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Email Marketing
11 min

A Definitive Guide to Successful Email Marketing in 2021

Email marketing–despite being an age-old marketing tactic–is still going strong today. According to Statista, around 376 bn emails are sent every day. Clearly, customers are constantly being bombarded with innumerable emails on a daily basis. The irony is that most emails are largely irrelevant and unnecessary. So how can your email marketing stand out in a sea of sameness?

In this blog, everything you need to know about successful email marketing will be decoded—from tips and tricks to real-life use cases and impactful strategies; there’s much to explore. Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room:

“Is email marketing going to be effective in 2021?”

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has positively impacted the way brands communicate with their customers, with email marketing being no exception. According to research by Hubspot, marketers have sent 27% more emails than they then did pre-COVID. Plus, the same study suggests that the email open rates displayed an upward trend.

On the consumer side, a Gartner study found that around 78% of the top 10% of emails that customers chose to open were informative emails (think: COVID-19 updates), while 60% of emails in the bottom 10% by open rate were discount-related. Clearly, customers are willing to receive emails from brands that have embraced an honest, informative, empathetic, and straightforward approach as design and furniture accessories brand, “MADE” demonstrates in one of its fantastic email campaigns:

Made email marketing automation example

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Long story short, email marketing is not dead. On the contrary, it is on the rise. Depending on your brand’s digital maturity, you can leverage this all-purpose tool to woo customers and extend genuine value, all at the same time. So the real question then becomes:

“How does email marketing work?”

Keep reading. 

At its core, email marketing is a type of digital marketing strategy, which involves brands sending emails to:

A. Existing customers with the intention of developing a long term and loyal relationship

B. Prospects and new leads with the intention of turning them into recurring customers and raving fans

As simple as this sounds, the process requires a fair bit of strategic thinking, end-to-end automation, and a creative approach if you wish to do it right. Check out our ebook, “How to Set Goals and Drive Sales with Email Automation”, for more information on how email automation works.

Moving on, let’s look at the various phases that come together to build an effective email marketing campaign: 

Phase 1: Kickstarting an email marketing campaign by building a rock-solid mailing list

As with everything else, first impressions matter—more so with email marketing. So how can you create an impressive first impression and build a foolproof mailing list? It’s simple:

Get user permission by stating your purpose clearly.

If you want to build a healthy and active emailing list, you’ll need to get your user’s permission to send emails. Buying a mailing list won’t cut it. You can either do this by offering free ebooks, whitepapers, or reports via an opt-in form as MoEngage does on its website.

Or, you can ask customers to provide their email address and sign up in exchange for product updates, access to the company newsletter, free trials, etc. as shown below:

Pro tip: As a best practice, try using bold CTA buttons, user-benefit-oriented content, attractive visuals, and an enticing headline on your opt-in form to encourage customers to voluntarily provide their email address. Also, make sure that the form is simple, short, and direct.

Phase 2: Setting up an email campaign (and the right expectations)

You’ve made some tall promises and got your customers genuinely excited. Now, it’s time to follow through with the promises you made and set the right expectations via a consistent and value-driven follow-up email marketing game. Let’s take a real-life example to understand this better. Airbnb’s welcome email below perfectly sets the right expectations for a new user and demonstrates what the latter can get by their association with the brand.


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Pro Tip: As a thumb rule, send a concise yet useful follow-up email immediately to introduce your brand and talk about what your subscribers can expect – and how they can benefit – from your company’s emails.

Bonus Material: Check out this in-depth guide on how you can use email marketing flows to delight your customers with remarkable journeys.

To create a stellar email marketing campaign, follow the below-outlined steps:

  • Step 1: Build a mailing list by taking the help of a lead generation software, creating a signup form on your website, or creating an opt-in magnet (think: free ebooks, case studies, white paper, free trials and demos, coupons, webinar access, etc.) that encourage people to sign up. Here’s an example of a witty and worthy lead magnet:

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  • Step 2: Install the opt-in form on your website on high-converting places such as your site’s header, the blog page, the About page, footer, sidebar, exit intent pop up, among others. You can also share it on your social media platforms and capitalize on your social media followers.
  • Step 3: Choose a good email marketing service provider that can cater to your specific marketing needs.  
  • Step 4: Understand your target audience so that you can send them targeted emails, build trust, and boost your ROI. You should also understand how and where subscribers signed up for your list so that you can tailor your messages accordingly.
  • Step 5: Segment your mailing list by tagging them into varied segments, thoroughly and accurately, as blasting emails blindly to anyone, and everyone will hurt your bottom line.
  • Step 6: Think about your email content and design, in addition to analyzing what purpose it should solve from the user’s perspective. 
  • Step 7: Build an email marketing plan that includes email frequency, time, date, day, etc.
  • Step 8: Use autoresponders to nurture your leads, drive an effective follow-up program, and boost sales throughout the customer journey. 
Pro tip: Engage in A/B testing to understand which version of the email is providing powerful results, such as a high open rate.

