Even if you don’t own or assist with campaigns for your company, chances are you can recite the most common, must-implement, ROI-improving email marketing best practices in your sleep:
- Test every message in your email client before sending to ensure the copy, images, subject lines, and other elements appear as intended.
- Customize email templates to feature your visual branding collateral and ensure aesthetic uniformity across all email designs used.
- Use custom URL parameters for all website landing page links incorporated in marketing emails so you can capably attribute click-throughs.
- Routinely analyze email open rates and click-through rates along with related data (e.g., who opens emails on mobile devices versus desktops).
- Never send an email with a subject line that has too many words, is off-brand or off-message, is unclear, or fails to use enticing language.
We could rattle off another 100 email marketing best practices to abide by, but we’ll spare you.
The ones we want to discuss here today, though, relate to how you can use first-party data and a certain marketing technology to enhance email campaigns to your audience: the customer data platform (CDP).
How a CDP can enhance your email campaigns and ROI
“Email marketing is dead” is one of the most trite, nonsensical debates argued by some (but certainly not most) professionals, leaders, and even influencers in the digital marketing space today.
In short, email marketing is alive and well.
Sure, it’s certainly perceived as a boring element of many organizations’ promotional efforts. This is partly due to the fact many businesses’ email campaigns are put on autopilot and, for some companies, rarely tinkered with, thus requiring little effort from their marketing teams to optimize them.
But the notion email is no longer an efficient and effective method of nurturing and converting leads and customers is far from the truth. In fact, email marketing remains one of the strongest sales resources for countless brands today — from mid-market retailers to ecommerce conglomerates:
- Companies that can measure their email marketing ROI very well see returns of 46:1, according to a study of over 1,500 marketers. — 2018 Litmus study
- 59% of digital marketing professionals indicated email provides the biggest return on investment for their organizations. — 2018 Campaign Monitor survey
- 62% of marketers noted emails featuring personalized recommendations tailored to specific segments were their most effective email type. — 2019 Ascend2 report
Despite the sizable returns yielded by brands from their email marketing campaigns today, many continue to miss out on a significant opportunity to fully take advantage of email and boost their most critical email metrics.
Why? Because email data and campaigns sit in a silo and can’t be connected to other marketing activities or customer behaviors. Companies need a customer data platform that puts their customers at the center of their stack to deliver more relevant, timely, and useful emails.
The CDP is the premier marketing technology on the marketplace today. It simplifies data unification and activation for marketers, which allows them to deliver personalized and individualized messaging — including and especially hyper-targeted marketing emails — to their prospects and customers (and niche segments of them).
The single customer view you get with a CDP because of the data silos you tear down can help you better connect with and convert more members of your customer base at a higher rate.
Email service providers, CRMs, and similar martech are still (and might remain) vital components of your email marketing program. But the CDP needs to reside within your stack and connect with these solutions if you want to see marked improvements in email marketing ROI for your business.
Three email marketing best practices using a CDP
You now know what makes a CDP such a highly coveted solution for brands today. But let’s dive deeper into a few distinct email marketing best practices you need to follow when developing and refining your email strategy and doing so with a customer data platform as your primary martech.
Best practice #1: Avoid email marketing list fatigue by ensuring your have accurate and clean customer data.
Your email marketing list is one of the most valuable resources at your disposal. After all, it helps you and your team stay in touch with past customers and provide relevant offers to top prospects.
However, the type of email marketing list you leverage in your digital strategy matters.
The days in which organizations would buy an email list from a third-party data marketplace or rent a list from another brand to augment their customer databases are over — as they well should be.
Today, it’s all about building a list (and a reputable one at that) in-house. In other words, it’s become important to earn email addresses directly from your audience — with consumer consent, of course — through a carefully crafted marketing program that incorporates all of your most critical channels.
Four in five digital marketers relayed their email list growth strategies are successful today, according to an Ascend2 survey, thanks largely to their attention to detail with maintaining and modifying them.
At the same time, though, several challenges remain for these marketers, the poll found. Improving their email newsletter sign-up conversion rate, recipient data hygiene, content relevancy (e.g., products promoted, calls to action) were all cited as barriers to developing a strong mailing list.
Failing to address these challenges can lead to email marketing list fatigue, generally defined as a decrease (gradual or sudden) in recipients’ engagement with a company’s email messaging.
This list fatigue can result in poor email marketing metrics: high unsubscribe rates, a rise in opt-outs for specific types of brand emails, and diminished email opens and click-throughs, to name a few.
Another primary factor in email list fatigue for companies of all kinds today, is “dirty” data.
You already know first-party data is a crucial asset for your marketing efforts, including and especially your email strategy. But if you don’t keep this data set clean and up-to-date (i.e., ensure quality hygiene), list fatigue is sure to set in — meaning many prospects could exit your funnel altogether.
