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3 Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Email Results


Email is the most widely used communication tool in business. Yet, too many email marketing programs are on autopilot, and so-so open and clickthrough rates are often accepted as the nature of the email game today. But email can do more. And email can do better.

On September 12th, join Nora Snoddy (Director of Demand Generation Programs at Campaign Monitor) as she teaches you to break through inbox clutter and exceed audience expectations with personalized, relevant email marketing campaigns. You’ll learn: 

• Why email is still the center of the digital marketing universe

• How tools like segmentation can amp up your results long-term

• Tactical ways to prove the effectiveness of your email marketing

Can’t make it during the scheduled time? Register anyway to receive the recording afterward! 

Hi everyone, thank you so much for joining me today. My name is Nora Snoddy and I’m the Director Of Communications at Campaign Monitor. For those of you who may not be familiar with us, Campaign Monitor is an easy-to-use email marketing tool that allows every marketer to send beautiful targeted newsletters to grow their business. But why am I here today talking to you about email? It may seem like one small channel in a huge digital ecosystem. But the fact is email is a big deal. When done right, it allows you to scale what feels like a one-on-one connection and, in doing so, you are more likely to increase the impact of your message because it’s hitting the right place, the inbox, at the right time.

The inbox is a really powerful space and I think sometimes we have a tendency to think we just have to be there because everyone else is and it’s really crowded and my emails aren’t getting open. But the inbox is really powerful. I mean think about it, your messages, as a brand, are sitting side by side with messages that matter most to me. Messages from my boss, messages from my friends about when our next book club is and from brands that I really care about. Which is also probably why, 47% of marketers we polled, in our industry survey, said that email is the breadwinner for their company when it comes to generating ROI. And this has been the case for as long as I’ve worked in email marketing. The Direct Marketing Association puts out a report every year and, in that report, the ROI of email has consistently been more than double that of every other digital channel.

But here’s the kicker. Knowing that email can be such a high performer, why are so many people getting so-so results from their email marketing? You know, it’s funny, I have the opportunity to go to a handful of conferences around the country and get to speak with marketers. And I’ve taken a poll before giving this, you know, talk that’s similar to this webinar, and I’ve asked, you know, how many people are really happy with their results, how many marketers feel like they’re just getting average results, and then how many marketers are not happy at all. And it’s really interesting to me that email has all these capabilities, in terms of driving ROI, but most marketers tell me that they are just getting so-so results from their email marketing, like they think their email marketing is average. So what we find is that, while some brands are fully optimizing their email programs and getting incredible results, a lot more aren’t giving email much thought. The problem is that because email has such a low barrier to entry, it is inexpensive, it’s easy to use, should be easy to build in most platforms, that marketers often put themselves on autopilot and neglect to optimize their email strategy. In fact, in the same industry report that we put out this year, we found that 39% of marketers never personalize their emails…63% of marketers say that less than half their emails are segmented. And over half of marketers we polled aren’t even using email automation yet.

Email has the possibility to generate an unmatched ROI for your brand. But to get there, you’re going to have to focus on the right things. With a little planning, you can make a huge impact pretty quickly with email. I’m going to focus on three areas that we know, if you can nail, will yield real results. So what are they? First, we’ll dive into some great ways to create a personal experience in the inbox. Second, we’ll cover ways you should be segmenting to reach the right people with the right message. And finally, we’ll walk through the power of automating whenever and whatever you possibly can.

So let’s get started with personalization. A lot of marketers hear “email personalization,” and I’m using air quotes with email personalization, and think it’s about dropping a first name in a subject line. But I’m here to tell you that it is so much more than that. But before I do, I am going to talk through a scenario with you. So Campaign Monitor headquarters is located in Nashville, Tennessee, and Nashville is a pretty cool city, I’ve been here for about five years now. And, over the past five years, we’ve seen a lot more restaurants open, more breweries, and the one thing that I think happens when a city becomes trendier is you see more coffee shops open. So at Campaign Monitor headquarters, we have two options for coffee. The first coffee shop is very conveniently located. I go out the front door and basically it’s right next door. It’s a really cool space, they always have an awesome playlist. I walk in, I order a Cuban, it’s delicious…takes relatively little time so I’m back at my desk within five minutes. Not a bad experience, it’s overall very pleasant. Now there’s a second coffee-shop option that is a little harder for me to get to. I have to walk through support, then sales, across the road, and I end up at the second coffee shop. When I walk into the second coffee shop, I am greeted by my first name, they know that I like a triple-shot latte with skim milk, and they will text me if they have my favorite chocolate-chip banana bread.

