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Have your best year ever:

6 keys to email marketing success




There are an astounding 269 billion emails sent each day, but these email marketing campaigns stand head and shoulders above the rest. In this webinar, Emma Senior Content Strategist Jeff Slutz will break down some of the best emails of the past year to give you the strategies you need to win the inbox in 2018 and beyond.

In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • • Design strategies top brands are using to grab our attention

  • • Content tips to maximize engagement and conversion rates

  • • How to achieve the highest possible email ROI in 2018

Okay, let’s go ahead and get started. Thank you, everyone, for joining us for today’s presentation, “Have Your Best Year Ever, Six Keys to Email Marketing Success.” Before we really dive in, let’s go over a little bit of housekeeping first. First, we will be sending a recording of today’s presentation, so if you need to hop off or you just wanna share with it a friend or colleague later, we’ve got you covered, just stay tuned to your inbox over the next couple days. Also, you are muted, but please feel free to type questions directly into the GoToWebinar chat panel that you see there, and we’ll do a little Q&A at the end of the presentation. And I also know a lot of you sent some really great questions in at registration, so I’ll try to get to as many of those as I can as well.

And I know that not everyone on the line today is an Emma customer, so for those who aren’t familiar with where I’m coming from, Emma is a leading provider of email marketing software and strategic services with over 15,000 customers worldwide, and our mission is to help our customers and marketers everywhere, really, do their very best work on a daily basis. We’ve been around since 2003, based here in the fabulous and fair city of Nashville, Tennessee, which is where I’m presenting from today.

And as for me, I’m Jeff Slutz. I’m the senior content strategist here at Emma, and that basically means that I get to lead the fantastic team that creates all of our marketing content from our blog post to emails to webinars like this one today. And full disclosure, like everyone else in the country, I am fighting a cough today, so I would do my best to power through and hopefully, I don’t hack into the mic and gross you out. But enough of that, let’s dive in.

So, first, I’d like to consider a scenario that’s, you know, probably very familiar to most of you here, stopping at a coffee shop on the way to work. So, in this first scenario I’d like you to imagine that you’re walking into your neighborhood coffee shop, the barista smiles, says, “Good morning,” asks you what you would like, you order your coffee, and he ask you, you know, if you’d like a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich to go with it. What he doesn’t know is that, you know, you’re a vegetarian. So that bacon, egg, and cheese that’s a no-go. But that’s okay, you pay for your coffee, you’re perfectly happy with it and you on your way to work.

Now, imagine this scenario instead. So you stop by your neighborhood coffee shop on the way to work, barista smiles and greets you by name when you walk in. And in fact, he started making your order as soon as you entered the door. And since you’re a regular, he offers you a free chocolate almond scone from a new bakery that they just started working with. You thank him, you pay for your coffee, you snag that free scone, and you go on your way.

Now, that first scenario, that’s not a negative one. I mean, you paid what you expected, you got what you ordered. Everything went off without a hitch. But although the fundamentals of the purchase are the same, that second experience just feels so much better. They know you. You’re much more likely to keep coming back to that shop for your daily coffee fix, right?

So, the same really just holds true for your email marketing. The brand that creates the best experience will almost always win the inbox. Because here’s the thing, it’s getting harder than ever to get people’s attention.

So, what’s this number, 300 to 400? According to the chief marketer, that’s the average number of ads a person would see during the late 1990s. That seems like kind of a lot, right? Well, guess how much it is now, 4,000 to 7,000 ads per day. That is insane. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. This is marketers and advertisers reaction to the fact that acquiring new customers is hard. There’s more competition and ever. So we, as marketers, we’re being asked to do more than ever. Drive more traffic, more social engagement, more leads, more revenue. And we’ve largely answered that call. As these numbers attest, we are doing more. And in fact, we’ve actually flooded the market.

And our audience is sick and tired of it and they’re saying, “Enough is enough.” Today’s consumers know we have the data and technologies to deliver smarter, more thoughtful marketing. Stop bombarding them and start creating the kind of experiences that feel like that second coffee shop I just talked about. And that’s what brings us together today.

We’re going to talk about how to put the foundation in place to make 2018 your most successful year of email marketing ever. So, to begin, this is a no-brainer, it starts with making sure you’re landing in the inbox, avoiding that dreaded spam folder. Then we’ll cover list growth, treating each new subscriber with the respect they deserve. That will be followed by talking about some data. Data is all the rage, but frankly, as marketers, we’re all swimming in it. So I hope you identify what you really need to pay attention to. Then we’ll move on to personalization and engagement. That’s really what we’re all after, right? So with any great email campaign, how can we make a one-to-many communication truly feel one-to-one and generate greater business results because of it? And finally, we’ll wrap things up by talking about how we can use automation to scale all of those efforts across your entire audience. That’s gonna be a lot to cover, so buckle up. I’m gonna move pretty fast. And remember if you do miss anything, there will be a recording.

Okay. So let’s start with making sure you’re reaching the inbox. And I know you’re probably like, “Hey, emails going to an inbox. Genius insight there, Slutz.” But seriously, there is more to it than meets the eye. Because believe me, there is nothing worse for an email marketer than working long and hard on a campaign only to discover it never even made it to your recipient.

So, because of that, we need to talk about spam. It’s our biggest nemesis. And the main thing to remember about spam is that our definition of spam as marketers is likely different from a consumer’s definition of spam. Because like after getting this job at Emma, I can’t tell you how many times I had explain to my non-marketing friends and family that I don’t help companies “spam people.” That’s what people think.

