Email marketing: How to do it effectively

By Alexander Evjenth

Email marketing: How to do it effectively

In this episode of The Onlinification Pod, me, Anders and Stellan discuss email marketing.

More emails are being sent than ever before, but few companies manage to do email marketing really well - especially in B2B. Why is this, and what can B2B companies who want to improve their email marketing do about it? That's the topic of discussion for this week's episode. Listen to Anders and Stellan's examples of companies that do email marketing well, and what steps companies should take to boost their email performance.

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[00:00:09] Alexander Evjenth: Hi, and welcome to the Online and Digital Weekly, a podcast produced by the online marketing and communication agency Zooma. I'm Alex, your host, and in today's episode, I got the chance to talk about email marketing with my colleagues Anders and Stellan. We discuss personal experiences with email marketing, if email marketing is an effective marketing tactic, and how companies can be better at email marketing. Enjoy.

[00:00:44] So, Anders, first of all, do you have any personal experience where email marketing drove you to become a customer for a company?

[00:00:54] Anders Björklund: I would say, especially in buying more from customers, I have a lot of examples, a lot of good examples of customers who sell more through email marketing. I have very few examples when someone unknown through an email, especially without my permission, can convert me through email.

[00:01:24] AE: So how does that process look when you are motivated to buy more from a company? Is it that you get information about features you don't know and offerings you didn't know before?

[00:01:38] AB: Either they come up with a relevant suggestion, and for the good ones, based on my purchase behavior or my habits. But I actually have an example from last night, which I think is brilliant. We have, as I hope most people have, a security company at home, an alarm company. And a while ago, they asked me if I prefer to get alerts through email or through SMS. I hope they ask me that because I never open the emails. And last night when I was reading for my son an SMS came, very few people send a message to me generally, and the SMS said that:  "Within eight days your camera in the living room will run out of batteries. If you click on this link, you can order them." I clicked on the link to order them. And then I got yet another question.

[00:02:44] "Do you want assistance with doing the installation or the change? Yes or no?" Based on that I have been changing the batteries in the cameras before, the answer was no. And then I got a confirmation through SMS saying: "You will get the batteries this day." And on my phone it plinged. And I had the receipt on my email. An excellent example of something that I needed and that came the way that I preferred to get it.

[00:03:18] AE: So a combination of SMS and email there?

[00:03:23] AB: In this case yes, but they actively asked me a while ago if I want the alerts through email or through SMS.

[00:03:31] AE: Interesting. And Stellan, do you have any personal experience from successful email marketing?

[00:03:44] Stellan Björnesjö: Much like Anders was saying, to become a repeat buyer? Absolutely. But to become a first-time buyer, not so much. I'm more taking a sort of professional interest in observing when people have tried to do that on me.

[00:03:56] So basically observing lead nurturing. It's quite interesting when you're working with it. And I have to say, I have come across a couple of examples that have been really good, but that's mostly not fast-moving consumer goods, as I was probably guessing Anders was referring to, but rather sort of capital-intensive things where you have a longer time to make a decision. It's like a three-to-six months decision to buy a new greenhouse or something like that. So then I think lead nurturing is a very effective tool. But when it comes to converting you to buy a new shirt or a pair of jeans or something, that rarely happens sort of on an email outreach, first time, then you probably bought a pair of jeans from this particular company before and were happy with them, and then they promote an offering or something like that. And then you become a repeat buyer. That that would be my take on it.

[00:05:01] AE: Anders, do you have anything to add here?

[00:05:02] AB: At the same time, it's very interesting. When you asked me, I realised that from unknown, no, but from known, yes.

[00:05:15] A reflection is - it must be a very, very lucrative market to send spam to people and ask them to buy things, because obviously still many do like that. I would never, ever, from an unknown email address, open the email and think, "Hmmm, this sounds credible. This sounds really interesting. Let's buy it." But obviously, either they are throwing away their money on these types of emails, or obviously people click on them and purchase. That's a reflection. So I'm not like everyone else then, or they are just stupid.

[00:06:00] SB: That brings us to the second thing I know you want to talk about, Alexander, is email marketing an effective tool still? And I think that it very much is. And all the surveys that are done indicate that it still is. And all the data that we see indicates that it still is. So, for sure. You have to think about how you do it, the tactics around email. But to say that email is not effective anymore or email is dead, I think that's mostly talk of people who want to sell other types of advertising channels to you, basically.

