You’re thinking right now…”I know everything about email marketing”. Just put a coupon code in an email template and send, send, send. Regardless of your email marketing prowess I think you’ll find a few nuggets of magic here in Email Marketing 101. I have been in the business since 2005 and have some tricks to share that I’ve personally used to absolutely rock my competitors. If you are one of my previous competitors reading this…well, Merry Christmas. I have placed bullet points for the article skimmers out there.

What is an ESP? An ESP is short for Email Service Provider. I have to mention that any online retailer who is emailing their clients from their Outlook…is crazy. This is not only inefficient but you can send email campaigns through an ESP for less than $15/month. However; once you grow your list to 10k-100k+ subscribers you’ll notice the pricing will increase dramatically…but so will your ROI. Some of my favorite entry level ESP’s are Constant Contact and IContact. These services are great for getting your feet wet especially when you have a small staff and no dedicated email marketing person.

As soon as you can afford it hire an in-house email marketing expert and take a look at the more advanced systems. A few of the popular ESP’s I’m very familiar with are Dotmailer, Bronto, MailChimp, StongView and Listrak. I’ll review all of these with a pro’s and con’s matrix soon in a future article. My short answer is Dotmailer and Bronto were amazing partners, after researching and testing all of them I chose to pass up the others I listed due to lacking overall value or feature set.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Email Your Entire List At Once!

In email marketing strategy it boils down to three quick questions, who, when and what… Don’t email your entire list, there are countless reasons for this. You can easily overload your site resulting in long load times and you’ll shrink your list when you blast your customers manically. You also rarely want to send the same message to all of your customers. In the rare case that you have a message that all of your customers will like guaranteed, make sure you stagger the delivery so they spread out. Most ESP’s will have this as an option. So how do you send customized email to your customers? You’re going to use something called segmentation. This is when you filter your customers based on their behavior, previous purchase history and maybe even survey results, anything you know about them. Learning about your customers and segmentation will be in a future article.

  • Site Overload/Poor Customer Experience
  • Loss of Engagement & List Shrink
  • Use Segmentation to Give Customers Content They Want
  • Respect Your Audience and don’t send them repetitive crap every week
  • Most ESP’s typically charge by each email sent…make sure they count.

Keeping your customers engaged is an art form. Your objective has to change from just selling your customers with a coupon. You need to create true engagement with your customers. When a customer signs up for your newsletter what is the first thing they receive from you? Here are some quick best practice guidelines for engagement.

What is an Email Campaign?

An email campaign is a related series of emails intended to engage your customer is a specific way. To create a campaign you’ll want to segment the group of customers with filtering based on customer behavior. For example: Customers who haven’t purchased in 6 months and have ordered from product category “A”, send out 3 promo code emails with a coupon for product category “A” or a complimentary item from category “B”. The coupons should increase in discount until your customer purchases. Use customer purchase data and behavior to determine what they might be interested in. It is important to note that the campaigns I’m referencing should be setup to be automated based on rules you design and are very low maintenance once in place.

Branding

What exactly is branding. It’s actually quite complex and can differ from one industry to another. It’s the way you do…what you do…and why you do it. Yes your logo design, color scheme…graphics, etc. are important and enhance those three keystones but don’t let them be distractions. If you can’t answer these three questions about your branding/company easily, please get together with your team or consigliore and nail those down before doing anything else, emergency…yes do this now. Building your email marketing strategy and company on solid ground is essential and having strong tangible answers. Branding is too in depth to cover entirely here.

Ok…so you’re back from Starbucks and have some amazing answers to the 3 questions above..right? Now when you design your email template and content, infuse the answers to these questions (your branding) into the emails. You have an opportunity here to engage customers, don’t waste a word and let them into your world, be real, be fun, share your vision of a better way to treat people. One thing I’ve always told staff members is to treat customers like long lost old friends…that you’ve just met. The right customers will connect with this and often become life long customers, don’t waste any opportunity to make an impression!

Welcome Series Email Campaign

When a customer signs up for “coupons” or your newsletter on your website you want to immediately start engaging them. Send them an email instantly thanking them and introducing your company with a small coupon that won’t break the bank but will help secure your conversions. Some may disagree with ensuring the conversion. I subscribe to the theory that one in the hand is better than two in the bush. With the right retention programs you’ll secure this customer for future sales which will far outweigh a small discount.

  • Start with an instant coupon with a fun, interesting introduction to your company. If your company is boring and you don’t care about being fun, interesting and “adding the magic”…quit now and go work for Amazon.
  • Give them something valuable. Something funny, helpful, a tutorial, etc. and sneak in the promos once a week like every other successful marketing channel is doing. Don’t just beat the crap out of your customers with coupon code after coupon code. Share something awesome with them and add value to their day.
  • Your Welcome Series should be 5 emails spread over a period of 1-6 months of decreasing frequency. The more advanced ESP’s will have reporting to measure results and engagement, fine tune to maximize your customer engagement.

Abandoned Cart System Campaign

When a customer leaves items in their shopping cart you ESP can send them an email reminding them about their incomplete purchase. Sending this automated message to your customers after they’ve left your site is a great way to keep them engaged. To really seal the deal some online retailers offer a significant discount in this engagement type but it can be effective just as a reminder. It is common to send a series of 1-3 emails with an increase in coupon discount.

Create A Reactivation Campaign

When you have a group of customers that haven’t purchased within their normal purchase cycle, you can use this type of email campaign to wake them up. It’s typically a series of 2-3 emails with an increasing discount in regards to the coupon code. You can setup rules based on purchasing habits otherwise known as RFM data (Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Value). This way it’s custom tailored to send only when your customer veers off from their shopping habits and you don’t leave money on the table.

Measuring Email Marketing Results

The main result you want is conversions right? I love a high conversion email to be sure but what if you’re getting engagement and not quite closing the deal? How will you know this? Many ESP’s will have advanced reporting software to help figure out where you are falling short. Get familiar with your reporting for opens, clicks, conversions and heat maps to see what is working and where customers are falling short. You may also find you are an amazing email marketer, customers are clicking and shopping…and your pages are not converting…which is a whole other article in itself and yes I’ll do one soon. Use you’re reporting, squeeze every last bit of data you can and I guarantee you’ll improve your email marketing performance.

Travis Romine

Ecommerce Consultant at Sharp Commerce
Travis works with online retailers to improve sales and market share through consulting and strategy. Travis has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, ecommerceconsulting.com, Webretailer.com, Inspired Insider Podcast & Facebook For Business.
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