By Jodi Harris published October 9, 2017

How to Deliver Emails That Will Increase Reach, Impact, and Subscriber Satisfaction

email-increaste-reach-impact-subscriber

Editor’s note: Because email marketing continues to be one of the most used and most effective cornerstones of content marketing, Jodi Harris updated her 2015 article.

Think of a well-executed email strategy as the backbone of a successful content marketing program. It’s an essential structure that supports your various content efforts and is the best technique for building a subscriber base – which is critical for achieving value from your content marketing program.

Just how important is the email channel? Consider this: 93% of B2B marketers report using email to distribute their content, according to CMI/MarketingProf’s B2B Content Marketing: 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends—North America research. And, perhaps even more importantly, 74% of marketers who use email consider it to be the most effective distribution channel for their content.

But, just like most things in the world of content marketing, email is not a set-it-and-forget-it tactic. Media trends, informational needs, and consumption preferences evolve; and people change careers, upgrade their devices, develop new interests, and discover new obsessions. If you aren’t prepared to maintain the effectiveness of your email content to ensure that your experience is always viewed as fresh, useful, and personally relevant, your once essential resource can transform into a fly-like nuisance that won’t stop buzzing in your reader’s inbox – keeping it from performing to its full potential.

Email is not a set-it-and-forget-it tactic, says @joderama. #emailmarketing Click To Tweet

If you are looking to evaluate the fitness of your email content, CMI’s original 7-Minute Email Workout infographic is a great quick-start guide on how to test the strength of your e-newsletters and fine-tune your delivery strategies at all levels of experience – beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

Print

Of course, it never hurts to go the extra mile when it comes to enhancing the impact and performance of your email efforts. Here, I revisit my original article on the topic and add some fresh tips and takeaways from a few of CMI’s most trusted email experts. I also share some new examples to inspire you to branch out and get creative in how you use this channel to build and maintain your vital audience relationships.

Build a strong list

Your email content won’t do your business any good if you aren’t reaching the right people – or reaching enough of them to drive your content marketing strategy forward. Fortunately, there are plenty of techniques at content marketers’ disposal when it comes to attracting consumers who will be delighted by your email offerings.

Your email content won’t do your business any good if you aren’t reaching the right people, says @joderama. Click To Tweet

As Aaron Orendorff explains, email list-building techniques typically fall into one of three main categories:

  1. Options – exclusive content offers, forms, and various types of button ads to tempt readers to opt in to hear from you regularly
  1. On-site techniques – landing pages, pop-ups, and other types of sign-up notifications to alert your site visitors to your subscriber-only assets
  1. Off-site techniques – Social media fans and followers can join your subscriber list without having to interrupt their social experience on sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Medium.
The most profitable online click is subscribe, says @iconicontent. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

For more details on each of these techniques, check out Aaron’s visual checklist:

Example: Salesforce’s sign-up forms

Salesforce takes a multistage approach to build its email lists. For instance, it initially attracts blog subscribers with a simple two-field form that clearly outlines what they are opting to receive:

salesforce-sign-up-form

The company also uses more detailed forms that require additional audience information in exchange for higher-value assets, such as its industry reports. The longer forms provide additional marketing benefits for Salesforce. They are used as a preliminary step toward customer qualification (i.e., identifying high-quality leads) and help the company to better tailor its outreach to the needs of individual consumers.

salesforce-signup-form-2

Craft meaningful, compelling messages

Once your subscriber list is filled with consumers eager to hear from your business, you need to take steps to ensure that they like what they receive. Sujan Patel reminds us that this boils down to creating email content that your recipients will want to read. Of course, this means your content needs to be well-written and focused on their interests (rather than your company’s); it also means you must deliver on the promises made to your email subscribers – including publishing on a consistent, reliable basis, and avoiding unwanted surprises and not bombarding them with content they opted out of receiving.

To make sure all your bases are covered, follow Sujan’s top recommendations summarized below:

  • Only send emails when you have something of value to say.
  • Keep your messages simple, focused, and concise.
  • Write great copy – or hire a professional writer to do it.
  • Go easy on sales-y messages.
  • Allow subscribers to customize the types and frequency of the messages they receive.
  • Invest in creating a well-thought-out design that will grab your readers’ attention from the get-go.
#Emailmarketing tip: Allow subscribers to customize type & frequency of message, says @SujanPatel. Click To Tweet

Example: The 21-Day Self-Care Challenge

Nonprofit organization Move to End Violence issued a challenge to its audience members to become more impactful and strategic change agents by incorporating sustainable, mindful practices – like exercising self-care – into their everyday lives. According to the website, what started out as a short-term email campaign that invited social change-minded activists to receive one self-care tip a day for 21 days became a wildly popular ongoing content initiative – helping to grow Move to End’s email database from 400 to 11,000 subscribers in just over a year.

21-day-self-care-sign-up

Segment your list for increased relevance and impact

As a smart marketer, you surely recognize how important it is to create content that targets a particular persona – the audience member who will benefit most from the insights you plan to share. This is particularly true for email content, given how discerning today’s consumers are when it comes to allowing marketers to penetrate the inner sanctum of their inboxes. Remember, as CMI founder Joe Pulizzi always says, if your content is meant for everybody, it won’t end up benefiting anybody.