So, as marketers, we define spam as emails about, you know, Viagra and foreign princes, but a consumer is likely to find any unwanted email as spam. So, check out the stat here from Convince & Convert, 69% of email recipients report messages as spam based solely on the subject line. Not the “From” name, not the content, the subject line. So if you want to avoid the spam folder, make sure you’re being relevant, serving up the content that your subscribers are actually interested in and expect from you. And most importantly, make sure you have permission to email them. I cannot stress that enough. When you have a permission-based relationship, people expect you to communicate with them via email, so they’re much less likely to mark you a spam. They’ve subscribed, they’ve asked you to email them. Getting permission, also, it establishes trust, it establishes brand recognition and value that goes beyond simple transactional communication.

To put it bluntly, and please say it with me, don’t buy email lists. Buying email lists might seem like a quick fix to growing your list, but it can severely damage your center reputation in the long run, and it just simply will not work. And along with getting permission, setting the right expectations from the outset goes a long way. Your first interactions with a new subscriber that sets the tone for everything else you do down the road. So during the sign up process, provide clear information about what they can expect in terms of, you know, the email frequency, what kind of content you’re gonna send. Very important nowadays, how you’ll protect and use their data, and also identify the sender, especially if it’s something that’s gonna be something different than your brand name so they’ll recognize it when it lands in their inbox. So that kind of transparency, that creates the trust that will boost engagement from the start.

And one last note on deliverability. Do not try to fight the Gmail tabs. I know you want to. We all want to. But Google has said that there’s a higher probability that someone will click the spam button if your brand’s email is in their inbox tab rather than the promotions tab. So the moral of the story here is that your recipients won’t hesitate to flag any promotional message that doesn’t meet their expectations or align with their interests. So, resist that temptation, you know, to use tactics that try to, you know, trick Gmail into placing your promotional message where it doesn’t belong because, you know, as frustrating as those tabs can be, it’s important to remember that Google is simply just trying to create a great user experience by giving people the emails they expect where they expect to see them

So, let’s talk a little about list growth. Your email list is the backbone of any successful email marketing program. So, it’s quite literally your most valuable marketing asset because we’re talking about your most engaged core audience. The people you’re trying to reach and ultimately, convert with every single piece of communication that you create. And this here is a pretty sobering fact. The average email list turns by about 30% every year. That means almost a third of your audience will unsubscribe on an annual basis. Scary stuff, right? Especially when you’re working so hard to try to grow that list. So, that’s why a smart list growth strategy is so crucial to your success. You should be looking for opportunities to grow your list wherever you’re interacting with your core audience, the people you really care about. So, that’s on your website, through lead magnets, on your social channels, at events, at a brick-and-mortar location if you happen to have one. It helps combat the natural churn that you’re gonna experience and ensure you always have a solid and consistent audience to reach every time you send.

So here’s a simple, but very effective signup form from Wistia. They’re a video hosting and marketing platform. Notice that there aren’t a ton of form fields here. And there really are only requiring the basic email address. And I love that they include those checkboxes so you can tell them exactly what type of content that you’re interested in. So, this not only benefits Wistia’s marketing team by helping them learn more about what their new subscribers want, but it also benefits the subscriber. It helps ensure that Wistia isn’t cluttering their inbox with emails they don’t care about. You know, the only thing I’ll point out about this that they maybe could have done better was provided some sort of explanation of the value you would receive from joining their list. Giving folks an incentive of “You should join our list because you’re gonna get some really cool stuff.” But I’m actually on Wistia’s list, and I assure you they do a great job, all that aside.

So, having minimal form fields is very important because a study from Privy shows that every field you add to your sign-up form will cause that conversion rate to drop by 25%. So, really you only wanna ask for the information that you need and plan to use right away. So, because, you know, you can always ask for more info over time once they’re more familiar with your brand. And, you know, even if you don’t have the capability to add those little content checkboxes like Wistia was doing there, if you’re paying close attention to your email metrics, you can actually discover, you know, exactly what type of content each subscriber is opening and clicking on so you can segment that way after the fact and tailor their experience accordingly.

Because look, as important as list growth is, we all care about it, we all wanna bigger list, segmentation is even more important. Because ask yourself, you know, “When someone new joined your list, are you treating them the same as everyone else who joins?” So I hope that the answer is no, because when someone new joined your list, what they’re doing is inviting you into their inbox. That is a personal space for them and you should treat it as such. So you owe it to your subscribers to be responsible and deliver the best possible experience from the outset because, you know, if you don’t, they’re gonna be gone.

If you’ve attended one of our webinars before then you’ve probably seen this stat, but I can’t stress it enough. Receiving too many emails is the number one reason that people unsubscribe. Email is an effective channel even when it’s done poorly, which is why you still see a ton of the blast messaging out there, but today’s consumers, they’re smart. They’ll quickly realize that most of what you’re sending isn’t relevant to their interest at all. So, even if you aren’t actually sending that often, it will seem like you are because it has nothing to do with what they care about. You become one of those senders they ignore, that they delete, you know, ultimately unsubscribe from, or even worse, mark as spam.

And look, geez, I can’t believe we have gone this long without showing an email. So, let’s fix that and show off some great examples of segmentation. Okay. So this is a sports clothing retailer Homage. I’m originally from Ohio, a big Ohio State fan, Go Bucks. So I have purchased a couple of Ohio State t-shirts from Homage before. They’ve captured that data about me, so I get promotions whenever they have new Ohio state gear. So this one happened to arrive during the week prior to the Michigan game, which is Ohio State’s biggest rival, you know, when Buckeye fandom is at its most rabid.

