Do you really know how to run an email marketing campaign that gets results?
Or are you relying on guesswork and a vague set of personas to do the heavy lifting?
In this article, I’ll go through some tips and best practices that will help you get more out of your next campaign.
What We’ll Cover:
- Social proof
- HTML vs. plain text emails
- How to incorporate GIFs
- Personalized subject lines
- Promote your best content
- Make your emails shoppable
- Keep it simple with a single call to action
- Reconnect with inactive customers
- Incentivize your audience
- Start with a great subject line
- Abandoned cart reminders
- Add a little urgency
- Consider timing
- Design a campaign with convenience in mind
- Drive action with a creative CTA
- Product Newsletter
- Referral Program
Like most digital marketers, you’re probably pretty familiar with email marketing. It’s been around forever, after all.
As a result, we’re willing to bet that it’s been awhile since you thought about your email marketing campaigns as a strategy.
However, phoning it in when it comes to email isn’t a great idea, given that it’s probably sticking around for the long haul. Sure, online communication has become increasingly fragmented—chat apps, texting, and bots are now workplace staples—but email marketing is still one of the most profitable marketing tools around, bringing in $44 on average per every dollar spent.
And that’s just the beginning when it comes to the stats that continue to prove the value of email marketing, even after all these years. A few examples:
- 80% of retail professionals said that email marketing drives customer acquisition and retention
- 86% of consumers want to receive emails from companies they do business with
- 59% of B2B marketers say that email marketing is the most effective channel for revenue growth
Of course, there way more stats out there that highlight the benefits of this channel.
Sometimes, though, it’s not always easy to come up with the right campaign for your brand. It can be challenging to find just the right message that will help you connect with potential customers and convince them to open up their wallets.
That’s why it’s a good idea to look at the successful email marketing strategies of other companies. You might find a few that can imitate.
1. Use Social Proof for Successful Email Marketing Campaigns
It’s likely that you’re already using social proof on your homepage. Why not use it in your email messages as well?
According to Search Engine Journal, social proof can be used to connect email with your other marketing channels. Marketers can use reviews and social media comments as a way to identify best-selling products and turn those recommendations into a curated round-up shoppers will love.
Another idea is sharing top comments in the email, testimonial-style, like Grammarly has done in this example below. The company embedded a tweet in the email body as an incentive to get some additional subscribers.
In the tweet, a user channeled Carly Rae Jepsen with this prose:
“We just met. And this is crazy. But I just signed up
To Premium because I love you. Maybe.
Ok, definitely. But it didn’t rhyme.”
Silly? Yes. But authentic? Also yes.
If you have some love coming your way on social media, copy and paste the text into an email message. That might just give people the incentive they need to move a little further down the sales funnel.
2. Know When to Use HTML vs. Plain Text in the Best Email Marketing Campaigns
We’ve been living in the Information Age long enough that you can design a professional-grade email campaign even if you failed art class back in high school. Tools like Drip, ActiveCampaign, Mailchimp, and countless others make it easy to plug in a few design elements, top it off with some copy, and schedule the send.
Or, you can really nail your design aesthetic by working with an actual digital artist to help you put together an aesthetic that will appeal to your target market.
A great email design tells people that you’re serious about your brand. Beyond that, a fabulous design enables you to outshine your competition.
Perhaps most importantly though, people want to look at an email that’s designed professionally.
Here’s one beautiful email campaign example, courtesy of Craft.
This example gives subscribers a visual of what they can expect from the brand and uses contrasting colors to create interest and a layout that guides the eye to the CTA button.
While a beautifully designed HTML email can really turn some heads, there are many marketers and statistics that will tell you that plain text is the only way to go. HTML emails do sometimes get treated as spam or fail to arrive in the inbox at all, but they’re better at generating clicks and telling a compelling, visual narrative.
Plain text emails, by contrast, are easy to compose, have better deliverability rates, and feel more direct and personal.
The key thing to consider here is what kind of email campaign you’re planning on running. If you’re showing off your product or marketing to a full list, HTML emails are likely a better bet. However, if your goal is to make a personal connection—i.e., you’re sending an email to an individual, plain text makes more sense.
3. Get a GIF For Successful Email Marketing Campaigns
We often use animated GIFs to communicate emotion online. They’re usually much larger and easier to comprehend than emojis, and they offer many of the same benefits of video without the large file size and lack of support from email clients.
You should consider using them occasionally in your marketing email. They’ll put a human face on your marketing efforts and might even get a few laughs.
Once you’ve settled on a marketing message for your next email campaign, look for a suitable reaction GIF to include in it. You might earn a little bit of additional goodwill and a higher response rate.
Chipotle once sent out an animated GIF of its burrito bowl with a joke:
Q: What do you call a tortilla chip that works out?
A: A macho nacho.