If your #content is meant for everybody, it won’t end up benefiting anybody, says @joepulizzi. Click To Tweet

By segmenting your subscribed audience by known interests and communication preferences, you can deliver an email experience that’s more personally resonant as well as relevant – something that, according to Andrea Fryrear, will increase the likelihood that the recipient will do something with that content, such as sharing it.

Delivering #email content that's resonant will increase likelihood the recipient will share it. @andreafryrear Click To Tweet

How do you gather the insights you’ll need to accurately characterize and categorize your email subscribers? Andrea recommends asking a few targeted questions at the start of your subscriber sign-up process to gauge their top priorities and engagement preferences:

  • How often would you like to receive emails from us? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
  • What particular topics are you interested in?
  • What kinds of content interest you the most? Text? Video? Infographics?

Example: Eventbrite

According to Eventbrite’s Mark Walker, the company recently updated its newsletter to personalize event picks based on the recipient’s stated preferences and order history. Not only does this technique increase the likelihood that recipients will find Eventbrite’s content to be relevant, the emails are algorithmically generated – so they can easily scale to target all subscribers regardless of how they are segmented.

Eventbrite-newsletter

Surprise and delight your recipients

Once you incorporate segmenting capabilities into your email program, you can adjust your email content in all sorts of ways – including how you get your messages to stand out from all the other emails your subscribers receive on a given day.

For instance, as Mathew Sweezey points out in his presentation at Content Marketing World 2016, your subject line and sender details (prime email real estate) are the only pieces of information readers have to quickly determine if an email is worthy of their attention. As such, he recommends customizing this valuable bit of real estate to speak to the recipient’s current stage in the buying process. Here are his guidelines for achieving this:

  • Stage 1: This audience is asking generic questions. They may not even know the keywords in that space. If they see a vendor’s name in the prime email real estate, they know the email is from a marketer. In the prime email real estate, don’t include keywords or brand names.
  • Stage 2: This audience is looking for social proof to support their research. Use the subject line to give them ammunition to get support from others. In the prime email real estate, use a keyword or brand name, but not both.
  • Stage 3: This audience wants to be assured that they have researched all the viable options before they make a decision. In the prime real estate, use a keyword and brand name.
Subject line and sender details are prime #email real estate – make them count, advises @msweezey. Click To Tweet

Example: Xerox’s Get Optimistic

When the marketing team at Xerox was looking for a way to differentiate its messaging from its numerous competitors, the big, audacious idea it came up with was optimism. It started a biweekly email campaign targeted to CIOs called Get Optimistic, which provided a look at the future of technology, business, and the world through an optimistic lens. This e-newsletter quickly grew in popularity, leading the marketing team to expand it into a full-fledged print and digital content initiative – Chief Optimist Magazine – which has reportedly helped the company generate over 1,000 new sales appointments and more than $1 billion in pipeline revenue.

xerox-chief-optimist-magazine

Nurture your subscribers on an ongoing basis

Email newsletters may be one of the best ways to build and communicate with your target audience, but, as Gini Dietrich pointed out during CMI’s ContentTECH virtual event, there’s a potential flaw to consider: “New subscribers only see your new emails. They don’t see anything that came before it.”

To quickly help your subscribers – new and old, alike – get better acquainted with the value your business provides, consider creating an email drip campaign. As Stephanie Stahl explains, a drip campaign is a progression of pre-written marketing emails sent automatically on a set schedule or directly triggered when a reader takes an action – like signing up for an e-book on a particular topic, or registering to attend a conference or webinar your business is hosting. Below are some of the forms this useful technique can take:

email-drip-campaign-types-consider-600x282

By crafting a series of messages customized to address a topic or purpose, marketers can nurture their subscriber relationships and increasingly earn their trust. However, Gini cautions, unless you are certain the subscriber data is accurate, you need to be careful about using it to personalize an email. “Good personalization can help you convert. Bad personalization will actually kill your efforts,” she warns.

Good personalization can help you convert. Bad personalization will kill your efforts, says @ginidietrich. Click To Tweet

Example: The Start-up Sales Success Email Course

CRM provider Close.io created a drip campaign to deliver a free course designed to help start-ups get better at sales. At the bottom of the first email, a testimonial from someone already enrolled in that same course is included. What Sujan Patel points out is that testimonial doesn’t push (or even mention) Close.io’s products. Instead, the testimonial reinforces the value of the course, consequently addressing a key question (potential objection) that subscribers are most likely to have – is the course worth continuing with?

drip-campaign-example-293x1024

Click to enlarge

Measure and optimize

The above tips and guidelines will take your email content efforts far. But, as Jessica Best contends, you aren’t truly ready to unlock your “email rock star” badge until you are prepared to do two things:

  • Accurately measure the returns on your marketing investment – not just opens and clicks
  • Understand how to maximize your content assets and email framework
#Email rock stars measure returns on marketing investment, not just opens and clicks, says @bestofjess. Click To Tweet

Jessica recommends calculating email return on marketing investment (ROMI) by taking the amount of revenue a campaign generated, subtracting your expenses for creating and delivering that campaign, and dividing the result by your expenses. (She also suggests visiting the email marketing ROI website for a simple calculation tool that comes in handy for this task.)