So that’s the thing about segmentation when it’s done right. The recipient isn’t necessarily aware that they’ve been segmented at all. They just get an email like this target and relevant to their interests. And so, you know, I do this for a living, so I had a pretty good idea that some segmentation might be happening here, but to be sure, I gave my brother a call. And to his credit, my brother did not hang up

But here’s the thing about my brother that you should know. Despite being raised in the same house, he doesn’t care about Ohio State, which is simply a moral failing on his part. But I do know that he has purchased other clothing from Homage. So I asked him if he got this email and he said he didn’t. Super smart on Homage’s part because they’re not annoying him with a promotion that he’s probably going to ignore or delete, especially at that time of year. This was around Thanksgiving, you know, when a ton of email is being sent. But my brother did get this email from Homage. He is a big Cleveland Cavaliers fan, and he follows the NBA very closely. Again, Homage knows that about him, so he received this email for their new collection of NBA throwback t-shirts. It’s catered to his interest. And while, you know, I didn’t actually buy that Ohio State shirt I just showed, my brother did end up purchasing an old-school Cavs tee as a result of this email.

So, the point is segmentation with relevant, timely content, it works. Had Homage bombarded my brother with email for every single t-shirt announcement or promotion that they have, he might have ignored this one, you know, as a result of email fatigue and being tired of them sending to him. But instead, they segmented and they made a sale. And that is real business results.

So Homage, you know, they’re probably segmenting there by purchase history, maybe a little bit of click behavior based on what my brother and I were clicking on previous emails. This example from delivery service Postmates is an example of segmentation by location. So, a couple of weeks ago we had a snow storm here in Nashville, about three inches of snow or so. Other parts of the country might laugh, but that is absolutely, more than enough really to shut the city down for a couple of days. So, Postmates took advantage of that and they sent this weather-themed promotion for free delivery knowing that we would all be too afraid to leave our houses. The copy smartly suggests ramen, brick oven pizza, warm chocolate chip cookies, all that stuff sounds so comforting when it’s cold outside. All very relevant, all very timely. And it’s a really important lesson for marketers. Because, you know, look, as much as we all like our plans and our calendars, planning as far ahead in advance as we can the stuff we want to talk about, you need to take a step back and think about what’s going on in your audience’s lives at that given moment.

Postmates, they couldn’t have known more than a couple of days in advance that a snowstorm would actually hit Nashville, but they acted quickly and they thought about what would be useful to their subscribers in that situation. So, you know, look, in this email, it’s nothing fancy. It’s just a template with a header image, some copy and a button but, it sure is effective.

And that brings us to data. Effective segmentation, it’s all based on the data you’re collecting about your subscribers and wow, are marketers collecting a lot of it nowadays? In fact, marketers are awash in data. Sixty-two percent say they feel overwhelmed by the volume of info coming in. There’s tons of data, there are a ton of channels, you have limited time and resources, and it makes you feel like this. And believe me, almost every marketer feels this way.

So, it’s time to simplify things. We need to start looking beyond spreadsheets, charts, graphs, equations. Focus on what that data really represents, your audience’s behavior. It’s their likes, their dislikes, their activities. And when you humanize your data and you view it through that lens, it becomes much easier to identify what’s truly important to your organization.

Because here in the email world, we tend to obsess over opens and clicks, and, you know, rightfully so, it’s the most obvious indicator of whether or not an email was successful. But you have to be careful that that’s not all you care about because, you know, vanity metrics like impressions, views, reach, and to some extent, opens and clicks, they look great in spreadsheets and reports, that’s why I call them “vanity metrics.” It makes us feel good, but so what? How is your marketing really making an impact on the business?

Here’s a way of thinking about it. So this is an email from SnapApp that my colleague, McKenzie, received, and nice job of personalization there. So, instead of stopping at the open rate just the simple fact that McKenzie might have opened this, SnapApp could drill deeper to see, for example, of the people who open this email, what percentage took the assessment they offered? Of the people who took that assessment, how many signed up for their service? There’s a lot more you can learn about your audience and your marketing when you start scratching below the surface of those opens and clicks. That way, you can tie your email marketing results to the business goals you’re ultimately responsible for. And more importantly, you can understand and explain better how you’re contributing to the success of the organization. And once you’ve identified those metrics that matter most, the audience behavior that you care about, then it’s time to optimize your email for them. And that means testing.

So, what are some things you can test? As you see from the slide here, you virtually test every part of the email from, you know, send times to copy the images to CTA placement. The important thing is that you only test one thing at a time so you can be 100% sure that that is the variable that impacted the results. And when you’re testing and you’re letting data lead the way, what you’re actually doing is really you’re listening to your audience. They’re telling you how they want you to market to them with every response. So, every cent becomes a chance to learn more about them and that is a beautiful thing when you are trying to move fast and maximize results. Like I said before, marketers are being asked to do more than ever.

So here’s an obvious place to start, it’s the subject line. Writing a great subject line is one of the most difficult tasks in email marketing. Believe me, I have to do it almost every day. And after all, there is there is nothing more frustrating than creating an email that you just know is a winner and watching it get tanked because the subject line didn’t resonate. So, test out different subject lines with a small portion of your audience first and then you can send the winner to the rest of your list. It’s a really smart way of going about that.

So, this is an example of a subject line test that I actually received from the content platform, Uberflip. They were sharing a video that they produced with Ann Handley. So, both of these are great subject lines. They’re short and intriguing, I probably would click on both of them, but I’m guessing they weren’t sure how many people on their email list are familiar with Ann. So, you know, and just in case you aren’t, she’s the chief content officer at MarketingProfs, and she’s actually a brilliant writer and speaker. So if you care at all about content marketing, I encourage you to check out her stuff. So, anyway, that’s the test. See if they get more opens and clicks if they rely on Ann’s name recognition or to use the content of the mailing itself. So, that’s easy as can be to set up and help them learn more about their audience and increase their open rates in the long run.

