My favorite email marketing tools and tips

Why do we still use email newsletters?
Chris Newport
November 9, 2015

Today there are endless options to capture audience attention and drive traffic to your site. 

Through social media, paid advertising, and strong SEO they all have a place in our marketing toolbox. Yet, statistics shows 90% wish to receive email vs. only 10% elected to “receive updates” through Facebook. Even though we’re falling behind on our unread messages, we view newsletters as something we can control and view when we wish.

The truth is, there are amazing resources now to both build your subscriber lists and efficiently manage your communications. I’ve put together some of my favorite tools, tips, and resources for anyone wanting to start an email marketing campaign or increase their presence and build your brand.

   

   

1. Picking the right platform

There is a never ending list of email marketing platforms and there seems to be a new one advertised every week with new/better features. There are marketing tools that offer deeper analytics and automation, but my goal is to offer my favorite platforms to get you started. As your subscriber list grows (a nice problem to have), you can always research more robust features elsewhere.

   

Campaign Monitor

This has been my go-to for years. Not only did they have some heavy established brands (Apple, Disney, Mercedes, etc.) but they also had features like multiple client account management and top-notch analytics. They were also one of the first to allow me to produce beautiful email campaigns without being forced to use terrible templates or branded footer advertising (i.e. “sent by Constant Contact”). It was important for my clients to look professional and engage with their audience in a meaningful and consistent way.

They’ve grown a lot over the years and their drag-and-drop email builder is the best I’ve used. If you want to push it further, you can build your own template and import into their system. However, if you just need a great starting point, their templates are great.

   

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is the standard when it comes to email marketing. They seem to have cornered the industry on integration with every major CMS platform and third party tool. This is a huge incentive for small businesses starting out and just need everything to work “out of the box”.

Although their design and template tools have left me wanting more. I’ve seen a lot of quality email blasts from brands using their tools. Yet if you’re looking to generate an amazing first impression with little design experience, it can be frustrating.

   

Is one better than the other?

If you’re looking for integration with most platforms available, Mailchimp should be your first consideration. Campaign Monitor a robust a robust web service connection to business apps and CMS tools, but Mailchimp has just about every integration you can imagine.

Automation and sending smarter email is synonymous and standard for any good email marketing tool. Both MailChimp and Campaign Monitor offer businesses to build automated triggers and audience segmentation for your specific customer profiles, demographics, and purchasing behaviors.

Analytics for both is powerful and fun to review during and after a campaign. A/B testing, click overlays, social channels and client reporting provide a deep understanding of what’s working (or not) with your campaigns. My favorite feature from Campaign Monitor is their “world view”. It’s just a fun way to show clients the real-time view of their campaign across the globe.

There isn’t a wrong choice between the two. You can research endlessly and try to figure out what option is the best. My suggestion is to just jump in and test drive. You can’t go wrong.

   

2. Planning and defining success

Testing is always key to understanding what’s working (and not) within your campaign. That’s why A/B testing is so important.

Take two random group samples from your subscriber list (the larger the better). It could be gender, location, age, etc. Send one group a version of your email blast and the second group a slight variation. It’s a simple way to know what’s working and why so you can tailor your campaigns in the future.

Go beyond just changing out graphics, colors and call-to-actions. Try playing around with sending one HTML layout and another that is just plain text. You might be surprised at what your audience reacts to.  

   

3. When to send

You can Google this and see there is no shortage of recommendations. My answer is “look at your analytics” When is your audience clicking on your email? When are your sales most likely to take place? Anyone can have a recommendation on when is the right time, but it’s always important to have the data to backup your answer.

Any email platform will provide a good analysis of your campaign’s performance. Study it, know where your audience is globally, time of day and track their purchasing behavior. Not only is it fun to research but rewarding to test and see the results of your hard work.

   

4. How much is too much?

Send too much and your audience is annoyed. Send too little and you’re forgotten and they wonder why they signed up or purchased in the first place.

Stats show our expectations for email is 1-2 emails per week. Some companies sends up to 10 or more per week! That’s just insanity! The only result they get is a negative image and an “unsubscribe” from their customer.

It’s important to find the right balance and plan accordingly. E-commerce tends to err on the side of “if I send one every day, they must click at some point!”. This industry can be the worst at hitting customer’s expectations. Not only are they irrelevant to my interests but just too much in my inbox

Find your balance and make sure you’re providing the right message at the right time (and make it relevant!).

   

5. How to stay in their inbox

How many times have we wished we had never signed up for that newsletter that seemed to have so much promise only to become spam? Not only should you understand how often to send an email it’s equally important to keep your customers and readers engaged. Optimizing and planning upfront can go a long way and avoid the unfortunate “unsubscribe” button being clicked.

First off, you need to have a welcome email. It’s a must! Someone has taken the time and shown the interest in developing a deeper relationship with you and your brand. You should provide them with the same courtesy and gratitude. Don’t just rely on a standard reply from your automated CMS but put some thought and warmth into it. It’s one of the first opportunities for them to engage with your brand beyond your site. Make it count.

Show that courtesy through your subject line and welcome copy. Thank them for joining and set the expectations on the value and frequency of your communications.

As you continue to send your campaigns, make sure to request feedback on the relevance and frequency they wish to receive your letters. As your list grows, you can begin segmenting and customizing communications with better precision.

Make sure your copy is planned accordingly. Avoid spam triggers words. They can be a little tricky especially when you’re trying to drive traffic to your site. Take this list into consideration.

   

Links Mentioned

Campaign Monitor

MailChimp

   

What are some of your favorite tips and tools for email marketing? 

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© CHRIS NEWPORT