In short, it’s on you and your marketing colleagues to ensure all contacts’ profiles across your martech stack feature the latest, most accurate information regarding their interactions with your brand, general online behaviors (e.g., website recency and momentum), demographics, and other key traits.
With a unified profile of customer data — like the kind you can achieve with a leading, pure-play CDP — you can ensure your data is up to date and ready for email activation.
Best practice #2: Deliver personalized emails and compelling content based on customer interests and behaviors.
“Marketers have no excuse not to personalize email content based on the plethora of data they capture from browsing, purchase histories and email preferences,” Yes Marketing Senior Director of Client Services Kyle Henderick wrote for Marketing Land. And he’s right on the money.
A Relevancy Group and Liveclicker study found more than 50% of brands in three industries — financial services, retail, and travel and hospitality — have sophisticated email personalization strategies to help them provide custom-tailored, hyper-relevant deals, discounts, and messaging to customers.
While this data point is promising, the report also found many companies in these sectors (and others) are failing to achieve this level of sophistication with their email marketing programs. In turn, they’re failing to meet the growing expectations of personalized experiences from their audiences.
The three email marketing best practices highlighted here are beneficial for your business, but personalization is arguably the one that matters most in terms of both distinguishing your brand from competitors and delivering one-to-one customer experiences that can boost acquisition and retention.
Email personalization needs to go beyond predicting the best subject lines or being able to insert a customer’s name into the body of the email. Marketers need to provide relevant products or content in emails to get customers to engage – and navigate to your website to purchase.
With a unified customer profile, you have the customer’s latest purchase data, behaviors and interests, and a plethora of other data at your fingertips to design personalized experiences.
One specific personalization approach that can elevate your email marketing strategy is open-time email recommendations: a feature that affords you the ability to dynamically update your emails before recipients opens them:
- In BlueConic, for instance, you can use our product and content recommendation algorithms to update the content of an email you send through your ESP.
- Relying on unified profile data, BlueConic provides the most relevant content by pulling in data like recent browsing behavior or recently purchased items.
- What’s more, you can also ensure what a person sees in their email aligns to what they see on the site once they click, ensuring a top-notch CX all the way around.
As with your A/B testing approaches for your website — personalizing specific pages to particular prospects and customers based on their behaviors and interactions — this type of email customization is an excellent (and fairly easy) tactic that can reveal which personalized message works best.
Email marketing technology continues to improve. Anvil Media’s Kent Lewis was one such business mind to recognize the growing role of artificial intelligence and machine learning in email strategies, noting the tech will “bring new and improved capabilities to email marketing.”
Adopt AI in your marketing, including features like product and content recommendations, and you can see your most essential email marketing metrics climb — and perhaps exceed expectations.
Best practice #3: Share first-party data for and from email marketing campaigns across your teams and brands.
The aforementioned data silos are one of the biggest deterrents to marketing success for companies today. It’s become such a massive pain point for organizations across industries — from retailers to investment management firms — that many are turning to CDPs like BlueConic.
This is an especially urgent issue for large, multi-brand enterprises who want their brands to share customer data with one another to leverage in activities like email marketing campaigns.
For instance, if a multi-brand organization has multiple internal marketing teams or product lines working on different initiatives, a CDP like BlueConic can help them ensure they don’t send multiple marketing emails to the same customer across owned brands and cannibalizing their own efforts.
Delivering numerous emails on separate schedules for different campaigns can lead to “inbox overload” for recipients — something that can deter engagement and spark mass unsubscribes.
Part of the email marketing problem for businesses today is consumers aren’t just choosing which of five emails in their inbox to open each day — they’re choosing which one of 100 emails to open.
One of the best email marketing best practices for brands in this situation is to better target customers across brands according to current interests and preferences — data you can pull from BlueConic.
By unifying customer data in a CDP, each brand’s marketing team can see what emails (newsletter, digest, etc.) a given individual or segment receives and interacts with. This type of customer insight allows the marketers in question to determine which targeted campaigns can be integrated.
For instance, two retailers under the same umbrella who identify a segment of customers signed up for their loyalty programs could decide to develop a joint loyalty rewards email campaign.
Customer segmentation is another key factor to consider when dealing with multiple marketing teams prospecting and nurturing the same audiences across brands.
With BlueConic, you can take advantage of the single view of the customer and easy segment creation to pass those segments to your ESP through pre-built connections. That way, data is continually updating and syncing between the ESP and CDP and is available for easy activation across channels.
Amplifying your email marketing strategy with proper martech
It’s the implementation of innovative email marketing best practices like this that, when put into play with a CDP like BlueConic, can help day-to-day marketers identify and address the gaps in their email strategies, gradually enhance customer engagement, and generate greater ROI for their brands.