Be careful with that kind of humor, though. Chipotle can get away with it because of the nature of its business, but it wouldn’t make sense for an insurance company to joke about chips and dip.
4. Campaigns With Personalized Subject Lines Have a 26% Higher Open Rate
You might think that a great way to connect with your contacts is sending out a generic holiday greeting come December. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, keep in mind, there’s nothing especially unique about it.
Your message could get lost in the crowd. As far as marking an occasion goes, a Happy Birthday email takes things a step further by speaking to the individual. For example, if I see an email that reads “Happy birthday, John!” and it really is my birthday, I’m more likely to open the email because it’s just for me.
Emails that contain a personal subject line have a 26% higher open rate than non-personalized emails.
Take a look at this example of a Happy Birthday email below from Harpoon Brewery.
Speaking of birthday wishes, how will you know the birthdates of your customers if you don’t have that info? You might need to collect it.
And how do you do that? With an email asking people to update their profiles, of course.
Here’s an example of Overstock doing just that.
Finally, you can also intentionally send people an email a week late that apologizes for missing their birthday. Here’s an example of Need Supply tackling that strategy.
But it’s not just birthdays. Over the past few years, segmentation has been on the rise thanks to advanced analytics tools that allow us to learn more about our audiences and break them up into segments. A few examples:
- New Subscribers
- Open rates
- Lead magnet downloads
- Abandoned cart
- Purchase history
Creating customer segments allows you to tailor content to different types of users, a technique that has been shown to increase email marketing ROI by a whopping 760%.
5. Find Your Most Popular Content and Create a Successful Email Marketing Campaign Around It
If you’re doing a lot of content marketing, then you’ve already got plenty of email content ideas waiting on your site. You might try curating a weekly article round-up of top posts. Or, you might take long-form posts and turn them into a series of short lessons.
Take a look at your analytics dashboard and look for the articles that get the most visits, the most shares.
Find your most popular work and put it in an email. Include a linked title and article synopsis. Be sure to add a “Read more” button for people who can’t see that the title is a hyperlink.
Another idea is to build story-telling into your emails to engage your audience enough that they’ll want to click through and learn more.
When you curate content, you not only generate more interest in your emails, but you also get more clicks on your site as people read your best blog posts. It’s a definite win-win.
Pro-tip: if you’re selling anything related to food, curate some great recipes and send them out occasionally. Be sure to include recipes that use your products.
6. Make it Easier For People to Shop For Your Products in Your Email Marketing Campaign
If you want to land more sales, make it easier for people to shop for your products. In fact, why not let people shop within your email? The best campaigns create an appealing offer and send visitors directly to the right page.
For example, if you’re sending out an email introducing a few new products, include the product name, image, detail, and price right in the body of the message. Of course, you should also throw in an call to action so customers can add the product to their shopping cart.
Boom. People who look at that email can make a purchase without shopping on your website.
Here’s an example of an email from Express, which includes product examples and encourages users to click-through and continue shopping.
Think about how you can make it that easy for your own customers to shop via email.
7. Simplify Your Campaign With a Single Call-to-Action
Sometimes less is more. If you’re sending out emails with several clickable elements and not seeing the results you were hoping for, maybe it’s time to simplify your design.
Try a short message with a single call to action.
The reason this is so effective is because your audience is only presented with one goal at a time, so you’re dramatically reducing the chances of confusing or distracting your audience.
Here’s an example from Postmates of an email with a short, sweet message and just one call to action.
8. Reconnect With Inactive Customers
Another great way to use email marketing is to bring inactive customers back into the fold by remarketing to them through their inbox.
Create a list of people who bought from you a while ago but haven’t done so in a while. Then, blast out an email to them with a coupon code and some copy that entices them to become customers again.
Remember: one of the best way to use email marketing is to retain customers. Also remember: it’s generally much cheaper to find a new customer than it is to keep (or reacquire) an existing one.
Dropbox is a cloud service that offers online storage. The company sends emails to customers who haven’t used its service in a while. Take a look at the example below.
As you can see, Dropbox puts a little bit of humor into its message. That’s a great way to help customers become active again.
Here’s another, similar email from women’s clothing boutique Miss-guided.
9. Incentivize Your Audience
If you’re looking for a great way to reach people who are towards the top of the sales funnel, consider giving subscribers something “just because.”
People love getting discounts, exclusive offers, and of course, something for nothing.
If you’re selling products, offer a sample at no charge. If you’re selling a service, offer access to the service for a limited time for free.
When you do that, you’re following the very basic “Green Eggs and Ham” principle of marketing. You’re getting people to try it so that they can be sure they like it.
Here’s an example from Starbucks offering a free drink. We like how they frame the offer—they say, “this one’s on us” instead of leading with “free coffee.” It’s a friendly way to say “thanks” to customers without sounding spammy by blasting the word “free” all over the email.