 

email-marketing-romi-600x300

Once you understand your baseline email ROMI, Jessica offers the following high-impact ideas for optimizing, enhancing, and amplifying your email content:

  • Look for ways to automate and extend the email experience, such as delivering your welcome message as a series of customer-nurturing (i.e., drip campaign) emails.
  • Ask for the referral: While sometimes this amounts to no more than a new subscriber or lead, it can also mean a purchase under the right circumstances.
  • Use motion to move your audience: Not only can including animation and relevant motion effects in emails add emotional appeal to your messages, it can drive up response rates up to threefold, according to Jessica.
  • Take advantage of video: While embedding a video in your email messages simply doesn’t work well in the inbox setting, there are ways to get around that. For example, you can offer text about why readers might be interested in watching and link to the full video.
  • Make email a two-way conversation: Use your email content to convey how receptive your company is to hearing from its audience by encouraging subscribers to ask questions and offer their feedback or even inviting them to take a detailed user survey.
  • Tell a great story: Even some of the most seemingly mundane of businesses can harness the creative muse and deliver an emotionally resonant experience through this marketing channel.

Example: Noodles & Company

Fast-casual restaurant Noodles & Company created a full-blown campaign to support email sign-up referrals, offering a chance to earn entries for its Travel the World sweepstakes. According to Jessica, the restaurant received almost three times the number of new email address sign-ups in one month as a result of the campaign, which also led to a 200% increase in monthly sales.

Noodles-and-company

Conclusion

Don’t overlook the value that email offers for strengthening your brand’s relationship with customers and prospects. Email may no longer be a shiny new tactic on the content marketing scene, but with the right strategy and a little upkeep, it still packs a powerful punch.

Got a great email content example to share? Let us know what we’re missing out on by posting in the comments.

Want help in improving your content marketing program every day? Sign up today for the CMI newsletter (or weekly digest.) (And feel free to give feedback on our email marketing format about what works or doesn’t work for you.)

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Jodi Harris

Jodi Harris is the Director of Editorial Content & Curation at Content Marketing Institute. As a content strategy consultant, Jodi helps businesses evaluate their content needs and resources; build infrastructure and operations; and create compelling stories to be delivered across multiple media channels and platforms. Follow Jodi on Twitter at @Joderama.

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  • heidicohen

    Jodi–I agree that many content marketers (as well as marketers in general) underestimate the power of their email marketing. Email is the jewel in your marketing crown. You can’t just burn through your list with promotional content or you’ll kill it. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen – Actionable Marketing Guide

    • Jodi Harris

      Great point. Thanks Heidi!

  • https://www.imbloggingtips.com Vishwajeet Kumar

    Hello Jodi,

    Thanks for mentioning these great tips for crafting emails for subscribers. In addition to this I would like to give my emails a personal touch. It helps me to create a strong bond with my subscribers and gain their trust. Thanks for writing these great piece of content.

    Have a great day 🙂
    Vishwajeet

    • Jodi Harris

      Spot on, Vishwajeet. This is something we like to do with our own weekly newsletters, as well. It never hurts to make your subscribers feel more connected to the business delivering the message – no matter what tactic you choose to work in.

  • Reuben

    Wow! Thanks for an interesting article. There’re so many information that make things so much easier now. I find building an email list difficult. Segmentation definitely makes it easier to get to know your audience, which in turn makes it possible to add a personal touch to your message. I’m a newbie in all of this and I was wondering when is the right time to switch to marketing automation? I’m using GetResponse and they already have this option, but I’m not sure what’s the right reason to switch?

  • https://www.linkedin.com/in/lanakonakova/ Lana Konakova

    Thank you for the in-depth article. The examples shared are very helpful, as always. But I’m not sure about the email with a testimonial (about training course). That email letter seems too long, and many readers may not get through till the very end. In my opinion, it would make more sense to place the testimonial closer to the beginning of the message body. What do you think? Or should we rely on the fact that many people just read the start and the end, and skip the middle? 🙂

    • Jodi Harris

      Hi Lana.

      In this particular case, the body of the email is the complete training course lesson, so it makes sense to put the testimonial at the end – to encourage those who found value in the lesson to continue on to the next one. But as a general rule, I would tend to agree with you about sharing testimonials closer to the beginning of the email, so it can capture attention and reinforce the content’s value before the reader has a chance to lose interest.

      • https://www.linkedin.com/in/lanakonakova/ Lana Konakova

        Thank you for your reply, Jodi! So, basically, this testimonial serves as a call-to-action “Stay with us for the next lessons”? It’s an interesting approach. It surely makes sense to have the CTA at the bottom. Now they just need to duplicate the CTA in the upper part of the message. I am glad we agree on this part.