A Comprehensive Guide to Effective Email Marketing for Entrepreneurs

Written by: Chris Donald
Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

The effectiveness of your marketing efforts comes into the light when the customer recalls your brand when they are looking for the solution to their problem, even if it was pitched months ago. Such recallability is only possible when they had a good user experience from your brand and having a personalized conversation with them is one of the best ways to make them feel close.

Most of marketers tend to mistake personalization with addressing their customers by their ‘First name’. Personalized communication, in its true meaning, means having a conversation with your customers based on the journey across the sales funnel and their interactions with your brand. No matter how many new marketing channels ‘mushroom’, the level of personalization possible with emails is still unmatched. Yet, just sending a single email doesn’t turn your prospects into a loyal customer; it takes a series of emails to do so.  This applies to all the entrepreneurs out there, too, who are trying to build a successful business.

So here is a comprehensive guide to effective email marketing for entrepreneurs.

Structure of an email marketing campaign

An email campaign is made up of five basic elements:

  • Campaign Strategy
  • Email List
  • Email Template
  • Landing Page
  • Value addition such as knowledge, rewards, incentive that keeps the subscribers subscribed

Absence of any of the above and you are flushing money down the drain.

In addition, you also need certain tools in order to successfully execute your email campaigns:

  1. Email Service Program – to send the emails to a list
  2. CRM – to process the data collected from prospects
  3. Lead Capture tools – to collect the email address and name of subscriber/prospects

Once you have set up everything, it is time to start your email marketing.

Step 1: Onboarding your subscribers and asking for permission

As we stated earlier that an email list is crucial to send an email, so preliminary step towards your email marketing is building your list by having people subscribe to your brand’s email newsletters. Whether you follow the inbound or outbound methodology, people demand value addition in exchange for their email address. When they subscribe, they are classified as leads who have expressed interest in knowing about your brand.

Some of the most common ways to generate leads are:

  • Industry updates and knowledge sharing via email newsletter
  • Free downloadable resources such as eBook, whitepapers
  • Free trial
  • Sample products

Once they have subscribed, it is time to introduce them to your brands and get to know them better. Always send a welcome email that manages the following tasks:

  • Welcomes them to your brand family
  • Asks them to whitelist you or double opt-in
  • Sets an expectation about your sending frequency (if you send newsletters)
  • Link to complete their online profile
  • Connect on social media

In the below email by Craftsman, the email welcomes the subscribers and offers the option to visit the website, find a nearby store or choose what kind of product information would they wish to receive in future. They end the email with links to their social media accounts for the subscribers to connect.

CCraftsman email template sample

Step 2: Identify their pain points and educate them on your solutions

Now that your subscribers are somewhat aware about your brand, it is time to connect their problems to the solutions you provide via products / services. Now based on basic demographics such as age, gender, locations, etc. and why they subscribed, you can create custom mailing list and send them lead nurturing emails that periodically provides knowledge based on the pain point they are suffering from.

While you can manually send emails if your customer base is <10 people, it is advisable to make use of email automation to send an email campaign to a particular email list based on your choice. Moreover, thanks to the innovation in terms of merge tags and dynamic content blocks, a specific email template can be pre-populated with details of individual subscriber so that each receives a personalized email content.

Step 3: Sending custom emails at different stages to convert

Additionally, automation brings the option to set up a schedule for your email series to be sent to the subscribers at specific time or user behavior. Depending upon the open and click rates, you can analyze the performance of the email campaigns. Based on the criteria set by you, you can activate different set of email automation based on how the subscriber has progressed to the different stages of the customer journey.

  • In the lead nurturing stage, you set up a drip nurturing email newsletter that periodically imparts knowledge.
  • In the purchase, you set a promotional discount coupon email series to lure the subscriber to make a sale under the pretext of availing a discount or cart abandonment email, if the subscriber abandons your products before checkout at the order page.
  • In the post-purchase stage, you set a series that sends the customer the order receipt, shipping notification, and order delivery notification as soon as they make a purchase. Few days later, the same email series sends a product review email and re-order reminder email for subscription-based products.
  • For the dormant subscribers, you can set up an automation for reviving them and making them active again.
  • Customer delight, wherein you send them birthday or anniversary wishes or build loyalty by sending triggered emails on specific dates

Step 4: Analyzing your campaign performance and making necessary changes

Without feedback, there is no room for improvement and email marketing is an ever-changing scenario where the most converting email of today may not be working flawlessly after a time. So, it is always important to analyze the metrics provided by your ESP to understand what worked and what didn’t. The most common metrics that every email marketer should check are:

  • Open Rate: Highlights on the effectiveness of the subject line. Higher subject line means that your subject line resonated with what your subscribers were looking for.
  • Click Rate: Highlights the effectiveness of the email copy in quenching the thirst of your subscribers. Higher click rates indicate that the email copy and images are satiating the curiosity developed by the subject line.
  • Bounce rate: Incorrect email addresses and filled inbox storage of your subscribers draws this flag. A bounced email is an indicator of wrong address, domain or even SPAM content blocked by the ISP. High bounce is a negative factor for your brand reputation.
  • Unsubscribes and SPAM: People change and preferences change. If your emails no longer match the expectations of the subscribers or they are no longer interested in being subscribed, they can opt out of your mailing list. This is denoted by an unsubscribe. Checking this metric after every email send can help you analyze the relevancy of your email to the need of subscribers.

Meanwhile, SPAM complaints are the worst thing for your brand reputation and signifies that your emails either follow bad practices, attempt to ‘Phish’ or communicates the wrong message. Ideally, the unsubscribes and SPAM complaints should be as low as possible.

One of the best ways to utilize the metrics is by A/B testing different elements of your emails and understand what works for your audience. Moreover, by periodically conducting an email campaign audit can greatly help you optimize your existing email campaigns.

Basic auditing of email campaign involves many stages such as:

  • Email template design optimization
  • Email list hygiene (How well your email list is cleaned from incorrect email addresses and unsubscribes)
  • Sending Timing and Frequency
  • Email deliverability score and sender reputation
  • List segmentation criteria

Email Marketing Best Practices

While email marketing in general, is very easy to set-up and manage, in order to fully utilize the potential of your email campaigns, it is important to follow certain good practices.

  • Have a recognizable FROM name and Sender address
  • Have a CAN-SPAM compliant footer
  • Your subject line and pre-header text should act as a hook, building the suspense about the contents of your email
  • Have an actionable CTA copy that completes following sentence “I wish to ___”
  • Stick to a sending calendar
  • Be open to experiment
  • Periodically ask your subscribers’ feedback

Wrapping Up

Email marketing does promise greater ROI but it involves careful planning and execution. Always look out for industry benchmarks and aim to match them. Other than that, the sky and better engagement are the limits to your email marketing campaigns.

About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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