Everyone is inundated with emails every single day. You get emails from clients, colleagues, superiors, friends and family members.
There are emails you read and let's face it – there are emails you don't read. Too many companies are barking for your attention and you don't have attention to spare.
Marketers need to understand this. Even more importantly, we need to understand the very people we send email campaigns to so we can deliver information they want and desire. We need to understand their roles, lives and interests.
I contend that understanding your own email inbox habits are essential to understanding what makes for great email marketing.
If you think an email, maybe from a digest you subscribed to years ago is so repugnant that you wouldn't want it showing up in your inbox, isn't this something you should (re)consider sending out to your own contacts and clients? Would they want equally repulsive content?
I suppose it's a classic case of “treat people the way you want to be treated” or “treat your list the way you want to be treated.”
A better question is: Do you know what they want and what they consider repulsive? Understanding who is on the other end of your email marketing initiatives is vital. They have needs, wants and interests and it's up to you to serve them the right content.
In this blog post, I'll talk about a method that few business owners or marketers employ in their email marketing campaigns: Serving content their audience actually wants to consume. I'll also talk about the process to determine what that content can be.
A Tactic To Help You Understand Your Contacts
To properly understand what your contacts do and don't want to consume, do a role reversal. What information would you NOT like to consume if it was sent to your inbox one week? What if it was sent to your inbox in consecutive weeks or months? How would you feel?
Now, think about this. What if a business you bought a product from, now with consent to send you emails, sent you an email with special promotions? Depending on a number of factors, you may like it or you may not.
Now, what if you received a similar email every single week advertising a particular sale at this business? How would you feel? If you'd be leaning towards that 'Subscribe' button, I'd like to welcome you to the 'Rest of Us' club.
This was just a basic exercise. There are methods of doing more formal exercises to properly understand the people you're sending emails to.
Fully Understanding Your Contacts – Using Buyer Personas
The best way to understand your contacts while streamlining your marketing efforts is to understand your organization's buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal buyers. These are created based on qualitative data you've collected about your customers.
A business could have one buyer persona or several. It all depends on your business. A buyer persona is based off a person and not a business.
What I mean is that a business, let's say an agency like us at ElementIQ - we are a B2B business. Our clients are businesses. However, the people we want to attract are decision-makers on digital marketing campaigns.
This could be:
- The owner of the company
- The marketing manager, in the case of a mid-size company
To create these personas, you'll have to take several of your clients aside and ask them a set of questions. HubSpot has a nice list of buyer persona questions you can ask.
Since we're talking about email marketing campaigns, it may be useful to ask more email-centric questions, like what they currently subscribe to and what their criterion are for deleting emails and unsubscribing from email lists.
The next step is taking the responses to the buyer persona questions and forming personas from them. HubSpot has some neat persona templates you can download to assist with this process.
Once you've created your personas, you'll know more than enough about your ideal buyers to understand what interests and engages them. From this, you can determine the subject matter of what is in your emails.
Content Marketing + Email Marketing = Success
So much of successful email marketing depends on the content in the actual email and how it can help the reader.
If you bought tires from Michelin, would you need more tires the next week or the week after that? Unless, you are a poor driver, probably not.
However, what if Michelin sent you emails on how to take care of your tires so that they last longer? That might be pretty appetizing! That's helpful information that could literally save you money down the road.
You might be thinking - “Why would Michelin do this? They're pushing money away!”
It's about the relationship they're building with their customer. They know that helping the customer in some way will build a stronger bond through increased trust. This is a major benefit of investing in content marketing – and this can help your email campaigns succeed.
The Michelin Guide To Cars – Content Marketing At Its Finest
Michelin actually did this, way back in 1900. Andre and Edouard Michelin were saddled with a problem. More cars needed to be sold in order for more of their tires to be sold. So they published the Michelin Guide. It educated car owners on their cars. It talked about latest news and how to take better care of their cars.
More cars mean more tires. That means more money for Michelin. It worked.
The guide is still published today, over a century later.
As I've illustrated, it can be applied to email marketing too. The lesson is to provide the best possible information in whatever method of delivery – in this case, your emails.
An Example Of An Email Campaign Delivering Great Content
One email digest I subscribe to is Vega, a company that sells plant-based nutritional products. In my humble opinion, I think they do a fantastic job of providing great value in the form of information, discounts, and specials in their emails.
They give you a 15% off discount simply for subscribing to their list – a nice incentive. Their emails are filled with recipes, how-to information, and more.
They often use themes. Here's an ice-cream-themed email:
This one is full of recipes. I've received other emails where they'll have recipes and near the end of the email is a call-to-action for buying ingredients for that recipe in their store.
One email for National Smoothie Day entails a section of the email to purchase smoothie supplies, followed by consecutive sections containing a Raspberry Biscotti Smoothie recipe, the 7 Day Smoothie Challenge and a blog post on How to Build the Best Smoothie.
The folks at Vega have identified who their buyer personas are and what their ideal buyers like. They know that their subscriber base cares about health – otherwise, why would they be interested in a company selling plant-based products? They include in plant-based recipes that have nothing to do with their brand, recipes that could include a Vega product and other pieces of relevant, valuable health information.
Also note the layout of their emails, as depicted in the above screenshot. It's picture, text and call-to-action. Always in that order. The layout is simple and clean – how marketing emails ought to look.
How We Layout Content In Our Email Marketing Campaigns
At ElementIQ, we use a very similar approach to Vega, with respect to content. We go through a process to understand and create buyer personas for the business we're working on. We want to understand their subscriber list so we know what content they'll want to consume. This means the agency you're working with must have not only email marketing experts but content marketing experts.
For each email, there are 3 components:
- About the Business. This section is some piece of relevant, new information about the business. Could be an open house, something your business is doing in the community or what your office is like.
- Evergreen Content. You'll need to understand the term 'evergreen' - it's a piece of content that is not time-relevant. It could be useful to the reader at any point in time. This section would include a link to an evergreen blog post on your website, for example.
- An Offer. There must always be a call-to-action in every email. Give them an action to take and make it enticing. This can be a sale or discount, for example.
Vega's emails are more like this:
- The Evergreen Content #1
- Evergreen Content #2
- Evergreen Content #3
Again, how you structure your emails does depend on what your list looks like and what they want to hear. For the average local small business, their customers are local and are interested in local activities. So the structure we've set out above would work for them.
However, a larger company, like Vega, may want more evergreen pieces because their ultimate goal is to educate and inform (while still selling in a very subtle manner).
Reviewing The 'Undisputed Method'
I've given you a lot of information here and there's quite a bit of work for you to do.
To summarize, you'll need to:
- Survey your clients with a buyer persona questionnaire.
- Create buyer personas.
- Identify what kinds of content and the topics each persona would be interested in and engaged by.
- Plan out your emails to have a balance of information that your buyer personas would actually be excited to read.
- Send away!
If you've got any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below and I'll reply to you as soon as possible.