Now, that first experience, as I mentioned, was not a bad one. The second experience just feels so much better because it’s personal, and that is going to keep me coming back every time. The same holds true for email marketing. The brand that creates the best most personalized experience will win the inbox every time. Personalization also works, 86% of consumers say that personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions. Personalization works because you’re putting the focus of your message right where it should be, on the subscriber and not your brand. You’re taking the data you collected and using it to anticipate what content your subscriber would like to receive from you.

So let’s dive into an example here. We’re looking at a B2B example, and this was sent to me probably six months ago. So this subject line, we talked about using…personalization is more than just a first name in a subject line, this is a great example. So this email immediately caught my attention in the inbox, which is pretty impressive, the subject line says, “Nora, did Karen expect you to boost MQLs 200% in about two months?” There were a few things that resonated with me, yes, it had my first name. It also, at the time, had my boss’s name, Karen, and MQLs were a key KPI to my role when I received this email. So they got me to open it, that’s a big deal. I skim the email, I see my first name again, my old job title, my boss’s name again…all elements of personalization. This email missed the mark for me however, I did not engage, I did not set up a 15-minute chat because it was not clear to me the value that I was getting in engaging with this email. So while it has all these elements of personalization, the one thing that it’s missing to really make an email feel personal is providing value that is relevant. I was not clear of the value that I was going to get from that 15-minute chat, so I did not engage with this email and it missed the mark for me just a little bit. But it did capture my attention which is a great start.

Here’s another example from our friend Jay Baer. These two emails are asking for the same thing, an NPS score. The first email was one he got after a hotel stay at the MGM Grand. There’s a first name in there but, otherwise, it’s pretty impersonal. The second was one his wife got after ordering from a food truck. Same ask, just much more personal. They included a first name, a photo of the chef, and even the specific items that were ordered. Which one do you think actually got a response? Well, it was the one from Chef Tim. Those elements of personalization went a long way in encouraging your subscriber to engage with the mailing.

Another great example of personalization comes from our friends at Texas A&M, this is one of my favorite email series. These emails were sent from the Texas A&M Foundation, they operate a call center that reaches out to alumni for donations. When someone declines to give and references a specific reason, they segment their list by that reason and send some of these alumni heartfelt-tailored messages. If they’re moving, the recipient gets an invitation to their new local alumni chapter. If they are having a baby, they send a congratulatory note. And if their alumni was between jobs, they receive a link to some career services that may be helpful. All of these emails feel really personal because they are relevant and they are providing value to their subscribers. These emails also perform really well. On average, these emails receive a 60% open rate. Plus, they help maintain a connection with the alumni that may decide to give later down the road.

Remember, personalization is more than just using a first name. You want to make sure that you are using the data you have to make your email feel more like a human interaction. It’s all about providing value. Lastly, don’t cross the line into creepy territory. Just because you know something about your subscriber doesn’t mean you have to bring it up in your email. A good rule of thumb, if it would be weird to bring it up in a conversation, it’s probably weird to bring it up in email.

Okay, let’s dive on in to segmentation. I often hear marketers tell themselves the same lies, sometimes including myself, “If my emails aren’t doing well, it’s because my audience is too busy.” We also tend to say the same things about our social posts, our blog content, you know, anything and everything. Sometimes we just think our audience is too busy and that’s why they’re not engaging with our content. While nobody is out there begging for more email, I am willing to bet there are a few brands you always pay attention to. For me, West Elm, Lululemon, those are some of my favorites, I open them…and Madewell, open them every single time. And that’s because they’re serving-up content offers and invitations that are all relevant to me. Relevancy creates time and attention, and segmentation is how you’re going to get there.

