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Email Marketing

Email Marketing 101: Leveling up your strategy

Whether you’ve already started an email marketing campaign and you’re looking to take it one step further or you’re still getting prepared – dive deeper into best practices proven to improve results with some simple tips from our fourth installment of Email Marketing 101.


So you think you have a handle on email marketing…

By now, you understand the basics of email marketing. You have a list of contacts and a good idea of what to send. So how do you take it one step further? A good place to start is by systematically optimizing your strategy. This can be done in so many ways – and it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Our recommendation? Go back to basics by optimizing your approach to who, what, and when. 

Segmenting your emails

Optimizing the who of your email marketing strategy

The spray and pray approach of sending an email blast to your entire list can sometimes work (like in the case of a newsletter or major product update) but it has risks. Consider it this way. You’ve probably taken part in a holiday gift exchange where you don’t know who will receive your gift. Now, you generally have two approaches here: get something generic that could appeal to anyone – like a coffee mug – or something incredibly specific at the risk of only a minority actually wanting it. The thing about email marketing is, whether you’re flooding your list with boring ‘coffee mugs’ or overly specific offers – if you miss the mark too many times – your customer could ‘unsubscribe’ from your ‘party’. 

Segmenting your email marketing list is perhaps one of the most impactful tweaks you can make to your strategy because it helps ensure the message that reaches each customer is as relevant as possible.

How to segment your contact list to supercharge your email marketing strategy

In order to segment your lists, you need to create unique opt-in opportunities in key places. You may already have a universal opt-in form encouraging customers to join your mailing list. But that’s just the beginning. To borrow an example from the retail world, one way to do this is to include a unique sign-up form, on a specific page, about a specific type of product. Another example would be to use a social media post focused on a unique customer niche. This allows you to begin building a more focused list of customers.

There are many ways you can segment your email list. Some can be automated, such as how a user interacted with your email, while others may require a bit of work – like with a quiz or survey. Some of the most popular list-segmentation tactics include:

  • Demographic data

  • Time since last purchase

  • Job title

  • Email engagement (ex: active vs. inactive prospects)

  • Survey or quiz results

  • Geographic area

  • Past purchases (especially if you use an ecommerce platform, like Shopify)

Remember, every email marketing platform is a little different…

Whether you’re doing it yourself or using a managed email marketing service – list segmentation is a basic feature provided by every major platform. While the user interface may vary, the basics are the same.

At the end of the day, you can segment your email list in countless ways. Start small, make a plan, and it will be easy to make every email feel more exclusive and personalized for every prospect.

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Improving what you’re sending

A/B testing your emails

Every customer email list is different! Some of your customers might prefer one approach while others respond to another. Some might like to see their name in an email and open it instantly, while others find email personalization robotic and spammy. In the same way, some of your customers might prefer vivid imagery and little text, while others prefer seeing a plain-text email that lets your message stand on its own.

This is why A/B testing – or multivariate testing (if we’re trying to sound fancy) – can be a powerful tool. Keep in mind, while A/B testing is a common feature for every email marketing platform, how it’s implemented will vary – and nothing stops you from doing it by hand. For a basic example: consider an A/B test for your subject line. You could try splitting your list by hand and sending the same email with a different subject line to each half to see which performs better. Or you could use built-in features that come with your email platform of choice. Check out the example from Constant Contact’s A/B testing tool below.

A/B Testing other elements of your email

You can experiment with a wide variety of tactics with A/B testing, but it’s best to test one change at a time. This makes it easy to see what’s working and what’s not. Here’s a basic step-by-step.

  1. Identify what you would like to test as a variable. It could be anything from your subject line, your “from” address, or the way you use imagery and text.

  2. Create two distinct versions of your email, an “A” version and a “B” version.

  3. Send both emails simultaneously. Some platforms will have features to help you do this – but it can also be done manually, as mentioned above.

  4. Analyze the results and draw conclusions from your findings – next time you send an email, you’ll begin the process knowing even more about what works best for your audience.

“When’s the best time to send my email?”

Optimizing the when of your email marketing strategy

As is always the case with email marketing – you know your audience well and may already have an idea of what the best time of day to reach them is. But for better or worse – the average person checks their email roughly 15 times a day. Whether it’s when they’re checking their calendar while waiting for the shower to warm up, between meetings, or before wrapping up the day – email is everywhere and everywhen. So when should you send them?

Campaign Monitor reports most opens occur on weekdays, closer to the beginning of the day and tapering off into the evening hours. However, as our relationships with mobile devices have evolved – so too has the conventional wisdom on the best time to send email. These days, there’s no “magic” hour where you can conclusively expect a higher open rate. Instead, it’s best to consider what device your customer is most likely to be reading your email on when you send it.

Do you have a short message that can be digested and acted upon while your customer is in line for coffee or rushing the kids out the door? Try sending it early. If your message requires a bit more attention, try sending it during normal business hours where your prospect is more likely to open it on a larger screen. No matter what, the content of your email will always be more important than the time you send it.


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