[00:06:40] AE: Yeah, but connecting to what you said before, does it matter what product you sell, how effective email marketing is?

[00:06:52] SB: Not really. Not from the data that we see. Not from what I've read and not from what I've experienced. I just think it's very much down to how you do it.

[00:07:02] Personally, one company that did this really well was a pool supplier while I was researching pools and basically had a five, six-step lead nurturing path going through, you know, things you probably were thinking about, what you have to consider when you build, but also what type of pool you should have. And, you know, how does it work during the winter and all of these kind of things which were sort of building up a sort of high level of credibility that these people knew what they were talking about. And I think that's just one example of how you can do it when you have a much longer sales cycle. And then for, as I said, fast-moving consumer goods, it's more campaign-based in most cases, but that works really, really well as well. And we can see that on all the numbers, everything online is going up, including emails sent. And I think just as Anders was saying, if it didn't work, people would stop.

[00:08:20] AE: What do you think of Anders' experience from the company combining SMS and email? Is that an effective approach?

[00:08:36] SB: Of course. And it very much depends on where you live in the world as well. So Anders is the first one to say that, well, if you try to do business in certain countries in Asia, for example, email marketing is not a very effective tool and you need to be on social platforms. So I think it's for us in Scandinavia a combination of email and SMS. I certainly prefer to get certain alerts on SMS as well as Anders was mentioning, especially things that are instant, like actions you need to take immediately. It's much better to get an alert or a push notification through an app than to get an email.

[00:09:16] AB: Perhaps a reflection on this is; I always go back to the word relevance. And if email marketing, if the question is email marketing effective - yes, when it's relevant and asked for. Again, asked for. And I would say if anyone listens to this and they work at a company, I would advise them or inspire them to think through - when it comes to our customer relations, when do we give them the possibility to choose how and when?

[00:09:53] I mean, sadly, it's unique that someone tells me, "do you want the alerts through SMS or email?" Hopefully - I have no idea, I don't know the inside of that company - it's not a coincidence, hopefully. But perhaps it's just someone who found a new functionality or something. But I have no idea. But hopefully, it's based on data, I never open their alerts, so hopefully it's based on that. But I don't care - it was a relevant suggestion. I went for the SMS and now they sold something and my alarm functions.

[00:10:31] AE: So you've both been working in the field for a long time. Stellan, what has changed during the years in the field of email marketing?

[00:10:42] SB: I think it certainly has become more data-driven, in the companies that work with this in the most dedicated way. They don't do anything with email marketing that's not based on analysing data and continuously working to improve things like the unsubscription rate, the open rate, the click-through rates, how to sort of combine the best email at the best point in time, segmenting how the emails are distributed and to whom and when, and so on. So the mass blasting days, I think, are sort of gradually moving away, much like sending a television show to the whole country at the same time through one channel has gone away, and you pick and choose what you want to see today. It's the same with email marketing; you have to become much more aware about relevance, as Anders way saying, otherwise people would just mark you as spam and you're gone.

[00:11:50] AB: I agree with Stellan. And at the same time, I'm smiling and thinking - irrelevance and content from the inside is still way too present when it comes to email marketing.

[00:12:06] SB: Absolutely. I was referring to the ones to do this really well. Unfortunately, it's a small group.

[00:12:16] AB: Could I provoke you if I say - Stellan, give me a figure in per cent, how many we are talking about? I know it's a ridiculously general question, but how many per cent are we talking about that do email marketing data-driven? What do you think?

[00:12:36] SB: I think it is mostly prevalent in B2C. And it's really strange because I think, as you are pointing out, from time to time, B2B have many fewer contacts and therefore it should be much easier to do personalisation and segmentation and everything.

[00:12:55] But for some reason it's in B2C and in B2C in particular, it's mostly e-commerce companies because that's their main sort of channel historically of having a relationship with the customers, the website and emails, at least in the Western Hemisphere. And if you're a retail company, not so much. Then you're as old school as many companies in B2B.

[00:13:24] AB: I agree.

