Building an Email Marketing strategy, the Salesman that never sleeps
We don’t have any sales people.
We’re a SaaS company without a sales team - it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
We’ve never felt the need to hire a full blown sales team because we have a great salesman who sells all the time, who speaks to our customers every hour of every day and doesn’t even take breaks.
This master salesman is our email list. We’re always talking to our customers, always engaging with them through it.
The data is pretty clear email is your most effective tool in your marketing toolkit. The problem with a lot of marketing gurus and other outsourcing marketing organisations though is that it reeks of snake oil.
You can tell because they talk about tasks you need to do, like posting to twitter or going to events - they never deal with data. That’s how you know they know their stuff. You want to know if the investment you’re making is truly worth it and any marketer worth their salt is always tweaking, testing and optimising by looking at the data.
The data on Email
The way you can tell if something is effective is by trying it and then looking at the data. So we’ll take a look at two metrics to see the effectiveness of email as a marketing tool compared to other channels.
The first metric we’ll look at is the return on investment of each marketing channel. There’s no point in throwing good money after bad, the whole point of a marketing channel is to turn prospects into customers.
As you can see email marketing does really well alongside content marketing and SEO optimisation with the best ROI.
Contrary to what you might think social media isn’t so hot. Our click rates from our own emails on a bad day dwarf anything we get on a good day from our social media.
The other metric we’ll look at is what are companies doubling down on after having tried various channels.
Once again email is the dominant marketing channel seeing the biggest increase in marketing budget expenditure.
So hopefully you now appreciate how important it is, and why you need to manage it carefully to help grow your business.
How we manage our Email System
Currently our email lists our hosted on MailChimp, we have two mailing lists that we’ll refer to as steams from here on out.
- RealtimeCRM stream
- Content Marketing stream
The RealtimeCRM stream is all related to the product itself, RealtimeCRM. The source of the list comes exclusively from those who sign up to actually use the product. They get our onboarding sequence which guides them through how to use the product and hopefully converts them into paying users. Thereafter, they receive product updates and other product related information to further encourage engagement with RealtimeCRM.
The Content Marketing stream is self explanatory. There are many sources for this but the primary source is our blog. We provide useful content that is relevant to the list such as our guide to GDPR, tips for businesses and thereafter our successes and failures and the lessons we’ve learned from them that can be applied to others.
Basically, we’re building trust with this list and we’re going to be in their inbox which gives us one opportunity after another to market RealtimeCRM to them whilst at the same time providing free content that they want.
This is basically permission marketing, its an approach to selling goods and services in which a prospect explicitly agrees in advance to receive marketing information. It’s significantly more effective than the traditional untargeted interruption models.
The purpose of both streams is to market RealtimeCRM by getting into as many inboxes as possible. So we’re always thinking of new ways to collect more email so we can do just that. You should be thinking the same way when it comes to your business and collecting email.
The flow of our email streams:
Within MailChimp we group our subscribers by how they ended up on our list and whether they take certain actions, for example you don’t want to keep bugging someone to purchase something if they already have. You want to be able to segment them out of that email flow and onto another one to upsell them to a higher tier product for example.
In our case, for the RealtimeCRM stream we want to know how they signed up, whether they’re an administrator or a regular user and whether they’re paying or not.
These segments allow us to later on contact them with emails that are relevant to them. It would be stupid to offer a discount to somebody who already has that discount applied to their account so segmentation is a must if you want an intelligent list.
It also allows us to send win back emails to those who haven’t logged into RealtimeCRM offering them more help to try and help onboard them onto the system. Every little bit you can do to improve your conversion rates matters because it’ll compound over time as you drive more traffic through a better optimised email system. You don’t want to let money slip through your fingers.
In one experiment an 11-field version of a contact form was cut down to a 4-field version. This resulted in a 160% increase in the number of forms submitted and a 120% increase in conversion while the quality of submissions stayed the same.
For our sign up form we followed the same principle cutting down a 3-field form down to a single field then we used the power of Clearbit to get more information, for example their company name which is applied automatically to the newly created account without the subscriber having to do it themselves in the sign up form. We too saw a huge boost in our sign up rate from this.
On our blog we use sticky sign up forms and if you’re on a specific piece of content, say you’re on a post about GDPR the sign up form will be more relevant to the visitor.
To get that email we offer a full free guide on how GDPR affects small businesses and the sign up form will make this offer to them, and when they sign up via that post they’ll get put into the GDPR group in MailChimp, then we’ll send them the full guide in our GDPR specific flow which finishes into our Content Marketing stream.
This is all automated, we don’t do anything. It works night and day helping us sell without us having to lift a finger beyond the initial effort to set it up.
So, the lesson is you need to optimise your sign up forms around your content to attract email sign ups. Don’t be afraid to really go after them by creating incentives.
The look of our emails
Let’s first begin with how we want our emails to look. They look almost plaintext. They’ve been stripped down to the bare bones this is because we don’t want to look like spam and we want it to feel personal. This is again backed up by data:
It’s pretty obvious the more images you have in your email the lower your click rate will be. In fact, HTML emails have 25% lower open rates than their plain text alternatives.
What makes a truly online business is not having a website, its not sending emails. Its having actionable data and then well acting on it.
Let’s take a simple example it’s not easy or speedy to re-decorate physical shops to test whether the new designs are better at attracting new customers but your website and your emails can be, and you can more easily record the data in the first place to inform your design decisions.
When we send emails via MailChimp we get a wealth of data including open rates and click rates.
We make slight modifications to the emails, changing the subject heading to the first paragraph and then comparing the results. We’re constantly A/B testing so we can improve our open and click rates.
Even a 1% increase means a greater chance of winning customers, and when you scale that up you can see how powerful this kind of iterative optimisation can be. Don’t spray and pray when it comes to your email marketing. You want to know when you have a lemon and when you have a winner so you can double down on it.
How we write our emails
In the example below, this is the what you’d receive in your final email if you had signed up to our “How to start a business course”:
The very first thing we do is highlight the value we’ve provided, we then explain what RealtimeCRM is and why it can be valuable to the subscriber and then we make the call to action, for the subscriber to try RealtimeCRM.
The email itself is sent from our founder Phil, the whole course was written from his experience as a founder of multiple businesses.
Over the course the subscriber will have developed an understanding of how Phil thinks and what he’s been through, he’s not just some entity but a real person the subscriber can empathise with. This makes it easier to make the final call to action because by this point we will have won the trust of the subscriber and provided real value to them.
Your best bet is to take the personal approach combined with plain text emails. Whatever you do don’t sound like a marketing robot and don’t use marketing buzzwords either.
Why email is critical to us
Our business model is simple, we have people who sign up to RealtimeCRM and they pay monthly to keep using it if they add more than one user. Some percentage cancel every month but if we can get more people signing up than cancelling our revenue will grow. We want that consistent growth.
Email allows us to better achieve that because it’s not a one hit marketing source. We don’t have to constantly attract people again and again. The fact that we have their email means the hardest part is done, we can get in front of their eyes and market RealtimeCRM more easily via their inbox.
Plus, its inherently scalable and flexible. Not everyone who comes onto our site is ready to buy a subscription to RealtimeCRM but we can still get their email and be in their inbox when they are ready to convert. For current users we can let them know quickly and cost effectively of new developments to encourage them to add more users and when we do see spikes in traffic our email system can handle it because it’s an automated system that can scale up and down as required and guide these newcomers through our various streams to turn them into paying customers which is the end goal.
That’s the power of email, that’s why you need to focus on building an email marketing system if you want your business to grow.