A successful inbound marketing strategy has a lot of moving parts: companies need a website that looks professional and is user-friendly, too. Then, there’s the SEO work that goes into making sure people actually find the site.
And even then, if a site doesn’t offer great content, no one’s going to stick around for very long.
However, what many companies forget when creating their inbound marketing strategies—or, at least, what they don’t give enough attention to—is how powerful email marketing can be when utilized to its full potential.
Too often, companies approach email marketing with an outbound mindset. Though outbound email marketing can be effective when used correctly, approaching email marketing from an inbound marketing mindset will be much more beneficial to customer retention, engagement, and can even increase your revenue as well.
Establish email marketing as a core tenet of your inbound email marketing strategy and you’ll be able to see the difference. Your results will speak for themselves.
The role email plays in inbound marketing
To be clear, email can be used for both inbound and outbound marketing. This sometimes causes confusion, which, in turn, keeps marketers from properly using emails for inbound strategies.
When you send emails to leads who’ve expressed interest in your products, that’s outbound marketing: you’re reaching out to meet your prospects where they are.
While email is a great way to get in touch with people for sales, sending “cold” emails to prospects who haven’t expressed an interest in you or your products is a hallmark of spammy emails. You probably don’t want your inbox cluttered with emails you haven’t asked for, and neither does your prospect.
However, when you email people who have willingly provided you with their email address, that’s inbound marketing: your prospect is coming in to reach you.
The distinction is an important one because it helps companies understand email’s role in inbound marketing, allowing you to master email marketing and tap into its full potential.
Though email can play a few different roles, all of them involve outreach. The great thing about an inbound email marketing strategy is that you can reach your market even when they’re not on your site.
For example, notice how Petco re-engages customers just by showing them previous purchases:
As you can see, social media isn’t the only resource that draws users to your site. We know the average person checks their inbox 15 times a day, so even if a lead never surfs the web once during an entire day, you can still connect with them. That is an extremely powerful advantage.
Here are three ways you can leverage email as a part of your inbound marketing strategy:
Most marketers now associate “engagement” with social media, but this term refers to all platforms. Engagement is simply any meaningful interaction that strengthens the connection a prospect has with your brand.
Email is perfect for this because:
- Goes directly to the prospect
- Provides adequate room to get your message across
- Allows for images and videos
- Offers the opportunity for your prospect to respond
Many marketers invest in this kind of engagement right before a new product launch. They’ll send numerous emails that provide helpful advice regarding a problem their new product will solve. They’ll also ask recipients to respond with any examples of their own or specific questions they have.
When done effectively, by the time the product launches, these marketers have created an army of excited prospects who can’t wait to become customers.
As we touched on earlier, content is an important pillar of inbound marketing. This is especially true for blog posts. That’s why nothing is quite as frustrating as publishing one that sees very little engagement. Pageviews are great, but a blog post that collects comments and social shares is far better.
Marketers with impressive email lists have little to worry about where their blog posts are concerned. Sure, keyword-optimization and other SEO tactics still matter for attracting traffic, especially new traffic, but one email can drive loyal subscribers to your post within minutes, ensuring your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.
Notice how The Journal uses their emails to attract readers to the blog and the shop:
When one message to your email list ensures you’ll see plenty of comments and shares on social media, sufficient attention is practically guaranteed.
Blogs are just one example; another would be reminding your list about a new YouTube video you just posted. The bigger the list, the more views you’ll get, which means more ad revenue (if you monetized the video), and a greater chance that YouTube will show it to other users.
Everyone knows you have to end a marketing email with a good CTA.
However, entire emails can function as CTAs, too.
Again, if you have a product launch coming up, you can send out an email that calls your subscribers to take action by going back to your site to place their order.
Over the years, product launch emails—which can also be used for services—have become an art form unto themselves, one that many inbound marketers have mastered to produce incredible results.
Another common example of an action-oriented email for inbound marketing purposes is to encourage subscribers to sign up for an upcoming webinar or attend an event.
Whatever action you want your list to take, a simple email can make it happen.
3 ways to implement email into your inbound marketing strategy
Now that you have a better understanding of how you can use emails to get the results you want from your inbound marketing strategy, let’s look at how to implement this channel successfully.
Here are three ways to use an inbound email marketing strategy to grow your business.
1. Convince prospects to share their emails
You can’t have an inbound email marketing strategy without email addresses. Therefore, if you’re going to follow this strategy, part of your overall inbound approach must involve a way to convince prospects to hand them over.
Many marketers include signup forms on every—or, at least, most—of the pages on their site. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, but if you want to obtain as many email addresses as possible, you’ll need to offer something in exchange.
Fortunately, your website affords countless opportunities for collecting email addresses from visitors.
One of the most common examples is through a landing page, a webpage that is 100% dedicated to a single CTA. You can draw traffic to it using SEO tactics or PPC ads. Either way, once a visitor is on your landing page, they’re asked for their email address in exchange for the offer that originally drew them to it.
You can also use your blog in a similar manner by utilizing a content upgrade. It’s almost like having a landing page at the end of a blog. When your reader gets done with it, they’re given the option to receive a content upgrade—essentially more information on the topic—in exchange for their email address.
In both cases, the key is an understanding of the fundamentals behind inbound marketing. In short, you need to provide value before you can expect results. If you don’t position your offer as being worthwhile, no one is going to visit your landing page. If your blog’s information is lackluster, no one is giving you their email address to receive more of it.
2. Segment your audience
Once you begin collecting email addresses, the temptation will be to immediately start sending those action-oriented emails we mentioned above, especially the kind that carry a sales pitch.
However, it’s important to consider the different segments among your list. Otherwise, you risk sending out a sales pitch that works on just 10% of the list and alienating everyone else.
You can begin this process with the signup form. Instead of asking for only their name and email address, you can ask for one or two other helpful pieces of information – data you can use to create segments.
After a few emails, open-rates and clickthrough rates will help you segment your list, as well. Those subscribers who are more reluctant to open your messages may need different subjects than the audience who opens every email.
The goal is to eventually create segments that not only influence your inbound email marketing strategy but the rest of your inbound approach for maximum reward.
For instance, you can use what you know about your segments to create blog posts specific to each group. Then, using those “reminder” messages described above, you can alert each segment to the posts that are most relevant to their interests.
Just look how Wayfair uses this method in their marketing. By segmenting their list according to the customer’s recent searches, they can recommend specific products:
3. Create a lead funnel
Finally, an inbound email marketing strategy involves nurturing leads until they become clients. Just like content marketing is aimed at bringing prospects back to your site again and again until they’re ready to buy, email marketing is all about the long game.
This means you need to create a lead-nurturing funnel that involves all three of the above actions across multiple touchpoints. You’ll use emails to continuously engage your audience, so your company remains top-of-mind.
As you refine your segments, you’ll send out reminders about the content that’s relevant to each one in order to get them to take specific actions. In this way, your funnel almost bounces your leads back and forth between your site and their inbox. You can involve other channels, too, like podcasts, YouTube videos, and social media pages.
The whole idea is that you’re using emails to make sure your leads never go too long without being reminded of what a helpful resource your website—and thus, your company—is to them and/or their business.
There’s no doubt about it: creating and executing a successful inbound email marketing strategy takes time, dedication, and a fair amount of patience. But with these tools in your toolbox, you have what you need to take complete control of the process.
That said, the results are absolutely worth it. Once you have a lead’s email address and as long as you adhere to other inbound marketing best practices, you should have no problem entering them into your funnel, keeping them there, and eventually turning them into happy customers.