Email is a critical element of any B2B marketing program because it enables you to communicate with your customers and prospects on a schedule that you control. In addition, if you grow your email list over time, it can become a strategic asset that can help you grow your business. And, don’t forget that costs per-person emailed actually decreases as your list gets larger. Like any marketing technology, email marketing platforms very widely in their features and usability. Here are some tips to select the right email marketing platform for your organization.
Step 1: Define your needs
First, create a spreadsheet that summarizes your team’s wish list of features and functionality. Next, rate each feature on a scale of 1 to 5, where five is essential and one is optional. Use this list to reach consensus with your team on its must-have features. Important features to look for include these:
Personalization. Personalized emails almost always perform better than those that are not. Look for email service providers that enable you to personalize subject lines as well as the body of the message.
A/B testing. You can never be sure what your audience will respond to. That’s why you need to run experiments with your emails. The concept behind A/B testing is simple: Create two variations of a headline, call-to-action button or other page element and send them to a sub-set of your list (e.g., 500 people each). Then, see which one performs best. Once you declare the winner, send that version to the rest of your list.
Performance tracking. To what extent can you track audience interaction with your emails? You not only need to track message open rates, but also click throughs for each of the links within each message.
Templates. How easy is it to set up templates within the email platform? Does the email platform vendor need to create the templates for you, and at what cost? You’ll want a lot of flexibility here, especially as you segment your list. Be sure you can customize templates with your organization’s branding requirements.
Deliverability. Before selecting an email platform, make sure you ask about these features, which can enhance the deliverability of your messages:
- DNS, SKF and DKIM certifications help receiving mail servers verify the authenticity of your messages, which helps improve deliverability. Your email provider should be able to help you create these settings on your server.
- Ask if the provider “seeds” client lists with email addresses, so it can verify the deliverability of each of them and can identify any problems before they become major issues.
- Ask if your messages will be sent out from a shared IP or via a dedicated IP address. If it’s the former, you have little control over the reputation of that IP address. If another client is spamming its lists, your deliverability could suffer. With a dedicated IP address, you will be the only domain sending email over it, which improves your reputation and therefore your deliverability.
On boarding. What resources does the email platform provide to help you move your email lists over to their platform? Do they offer training or live support to help you solve common problems?
Support options. How quickly can you reach someone to help you solve a problem when it occurs? You should have the option of working with a human being when you run into big problems that need to be solved immediately, whether by phone or live online chat.
Step 2: Evaluate email platforms
Open your wish list of rated features and add columns to the right for each of the email platforms you are considering. Once again, rate each feature on a numerical scale based on the extent to which it supports the functionality you need.
Step 3: Trial use
Once you’ve identified one or two email platforms that appear to be a good fit, request a trial use. You need to determine how well each tool fits into your workflow before you make a final decision.
Step 4: Selection and implementation
Select the email platform that is the best fit for your company. Import your lists and set up your templates. Then, you’re ready to go. Good luck with your new email platform!
Would you stack bagfuls of cash into a crude pyramid, and then set it on fire? Of course not! That would be stupid, and you’re not stupid, so you’re not going to ignore inefficiencies in your content marketing initiative, are you?
Here are five areas that are especially problematic:
1. You’re producing content, but it’s campaign focused
Campaign thinking is deeply embedded in the minds of most marketers, which is why it’s so hard to escape. Campaigns, which can last anywhere from several weeks to several months, tend to confuse today’s buyers. They love the advice you’re giving them on a timely, valuable topic, but then you suddenly move on to something completely different as you transition to the next campaign.
And… you’ve lost them.
2. Failure to cut through the clutter
Your target audience is swamped with messages which all sound the same. “Blah, blah, blah…” (cue eye roll and tune out). Why should they pay attention to yours? To stick out like a sore thumb, your content must have what Joe Pulizzi, author of Content Inc. and the founder of the Content Marketing Institute, calls a content tilt:
“Your content must be different. It must fill a content hole that is not being filled by someone else… Without tilting your content just enough to truly have a different story to tell, you likely will see your content fade into the rest of the clutter and be forgotten,” he explains.