Personalization, this is the name of the game in 2018. Going back to, you know, what I was saying earlier, making sure a one-to-many email communication truly feels one-to-one. Because when you get personalization right the results can be staggering really, 86% of consumers say that personalization plays a role in their purchase decisions. So, you know, personalization, it works because you’re putting the focus of your message right where it should be, on the subscriber, not your brand. You’re taking the data you’ve collected. Those preferences, those likes, those dislikes, those behaviors, and you’re using it to anticipate what content your subscribers would like to receive from you. So, everything from product or content recommendations, to abandoned cart emails, to event follow-ups. Those are all examples of personalized messages that you can send based on the data that you’re collecting.

So, I’m about to show you an example from Netflix. The subject line said something along the lines of “Jeff, here’s a show recommended for you.” So, of course, I opened it because I’m always interested in the next binge-worthy thing. And this is what I saw, “Thomas.” Not “Stranger Things,” not “Master of None, ” not “Orange Is The New Black,” “Thomas.” So that seems like a terrible mistake, right, but no, this was actually a lifesaver.

So, here’s the deal. I have a three-year-old son and he happens to be obsessed with “Thomas.” He loves watching it. And then, you know, we try and do the right thing, limit his screen time. As a parent, you need that thing you can give your kids and it’ll serve to, you know, calm him down or just like give you a second so you can finish making dinner. And it’s especially because we also have a one-year-old running around.

So, anyway, if you’re a parent, you’re nodding your head right now, if you’re not, just hang with me. So prior to receiving this email, I noticed there was a little disclaimer on all of my son’s favorite “Thomas” episodes that said, “No longer available after November 1st.” My wife and I were freaking out. Our son would be devastated without “Thomas,” our house will be anarchy after November 1st, but then, like a ray of light, this email arrived in my inbox announcing new “Thomas” episodes are available. Yes, Netflix used their data. They know we watched a lot of “Thomas.” They knew those episodes were cycling out, so they gave us a heads up that new ones are gonna be available. It’s just great customer service. And they kept us watching, retained its happy Netflix customers and sane parents. By the way, I can mention this was back in November, since then, Netflix has removed all episodes of “Thomas,” and we survive because they’re also available on Amazon Prime.

Okay. So, one place that we see personalization a lot is in sales follow-up email. So, I get a lot of these, I sometimes help write these, some of you may also have to write these. They’re really hard to do well. And this one from John Paul Cain at Ceros is one of the best I’ve received. So, if you look in the “To” field there, you will see my name, Jeff Slutz. My wonderful German last name pronounced “Sloots.” What’s it look like? Slutz. Yeah, that builds thick skin, grade school stuff.

So, anyway, John Paul basically knows three things about me. He knows my name, he knows that I’m a writer, and he knows I work at Emma. And he used all three of those to his advantage. So if you look at that subject line, “They say the best writing comes from pain,” he knows I’m a writer so that subject line is immediately relevant and intriguing to me. So I open it and the first line says, “And looking at your last name, I’m assuming high school must have given you a ton of inspiration.” I literally snort-laughed at my desk when I opened this, my coworkers gave me some weird looks, asked me if I’m okay, but that’s not all that unusual.

But anyway, this was a gamble for John Paul for sure because if I didn’t have a sense of humor, I could’ve been ticked off and deleted, but anyway, the joke paid off and it kept me reading. And because he knows where I work, he did a little research about Emma and what we do, he sent me a blog post that he thought would be most helpful. So, he also provided me with some value. You know, we didn’t have to be in the market for a content design platform at the time, but you can bet John Paul will be a first when I call if I ever am in the market because that’s some connection he made in that personalized content that he include there. He put forth that extra effort.

So, if you think back, you’ll remember the title of this section is actually called, “Use personalization responsibly.” That’s because if you overdo it, it comes across as, you know, kind of patronizing or annoying at best, and downright creepy at worst, which is not exactly the brand impression that you’re going for. So, this next series of emails is an example of personalization gone wrong that I found on the Econsultancy blog. If you don’t already read Econsultancy, you should start. A lot of really helpful marketing content on there, so, definitely, check those guys out. The author of this post was named Ben and he received this abandoned car email from the slipper company, Mahabis. And this initial email, it’s not too bad actually. They use his first name in the subject line there to grab his attention. You can see where Mahabis has also included his location, Manchester, England. And the email copy, as well as a picture of the product that he had in his cart with a little note saying “PS: You know, gotland green is a great sole choice.” And like I said, this email it’s not bad at all. It reminds him of the product and provides him with a little bit of encouragement and a link to go purchase them. So, the reference to Manchester and the color choice is obviously automated, but it doesn’t feel creepy. In fact, it probably just got Ben’s attention which is really what you’re going for here.

So, here’s where things start to get a little weird. First off, the subject line, does Adam really wanna talk about the weather? I mean, I think he probably just want to see if Ben is still interested in the slippers. The copy also starts with, “I wanted to send you a personal email.” That’s pretty disingenuous given that this email is likely automated. And next up, Adam says it’s going to be 9 degrees Celsius in Manchester, that’s roughly 50-something degrees Fahrenheit. So not super frosty, especially for Manchester England, and yet the copy says that the slippers are amazing for cold weather. Then writes in his blog posts, that line there, instead of being endearing, you just kind of made him wonder what temperature the threshold for that automated copy would change. And now here’s the clincher. Adam repeats that exact same compliment about the green soles at the end there. So that repetition just feels super clunky. There should have been a rule in place that have been open that first email then they wouldn’t repeat that color choice compliment.

And by email three, we’re starting to really go off the rails here. So the subject line, “15% off just for Ben.” And look at the beginning of the second paragraph Adam says, “I’ve pushed internally to get you a special 15% discount.” That’s pretty heavy. Adam, you know, he must be one heck of a guy because Ben has never even met Adam, but of all his potential customers to have abandoned the cart, Ben is supposed to believe that he’s the one Adam is sticking his neck out for. So, again, this is a case where the personalization is just so obviously automated that it feels disingenuous when it’s paired with that copy.

