Blogs Beginner’s Guide to the 5 Essential Stages of Email Marketing

Written by Paula Chiocchi on 2015-07-29

 

We sometimes get inquiries from small businesses that are new to email marketing and not sure where to start. In addition, in talking to some more experienced marketers, it’s interesting that although they often conduct extensive email marketing campaigns, they may still be skipping or simply forgetting some of the key steps (e.g. testing or measuring) that are crucial to success.

 

Whether you’re just getting started or you’re a seasoned pro who could use a review of the basics, take a look at this “CliffNotes” edition of my beginner’s guide to the five essential stages of email marketing:

 

  1. Customer Analysis: Before initiating any marketing outreach or customer acquisition program, it’s important (and intuitive?) to take a look at your existing customer base. If you have not already done this, perform a customer analysis. Who are your customers, and where did they come from? Such analysis can be done by many criteria, such as by geography, size of company (either by revenue or number of employees), number or type of locations (e.g. headquarters, branch office or a single location), classification of business by SIC or NAICS codes, or age of the business (e.g. year started.) Such analysis is critical for selecting the right data for acquiring potential new customers.

 

  1. Prospect List Segmentation: Once you know who your customers are and what they “look” like from a data perspective, you can now build and start to segment your email list. From the perspective of looking for new sales leads, many young or growing businesses, unfortunately, haven’t done a great job of establishing a “house” email list, and for them, acquiring targeted email data is essential.

 

As data quality will be key to your success with data acquisition, you’ll want to look for a vendor that offers a written data quality guarantee (if they don’t offer this, look elsewhere). Data quality is also important because email senders can face severe consequences for sending lots of perceived spam. (See my post here for more info on this.) As marketing campaigns tend to be ongoing initiatives versus “one and done” blasts, consider licensing the data for multiple uses, as opposed to merely renting a list for the immediate term. Finally, determine whether you have the ability and systems to send the emails yourself, or consider going through a third party deployment provider that will ensure your emails are sent properly and successfully.

 

  1. Creative Development: Now that you’ve identified who your target audience is, you need to determine what the content of your message will be. You’ll need to come up with your message content, your desired outcome (e.g. call to action), and set a target return on your investment. Although writing this content isn’t rocket science, it is an acquired skill that can take years to master, so consider professionals for best results.

 

Once you have your creative content, be sure to have it proofread and tested before sending. Send it to various email systems and mobile devices to ensure everything (e.g. links, landing pages) is functioning properly, and run it through spam filtering to make sure it will get through to your desired audience in the first place. And regarding spam filtering, if you plan to implement ongoing email campaigns, you might contract with an expert resource -- a company such as Litmus – to handle the task for a monthly fee (they handle testing and tracking of emails as well). Spam filtering can get complicated, and the risks of not getting it done right can be significant.

 

Finally, decide if you need more than one version of your campaign based on your target audience. Also, conducting A/B testing – the practice of comparing two variants of a message to see which one performs better – is highly recommended in email marketing, and can lead to better short- and long-term results.  

 

  1. Message Delivery: Determine who your email will be coming from (usually better from a

real person than a generic company) and contains a compelling, interest-piquing subject line. (See my recent post on this topic.) You will need to make sure that you are compliant with anti-spamming initiatives. Working with an experienced email service provider (ESP) or other resource can help with this and any other technical hurdles you might have. You’ll also want to ensure your email campaigns are integrated with your native customer relationship management (CRM) system, to keep tabs on who you’ve sent to and when. Doing so will enable you to create ongoing lead generation or lead nurturing campaigns, and/or regular emails to your lists (e.g. “drip campaigns”). The CRM provider you use can and should help you, with guidelines or direct support.

 

5.    Tracking and Analysis: Now that you’ve sent your messages, you’ll need systems in place to monitor the responses as they move through the sales pipeline to close. How many message opens did you get? Clicks? Leads? Of these, who are they? What’s the next step in the sales process? Perhaps a call by a sales representative to answer any questions they might have? Any feedback from sales as to the quality of the leads generated? What is your normal sales cycle? What was the total return on investment (ROI) from your email marketing campaigns? And think outside the box a little when you measure. There’s a new school of thought that says “open reach” is more important that the email “open rate.” Open reach is the measure of the number of email list subscribers who opened any of your emails over a specific period of time, like a month or quarter, rather than a measure of specific opens per campaign. 

 

Once you’ve made the sale – congratulations! – your association with your new customer has only begun. You will want to deepen your relationship with your client to establish a mutually beneficial customer lifetime value to deliver maximum revenue to your company.

 

These five essential stages of email marketing create a foundation for program success – for new marketers and experienced ones alike. What are your go-to tips for achieving the best email marketing results?

 

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