How to Start a Successful Email Marketing Campaign in 6 Steps

Emails list on a laptop screen, office background

Marketing emails remain a tried, true, and effective way to reach a targeted audience. It has a high return on investment and is open to businesses large and small. The hard part is getting your potential customers to share their email address. However, creating successful campaigns that get even 25% of your email recipients to open the emails is also a challenge. Here’s how to start a successful email marketing campaign in 6 steps.

Determine Your Goals

You’re only going to hit a target if you establish it. Is your goal to attract warm leads and nurture them until they’re loyal customers? Is your goal to increase current customer engagement to keep them buying year over year? Do you want to bring people to your website to generate hits and the associated online ad revenue? Are you trying to promote specific seasonal products?

You may have several such overarching goals for your marketing department, but also goals beyond growing your email list and sending out cookie-cutter marketing content. Establish your goals for every single campaign, because it affects every subsequent decision.

Choose the Right Platform

An email marketing platform allows you to send out curated email messages or content to your email list. Your customer relationship management system may provide this functionality as part of its toolkit, or you may need to adopt a different email marketing platform. The right tool for you will depend on the features it has versus what you need and the price you pay to use it. Make sure that the option you choose will scale up as your company grows. For example, simpler ones let you use existing templates to create emails and send them to specific market segments. A blogger maintaining an email list or small nonprofit may find this sufficient.

The more advanced options have email triggers and auto-responders. For example, you could automatically send someone an email after they’ve abandoned the shopping cart, increasing the odds they come back and complete the transaction. If you’re creating self-sustaining email lists and engaging with clients primarily via email, you need the more advanced features.

Collect the Necessary Data

Collecting email addresses is only the first step to a successful marketing campaign, but it’s far from enough. You also want to get their key personal and demographic information. Learn their name so you can send personalized messages. Ask about their name, their interests, and their goals so that you can send them relevant content.

If you have a good customer relationship management system, you may already have some of this information based on their purchase history and data collected when they contacted sales or customer support. This is why you can start building your customer email database using the contacts already in your database.

Consolidate contacts so that everything is in a single database so that everyone is working off the same data set. Don’t have a separate contact management system and eCommerce module, each with their own version of the customer profile including potentially different email addresses.

You should also create useful and usable segments for your email lists. This could be demographic, geographic, or interest-based. Geographic emails are essential to sending emails to people in driving distance to your new store. Use demographic information to send them content that’s relevant to a given age group or in the correct language.

You can take it to the next level by tying customer information to their purchase history. Where is this person in the sales funnel? When did they make their first purchase and their most recent one? How often do they buy from you and how much?

Grow and Maintain Your Email List

Suppose you’ve mined your various databases to create a singular customer email list with related data. A fraction of these email addresses will be stale. Give customers a reason to maintain their email address in your system, such as giving them compelling content. Consider putting a call-to-action button on the bottom of engaging articles so that people sign up to receive the next, related article, and make it easy to subscribe.

You need to give visitors a reason to give you a valid email address. For example, you could give them “gated” assets. You could require them to sign up with a valid email address so that they can receive an industry white paper or coupon codes emailed to them, for instance. On the other hand, you need to reassure them that you’re not going to spam them and avoid accidentally doing so.

Send content as often as they’re interested. Consider asking them if they want emails weekly, biweekly, or monthly, then respect their wishes. For example, you shouldn’t send them 4 emails on the first of the month when they are asked to only be emailed monthly.

Create Your Campaigns

Once you have email lists and the associated customer data, you know that you can send tailored emails to a given audience. Remember that your email needs to be designed to grab their attention and provide value if you want the message to be effective.

This starts with a header that gives them a reason to open it instead of deleting it. Better yet, add a pre-header that will show up in many email applications, giving them additional information. Then there is the body of the email. Give them a reason to read and keep reading. Ideally, you will lead them to click the call to action button or hit a link at the end of the message.

You need to create a new email for every campaign, though these may be based on templates or previously successful marketing emails. Compare the email opening rates and click-through rates to find out which campaigns actually were successful.

A side benefit of using templates is that it ensures you include the opt-out option at the bottom of every message that’s legally required to comply with anti-spam laws. You could add social media links or contact emails in addition to the signature line, too.

If you follow these few simple steps, you should be on your way to building your first successful campaign. Make sure that you always focus on gathering and analyzing data, and fine tune your efforts so that you can consistently do more with less.

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