Here’s a really simple but effective way to begin segmenting. You can use demographic information like location. So we’re looking at an example from The Escape Game. And they decided that they wanted to send an email that was segmented to people that had played the game at one of their locations in the past. They found it was a lot easier to get a current customer, someone who had come in and played a game, it’s easier to get them to come in for a second time than it is to acquire a net-new customer. So they wanted to make sure that they were sending very relevant and targeted emails to their customers that had been in one of their locations before. So they were sending these emails based on where you played the game. So I played in the Nashville location, along with the rest of the marketing team here, so I would receive the email relevant to Nashville. This is very simple but it’s very effective. I open up that email, that image above the fold captures my attention with something that’s relevant to me. I may not even notice it. I go through, I book now and the landing page is also going to be Nashville specific. The Escape Game and companies that do this are actually telling their customers, “We pay attention to how you spend your money with us and we want to get you the information that matters most to you.” As I mentioned, it’s really simple but it makes a huge difference.

Segmentation can also help you micro target really specific groups of consumers. So this is an example of segmentation based on purchase history. So the Patina Restaurant Group sent this email to 80 people who had previously purchased oysters. It was a small list but 12 customers actually redeemed the offer, which meant they came into the restaurant and spent more money, which is a great adoption rate. Sending to a small group of subscribers can be really scary because, you know, an email does take a while to build and you wanna make sure it’s perfect in all that testing that goes into it, but it can be really effective. Using micro targeting, you can also test promotions and offers with a small group before rolling it out to your larger customer base.

Let’s say you don’t have the information you need to segment in the ways that make sense for your brand, just ask. Most people are willing to part with personal information if it means getting offers and content that are tailored to their interests. This is a great example of that. The Dessy Group is doing a ton of things right in this email. I wanna point out some design tactics that I think are relevant. So, right above the fold, they’re asking, “Have we got it right?” It is really clear what the objective of their email is. As marketers, it is our job to make it as easy as possible for our customers. So they’re leading them with three eye-caching images above the fold. As I mentioned, a lot of people scan their emails, so you wanna make sure you’re serving up that relevant content as soon as someone opens an email. There are three very clear CTAs that are also easily tappable on a mobile device. So not only are they sending an email, you know, trying to build segments in order to send more relevant content to their subscribers, they’re doing it in a very well-designed way that’s going to be very effective. There are a ton of different ways that you can segment, so get creative and really think about what makes sense for your industry, your brand, and your audience.

Finally, automation. Automation is a tool that’s going to help you scale your email efforts but not many marketers are actually using it in their programs. As I mentioned earlier, you know, I’ve the opportunity to go to various conferences and chat with marketers. When I ask, “What comes to mind when you think about automation, as it’s related to email marketing?” Sometimes people say, you know, “Impersonal, intimidating, time-consuming, not being authentic, transactional.” So it’s really interesting to hear what marketers have to say about automation. I personally think that the word automation, you know, feels a little scary, it feels intimidated, you know, “Where do you start automating?” And that’s what I’m gonna talk through today, I’m gonna talk about three ways that you can start using automation today. Automation’s very important, not only is it going to help you outgrow your competition, which everybody wants to do, but it’s also going to help you scale as I mentioned. We talked about being personal and providing value and segmentation and providing relevant experiences in the inbox, you cannot do that at scale without automation.

Here are three types of emails every marketer should be automating, and I’m gonna walk you through an example of each type. My hope is that you just take one of these, after this webinar, and test and see if it works for you. This is a great place to start with automation. Okay. So we’re gonna start right at the beginning and that is with your welcome email. If you are not already sending one of these, it’s time, these are one of the emails with the highest open rate and that’s because people expect to receive them. These emails are also going to help you boost long-term brand loyalty, if you can get it right. We loved this one, from the Tennessee Titans, what they’re doing really well here is they are referencing exactly where the subscriber came from. In this example, it’s an in-person event. It’s helping continue that connection from the event into the inbox and will help create context for your subscriber. I mean your subscriber’s inbox probably has a lot going on, so when you can provide that context, it’s really effective. It’s going to set you up for a better long-lasting relationship with your subscribers. So this email just takes that welcome note, you know, the basic items and elements that you need in there and takes it a step further.