And then there’s the line at the end of the email that’s really a perfect example of personalization gone wrong. Adam writes that the feet of Ben will love them. Does anyone besides Yoda talk like that? I mean, it’s a classic situation where personalizing for the sake of personalizing doesn’t add anything to the email. If anything, it just stands out as being awkward so.

And look, I kind of hate pointing out bad example because marketing is hard. I don’t wanna be too hard on Mahabis, their product is probably great. And if there is a real Adam, I’m sure he’s just trying to do the job as best he can. This post from Econsultancy just does a great job of what can happen if we’re not careful with personalization.

So, trust your own instincts and employ personalization responsibly. I can’t stress that enough, as a marketer, is to trust your own instinct. Because you get a ton of emails yourself, so think about what resonates with you. Because when done well, personalization should make your subscribers feel like you’re paying attention and generally care about delivering great customer service. So, if it’s something that would give you the heebie-jeebies if it landed in your own inbox, just don’t do it don’t hit send, simple as that.

All right, let’s talk about engagement next. The most successful marketers in 2018, they’re gonna be focusing more on engagement than reach. In other words, they’re gonna spend more time marketing to their existing customer base and delivering them the best experience they can than trying to acquire brand-new customers who may or may not have ever heard of them.

So let me tell you why. This is a simple case of making the most of your time and resources. According to Marketing Metrics, “The probability of selling to a new prospect is somewhere between 5% and 20%. The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60% to70%.” A lot of marketers out there have this flipped. You devote a ton of time and energy to get your brand name out there to attract new eyeballs while existing customers are sort of an afterthought. But in reality, your customer base, that’s your biggest untapped resource. There’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth. So, focus on engaging your customers, deliver value, exceptional customer service at every turn, and your name, your brand’s name will be the first one they think of when their friends or colleagues are asking for recommendations. And when you have that engaged customer base, it allows you to do some pretty cool things.

Check out this email here from Charity: Water. First of all, it’s just a gorgeous mobile-optimized email. And what Charity: Water does is they develop clean water projects for people in need all over the world. And this email is asking our current donors to refer Charity: Water to their networks back on Giving Tuesday, which would, you know, kind of help expand their reach. So in the same breath, they’re asking their donors to refer them, they’re also including a video that shows the impact of their donations. It’s so smart because it makes donors feel more connected to the cause. I mean, think about it. How many times have you donated to a nonprofit? You probably received a “Thank you,” and then that’s it. You have no idea what actual impact that your dollar has made. Charity: Water makes sure that their donors here are literally seeing the results of their donation so they’re much more likely to refer this great nonprofit to their family, friends, and colleagues because they can see the difference that they’re making. Just really smart customer marketing on their part.

In this example from another Emma customer here, GoldieBlox. I just love it. It’s downright perfect because…and so, what GoldieBlox does is they’re a company that makes toys and games designed to help girls develop an early interest in engineering and problem-solving. They have a wonderful relationship with a very, very loyal customer base. So, to show their appreciation for five successful years in business, they sent this simple heartfelt “Thank you” email that video message from their founder and CEO.

So, something that’s crucial, if you wanna be successful with video and email, first off, is to pick the right screen grab. This one, it’s great. She looks like she’s having a blast. And you wanna know what she’s laughing at, you wanna be in on the joke. You can’t help but click on that and see what all the fun is about. And after you’re full of those warm and fuzzy vibes from watching the video and you feel like you have a real personal connection to the brand after sharing a laugh with the CEO, there’s a free signed copy of her latest book. That’s how you focus on engaging your customer base, turning everyday customers into true fans who will literally sing your praises from the nearest mountaintop or Twitter account. It is brilliant marketing

So, both of those emails I just showed you, they include video. It is a surefire way to boost engagement, excuse me. Video has proven time and time again to be one of the most reliable ways and lift click rates and drive people back to your site. EmailMonks found that and by including a video thumbnail in your email, you can lift your ROI by as much as 280%, pretty powerful stuff there. And just real quick, just for clarification, when I’m talking about adding video, I’m talking about including a screen grab that links outs of the actual video where it’s hosted, not embedding the video in the email itself. There are certainly pros and cons to doing that, but I don’t really wanna totally derail this webinar this far in the game, still a lot to get to, so.

Here is another way, a great way to be using engagement, which is a good GIF. So the designers I work with, they always give me a hard time because I don’t show off any of their emails in any of these webinars so I’m throwing them a bone here. This one comes from Emma’s own design crew and it’s an email announcing new speakers at Marketing United, the conference that we host every year. And a shameless plug alert here, real quick. This year’s Marketing United is going down in Nashville April 9th to 11th. The speaker lineup, I’m super excited about, is setting up to be the best one yet. I absolutely can’t wait to see these folks take the stage. So, just head to to learn more about it. I really, really hope you can join us. It’s an awesome conference. Okay, shameless plug over, thank you for allowing me that.

So back to GIFs. The reason GIFs like these are so effective is because they add some movement to what’s traditionally been a static medium in email. So, even though it seems like everyone is using them these days, they still grab your attention. Plus, they’re just flat out fun. We all like to be surprised and delighted when we open an email. So, you know, GIFs, they don’t have to be all about fun, they’re also a great tool to show off products. There’s really utility there. Think about the t-shirt cycling through on that Homage NBA email. That could have been a huge picture grid or something, but instead, they just created a GIF that cycle through a bunch of them. Or if you’re a B2B software company, a GIF could show off some new features right there in the inbox without asking people to log into their account, or click out and watch a demo, or something to see them or read a really long blog post. You can show off the functionality right there when you have their attention in the inbox

And of course, videos, GIFs, really, it’s all just tricks and window dressing if you’re not providing value. And by value, I don’t just mean discounts and sales. And in fact, I think in 2018, what we’re gonna see is a lot of brands focusing less on how much they can slash their prices and more on how much real value they can provide. Because, you know, everyone’s offering discounts, our inboxes are stuffe with them. So, establishing other ways to provide value is how successful brands are gonna set themselves apart.

