In marketing, it seems like we hear something new every day, new techniques, new strategies, new tools. Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate fact from fiction. Today, let’s bust a marketing myth that has been buzzing around for a few years.

Many marketers believe email marketing is on its way out – for good. But Stone Ward doesn’t think so. While some email marketing techniques may need to go, email marketing as a whole is alive and can be effective.

Let’s dive into how email marketing can work for your company.

Understand Your Customer

As marketers, we all hope to know our audience like the back of our hand. However, audience’s needs differ greatly across generational, socio-economic and cultural segments. Each customer who eagerly signs up for their favorite brand’s e-newsletter will have different expectations and needs.

Before diving head-first into your email marketing content, you must first learn what your subscribers want from you. In other words, why are they subscribed to YOUR emails? This takes time and effort, so do not expect to figure it out overnight. Here are a few ways to grow a deeper understanding of what your subscribers want to see.

Ask Them: Surveys

When constructed correctly, surveys can provide extremely useful information for your company. People are not afraid to tell you what they think, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Email Survey

Study Them: Data, Data, Data

Every time you send out a marketing email, you are capturing little pieces of information about your subscribers. Put these pieces together, and you can add a lot of value to your content.

Know Them: In-depth Interviews

Talking one-on-one with a few of your subscribers is a great way to analyze the mind of your audience. Ask in-depth questions that you can’t ask in a survey. Turn to your audience and let them tell you their favorite and least favorite things about your emails. It might sting a little, but it could help a lot!

Turn Customer Insight Into a Content Strategy

After you gather insight from your customers, start creating a content strategy fully derived from your audience. This strategy should include types of content your subscribers are here to see, how often they want to see it, and an on-brand design that illustrates your message.

When Stone Ward took over email marketing for Natural Gear – a national hunting gear supplier and e-commerce retailer – we decided to send out a survey to its subscribers. This survey gathered information on subscribers’ interests, top hunting activities, and their reason for subscribing to the emails. The results were collected, studied and then implemented.

Through the survey, we learned that a large number of subscribers wanted to stay up to date with sales, products and new arrivals. With this information, our team began drafting a content strategy, which included emails such as “Featured Product of the Month,” “Staff Picks,” and “Monthly Flash Sales.”

We saw immediate results from this audience-driven content. Subscribers, engagement and revenue all increased month-over-month and year-over-year.

Segment Your Email List

Segmentation is a great way to learn more about your audience and has many advantages for your email marketing strategy. Segmentation allows you to customize emails to your audience and gather more granular information on what content your subscribers are looking for.

When deciding how to segment your audiences, start by looking at activities such as purchasing behavior or engagement behavior. For example, if certain people only purchase during the first of the month or tend to view three products before adding something to their cart, sort them into their own segment so that you can create more targeted email marketing for each group.

email segmentation

Segmentation can also align with your business strategy. Most business have different segments of customers that they target with different messaging for each group. These various target audiences also occur in email marketing and can be divided in a similar fashion.

After you decide how to segment your audience based on their behaviors, use demographic and geographic information to further customize your segmentations into a more granular format.

Test, Test More and Test Again

In email marketing, A/B testing is a great way to discover a strategy that works for your audience. A/B testing is a process of testing one variable at a time to uncover incremental changes. Typically, when marketers think of testing emails, the first thought is to test the day or time an email is sent, or maybe trying different subject lines. These are great tests to conduct and can provide good insight. However, more effective results come from digging deeper by considering your core business objectives.

For example, our client Sissy’s Log Cabin, a fine jewelry retailer with locations in Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee, promotes new and trendy products in its emails. Showcasing products is a common practice with any retailer, yet, we wondered, can too many products actually hurt us?

We hypothesized that showing too many products in an email may actually result in fewer clicks, as customers may struggle with the phenomenon known as decision paralysis. Essentially, decision paralysis is the effect that, when faced with too many choices, people often find it difficult to make any choice.

To better understand how choice affects clicks, we experimented by varying the number of products shown in a given email. We tested emails with six products versus emails with four products versus emails with three products. These tests will allow us to see how many products per email are optimal for each segment of the client’s audience.

A/B Testing

While A/B testing is a routine tactic for email marketing, there should be nothing routine about the tests you conduct. Design tests specifically around your business objectives and your customer needs to truly gain insight that maximizes your performance.

Turn Up (or Down) the Volume

The number of emails you send to your subscribers is a crucial factor in your email marketing campaigns. There is a delicate balance between overwhelming your audience and your audience forgetting about your products or services – this is what email marketers are constantly trying to master.

Since every company is different, the volume of emails you send must be carefully tested and planned. A satisfactory amount of emails for some of your subscribers might be too many for other subscribers. This is where detailed segmentation is useful. Once you understand your customer and segment your audience, it is much easier to figure out how many emails per segment is ideal.

Try to push the volume of emails as high as you can consistently manage until you reach a point where either your goal (revenue, site traffic, lead generation, etc.) begins to plateau or you see an increased rate in unsubscribes. Once you reach this critical mass, pull back a bit, and you’ll find you’ve reached an optimal level.

Putting an End to One Marketing Myth

These techniques will help your email marketing thrive, while continuing to grow your audience and brand. Don’t forget, just as your company is ever-changing, your audience is too, so you must adapt, adapt, adapt!

For many companies, keeping email marketing alive can be intimidating. We get it! Contact Stone Ward for more information on how we can help you turn your email marketing into a more effective – and less intimidating – piece of your marketing strategy.