An email marketing strategy and execution plan is an effective way for businesses to communicate with their customers, drive repeat business, and grow revenue. Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of electronic marketing and can be extremely helpful in understanding customer behavior, preferences, needs, and interests—making it a powerful tool for helping you target your audience.
Its history dates back to 1971, when Gary Thuerk, who worked for Digital Equipment Corp, sent an email blast to an audience of 400 that resulted in £13m in sales. If only it were still that easy! Over the decades’ email marketing has grown in sophistication and complexity not only with strategies, tactics, and technology but also with regard to data.
In 1998 the Data Protection Act ensured that all marketing emails included an opt-out and in 2016 GDPR ensured that there was a distinct email opt-in for all B2C email marketing.
The timeline below from email marketing technology business Red Eye takes us through the history of email marketing.
In the past few weeks alone; the UK’s re-entered lockdown, America witnessed riots in the Capitol before welcoming in a new president (and trying to impeach the old one) and Brexit is inevitably still finding its feet with disruption to supply lines weighing heavily on the minds of many businesses.
It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in two weeks, let alone for the rest of the year, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of having an email marketing strategy in place – if anything, it’s all the more reason to be strategic.
Last year showed how important email marketing is as a communications channel. It became the lifeline for many brands and the most effective way for them to stay in touch with their customers and prospects. Businesses that were forced to close because of COVID could still add value to their customers through email – and email continued to be the best way of delivering the right message to the right people at the right time.
We can’t control what’s going on in the outside world but we can control how we react and respond to it. Having an email marketing strategy in place helps you be clear, concise and develop an optimal way of working while giving you room to innovate where required.
Here are our three email marketing strategy essentials when in a crisis:
To start, ask yourself these questions: “As a business, where are we right now? What are we currently doing? Where do we want to get to? How are we going to get there?”
This will give you a basic framework of what you’re trying to achieve and you can measure the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns against this framework. Essentially, you need to figure out what you want your email marketing campaigns to do and how you want people to engage with what you send them.
This could be something very tangible like: “We want to increase direct revenue from our email campaigns by 10% in Q1” or “We want to sell x number of units of our new product through email marketing by June.”
It could also be something less quantifiable like, for example, if your business is a restaurant and you’re currently closed: “We want to continue to add value to our customers by sending them weekly recipes while we’re closed.”
Whatever your aims and outcomes, you need to then measure, monitor and manage them accordingly. For the first example, your focus would very firmly be on conversion rates and revenue while, for the latter example, you’d be more concerned with open rates and click through rates.
By measuring how people interact and engage with your email marketing campaigns you can then make better decisions based on evidence and data – which will feed back into your strategy and help you see where you should focus your activity.
More often than not, strategy can turn into ‘death by spreadsheet.’ We love a good spreadsheet to help us plan our activity but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to create something complex. You don’t. Simple is better and infinitely more effective.
Start by simply getting a schedule in place for when you’re going to send your campaigns. Identify when your peaks and troughs in terms of demand for your product or service then plan your campaigns around these.
If you sell luxury swimwear, it’s unlikely January or February in the UK is going to be your busiest time. So plan campaigns that help build a vibrant and engaged community and then switch them up to more sales driven campaigns as soon as spring hits.
And remember, what the lockdowns we’ve endured have shown us is its the brands who work hard to stay at the top of people’s minds (and are happy to give more to their customers than what they ask for back) who have been the most resilient and successful.
Having a plan in place for your email marketing is one of the most useful things you can do right now.
Will that plan change? More than likely. Should that plan be flexible enough so you can react and respond when necessary? Absolutely. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make one and back it up with a plan B for a ‘worst case scenario.’
You should always have a plan. Even if you don’t stick to it, you’ve always got something to come back to if you get lost. Last year all plans went out the window (and it’s likely many will go the same way this year) but it’s much easier to draw up new plans and revisie targets if you’ve already got one in place. With a robust plan you can both mitigate any potential risks to your businesses while at the same time identifying opportunities you might not have previously seen.
For more insight into email marketing strategy and why it’s such an important part of your marketing efforts, tune into the latest episode of the Jarrang podcast to find out more.
Equally, if you have any questions on strategy and want to talk them through with one of our team, we’re always here to help.