Phase 3: Driving real-time analytics and segmentation

As I mentioned earlier, segmenting your users into relevant target groups is central to impactful email marketing. According to DMA, marketers experienced a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns. Note that there are numerous ways to segment your email list, such as to:

  • Existing customers: You can send them ‘thank you’ emails or emails with special offers to reward their loyalty.

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  • New customers: You can send a series of personalized welcome emails and follow-up with regular emails about the brand.
  • Newsletter subscribers: You can send newsletters that have relevant messaging and information about upcoming launches and other announcements.
  • Preference-based customers: These are customers who would like to read emails relating to specific topics and interests such as blog posts, sales notifications, upcoming launches, etc.
  • Demographics-based customers: You can send emails to customers based on their location.

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  • Customers with a purchase history: You can send customized emails to users based on past activity and purchases.
  • Customer’s browsing activity: You can send emails to users based on how they are interacting on your website/app. For example, shopping cart abandonment emails.
  • Customers who opted for a daily/monthly/biweekly email list: You can send regular updates to customers who chose to get emails for a specific period of time.

All in all, analytics and segmentation allow marketers to take their campaign to the next level by finding gaps in their campaign and targeting the right audience from the get-go.

Top 3 Email Marketing Tips And Tricks

1. Autoresponders: Truth be told, responding to every new subscriber manually can become tedious and a sloppy exercise. This is where the autoresponder feature truly shines. Basically, it enables you to roll out emails that you schedule in advance and is triggered by a specific event (think: browsing behavior, downloading a PDF, etc.). Here are the top four ways in which you can use autoresponder emails to nurture your leads and drive engagement:

  • Upselling/cross-selling
  • Creating informative emails on products that include educational videos/sales video/follow-ups
  • Offering a free challenge or a mini-course
  • Rolling out welcome emails to new subscribers

In this way, your customers will keep hearing from you often enough to ensure that your brand always stays at the top of their minds.

2. Google Analytics: You can use Google Analytics to see at what time your subscribers are most active and then send emails accordingly.

3. A/B Testing: To understand the recommended frequency of rolling out emails, you should engage in A/B testing according to different target groups such as new users, existing customers, etc. Studies show that this can boost your conversion rates by 49%. To know more about A/B testing, here’s a handy guide you can refer to.

If you are still on the fence about the efficacy of email marketing, perhaps the following section will restore your faith in the power of email marketing. 

How Email Marketing Can Help Businesses Grow: A Data-Backed Perspective

As mentioned earlier, email marketing is here to stay. But the real question is: Why does email marketing continue to dominate the marketing communications space? Here are three compelling reasons:

1. Cost-effective: According to research, for every $1 spent, companies get $38 in return on an average.

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2. Most preferred channel for customers: As per WordStream, 73% of customers identify email as their preferred channel of communication. In fact, according to a recent survey by iVend Retail, “Email was the most popular method for internet users globally to stay in touch with retailers, more so than via apps or social media”.

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3. Better customer acquisition: Data by McKinsey states that email is 40x more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.

Key takeaway: Apart from the monetary benefits, email marketing doubles up as an ideal platform to connect with your customers in a personalized yet scalable capacity and build long-term customer relationships.

Top 6 Challenges In Email Marketing And Expert Solutions

Challenge 1: Increasing the open rate in email marketing

Proposed solution: To prevent your emails from going to the spam folder so as to boost the opening rate, use an email marketing tool that offers the following functionalities:

  • Ensures that your recipients have actually opted-in to receiving your emails
  • Drives an email campaign from an unused IP address and a verified domain
  • Offers a seamless way for subscribers to opt-out of emails (very important)
  • Doesn’t use deceptive or conflicting headings/subject line
  • Makes use of merge tags to personalize the “To:” field
Bonus Material: Here’s an interesting case study on how an improved domain reputation empowered FabHotels to achieve 90% improvements in email delivery.

In addition to this, you should:

  • Get rid of inactive subscribers so that your list does not get outdated.
  • Consider the time and day when you want to send the email. According to research, Tuesday is the best day to send an email.

best-email-delivery-times-research-findings

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  • Make sure that your subject line is bold, entices curiosity, and stands out.
  • Know your buyer persona and write content keeping them in mind.
  • Keep your content casual, friendly, and consistent.