10. Successful Campaigns Start With a Great Subject Line
Sometimes, it pays to create a curiosity gap.
If you haven’t tried it yet, throw out an email message with a call to action that just begs to be clicked. Obviously, you’ll need a great subject line as well to get people to open the email.
Take a look at this example from J. Crew. It reads: “Holy Guacamole. Click here for something major.” It includes a big picture of an avocado in the center of the message.
In case you’re unaware, J. Crew is a clothing store. What does guacamole have to do with clothing?
Nothing. That’s the point.
It’s so out of place that people click on the call to action button to find out what J. Crew is really promoting.
Here’s another tempting promotion. It only shows half of the discount number. Recipients have to click on the link to see how much they can save.
11. If Your Customer Abandons Their Cart, Remind Them in Your Next Email
Sometimes, customers almost complete a purchase but don’t quite cross the finish line. They abandon their shopping cart with products still in it.
Why? There could be many reasons. Sometimes people change their mind. Sometimes they get distracted. Sometimes they do some comparative shopping.
Whatever the reason, you need to get those customers back. Why not send them an email reminding them about the abandoned cart?
Offer an incentive for them to complete the sale. Consider including a coupon code or an option for free shipping.
Here’s an example of that kind of email marketing from TopShop.
12. Add a Little Urgency to Your Email Campaign
“This Link Will Self-Destruct in 24 Hours.”
That sounds pretty ominous, doesn’t it?
Guess what, though: it also gets clicks. Some of those clicks are likely to lead to conversions.
Think about how you can dramatize your marketing campaigns to inspire people to click through.
13. Consider the Cadence of Your Campaign
How often do you plan on sending emails? Ideally, you’ll want to stay in touch often, but not too often, or else users may end up dropping off.
To get your email flow down pat, you’ll want to do some serious planning ahead, mapping out the goal of each campaign and how every subsequent email will be delivered based on the user’s actions.
14. Design a Campaign With Convenience in Mind
People are busy. Wouldn’t it be great if your email could save them some time?
One of my favorite email marketing tips is to create campaigns that make it easy for someone to become a customer by directing them to the products you’re promoting.
Here’s an example from J. Crew. The company enables its customers to “copy this outfit” with just the click of a button. That way, they don’t have to shop separately for the top, pants, cardigan, and shoes.
15. Drive Action in Campaigns with a Playful CTA
If you’re thinking about putting “Click Here” on your CTA button, think again. One of the
Take a look at the InVision example below. The company uses text like “The Sweet Spot,” “Say Hey,” and “Use Your Words” to drive action, a refreshing change of pace from the typical “learn more” or “shop now” CTAs you see all the time.
That makes the message seem less formal than many other marketing messages.
16. Create a Product Newsletter
Drastically increase sales by creating a product newsletter to send out weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly.
This is a great way to deliver content, products, and keep your business at the forefront of costumer awareness.
Utilizing a product newsletter allows you to hone your brand while giving costumers great value on a regular basis.
Doing this also gives you the chance to experiment with what works and what doesn’t consistently so your emails can keep getting better and better.
17. Set Up Referral Program Email Marketing Campaign
Word of mouth is a tried and true way to increase your customer base. Give it a modern digital update by implementing a referral email campaign.
Promote your referral program via email and include reminders to do so.
Make sure your customers understand why its worth it for them make a referral, exactly what they need to do to receive the reward for referring, and good graphics to make it all appealing.
The above can be done with three emails:
- Relaying the benefit of participating in the referral program.
- Sending a follow up email as a reminder
- Include an incentive to push the potential referrer to take action.
1. What is the best way to build an email strategy?
There are a few best practices that allow you to build a stellar email strategy.
The first thing you should do is identify the audience which you want to target.
This means making sure they are your ideal customer who will find value in your service or product.
Next, select the best tools to create, send, track, and analyze your email marketing.
You’ll want to make sure you choose the best one for you to make sure the data your working with is high quality and beneficial.
The next step, is to build your list of emails and subscribers based on your audience.
This can be accomplished with offers, free information, and other opt in measures on your site.
After this, you’ll want to segment your list to make sure the material you send out has its highest impact.
Further, you will want to create mail content that resonates with your audience and that will captivate them.
Lastly, confirm your goals and how to achieve them based on the measurements you’ve been tracking with your tools.
2. How should I test and optimize an email campaign?
There are a lot of different ways to test and make sure your email campaigns are as optimized as possible.
The five primary things you’ll want to test are:
1. Subject lines
2. Day or time
4. Call to action
Wrapping Up Email Marketing Campaigns
When it comes to email marketing campaigns, the devil is the details. Try incorporating some of these tips I’ve outlined above from personalization to backing your claims with social proof.