Skip to main content

Be Better Blog

Strategy & Insights

How to Use Email Marketing to Build a Relationship with Subscribers

June 18, 2014

Email marketing is all about building fulfilling relationships with your subscribers. Like any good relationship, it’s important to have mutual interests. Ask yourself, where do my business’ interests intersect with my subscribers’ needs and wants? Email marketing is excellent for driving sales, retaining clients, increasing brand awareness and boosting website traffic. But you are only likely to be successful if you can answer “what’s in it for them?”

If you’re not already using email to generate revenue, you are late to the party. According to a survey, 60% of businesses say email marketing is already producing a return on investment, and 64% expect that channel to grow in profitability.

It makes sense email is among the most popular and profitable forms of marketing. To reach thousands, the only cost is the time it takes to produce the email template, the content and the expense of the email distribution system. Snail mail communications can’t compare in terms of cost efficiency. But don’t overlook the initial hurdle of getting an audience of thousands.

I’ll walk you through developing a top-notch email marketing strategy to build an audience, make worthwhile content, increase subscriber loyalty and measure success.

Create a strategy to grow your audience

Don’t buy lists: Email marketing is most effective when viewed as long-term commitment. It can take some initial time and effort to develop an active, engaged audience, but it’s worth it. Attempts to shortcut the process are more likely to hurt than help. Purchased email lists often have low quality leads which are less receptive to your message and are more likely to mark you as spam. Unsolicited email is annoying and often harms the reputation of the brand sending it. If too many of your messages bounce or are marked as spam, the email servers governing access to audiences will blacklist you, ultimately preventing future communication with their users.

Grow your audience the right way: Analyze and improve upon channels where people are already interacting with your brand. Communicate the benefits of subscribing and set accurate expectations for list enrollees. Get to know your target audience so you can make offers that will appeal to them. Some good tactics include having website signup forms, an immediate incentive for registering, loyalty programs and paid search advertisements connected to landing pages with an email opt-in form.

Earn trust: Email communication begins as a relationship of trust. Most email request forms have a disclaimer promising not to spam or sell the email address. Subscribers have gone through the trust-fall of giving you their email. Don’t abuse it by stuffing their inbox with spammy messages or sending unrelated newsletters. Also, make it easy to unsubscribe.

Plan ahead: Create a plan and allocate appropriate resources to support the regular generation of emails and supporting collateral. Consider having an editorial calendar to determine when to write about topics which are relevant to your desired clients’ cycle of business.

Build Engagement and Loyalty

Optimize emails for mobile devices: This year, Forrester expects “many companies and retailers to witness more than 50% of their traffic coming from mobile web.” Email optimized for mobile offers a big advantage in this arena because it bridges the divide between mobile and desktop experiences. Today, 90% of consumer transactions are started on one device and finished on another, said Neil Mohan, Google VP of Display Advertising. Retailers who refuse to make their email mobile-friendly could pay a heavy price. Return Path reports 63% of North American consumers delete email immediately if they are not optimized for mobile.

Build your email right: It’s also vital to design a no-images version of your email that still gets the point across because most subscribers block images by default. Improve the effectiveness of your no-image emails by ensuring images have alternate text which will appear in place of the image. This allows viewers to know the content of the image and click on it if it’s a link. Additionally, set yourself up for success by designing email templates with your goals and promises in mind so emails are easy to produce.

Make it word-of-mouth worthy: Aim to create content so worthwhile users want to share it. Most people are more likely to read an email forwarded from a friend or associate than from official channels. Making content easy to share over social media can be hugely beneficial. A personal recommendation often carries more weight than an advertisement alone. One company I worked with began to see a dramatic uptick in newsletter subscriptions when people forwarded it to their friends, who would then subscribe. Give readers a chance to engage with your message. In emails, this can look like providing links to additional resources, a place to comment on the article, a method to share it with friends and worthwhile downloads.

Measure and improve: Begin tracking email metrics such as open rate and click-through rate to measure engagement and spot trends in interests. Once you have a baseline, begin A/B testing to further refine your subscriber profile and continue making improvements. Additionally, if you sell through email, be sure to set up in-site analytics to properly track the source of sales for a true estimate of your ROI. Track results and unsubscribes to determine what email frequency works best for your audience.

Be relevant: Consistently providing valuable content to your readers is one of the best methods of ensuring high email open rate and increasing subscriber loyalty. Learn what’s valuable to your readers through studying user metrics and surveying them. Be a good listener.

Personalize when possible and appropriate: Utilizing data points such as location and gender can greatly improve a user’s experience. If a client abandons a shopping cart, try reminding them of the abandoned item and perhaps offer a coupon to improve the likelihood of a sale. Automate post-purchase messages to customers. For most businesses, email is the primary method of staying in contact with clients and is an excellent means of boosting retention. Don’t let these opportunities to show you care pass you by.

Still not convinced email marketing is a great way to reach your target audience? Here are a few more points to consider.

Email easily reaches users wherever they are on the device they prefer, whether it’s desktop, tablet or email. That’s a must in today’s economy where an eMarketer industry forecast projects that retail mobile commerce will increase 37.2% to $57.8 billion this year from $42.1 billion in 2013. Response rates with emails are faster than with other forms of direct communication, and it has more persistence than many advertisements on social media. For example, it’s easier to track down an email with a coupon you saw two days ago than a promotion you saw on Facebook two days ago.

Additionally, most organizations completely underutilize email as a means of generating loyalty, staying top-of-mind and expressing the company values that set them apart from their competitors. Fredric Reichheld of Bain & Company cites in his book, “The Loyalty Effect”, that customer disloyalty “stunts corporate performance by 25 to 50 percent, sometimes more.” A 5% reduction in customer defection can improve profit by as much as 20%.

Don’t miss the opportunity to make a meaningful connection to your audience through email.

Up Next