Challenge 2: Writing a great email

Proposed solution: Draft personalized emails that go beyond spelling out the subscriber’s name. Why? Because as per Experian, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened. Additionally, you should keep the following factors in mind:

  • When writing content, put yourself in the reader’s shoes and think of the content from their perspective (as well as their needs). Consider using scenarios such as “A day in the life of [your ideal user].”
  • Compare to see if your content is consistent with the expectations you’ve set.
  • Get an in-depth understanding of your customer likes, motivations, intentions, etc., so that you don’t end up sending blind offers or, worse, irrelevant content.
Bonus material: If you are looking for an easy-to-use drag-and-drop email template builder, watch this video by MoEngage.

Challenge 3: Improving your email marketing efforts

Proposed solution: Get your hands on a robust email service provider (ESP). This automated marketing tool allows you to:

  • Segment your audience and capture leads at the right time in their customer journey.
  • Organize your mailing list.
  • Distribute email campaigns to your audience.
  • Track results to improve future campaigns.

Bonus material: If you want to know more about email marketing automation best practices, check out this blog.

Challenge 4: Analyzing your marketing emails

Proposed solution: It is important that you track three key metrics related to email marketing that provide insights into how successful (or unsuccessful) your email marketing campaign is. These include:

A. Open Rate: It refers to the number of people who open your emails. A low CTR equals reduced engagement with subscribers.

B. Click-Through Rate (CTR): It refers to the number of people who clicked on a link (if any) in your email. A low CTR means your emails are inaccurately targeted.

C. Unsubscribes: It refers to the number of people who chose to unsubscribe from your mailing list. 

Challenge 5: Determining the most effective email marketing strategy

Proposed solution: While there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to how you can draft an effective email campaign, there are a few research-backed statistics that marketers can embrace to optimize their email marketing efforts. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Adding relevant video content/gifs to your email, which can boost the click rates by 300% and make it stand out in a sea of sameness.
  • Linking to valuable resources such as a free eBook, blog, webinar, among others, to boost user engagement.
  • Pitching relevant products/interesting updates/big announcements once a month to prevent people from unsubscribing to your mailing list.

Challenge 6: Making more conversions in email marketing

Proposed solution: To boost your conversion rates, get to truly know their customers. This is probably why a staggering 94% of marketers are investing in data and analytics capabilities to identify customer information for targeted insights.

So what can you do to ensure more conversions?

1. Ensure that your emails are mobile-optimized as mobile accounts for 67% of all email opens.

2. Map out your entire mail sequence, which includes important factors such as frequency of emails, the day and time at which you’ll be sending the mail, subscriber’s preferences, purpose/goals met, CTA on each email, etc.

Bonus Material: What is a drip email marketing campaign?

If you wish to build a list of the right subscribers and send highly personalized and relevant emails, you should work on a drip campaign. A drip campaign is a form of email marketing that requires marketers to send multiple emails at specific times and dates. This type of campaign makes use of marketing automation. In terms of the benefits, drip campaigns allow you to:

  • Create the perfect balance between increasing your mailing list and keeping your subscribers engaged through lead nurturing campaigns.
  • Boost your signup rate.
  • Automate time-consuming and challenging tasks so that marketers can focus on getting new leads.
  • Lower your unsubscribers rates due to relevant messaging and personalized campaigns.
  • Segment your audience based on user intent and action.

Here’s an example of a win-back drip campaign by Netflix that focuses on lowering the churn rate and boosting engagement:

Netflix-drip-email-sequence

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Notice that the CTA button stands out in the email, should the user wish to resubscribe again. But this is not where the magic happens. Over the next three months, the brand periodically rolls out a series of emails that highlight all the wonderful and ‘trending’ shows the user will miss, in addition to providing personalized options for what the user might like to watch.

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Finally, the brand sends a targeted email to the user which highlights how the user can continue to enjoy Netflix.

Netflix-final-email-drip


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The learning? The brand embraces a show and tell approach to win back customers who are on the verge of canceling their subscription and effectively so.

Wrapping Up: Email Marketing Is The Best Way To Tell Your Brand’s Story

Email marketing is all about connecting with your audience to promote your brand as being user-obsessed (not spammy) so that you can boost sales, gain customer trust, and enhance customer loyalty. That said, email marketing requires marketers to revisit their strategies from time to time to see how effective their campaigns are. Finally, as long as marketers treat their customer’s email inboxes with respect, empathy, and politeness, and keep their user’s interests at heart (at all times), they’re good to go. 

Follow these time-tested strategies and expert-approved hacks and supercharge your email campaign to stand out in a cluttered inbox, every time you hit send.

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