So, let me show you a couple of examples of what I mean. This is a Cyber Monday email from retailer Everlane. And really, they’re hitting it head-on. So what they’re doing is positioning themselves as the opposite of all of those discounts that flooded inboxes on Black Friday, Cyber Monday weekend. And don’t get me wrong, they’re still communicating and they’re competing for attention and dollars. But what they’re doing is establishing themselves as the brand that provides value every day rather than just trying to out-discount their competitors. They’ve become the exception during one of the most difficult times to stand out in the inbox.

And here’s another great example from a retailer, Consider the Wldflwrs. And what they’re doing is they’re taking a page straight out of the B2B playbook. Yes, this is a retailer who is doing content marketing. And you’re gonna start seeing more and more of that. The top spot in this email, it’s not selling you engagement rings directly, it’s providing a guide on how to shop for engagement rings. Because, you know, look, buying an engagement ring is stressful. I wish I had a guide like this when I did it, so providing something of value like this helps establish some trust and a connection that’s deeper than if they just offer 20% offerings. And of course, once you’ve read the guide and you do feel ready to shop, you’re likely gonna return to this brand who gave you all that help and they’re there waiting with a fantastic selection of rings to choose from. So, value over discounts.

Okay. Let’s all take a deep breath for a second. All this, you know, I’ve been talking about a lot here. All this list building, personalizing, engagement, that sounds like a ton of work, right? And I know marketing teams are small. We’re all scrapping. We’re all trying to do a ton. It would take an email army to do that for every single subscriber. So that is where automation comes in. It helps you do great email marketing at scale because I mean, and look, automation, you know, we’ve been talking about it forever.

The fact is a lot of marketers still aren’t adopting it because automation can seem…it seems a little intimidating at first. I mean, because one of our biggest fears as marketers is that we’re gonna screw something up, we’re communicating on behalf of the company. So it’s hard to put your trust into machines. But, you know, if you apply the same careful thought and strategy to automation as you would any other tool that you’re using and don’t just set and forget it, you’ll see that a lot. “Oh, automation will let you set it and forget.” Don’t do that. You’ll see some pretty great results and you’ll be thankful for the extra time you’re gonna save.

So there are a couple of numbers I wanna share with you about automation. First, 63% of companies that are outgrowing their competitors are using marketing automation. Marketers are competitive people by nature. We all wanna outperform our competition. And automation, that is one way you can do it. And second, businesses that use automation see as much as a 451% increase in qualified leads. I mean, bam, that’s the name of the game right there, right? So if you’re looking to get more out of automation in 2018, and I hope that you are, there is no better place to start than with your welcome series.

Okay. So we actually, at Emma, just revamped our own welcome series that we sent to our new customers. So I figured, “Why not show you how we do things here?” Give you a little peek behind the curtain. The goal of this series here is to help our customers get to know their new Emma accounts and really provide them with resources that, excuse me, resources that they might not discover, you know, if left to their own devices. So, it’s a little different than a welcome series we normally talk about, which is one that you would send to a new subscriber since these are folks who have already converted. But I think the takeaways here are very similar. And it gets back to the emphasis on customer engagement that I spoke about earlier.

So, in this first email, what we’re trying to do here is anticipate what our customers need to see from us. So what we’re doing is we’re making it easy for them to log in because they’re likely chomping at the bit to check out their new account right after they signed up. And right beneath that, we give them a whole slew of training resources to help them get set up and sending right away

In email two, we’re sharing some customer stories and some case studies because, you know, look, social proof it goes a long way toward establishing trust and making customers or subscribers feel more connected to your brand like they’re part of a larger community because, you know, you are. Plus, it’s always helpful to see how other people are having success with a product because it helps give you some tips and inspires your own marketing just to kind of, you know, see how other folks are going about it, some things that you might not otherwise have thought of.

Email number three, it’s all about valuable content that aligns with the activities they will likely be doing in their third week as an Emma customer. So they’re probably looking at some data from their first send, they’re trying to make sense of some results, think about what they could do better the next time. You know, maybe they’re designing and preparing for their next email. As a marketer, you want to provide exceptional customer service at every turn. So you can say, “Look, even if they don’t open and click on this email, you’re sending the message that you understand their needs and where they’re at in the process.

And finally, we wrap up our welcome series by promoting some of our expert services that are designed to help our customers really, with whatever area their marketing team may be lacking in, whether that’s strategy, design, technical integrations, you name it. Because like after providing all that value in the first three emails, you’ve really earned the right to ask for something in return. With a clear call to action that’s still timely and still relevant to their interests. It’s not coming out of left field. Because the whole point of doing a welcome series is that you’re reaching your audience at a time when they are most excited to hear from your brand right after they became a customer or joined your email list. You have their attention. So please, please, please don’t miss that opportunity.

But on the other opposite end of the spectrum, unfortunately, not every new subscriber is going to stay engaged. For one reason or another, they might stop opening or clicking your email. It happens to the best of us, it’s gonna happen to you. So if someone hasn’t opened an email in a while, automate a reengagement email like this one from Heal the Bay to see if they wanna stay on your list. I love this email. It’s light-hearted, it’s pun-filled, it’s the perfect way for Heal the Bay to clean up your list, improve their deliverability, and show subscribers that they’re paying attention. Plus that GIF, that’s awesome. I mean, come on, it’s a waving whale. It immediately grabs your attention, which is super important when you’re trying to win back a subscriber who may have tuned out. I mean, the whole vibe is just a good reminder that “Oh yeah, I like this organization. I like what they’re about. Let me see what they’ve been up to lately.”

