How effective is your email marketing?

As marketers, we can learn a lot from the fables of old. Take this classic tale – you can spin it into a lesson in email marketing:

The tortoise and the hare – an email marketing fable

Once upon a time there was a hare who, boasting how he could get more conversions from a single email blast than anyone else, was forever teasing tortoise for his slower email marketing approach. Then one day, annoyed by such bragging, the tortoise accepted the challenge of long-term conversions. On the day of the first send, the hare blasted a rushed email template out to the thousands upon thousands of contacts on his email list, whereas the tortoise had crafted a workflow of emails designed to engage and convert segmented lists over time. When the hare saw this slower approach, he decided that after this email he’d rest and not send another email for weeks. “Take your time!” he said. When he returned, he saw that his email produced 10 conversions, whereas the tortoise’s first email had only produced two. “I’ve won!” he thought. However, upon closer inspection, the tortoise had sent three other emails during the hare’s stagnancy. The second email had produced eight conversions, the third produced 20, and the fourth produced 40 conversions. The hare sprinted to create another email and blast it out to his email list, but tortoise had beaten him to the winning post. “Slowly does it every time!” he said.

What on earth are we talking about?

We’re talking about being effective in your email marketing, long-term. Just because an email you send gets some results, does that mean your method was optimal? Of course not. The hare might have been able to create 10 conversions, but a “start stop” approach to email marketing can never have long-term success. You kill your momentum when you leave it too long between emails – customers forget about your offering, and don’t have you in mind when it comes time to buy. Blasting an email to your entire list instead of segmenting your data and personalising your content means that there could have potentially been a lot more than 10 conversions. The tortoise, on the other hand, was not successful right away. Instead, he built trust, familiarity and engagement amongst his contacts by personalising content and keeping the conversation going. Just because an email is successful, it doesn’t mean your email marketing is effective. So, what can you do to become effective like the tortoise?

Start with the list

The quest for optimal email marketing begins and ends with your contact list. To truly be effective you should perform multiple A/B tests on different areas of your email – from the subject lines to the ‘from name’ – in order to find what hits home with your recipients and what doesn’t. A bit more work in the short-term can provide plenty of long-term gains. But to introduce some targeted content, you must segment your list. Try separating contacts by age group, location, job title – whatever information you have that you think will allow you to personalise your emails effectively. Check out our article on how to get to know your customers better to give you some ideas. Then, after every email send, you should ensure that all unsubscribes and hard bounces have been removed from your list. Soft bounces can stay, as the recipient’s inbox might just have been full or there may have a server error at the time of the send, but removing the hard bounces will improve the health of your contact list and give you better results in the future.

Always follow up

Just as one tweet on a Twitter account or one post on a blog is highly unlikely to have any meaningful impact, the same goes for a single email blast. People want to buy from companies that they recognise, and that they have regular touch points with. The reason that your friend and mine, the tortoise, was so successful by the end of his four-email workflow is that the recipients had developed a familiarity with his company and its products and services. They knew exactly what the company did by the fourth email, and it happened to arrive at a time when most people were in a position to want to buy.

Inspire repeat business

In a similar vein as above, you should design your follow up emails to encourage the customer to make another purchase. It doesn’t have to be immediately obvious (you don’t want to pester someone who has just done what you wanted them to do) but you can subtlety tempt them into coming back by emailing similar items or special offers. If a customer has made a purchase, it’s because they like your company. If a customer has made a purchase and hasn’t unsubscribed, it’s because they liked your product. If a customer has made a purchase, hasn’t unsubscribed, and continues to open your emails every time they land in their inbox, it’s because they like receiving your emails. And that’s the epitome of effective email marketing. Do your customers enjoy your messages? If so, you’ll be successful long-term. Being speedy might impress, but slow and steady wins the race.