Too often, brands try to target too broad of an audience with content that is too similar to what their competitors are publishing. Generic, derivative, “me-too” content gets ignored today. What’s the solution? Narrow your focus until you can define a subset of your audience that you CAN serve with a unique, valuable content offering.
3. No plan for nurturing prospects
By now, most companies realize that they need to provide gated access to white papers, webinars and other resources as a way to gather email addresses. But then they confuse these interested people with prospects who are ready to buy. They’re not the same!
What’s missing is a nurturing strategy – a sequence of content, resources and emails, delivered over time – that is designed to move them steadily toward a sale. Don’t just focus on the “top of the funnel” (acquiring prospects’ contact information); have a strategy for the rest of their customer journey, too.
4. It’s all about you, you, you
Some marketers still insist on using their blogs to promote themselves and all of the great advantages of their products and services. That’s not what today’s customers want. They want to be educated. They want content that addresses their needs, challenges and aspirations. Instead of telling YOUR story, demonstrate your understanding of THEIR needs by addressing common pain points and providing relief for them.
5. Not building a base of email subscribers
During the last decade, many companies have focused on building their social media followers, while underinvesting in their email lists. There’s only one problem with this approach: You don’t own those social channels. The rules can be changed at any time – and have been doing so with increasing frequency. Frequently, they want you to pay to reach the followers you have painstakingly gathered. Instead, focus your efforts on the digital properties you DO own: your website and your email list. Continue to use social media, but adjust your tactics to always drive your followers back to your website.
Where can you improve?
Invest some time to identify your shortcomings and make plans to correct them. Remember: Every great success isn’t a “one and done” deal. Usually, it involves numerous setbacks and course corrections. Don’t get discouraged. Improve, assess, then improve again. The cumulative effect of this approach will put you miles ahead of your nearest competitor!
Mobile use is dominating online use, with more than 145 million Americans using their smartphones to work, shop, browse, and communicate. The number one smartphone activity? Yep.
According to a study by IDC, checking email (78%) is the number one smartphone activity.
These are big numbers, people. If you haven’t adapted your marketing emails to fit the small screen, NOW is the time.
Mobile Email Marketing
Here are some quick tips to send the right message to your mobile customers.
1. Start with the subject line. As a basic rule of thumb, you’ve got 5 words to get your customer’s attention (ok, 7 if they’re short words). Longer than that, and the subject is truncated. All that work to craft the perfect “read me” line and your customer won’t even see it. Keep it short and punchy and you’ll have a better open rate.
2.Make your links user-friendly—big, easy to spot, and easy to click. One fairly common mistake is to place links close together. By making links separate and positioning them where they make the most sense, at the beginning or end of the email, or under a product photo (or as part of a product photo), you improve your chances of conversion. And speaking of links, be sure to include an unsubscribe button (nowhere near your CTA), to avoid accidental fat-finger unsubscribes.
3. Responsive design. We’ve talked about responsive web design and the same principles can be applied to well-crafted emails. Most email providers and mail marketing services will provide tips or templates for creating mobile friendly emails. If your email text and images resize automatically to fit any size screen, your customers will see your message just as you intended, without having to scroll endlessly.
Since some users choose not to display images, you might want to consider a plain text version of your email. And while we’re discussing photos and text alternatives, be sure and include a text link with your CTA if you’re using a clickable image. That way, customers who prefer text only still have the option to follow your links.
4. Email preview or preheader. Many phones display the first line of the email. Lots of businesses use this valuable real estate for generic text like “Having trouble reading this email?” Instead, use the first line in the body of your email to tease and add extra enticement to open and read.
5. Test your design. You probably won’t have access to many different types of phones and devices, and there’s no guarantee that what looks good on an iPhone will also look good on a compact Android tablet or a BlackBerry. Check your design before you send it out at a mobile device emulator site like MobileTest.me or MobilePhoneEmulator.com so you can see what your customers see…no matter what device they use.
Learn more: Download our hands-on guide to successfully navigating email marketing’s new set of rules.
By providing your customers with emails they can open and read, you keep your relationship active and retain their trust…not such an easy thing to achieve today. It’s your job to provide them with emails that are interesting, colorful, and entertaining. Now get out there and knock your email marketing campaign out of the ballpark!