Of the many communications channels that weave together to form an omnichannel customer experience strategy, email continues to be relevant and valuable. Email marketing isn’t just about marketing; it’s a way of maintaining your customer relationships in between more direct touchpoints, like transactions and customer service calls. Like social media, email reaches people where they already spend time – in their inboxes.
But just like any other tool, it all comes down to how you use it. Email marketing is a blank canvas, and there are many ways to go about creating campaigns that help you meet your goals. These four fundamental practices will create the foundation for engaging customers with email content.
1 – Great engagement comes from great content.
Content is hands-down the most important factor in getting customers to engage. In the email marketing world, “engagement” translates to Opens and Click-throughs. Great content is what compels each behavior, followed by the design and presentation of the content. So if you’re going to have an email marketing campaign in play, build it on a foundation of excellent content.
Content is an umbrella term that describes a variety of media that can populate emails. Blog posts, articles, whitepapers, e-books, infographics, video, audio, Tweets, copy/text, and photos are all different kinds of content at your disposal. And it’s a good idea to use as many as you can, especially those that are visual: content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images [source].
2 – Prioritize content that is mobile-friendly.
More and more of the digital world is revolving around mobile devices, and email is no exception. At the time of this writing, two thirds of emails are being opened on mobile devices (emphasis on smartphones), compared to desktop email usage. But on the back end, most email campaigns are being designed and run from desktop computers. Template design, list management, and campaign delivery are all easier to achieve on a full-screen device.
Don’t become mobile-blind. When you’re ready to test an email template, make sure you’re viewing it on a mobile phone as well as your computer. You can recruit others in the office who have different devices (for example, Apple vs. Android operating systems) to make sure your content and template design translates well across platforms. And make sure the content you are linking to from your emails is also mobile-friendly. A sales landing page, a blog post, or a document download have no value to a customer who can’t view them easily and clearly.
3 – Try to balance predictability and surprise with your content.
It’s a good idea to be consistent with your email delivery: consistent timing, consistent quality, and consistent design. Customers should have some idea of what they can expect when a new email from you lands in their inbox. If you create an expectation of content that provides value, not purchase pressure, customers will continue to open your messages and engage with that content. Regular quality content also means they’ll be more accepting of the occasional hard sell or special offer, and not feel they’re being spammed or pressured.
But within this context of consistency, there’s also room to try new things or mix up your approach.
- Vary your header images. Put unique imagery at the top of each message, along with a compelling headline, to grab customers’ attention.
- Vary your format. Are you delivering a monthly newsletter featuring several recent blog posts? Next time, try just featuring one meaty, valuable post and letting it be the star of the show. Or try different things with your subject lines, like questions, humor, provocative statements.
- Vary your timing. If you regularly deliver your campaigns at the same time every week or month, try throwing in a one-time message that lands on a Sunday evening, for example. Ideally this message should look a little different than your usual content (see above). The break in routine can catch the attention of readers who have gotten used to a certain pattern.
4 – Make sure you are complying with spam regulations.
What does this have to do with customer engagement? Well, if you run an email program that isn’t compliant with regulations, you soon won’t have an email program to run. Customers can and do report unwanted, bothersome, or low-value emails as spam. These complaints have weight: email service providers use the reports to hone their spam filtering software. Bad behavior can get you “blacklisted,” and there’s little you can do about that once it happens.
The regulations you need to be familiar with are covered by the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which oversees commercial email communications. Technology makes it very easy, and thus very tempting, to do the exact things that CAN-SPAM prohibits – intentionally or accidentally. However, if you are found to be in violation of these rules, the penalties are hefty: you can be fined per email that you send, so the bigger your list, the more you risk.
These tips cover the “Before” and “During” stages of running an email marketing program. The “After” stage – how to make sense of, and make use of, your email marketing analytics – is covered in detail here. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates, or visit the CSP.com homepage (and scroll down just a little) to sign up for our monthly email newsletter!
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