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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Mar 22, 2018 13 min read

How To Make Your Email Marketing Relevant In Today’s Overstuffed Inbox

email marketing campaigns

There Are Two Kinds Of Email Marketing – Connect/Engage And Nurture

Email marketingWe all know it: Everyone has too many emails in their inbox. But we also know, if we’re being honest, that certain emails get read and others get ignored (or worse, deleted). The difference is value and known senders. If we recognize the sender and/or the email appears to add value, we’ll keep it, open it, read it and possibly click on it.

Unfortunately, this only accounts for around 10% of all sent emails. That means 90% are getting ignored or deleted.

However, as marketers and business leaders, the convenience of email is hard to resist, and that’s where the problem lies. Marketers are taking the easy route and sending a lot of weak emails because you can touch so many people so easily — simply click and send 50,000 emails. With some strategy, optimization and segmentation, you can use email correctly and improve the performance of your email marketing.

Here’s what we’ve seen improve results for clients.

Email Connect And Engage

One of the two applications for email marketing is to connect with people you don’t know. Cold email campaigns are one form of this connect and engage strategy, but another is email after some initial contact is created. That contact could be a follow on social media, an initial meeting at an event, a blind referral or perhaps a mention in an article posted online.

These campaigns typically take the form of cold email, or email that might be part of an account-based marketing (ABM) campaign. One of the best ways to see improved results in these types of campaigns is to understand the details around the people you’re attempting to connect with. This is also where best practices will only take you so far.

For example, sending emails on Tuesday at 10 a.m. might sound good on paper, but if everyone is sending their emails on Tuesday at 10 a.m., you’re going to run into a ton of competition even if you’re not directly competing with those companies, because you are competing with them for your prospects’ attention. 

Instead, you should be sending emails when each of your individual prospects is most likely to open and engage. If one of your prospects likes to read and respond to emails at 10 p.m. on Sunday night, wouldn’t it be better to send your emails then? Of course.

Understanding your prospects’ pains, their challenges and their specific buyer journeys will also help you come up with a more personalized email campaign. The more personal, the more educational and the more specific your email campaigns, the better the results. Think about Amazon and Netflix; both services email you when content or products just for you become available. We’re all getting conditioned for that level of personalization.

Email Nurture

email marketing campaignsNurture campaigns represent the other kind of email campaign. These are for people who have already connected with you and provided some of their contact information. You’re now going to attempt to continue the conversation with them via email.

These can be highly effective, as long as you consider some of the same guidance we discussed above. You cannot push them through a funnel. Their buyer journey is going to be unique and the influences are going to be primarily out of your control. But you can use your nurture campaigns to contribute positively to their buyer journey and help them make a smarter, faster and safer purchase decision. The better you are at that objective, the better your nurture campaigns will perform.

Strategy and timing are two keys to nurture campaigns. On the strategy side, what do you have to offer these people to have them act and act in a way that helps you understand buying intent? For example, what kinds of offers can you provide that might signal someone is in the evaluation or consideration stage? What kind of offers should you provide that, if someone took advantage of them, might signal they were close to deciding what solution to purchase? Those offers exist; you simply have to work a little harder to create and promote them.

On the timing side, running a nurture campaign for months and running a campaign that includes 20 touches might be right if your sales cycle is 12 to 18 months. But in most cases, we see nurture campaigns that are entirely too long. When you have a strategic approach to the offers, you can run shorter nurture campaigns.

Once you’ve exhausted your offer portfolio, it’s time to accept the fact that you need to give your prospect a break. Stop the madness. Sending email after email after email is only going to annoy what might be a great client one day. Be transparent and stop the campaign, but don’t stop the conversation entirely. If you have general educational emails going out once or twice a month, you don’t have to worry about losing touch; you’re just shifting gears from one campaign to another.

Messaging And Content

Two of the biggest mistakes email marketers make today are poor messaging and little or no content. I don’t want to see a demo, nor do I want to schedule a meeting. These are weak attempts to get me to connect and engage.

Instead, work harder on the message, the story and the benefit I’ll see from engaging with you and your company. I think what’s going on is most email campaigns are set up, created and run by salespeople, not marketers. The outcome from this situation is so many of the same emails with copy like, “Can I get five minutes of your time?”, and the famous, “You must be too busy to reply back to me.”

If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t say (send) anything at all. It might take more time, you might need to use a copywriter, you might want to consider working with people who have done email campaigns designed for sales outreach and you might want to invest more money in creating more disruptive, compelling and emotional copy for your email campaigns.  

Subject Lines

If you want to improve results, the best place to start is with the subject line. I’m not going to spend a ton of time on how to improve your subject line. You can Google this and get a slew of articles that talk about best practices around creating subject lines.

What I can tell you is that the more active, action-oriented and disruptive the subject line, the better your open rate. Use your persona research to get inside your prospects’ heads. What are they thinking about? What’s bothering them? What are they concerned about? If you lead with that thinking, you’ll cut through the clutter in their inboxes, and you’ll drive the clicks and opens you need to hit your campaign goals.

Links To Click

Lead Nurturing Email CampaignsThis is important. Your goal is not to get an open. Your goal is to get a click back to your website. That is the only goal for email marketing campaigns. If this is your focus, then what you use as links, what offers you provide, how you position your links and what you promise with your links are all key ingredients to campaigns that have high click-through rates.

These links are going to be directly connected (no pun intended) to those offers we discussed earlier in the article. The more compelling and educational your content, the better your click-through rates. Work hard to test a variety of offers and links until you get the level of performance you need.

Educational Vs. Promotional

One of the questions we get asked the most is about balancing promotional emails (i.e., get 10% off) with educational emails. While we generally prefer to run educational email campaigns, promotional emails do make sense at times.

However, we find people leaning far too frequently on promotional emails with the idea that they will get people to act. Wrong. Just think about all those Bed Bath & Beyond 20% off coupons that keep coming in the mail. Do they get you to buy something? Not really. You simply collect them, and then when you’re ready to buy, you bring them in to the store. The more unwanted promotional emails you get, the less likely you will be to buy anything. Resist the urge to go too heavy with promotional email campaigns.

Email marketing is going to be a key tactic in anyone’s revenue generation plan. The key to getting it to perform is a combination of strategy and tactical execution, plus a heavy dose of data and insights. The smarter your campaigns, the better the results. Don’t overemphasize this tactic like so many marketers do. Just because it sounds easy to touch 50,000 people with the click of the send button, resist the urge to take the easy route.

Instead, try to treat your audiences with respect, and carefully craft email marketing campaigns that educate, add value, inform, advise and guide. Your prospects are confused. The sheer amount of information available and the ease of availability are all converging to make decision-making exponentially more challenging. Your job, in both marketing and sales, is to help them make that process easier.

Once you start thinking like that, you’ll make decisions around campaign tactics like email marketing that better align with the new buyer journey, and the results will follow. 

Square 2 Marketing – Revenue Is Earned Through Experience, Methodology And Insights!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.