Email marketing is the most cost-effective way to reach your customers and potential customers. The Data & Marketing Association reported that the channel delivers B2C companies an ROI of 42:1, or $57.54 for every $1.37 spent. Of course, it’s not as simple as digging a dollar and change out of your pocket and sending an email. That’s why we put together this B2C email marketing guide to help you maximize your investment.
The first step to effective email marketing is to develop a plan. Marketers without a strategic plan are likely to exhaust resources on email marketing software, mailing lists, and the time it takes their team to run the campaigns without getting a return on their investment.
You can avoid that problem by spending some time on strategic planning before you get started.
At a minimum, your B2C email marketing strategy should include:
- Goals. Overall, what do you hope to accomplish through email marketing?
- Objectives. How will email marketing help you achieve that goal? What targets do your email marketing campaigns need to hit to meet your goal?
- Tactics. What email campaigns (audience, messaging, offers, etc.) will you send to hit those targets?
If you don’t already have an audience, you’ll need to build one. Even if you do, you might want to re-assess your B2C lead generation efforts to see if there are opportunities to increase its size.
Email acquisition can be as simple as buying a list, but we don’t recommend that. B2C email lists can be filled with outdated emails and spam traps. If you’re not careful, you can do serious damage to your sender reputation with a single campaign.
Besides that, the people on a purchased or rented list aren’t likely to recognize your brand. That means they’ll probably flag your email as spam or just ignore the email. Those actions are also bad for your sender reputation.
But there are other ways to get data for email marketing. For example:
- Offer an incentive to people who sign up for your mailing list.
- Use digital advertising to get more leads.
- Require shoppers to register before adding items to their carts.
- Use website visitor identification to get the email address of anonymous visitors who don’t convert.
Email marketing software provides many benefits, including:
- Personalization. Sending highly relevant campaigns to segments of your audience is proven to increase performance. (To learn more about that, see this article on eCommerce personalization.)
- Automation. Email marketing automation will send emails and segment your audience based on the behavior of the recipient (e.g., whether they opened an email) can increase efficiency and protect your sender reputation.
- Audience management. This feature allows you to use audience segmentation so that you can divide your audience based on relevant factors and send them personalized emails, recommendations, and offers.
- Detailed reporting. Email marketing platforms that provide in-depth analytics enable you to assess your campaigns to see what you’re doing right and what you need to improve.
- Email validation. You can identify spam traps and other subscribers who will hurt your sender reputation by running those emails through an email validation tool.
Additionally, while these aren’t exactly email marketing tools, you might want to consider using some landing page optimization tools to increase conversions. If you’re directing your subscribers to a landing page (or multiple landing pages), these tools will help you see what’s working and what’s not.
The subject lines and body copy of your emails are important, but there are other tactics to ensure that your emails are opened, read, and acted on. Here are a few to consider as you get started.
There are many ways you can split your audience into groups with shared attributes. Then you can make sure you’re only sending emails to subscribers who will find them valuable.
The four primary types of audience segmentation are:
- Demographic. Demographic segmentation divides your audience into groups based on characteristics like age and gender.
- Geographic. Geographic segmentation groups subscribers by location.
- Behavioral. Behavioral segmentation groups your subscribers based on their actions (e.g., website activity).
- Psychographic. Psychographic segmentation splits your audience into groups based on psychological factors.
Email remarketing works like a remarketing ad. It targets your subscribers based on website activity (e.g., product page views or cart abandonment) and sends them an email.
Email retargeting is similar to email remarketing, but it allows you to retarget visitors even if you don’t have their email. It requires an email retargeting platform to match your visitors to records in a third-party database to get their email addresses.
Even though these visitors haven’t specifically opted into your list, this is method is legal and compliant with privacy regulations because of the way the email retargeting platform’s data partners collect the data.
Personalizing your emails will lead to better open rates and conversion rates. You can personalize your emails by:
- Including the subscriber’s name in the salutation
- Sending them at the best time according to the recipient’s time zone or the time they are most likely to open it
- Sharing offers that are relevant to the subscriber (e.g., notifying parents about a sale on children’s clothing)
If someone doesn’t open an email, you can use email marketing automation to send that email again. You can send it as is, or change the subject line to try to get their attention.
There’s a wide variety of tried-and-true campaign types that you can use depending on your strategy.
- Welcome emails. Welcome emails thank people for subscribing to your list and let them know what to expect from future emails. They’re likely to be read because the recipient just subscribed so they know who you are and why you’re emailing them. To keep them opening your emails in the future, make it clear what value you’ll deliver to your new subscriber’s inbox.
