2018 has been a huge year for email marketing. The year has been dominated by GDPR which has forced us, both as consumers and as businesses, to re-evaluate our relationship with email marketing. 

customer emailsThe May 25th deadline created panic in some quarters, and misinformation and bad advice resulted in a deluge of unnecessary consent emails, which led to many businesses coming out the other side with needlessly depleted databases – and questions about how, and if they even should, execute future email marketing campaigns while staying GDPR compliant.

One thing that businesses should bear in mind, however, is that email marketing is the most effective digital marketing channel in terms of ROI, with conversation rates as high as 50%.

When done right, email marketing is an unrivalled way of connecting with your customer base, igniting and stoking loyalty and a creating a mutually beneficial, two-way relationship.

And, from our perspective as an independent email marketing agency, we’ve welcomed GDPR with open arms. One of the biggest trends we’ve noticed this year is seeing companies get under the skin of their email marketing, asking themselves questions like: ‘What are trying to achieve?’ ‘Why do we run email marketing campaigns?’ and ‘Who are we doing it for?’

The upshot of this has been a marked increase in the quality of communications being sent across the board.

Although our databases are smaller – on average half the size there were before GDPR came into force – they are now made up only of people who want to hear from us, or are previous customers.

Which means that, as a business, you can talk to a group of people who actually want to hear from you – who are interested in your offering, and who therefore will engage with your messaging and hopefully act on your call to actions.

So, it’s now less about quantity and much more about quality – tailored, meaningful messages to people who want to receive them.

As we move into 2019, here are ten top tips for businesses to ensure they make the most of email marketing while staying GDPR compliant:

Master it

It’s really important that you make sure you are using a master list, rather than lots of different, smaller lists, to manage all your email marketing data. And it’s vital that you ensure you are suppressing unsubscribed and non-compliant contacts and tagging the different groups to which they might belong for future targeted messaging. If your master list is not robust and evolving in terms of the suppression of contacts, you won’t make the most of the contacts you have, and could potentially open yourself up to prosecution.

Don’t be greedy

Ensure that you only collect data from your contacts that you actually need to help you send better email marketing campaigns to them. Reduce the risk in the event of a data breach by collecting only the fields you need for your email marketing. Think carefully – are you sure you really need their full name, address, and date of birth?

Be brave

Take a deep breath, and then delete all the contacts from your database who aren’t engaging with your content. Set yourself some rules and then stick to them. For example, if someone hasn’t engaged with you (bought something or opened an email) for the last two years, it just isn’t worth keeping them – and it probably isn’t legally compliant either. If you can, set a process to automatically remove them after a set period of non-engagement.

Tease and entice

It is true that people judge an email by its subject line. And with more than 75 percent of emails being opened on mobile phones, so it needs to be short – not more than 50 characters if possible. Your subject line is your pitch, so it needs to grab and hold attention, enticing people into the reading the email by piquing their interest and making them want to read on. You can use urgency (though it pays to hold off doing this every time, so you don’t seem as if you are crying wolf), a tease about a cool story of educational content, personalisation, or the promise of offers in your subject line. Just make sure you fulfil the promises it holds in the email itself!

Have the perfect body

For the content of your email, it is best to keep it short, sweet and simple. Bear in mind that your customers are time-poor and will not want to wade through a lot of text. It is important, however, to use language that provokes emotion and enthusiasm – keep the message upbeat, high energy and provide reasons for them to keep reading. Along with the concise yet powerful sentences, a strong call to action is a must, as are some engaging visuals if possible. These are the components of an email that will be opened and engaged with.

Call it out

And that call to action is all important. It will determine how, and how many, people will interact with your email. After your customers open and actually read the email, the next challenge is to make them convert! Make your call to action immediate, exciting, relevant and tailored to your recipient.  ‘Click here’ or ‘Find out more’ is pretty boring and lazy – you can and should be much more creative. Use the voice of the customer, verbs and simple language. And make sure it has an eye-catching design (standing out on the page), persuasive language and is in alignment with the relevant landing page.

Make it work

Perhaps an obvious one, but oh so important – make sure your emails work! Your email needs to function perfectly on multiple devices and also in different email clients. The last thing you want to do is give your customers a bad or frustrating experience, so it’s vital that your content displays well – this is one of your top priorities. With most emails opened on mobiles, it pays to go mobile first, and this includes considering easy manoeuvrability – think MailChimp’s mantra of ““one eyeball, one thumb, and arm’s-length”. Your emails should be easy to read while distracted (with one eye), scrollable and clickable with one thumb, and able to be read at arm’s length. You can and should test the all your emails using products such as Litmus.

Time it right

As with so many things in life, timing is everything when it comes to email marketing campaigns. Finding the right time to send an email isn’t an exact science – but with a combination of historical performance, common sense and industry trends, you should be able to find the optimum time to send your emails. Look at your Google Analytics and see when people are most active on your site. Once you have identified a trend e.g. Sunday mornings, try sending the email out around the same time

Create an exclusive club

Another way to make your customers feel valued and part of a special club is to offer exclusive deals to newsletter subscribers throughout the year. This is a great way to build your database while instilling a sense of mutual loyalty and trust with your customers. Just ensure they can’t get the deals through other channels!

Measure up

After all this hard work it’s important to find out how successful your campaign has been. This always should go back to the purpose of the email – so ask yourself the question: “Did it deliver what we wanted it to?”. Always measure your engagements rates (opens, click throughs and conversions) as they will provide valuable insight into what your customers are responding to. By measuring, evaluating, and learning from your results, you’ll be able to continue to develop successful and effective email marketing campaigns that wow your customers and deliver the results you need.


By Stafford Sumner of Jarrang

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