling out surveys, even clicking through on calls to action, and checking out new pages are all actions you can encourage.
Email engagement requires creativity. Sometimes you may need to be a bit broader with your segments. And, in some cases, you’ll need to adapt your send frequency for some groups but not others.
However you segment your list, you open yourself up for new opportunities. Even if you’re going by some of the lesser-known segmentation practices, you can still get good results and sometimes even push your metrics further than expected.
6. Use email marketing automation
In order to create segmented lists, send out targeted email campaigns, and measure their effectiveness, you need to have a reliable email marketing automation tool in place. Marketing automation allows you to nurture leads through customer journeys and convert them into customers.
These tools allow you to implement workflows and send out both timely and consistent targeted email campaigns that are relevant to your subscribers. Analytics show you what’s working and what isn’t. With these tools, you’re able to see which email campaigns perform the best across your different segmented lists, as well as which content your subscribers care about the most.
You can create customer profiles, A/B test different subject lines, measure email conversions, monitor open and click rates, as well as increase your overall ROI through using marketing automation. Having these tools in place makes it easier to create longer-lasting engagement with your dedicated subscribers, while also engaging with your new ones.
An effective email marketing automation tool will allow you to focus your time on engaging with your customers using the tactics discussed here, while measuring how each tactic is impacting your overall engagement rate.
Customer engagement is crucial to customer acquisition and customer retention but it can serve as a huge challenge when you don’t fully understand who your customers are, what they care about the most, or how you can connect with them at scale.
You can break down the barriers that 44% of marketers said they face when looking to increase overall customer engagement through using the right content, design, email personalization, segmented lists, and email marketing automation.
Once you start using these tactics, remember to constantly re-evaluate each one—your customer journeys and customer profiles may change over time. As their needs and interests evolve, your content and email engagement tactics will need to evolve along with them.
If re-engagement is the goal, even as things change, stick with a strategy that’s always proven to be effective: dynamic content.
Learn how to use it to boost your engagement to higher levels and keep your audience happy.
This post was originally published in January 2017