So if you are sending a welcome email, that is great. We also recommend sending a welcome series or, what we like to call, an extended hello. And I’m going to walk through an example of Bloomingdale’s actual welcome series. It’s interesting to see the similarities between a lot of brands, a lot of them seem to follow this formula that we like to use here at Campaign Monitor for a welcome series. Each email, in this series, serves a specific purpose, and that’s really important. Your new subscriber should not be receiving the same email as subscribers who have been on your list for two years, it’s really important to focus on building that relationship. So I’m gonna use this series to talk through what should be included in each of these four emails. So to start with the first email, that was that welcome note, the most opened email that we just looked at from the Tennessee Titans. There are three key elements to this email. First, they’re saying thank you for signing up, that’s really important, your subscriber just gave you a really valuable piece of information and is letting you into the inbox, that really personal space, so you want to acknowledge that either with a thank you or a welcome. Next, they are making the promise made at signup, whatever that offer was, they’re making it easily accessible, that’s really important. As you can see, they actually put the promo code there for you. Whatever that offer may have been at signup, you know, that offer that you use to entice your customer or prospect to sign up for your email list, you wanna make sure that that is as easily accessible as possible in this first email. As I mentioned, as marketers, it is our job to make this as simple as possible for our customers.

The last thing I wanna talk about is the design element of this email. It is short and sweet. You do not wanna be overbearing, in this first email, this is not the time to tell your new subscriber all about yourself. It’s, you know, a welcome series and email marketing, in general, it’s like building a relationship, you don’t wanna come off too strong off the bat. So keep it as short and sweet as possible, there is plenty of time to tell your new subscriber about yourself.

So email number two, this is where you can talk a little bit more about yourself. The goal of this email is to build that emotional connection with your subscriber and explain the why of your brand. So, in this particular example, Bloomingdale’s is using their company history to help build that relationship with their new subscriber. You could also talk about your company’s mission, your values, that is a creative way to tell your subscriber a little bit more about yourself. This email is also very well-designed, it was a nice experience to scroll through on a mobile device. If you are a B2B company and you do not have a fun history or mission statement to talk about, one thing you may want to consider is using social proof, in the second email, to build that connection with your subscriber. Social proof is very effective. People trust other people. There’s also a stat that speaks to how using social proof is likely to lead to larger purchasing decisions down the road. So email two is all about building that connection with your new subscriber, either through your company history, your mission, speaking to your values, or using social proof to tell your subscriber a little bit more about yourself.

Email three is all about providing value to your new subscriber. So whether it be informing them of the perks that they have, now that they’re a part of your email community, informing them of the resources that they may have available from being a new customer, this is all about making that information known. You want to tell your subscriber all the benefits they have for being a part of your email list or a part of your company.

Email four is when you can ask for more. You can ask your new subscriber to make a purchase, you can ask them to sign up for a demo, you can ask them to speak to a consultant. Whatever it may be, this is where you have earned the right to ask your subscriber to do a little more. And they’re also more likely to engage because you have spent time building that relationship, you’ve welcomed them, you’ve told them a little bit about yourself, you’ve given them some additional resources. Now you can ask for more, your subscriber’s more likely to engage with that ask at this point in time. If you had moved this email to where the first one is, I can guarantee you probably wouldn’t get a lot of engagement.

So a welcome series is one way that you can use segmentation…not segmentation, excuse me, automation. But automation goes beyond your welcome series. So let’s take a look at an example from Backyard Burgers, this is their birthday email. They are doing a lot of great things here, it is segmented, personal, and engaging. Along with a welcome, after sign up, it is important to automate messages to your base of subscribers for key dates like birthdays and anniversaries, to show that you are thinking of them and promote loyalty over time. As we talked about in personalization, it works because you are putting the focus on your subscriber, not your brand, this is another example of that and why this is so effective. This email, on average, gets a 40% open rate. I think the stat that is more impressive is birthday emails can lift conversion rates by 60% over non-birthday email messages. So because you sent me an email on a day that matters most to me, I am 60% more likely to go into your store, into your restaurant, whatever it may be, and use that offer because it was sent on a date that matters most to me. It’s really effective.

