Email Marketing: A world of trade-offs
Delivering a great email marketing experience is something we all aspire to do. Unfortunately, most of us lack the time and resources this requires.
Rare are the times when you can build persona-based drips, optimize your emails and landing pages for mobile, A/B test every subject line, and so on.
While we can’t always make this happen, there are a few corners we should NOT cut. A few things that, even though they’ll take extra time, are definitely worth implementing. Here’s how I think about this: Cars don’t need to have electric windows yet we, as customers, expect them to.
The same is true for you: Your customers expect a minimum from you.
The best way to tackle this subject is to walk through examples. As I break these examples down, please keep in mind that I’m looking at things from the lens of a critical prospective customer — there’s so much that happens at every company that I’m unaware off (e.g. why they choose x experience over y experience). This style of breakdown was inspired by Samuel from UserOnboard.
Let’s start our journey by analyzing a typical email sign-up flow.
New subscriber signup flow
You can only make one first impression. If you need to pick one email experience to optimize, this is it. The first-run experience for new subscribers tells them what to expect from you — don’t be sloppy or cut corners here.
- A clearly visible email sign up form on your site
- Show a friendly confirmation message when someone joins your email list
- Make sure you accept emails with a plus sign. In Gmail, firstname.lastname@example.org is the same as email@example.com
- Always send a confirmation email. Include one clear CTA. E.g. redeem your coupon, download the app, etc
- Always set clear expectations before collecting an email address
- If you have a blog, you need to capture email addresses — even if it’s just to send your latest posts
Things to avoid
I’ve personally signed up for over 1,000 websites, here are some of the most common pitfalls.
- The email capture form is not clearly visible — make it prominent or get rid of it
- Infinite scroll when your email capture is in the footer ::facepalm::
- Hiding the “sign up” button because you’re overemphasizing “sign in”
- Using “tab” in your signup form doesn’t go to the next field
- B2B: Give me an option to connect with you other than “contact a sales person”. Blog is great. Whitepapers and webinars are even better.
- Make sure every email signup form on your site work (do it now, you’d be surprised)
- Never send any user’s password as plaintext. EVER.
A look at Kate Spade’s new subscriber flow
Pro-tip: Make sure the entire slideshow is visible on your screen and use your keyboard arrow keys to move forward and backward.
Next up, let’s look at email newsletters.
Newsletters: A great way to stay in touch
When designing your newsletters, always strive to deliver of value.
It may sound simplistic, but it’s easy to talk about ourselves and our product… Doing so in a way that’s interesting to your target audience is much more difficult. Spend the extra time needed to make your emails relevant and interesting.
Write the types of emails you wish you were receiving as a consumer
- Consistent tracking and UTM codes for each newsletter. This makes is easy to measure performance using your preferred analytics tool
- Basic segmentation. E.g. male and female for fashion companies, prospective customers and current customers for SAAS businesses, etc.
- Use the same voice across all email and website copy
- Always include an unsubscribe link
- Optimize your pre-header text
Things to avoid
- Sending your newsletter without thoroughly QA’ing it. The first draft is likely to have typos and broken links
- Being overly promotional — that’s what your sales and discounts emails are for
- Starting your emails with “Having trouble reading this email? click here to view it in your browser.”
A look at Freelancer.com’s newsletter
Last, but certainly not least, let’s look at a promotional email.
Promotions: The art of triggering sales
Sending promotional emails can drive an enormous amount of sales. That being said, sending too many promotions can hurt you in the long-term.
As an example, my Udemy course sales fluctuate tremendously based on Udemy’s promotional calendar.
From the graph below, you can see that Udemy did some aggressive promotions during the summer and towards the end of the year (for black friday, xmas and the new year). Notice how low sales were in April, May, August, September, and October.
After discounting aggressively and on a regular basis, oftentimes, the only way to drive more sales is to discount even further. Use this type of campaigns wisely.
Once you’ve given a discount, from a marketing point of view, you’ve given it all away
- Promotional calendar: Take a few hours to plan your next 3 months and make sure you’re not being too aggressive with your sales and promotions
- Run A/B tests based on a hypothesis. Every email is a new opportunity to learn something about your audience
- Responsive emails, this yields a 10% higher click-through
Things to avoid
- Only having one CTA with “Buy Now”, try using lower friction CTAs such as “Browse the Fall collection”
- Inconsistent CTA to landing page. Clicking a link to “View red jeans” should take me to a page where I can buy red jeans, not your homepage
- Mobile optimized emails without a mobile optimized landing page. You have to do both.
- Being too promotional, this can affect your deliverability. Avoid using too many exclamation marks, dollar signs or “spammy” words.
- Using “image only” emails
A look at Uniqlo’s promotional email
It’s your turn: Action item summary
- Go through your new-subscriber-email-flow and look for improvements based on our breakdown
- Do the same for your newsletters and promotional emails
- Create a marketing calendar for the next 3 months