[00:13:26] AE: So Stellan, what is your advice for companies to gain desired results with email marketing campaigns?

[00:13:33] SB: It's like anything you want to be really good at, you have to practice. It's not the rabbit that you can pull out of a hat and then all of a sudden you're great at this. Unfortunately for many companies, that means if you want to do more of that, you have to do less of something else. And many people simply don't make that choice. They just throw it out there to someone in the organisation and say: "Could you just make sure that our email marketing improves?" And then that's the eighty-first thing on that person's to-do list. So everything is about conscience and making a choice.

[00:14:14] AE: And Anders?

[00:14:16] AB: Set the purpose, segment firmly, make sure that you have the right to send things to them.

[00:14:24] Personalise as far as you can. Don't you ever use a 'do not reply' email, always use a real reply email address and if you have a relation, make sure that it comes from the person that you know best. Use your actual email signature. You can go to a lot of detail, stuff like make it mobile-friendly, keep the subject short, make sure that it's a relevant CTA both for you and your company, as for the reader. Then a very, very personal thing.

[00:15:06] And that's perhaps a five-minute discussion with you as well Stellan, that is - I'm so tired of getting four or five or six blocks in different emails with different messages. My God, you know me, say what's relevant for me! And then we can go to a lot of sort of detailed feedback. But if I choose one I choose - think first and do your segmentation.

[00:15:36] AE: And Anders, how should companies segment their user database?

[00:15:40] AB: And now we come to a general thing, which is - in our experience, most companies have at least two databases, and that is when they are not global, they have at least two databases. Make sure that you have one database.

[00:16:03] That's the first advice. Do you agree Stellan? Because there's a thing with all these lists that still are ongoing in B2B. Make sure you have one database structured in the same way, make sure you have a legal basis for sending things to people. That I would say, I don't know what you say Stellan. It's the first step. Have your lists or your database in order.

[00:16:29] SB: Yeah. In order to do this well, you have to have your data in order. Absolutely. And the same goes for, as you were mentioning before, having the right to actually send an email to someone at this point. And I know many companies that haven't managed their databases properly. They have addresses that they bought maybe five, six, seven years ago in their database. And the question is, do they even today have the right to send emails to these addresses? So absolutely, you have to have data maintenance. And that's a really important thing.

[00:17:05] AB: And if that is the absolutely step zero in some countries, then you have the other version, which is - on existing customers and previous customers, you have some type of order of your data in your so-called CRM. And perhaps for a couple of years, you have been very active in interactions with prospects and some customers through your marketing side. So now you have the merge part, that's the sort of second thing that you need to start merging the data of previous customers, existing customers and potential customers.

[00:17:50] AE: Well, great insights from both of you, do you have anything to add to companies who want to succeed with their email marketing campaign, Stellan?

[00:18:02] SB: Well, I think 2021 is going to be an interesting year just because so much has evolved in 2020. And email marketing is probably an area that is not immune to the change that's going on. So it's going to be interesting who sort of moves the needle on email marketing in 2021.

[00:18:27] AE: And Anders?

[00:18:29] AB: Prioritise it. Prioritise email marketing and the tape recorder goes back to - stay relevant and please, if you have the possibility, let people choose what they get and what they don't get. That's my three things.

[00:18:48] AE: Very good. Thank you both for participating today.

[00:18:58] AE: Well, I hope you enjoyed that episode. It's very clear that both agree that email marketing is still efficient, but only when it's relevant and asked for by the customer. It's a great way to get your existing customers to do repeated purchases, but might not be that efficient when they haven't purchased from you before. But it's important to highlight Stellan's reflection on that some capital intensive products which have three to six months decision phase could be an efficient way of helping them to make the decision if you do email marketing correctly. It's all about how you do it, like Anders' story about the alarm company, where they combine the email and SMS text, that was the best way they could communicate with him. But how did they know that? They asked him. And I think that's very important to remember that if you want to become relevant in email marketing, then you need to talk to your customers, ask them how do they want communication from you? And based on that, you create your email marketing approach. Thank you very much for listening. And if you want to hear more episodes, please subscribe to the podcast on Stay tuned.

Alexander Evjenth
Alexander is a content creator who has a great interest in learning new things. What he enjoys even more is creating knowledge content.
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