- Post-purchase emails. These emails (known as post-stay emails in hotel email marketing) thank your subscriber for making a purchase. It’s a good time to ask for feedback.
- Drip campaign. A drip campaign is a series of emails designed to provide value to the subscriber, usually in the form of information.
- Opt-in emails. If you have a lot of drip campaigns or you use website visitor identification for email acquisition, an occasional opt-in email to give subscribers a way out is a good idea to protect your sender reputation.
- Newsletters. Newsletters are informative, entertaining, or both. They give subscribers a reason to stick around. Digg, The Hustle, and theSkimm are great examples to follow.
- Blog updates. If you develop value-packed content for your blog, sharing those updates through email can be a good way to get it in front of as many people as possible. Don’t overdo it. If you generate a lot of content, the newsletter format would probably be a better choice.
- Exclusive content. Exclusive content and offers are another way to give the people on your list a reason not to unsubscribe.
- Promotional offers. Discounts and other promotional offers can increase sales, but they’re most effective when you use audience segmentation to ensure that they’re relevant to the recipients.
Now that you know what you need to get started, let’s cover the rules of the road. Here are some B2C email marketing tips and best practices to follow to maximize your ROI.
- Focus on frequency. Everyone knows you can send too many emails, but a report from email marketing platform Litmus suggests that you can also send too few. The ROI for companies sending 1 email per user per month was 13:1, while companies that sent 9-16 emails per user per month saw the highest ROI at 46:1.
- Know the reason behind every email. Nine to sixteen emails may seem like a lot, but emails sent without a purpose aren’t going to help you reach your goals. Every random email you fire off on a whim is one less opportunity to send a strategically focused email that is engineered to drive results. So, don’t send an email without know what you want the email to accomplish and how you’ll determine whether it was successful.
- Build your list, but focus on engagement. Litmus found that companies with a list of over 500,000 subscribers saw an ROI that was 27 percent higher than companies with less than 500,000 subscribers. But it won’t matter if you have 10 million subscribers if they’re not reading your emails. So focus on getting the right subscribers and pay attention to your email engagement metrics.
- Practice good data hygiene. Keep your list clean. Periodically validate all emails to protect your sender reputation and check on details like first name capitalization (nothing says spam like a “Dear JOHN” letter).
- Consider single opt-in. It’s generally considered best practice to use a double opt-in process to get subscriber consent. Double opt-in means that after providing their email, subscribers have to confirm their subscription by email. But Litmus reports that this may no longer be the case. Companies that predominantly use single opt-in see an ROI of 40:1, while companies using double opt-in see an ROI of only 22:1. You can test across different email acquisition sources to make sure you’re not giving up quality for quantity.
- Develop a pre-send checklist. Avoid errors like sending an email to the wrong list by reviewing a pre-send checklist before launching a campaign.
- Test your emails on multiple email clients. Sometimes your emails will look a little wonky in certain email apps. According to Litmus, companies that test every email before sending see an average of 40:1, versus a 34:1 ROI for companies that don’t. Most email service providers make it easy to preview your emails, it’s just a matter of adding it to your pre-send checklist.
- Experiment. A/B test your offers, subject lines, calls-to-action, and other elements of your emails to figure out what works best for your audience segments. Even if all the experts say you have to do something a certain way, test it if you have reason to believe your audience might respond differently.
This article is more than enough to get you started, but there’s always more to learn. There are great resources out there to help you continue improving your approach.
There are email marketing books that focus specifically on email, like:
- Email Marketing Rules: Checklists, Frameworks, and 150 Best Practices for Business Success
- 300 Email Marketing Tips: Critical Advice And Strategy To Turn Subscribers Into Buyers & Grow A Six-Figure Business With Email
- Email Marketing Blueprint
But some of the best books to improve your email marketing aren’t technically email marketing books at all. They’re books on psychology, copywriting, or broader marketing concepts that will help you develop more effective campaigns.
Here are a few examples:
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Contagious isn’t an email marketing book, but if you want to create email marketing campaigns that go viral, the advice in this book is invaluable.
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Made to Stick is about how to craft a message that people will read and remember.
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasionand Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade. These two are must-reads if you need some direction on how to make your emails more persuasive.
If you’re looking for more than just an email marketing book, there are free and paid courses available. Some are specific to a certain email platform, like ChimpEssentials, which is written for MailChimp users. Others, like HubSpot’s free email marketing course, also cover the fundamentals of email marketing.
Now you have what you need to execute high-performance B2C email marketing campaigns. All that’s left is to develop your strategy, choose your tools, and start executing.