Okay, finally, we are gonna talk about behavior-based automation, this is really powerful stuff. So this is an example…my colleague Mackenzie was recently surfing around the Starbucks website, specifically the cold brew section, and a few days later, she got this email. While it may have been just a coincidence, there’s a good chance it wasn’t, smart retailers like Starbucks know that automating messages based on website-browsing history is a great way to serve up content that they know their subscribers are already interested in. As I talked about earlier, one of my favorite emails are from West Elm. And I’ve been in the process of redecorating and I can tell you that, every day, I wake up to a new email from West Elm telling me what else I may like in addition to what I was looking at the day before. And both West Elm and Starbucks are also doing something very nice, they’re giving you a promo code to encourage you to make that purchase. It is really effective.

Another way you can automate based on behavior is inside the inbox. So this is also from Mackenzie. This was an email that she got from Help Scout. They are a customer-service platform whose content we love here at Campaign Monitor. She clicked on the section in their newsletter about best practices for a live-chat support, then received this video series a few days later. It’s on that same topic because they knew that she was interested in it. No matter what triggers you are using, automation is the absolute best way to serve up timely content at scale.

So this is all well and good but you need to be able to measure the success of these tactics. It’s important to understand what and how you should be measuring. So I’m going to talk about two things I want you to keep in mind as it relates to measurement. The first is go beyond the vanity metrics. In the email world, we tend to obsess over opens and clicks. And yes, that can be a great early indicator of whether or not a mailing was successful but it cannot be the only thing that you look at. Second, benchmarks. They’re helpful, so look at them once and then ignore them. What is more important is to look at what your business objectives are, what are you trying to do as a marketing organization, how is email supporting that, and then build those KPIs based on that. Take your averages, from mailings in the past, and use that to set benchmarks against your email program.

So, as I mentioned, it’s really important for you to determine your own benchmarks and not use industry averages. Another thing I want you to keep in mind is, when you are tracking your results and measuring, you need to consider all the factors associated with that email. So that one example from the Patina Restaurant Group where it was sent to 80 subscribers, that is going to have a much different engagement rate than an email sent to a larger audience, you need to consider all of that. What’s also really important is to always be testing in email. In an email, one of the tricky things is you can test virtually everything, from the sender name to the button color, to the CTA. What’s really important is that you just test one thing at a time so you know that that is the variable that’s making a difference.

So that is all I have for you guys today. We did have some questions come in during the webinar, that I am going to answer. So the first one here is, “My boss wanted us to conduct an A/B test on an email and on a landing page at the same time but I don’t think that’s within best practices to do so. What do you think?” You are 100% right. You do not, as I mentioned, you do not want to be testing multiple things at the same time, you’re never gonna know what the variable was that is making an impact. And it’s really important to have those learnings to then take and use as you continue to build your email strategy throughout the year.

“Have we really come down to GIFs, or GIFs, in an email to get a customer’s attention? Is this something customers love or is it something marketers want them to love?” Okay, so that’s a good one. It really depends, and I know that’s the worst answer to give, everyone hates that, but it does really depend. It depends a lot on your brand. The only way to know is to test. You might wanna think about taking a smaller segment of your audience and testing to see if your subscribers engage with that type of content.

Okay, the next one coming through here is, “If we only capture email addresses at sign up, how can we start segmenting by things like location?” As I mentioned, you know, that we went through that example from The Dessy Group, and they just asked. It is okay to just ask for that information over time, one thing that you wanna think about when you’re capturing email addresses is you wanna have as little fields as possible, so think about what data you need right then and there. Do you need geographic location? Do you need a job title? Then it’s okay to ask if you are gonna use that information right off the bat. If not, it’s important to build that relationship and, as you’re building that relationship, then you can ask for more information. Your subscriber’s more likely to give it to you then once you’ve established that email relationship with your new subscriber.

Okay. So I think that’s it for me today. Thank you for taking the time to listen to this webinar, I hope everybody was able to take something from it. And you could use it in your email programs today to start seeing better results. Thanks again and have a great rest of your day.

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