And the data backs it up. A study by Return Path found that 45% of recipients who received “win back” emails, they ultimately read subsequent messages and came back in the fold. And even if they don’t, that’s perfectly fine. It’s okay to say, “Goodbye.” You have a cleaner list, you’ll have more reliable data, and an unsubscribe is always preferable to someone sending you to the spam folder and hurting your center of reputation in the long run

Okay. Actually, I was going to quickly recap each one of these, but you just spent 45 minutes listening to all that, so I’m gonna spare you so we can get to the questions. But here’s the deal. Email, it gives you the most bang for your marketing buck. It’s the one channel that provides reliable reach. Other than SMS, which is a lot more intrusive. But anyway, unlike a tweet or a Facebook post or a display ad, you know that your audience at least received and saw the message. They might not open it, they might not click on it, but, you know, they got it and that is huge when you’re strapped for time and resources. So, make the most of that valuable opportunity and inbox. Take some inspiration from these emails, look at some favorites from your own inbox, see what they’re doing. Really break it down, segment, personalize, focus on engagement, deliver the content your subscribers expect and want from you, not what you want to send to your subscribers. And if you do all that, I’m confident you’re gonna have your best year ever in 2018.

All right, now for the fun part, Q&A. Saw a ton of good questions coming in. So let’s dive into some of these here. Let’s see, Chloe, “With all the emails sent and received today, how do we break through to get results? Is email dead?” You will see that headline all the time, “Is email marketing dead?” It’s a perfect clickbait. And Chloe has put this on a tee for me. So here we go.

So I just talked about email getting reliable reach, so that’s very true. But beyond that, I wish I could remember where the stat was from, but 72% of people prefer that brands communicate with them via email over any other channel. I mean, just think about your own habits. You probably don’t want brands texting you. You probably don’t want them in your DMs, and you certainly,  don’t want people…no one talks on the phone these days, you don’t want people calling you. Email is where you expect to communicate with brands. And just think about it. Your email address, that is your online passport. Whenever you sign up for anything, any kind of digital service, what’s the key to signing up? Your email address. So email, it’s not going anywhere. In fact, of any marketing channel, it has the largest return on investment. We did our own initial report last year, and I think 40%...almost 50% of marketer said that email provides the most ROI, which is higher than any other channel by a long shot.

And just think about the recent things that are going on. I mean, Facebook pretty much changed their algorithms that you get zero organic reach. Social channels are always changing like that. Email is a place you can rely on and that will get you results. And think about it, too, that’s the one place where your customers or your subscribers have asked to hear from you. They’ve signed up for your list, they want you to talk to them in the inbox. So if you respect that and you deliver the relevant content that they want, then your email will be far from dead. It will be very alive and will deliver results from you…for you.

Okay, email sermon over. Sorry about that. Anyway. Okay. So, Denise [SP] writes in that, “My boss wanted us to conduct an A/B test on email and the landing page at the same time. Okay. But I don’t think that’s within best practices to do so. What do you think?” I agree with you, Denise. The important thing about testing is, yes, you only wanna test one variable at a time because if you test a bunch of different stuff, you’re not gonna be sure what was alternately making an impact. And I’m guessing in this situation, probably how they’re justifying it is that, “Oh, so you’re testing the subject line in the email what you’re looking at as an open rate. And if you’re testing the landing page, what you’re probably looking at is, you know, the form fill or the conversion rate.”

But the thing is there might be something psychological about like a certain subject line that led to more conversions and therefore it’s like, “Oh, that’s not what you’re actually testing, you’re just testing the open rate,” But that could throw off the conversion rate test. Anyway, I’m confusing myself to talking about it because that’s what happens when you have multiple variables and you start trying to break down the data. You can’t be sure what’s going on there. So, test one thing at a time so that you’re very, very sure what is making an impact. And that way you can adjust quicker and make better decisions going forward.

Oh,  a lot of questions about list growth and getting more subscribers. Angela, Rachel, David, Collette. Everybody wants to know, “How can we get more folks on our list?” I would say number one is you need to be very transparent about the value you are providing. Make sure folks know why should they join your email list? Because you’re right. People are…we’re getting a ton of emails these days. So how is your email gonna give them something they don’t already have. I mean, that could be exclusive content, opportunities that are not available to other folks. It could be, you know, if you are retailer offering a deal or free shipping or something along those lines, just initially, get them into the fold.

And also I would say the other thing is make sure you are clear about the frequency. How often you’re going to be sending because that’s another thing is like, “I mean, I don’t know if I wanna sign up for this list and just get another, you know, email or, you know, bombarding me every day.” Make it clear how often you’re gonna be sending and what type of stuff you’re gonna be sending. That’ll make people much more comfortable and more likely to sign up.

And also make sure you’re giving opportunities to sign up everywhere that you’re interacting. It’s not just putting a form at the bottom of your website, although you should definitely do that, too. You know, if you’re at events, have a have a sign up form on your iPad. You know, forget about that fishbowl with the pen and paper. You know, if you have a brick-and-mortar, have folks sign up there. Even on your social channels, you can tease like, “Hey, big announcement coming up. Sign up to our email list and you’ll be the first to hear.” So, make it enticing and use your other channel to actually promote your email list and get them there.

