Email Marketing 101

Every day, thousands of businesses sign up for email marketing software.

The vast majority never send more than a few emails.

They obsess over the wrong things, lose motivation, hit deliverability issues, switch platform after platform, and ultimately give up.

Here's how to avoid that and turn your email list into a lasting, durable sales machine for your business.

Simple = Better

There's a million email tools out there, all packed with complicated features and workflows that sound really cool (ours included!).

But it's extremely important you don't build yourself a prison of complexity. Avoid unrealistic content plans, overdesigned templates, crazy automations, or clever tagging schemes. You don't even know what will work for you yet!

Complexity is fun to create in the short term, but kills motivation in the long term. Chances are your business will change over time, and a complex system will be a nightmare to change later.

Ask yourself this question: have I created an email workflow easy enough to run for YEARS without hating it?

Ignore the marketing influencers trying to sell you on "clever" tactics and complicated funnels. Keep it simple.

Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

We see sending data from tons of businesses on our platform, so we know exactly what works. It's not what you think.

Here's a real example:

  • Company A spends a lot of time designing cool, in-depth emails and sends only when they have something big to announce, so they don't annoy subscribers.
  • Company B relentlessly shows up in subscribers inboxes every single week/month. Often with "low effort" content like a link roundup or industry news.

Who gets better engagement when it's time to sell something? Who gets better deliverability overall?

It's a bit of trick question. Company B gets better engagement AND better deliverability. Huh?

Company A does what seems intuitive, but is actually the wrong thing. Infrequent emails kill engagement (people forget you exist) and don't build a domain reputation in Gmail/Outlook. Also, Company A only sends emails that serve them, not the reader. Nobody wants to open your press release, no matter how well-designed.

Company B does the opposite. They train subscribers into a habit of opening their emails on a regular basis by adding value that serves the reader (in quick, snackable bites). This results in much higher engagement over time and the consistency tells Gmail/Outlook's algorithm you're a legitimate business.

Deliverability over growth

Most email marketers run into deliverability issues at some point, it's a rite of passage. If you're just starting out and landing in spam, 9 times out of 10, you did something wrong with your DNS or Domain setup. That's an easy fix.

But problems after that are more annoying to solve, due to the black box algorithms at Gmail & Outlook. That's why it's so important you:

  • Use good list collection methods: Ensure your signup forms are protected from spambots and never assemble lists from 3rd parties. Only add people who have signed up to hear from you or have had some interaction with your business. Or risk trashing your domain reputation with Gmail/Outlook.
  • Don't let your list go cold: Email lists rot over time. People change emails/jobs, domains expire, companies rebrand, and people stop caring. That's why its so important to send consistently. This weeds out bounces, unsubscribers, and bad emails slowly over time — instead of all at once in one big hit to your deliverability.
  • Avoid email list growth hacks: Due to your deliverability being tied to engagement, email is somewhat allergic to growth hacking. Any subscriber you're adding with super low friction is also not likely to be highly engaged. Beware of co-sharing/referral schemes, sweepstakes, and other "grow fast" email list tactics.

If you want to take a deeper dive, we've written a full guide on every single factor that affects email deliverability.

The open rate is dead

Most email metrics you hear these days are total BS.

"We average 53% open rates on our newsletter!!"

"Our platform has best-in-class 99.6% deliverability!!"

Due to privacy moves at Apple, Google, and Microsoft, data on how people interact with your emails (opens, location, IP, etc) is increasingly obfuscated by bots. This inflates stuff like open rates. Some platforms (like ours) try to filter them out, others don't.

Also, Gmail/Outlook use machine-learning algorithms individually tailored to each user + sender. There is no longer a reliable way to test deliverability/placement through "seed lists" or test emails.

Most people aren't forthcoming about this. So if you hear a marketer or platform brag about XX% open rates and XX% inbox placement, just nod and smile. 🙃

What should you use instead? Clicks are the recommended metric now, as well as measuring traffic spikes to your website via your website analytics. Also, while the absolute number of opens might be bogus, changes to it over time (on the same platform) are sometimes a signal.

Don't fight Gmail/Outlook

Yes, Gmail and Outlook are a huge pain to deal with. They don't allow modern HTML (webfonts, image-swapping, interactive elements, etc.), they wreak havok on how emails look cross-platform, and they'll override your colors when they feel like it.

Some of this is due to the unique fraud/security concerns of email. Some of this is tech giants abusing their dominant market position.

Regardless, Gmail and Outlook hold the keys to the largest, most valuable userbase ever assembled in human history. Email has 38X the engagement of social media for the average business.

In short: don't fight the giants. Time spent obsessing over pixel perfection in every email client, is time wasted. Even giant tech companies often can't get this right.

To get around design limitations, a lot of large brands (especially in ecommerce) simply slice up their email designs as full-width images and stack them vertically. It's bad for accessibility and doesn't work on dark mode. But if you really care about on-brand fonts, this is your only option.

The Super Secret Formula to Success™

After reading all this you're probably feeling intimidated, but it's really not that hard. Email is still the most profitable, highest ROI marketing channel on the internet for a reason.

All of the problems I mentioned above happen when you over-complicate things or get a little too greedy. Do what has always worked, and you'll see great results over time.

Keep it simple, send consistently, be honest, and add value.

That's it.

February 29, 2024
Published via Audienceful