And then also, follow up based on how they signed up. If someone signed up for your email list because they downloaded a white paper, make sure that the next email they’ll receive is something that’s building upon that white paper, whatever, like topic it was about so you can keep building on that interest. If someone signed up for an event, make sure the follow-up email for everybody who’s signed up for that event references meeting them at the booth or something kind of fun that happened, some kind of inside joke from the conference. It will be a lot more endearing and it will show that you’re paying attention you’re not just saying the same thing to everybody who joins our list. You’re treating each person differently. So that would go a long way.

All right, Tim, “Have we really come to GIFs and emails to get customers attention? Is this something customers love or is it something marketers want them to love?” Both. I love GIFs, and as a marketer, I want my customers to love GIFs. Actually, there’s a stat that backs this up though. MarketingSherpa has found that GIFs increase conversion rates by 130%. And we’ve seen in our own testing that when we include GIFs in our email that more and more people click on it. So, yes, they’re fun and it’s something marketers talk about a lot, but there is also hard results on the backend.

Another question about Gifs from Brandy, “We’d love to use more animated GIFs in our email campaigns but have run into issues with file size.” So, I’m not a designer, but I’ll do my best and answer this and my design friends can yell at me if I get any this wrong. So, basically, that’s a valid concern because especially on mobile, you don’t want a huge GIF that’s gonna be super slow to load because people aren’t gonna wait around. They’ll just delete your email. So you don’t want that to happen. So what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna limit the number of frames in your GIF. The human eye, we actually don’t need to see a lot of motion, a ton of frames there. So, you’d be surprised that, you know, how many frames you can actually remove from a GIF and still kind of create the same effect maintaining that same kind of illusion that things are moving around there.

The other thing you’re gonna wanna do, and this again, a little bit in the weeds for me, is animating just part of the image. So, don’t force the entire image itself to redraw the entire thing on every frame. You can use some layers in Photoshop so you’re just isolating just the parts that are actually animating rather than the whole image, and that will keep the file size down.

The other thing that you’re gonna wanna do, and I’ve heard my designers talk about this a lot is limiting the number of colors that’s actually in the GIF. That reducing the number of colors in the image will actually… you know, it might reduce the quality of the GIF but you kind of find a good balance there between the quality and file size. I mean, think about the Marketing United email I showed you. That was a pretty fancy GIF that my designer, Rob, did. But if you think about it, it only had three colors in it, just the blue, yellow, and white. So there’s a lot going on there but it was really a very simple color choice.

And one more thing about GIFs is that there are some versions at Outlook that still won’t support GIFs, so if you are including them in your email, what I want you to do is make sure that the first frame of that GIF makes sense as a standalone image. Because Outlook will basically just show that image rather than animate the GIF. And if it does, but it makes sense within the email itself no one will know that that was supposed to be a GIF that actually animated. You’ll just kind of cover your base there

Courtney, “For someone starting out an email marketing, are there any tips of the trades or specific areas you would focus on? Any related blogs we should follow?” Okay. For someone starting out, I would say resist the temptation to include everything in your email. I mean, when you first go on you’re like you’re chomping at the bit, you wanna tell all your new subscribers about everything that’s going on. But the fact is folks will be much more likely to engage with your email if you keep it focused on a single call to action in each one. So that’s where segmentation comes into play because everybody on your list isn’t all gonna be interested in everything that you’re sending. So, if you can isolate individual pieces of news for the segments of your audience that will be most interested in them, then what you can do is just send emails at very limited content because people are, you know, they’re busy, they’re scanning their inbox. So you wanna be relevant right away and not make them do too much work. So, try if you can not to provide too much info on the email.

The other question was, “Any related blogs we should follow?” Well, obviously, the Emma blog, of course. But then, I would say, actually, Litmus has a very, very great blog. They’re really experts in this stuff. So, definitely check out their blogs if you’re just getting started. There’s tons at really all levels of email marketing for those who are just beginning, and then some really advanced stuff for designers. So, check out Litmus App, their blog. It’s really, really great.

This one coming in from Jessica, “You mentioned the number one reason for unsubscribing is receiving too many emails. How often do you recommend that businesses send email to their subscribers?” That’s tough. That’s gonna be different really for depending on what business you’re in. But what I always recommend is test, that’s how you’ll find out. So if you start off by just, you know, sending one email a week, and like, “Oh, that’s getting pretty good results. Let’s see what happens if we up it to two?” Well, did the results go up or down? If it goes up and, you know, “Oh, they’re actually interested in hearing more from us.” Or if it goes down is like, “Oh, once a week is enough.”

We actually tested this ourselves fairly recently. We sent out just kind of a standard company newsletter really of marketing content that we think is valuable to our customers that we sent out once a month. It’s called “The Good News From Emma.” And a while back we tested, “What if we sent two a month every two weeks?” And we found that our open rates drastically dropped. People didn’t want it twice a month. They only want it once a month. So that was very enlightening. And we were like, “Okay, that’s the right cadence for our customers.”

So that’s kind of what I would do. I mean, I wish I had like a hard number that I could just give you that, “Yeah, you only send this many times a week. That’s the perfect number.” It’s gonna be different. I mean, the thing about retailers they’re sending in practically every day. You know, B2B is probably longer, it’s a longer purchase cycle. You’re probably going to be, you know, not sending quite as often and providing more value-based content marketing in your email. So, it just really depends what industry you’re in.

Okay. We are about of time here. So what I want you guys to do. There’s still a ton of questions pouring in. What I want you to do is go to LinkedIn. We’ll be there. And so on LinkedIn, it’s Emma, Inc. And look at the most recent update on our channel and type your questions there in the comments and we will be there to respond to them so we can keep keeping talking about this stuff because we love it and we hope you guys like it and we wanna keep the conversation going. So, hop in to LinkedIn, we’ll keep the conversation going there. And look, I just wanna thank you guys for spending this time with me. I had a blast, I hope you found it valuable and we’ll see you next time. Take care. Bye-bye.

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