6 Email Strategy Tips for 2021

It’s one of the most overlooked aspects of an email marketing program: creating and carrying out email strategy to help you achieve your email goals.

This is a tough area for many email marketers, who don’t always have the time to sit down and plan out campaigns. But a strategy is essential for email success at both the program and campaign levels.

Strategic thinking is more important than ever as we come out of 2020, which saw an explosion in ecommerce and a related growth in email engagement. A strategic mindset will help you turn it into sustained growth.

Chris Donald, managing partner of Inbox Army, one of the leading agencies for email strategy, development and production, sat down virtually with FreshAddress’ Jim Tinney, VP Sales and Marketing, and Keith Reinhardt, Marketing Manager, to share advice for creating an email strategy that can turn your email program into a revenue-generating machine.

1. Define goals & make a clear plan to execute on them.

“Defining goals is important because it’s hard to create a strategy without a goal,” Chris says. “It’s as if you’re going to run a race, but you don’t know where it ends.”

A goal plan should include both long-term and short-term goals. “It’s better to have milestones as you go. But define them, whether you want to increase engagement or increasing list size. If you know your current list drives $50,000 in revenue from a list of 100,000 subscribers, then  increasing list size can increase your revenue.”

2. List growth and engagement will rule.

“Having a big list full of unengaged subscribers is not as good as a smaller list that is engaged,” Chris says. “But don’t just cull people. Pay attention to activity.”

  • Having a highly engaged list will help you increase your inbox placement instead of having your emails land in a spam or “Other” folder.
  • But before you remove addresses of people who haven’t opened or clicked on an email for a certain amount of time, try to discover their buying frequency. 

“They might not be active in email, but they’re still buying from you,” Chris says. “You need to use multiple data sets.”

3. Offer incentives. Or not.

“We hear this a lot: ‘Should we offer incentives to subscribers?’,” Chris says. “It’s a good idea if your profit margins can bear it. A discount at opt-in can turn into revenue down the line.”

One suggestion: Test different discounts to see which ones get customers to act. “It’s best to stay with round numbers like 10% off or 15% off,” he says. Tempted to try an eye-catching oddball number like 13% off on a Friday the 13th? Proceed carefully!

“We actually tested this one out in a split test, offering one group 13% off and another 10% off,” he said. “The 10% discount did better, probably because people could do the math in their heads easier.”

4. Test, test, and test again.

“This is so important,” Chris says. “Once you have a plan, know how you will execute on it, and how you will test it to improve it.” Two popular test protocols are an A/B split test with two variables and a multivariate test that uses more than two variables.

Three tips for successful testing:

    • Create equal A/B splits. Group characteristics should be as similar as possible, Chris advises. If one has more active subscribers than another, that could skew your results. “‘Random’ isn’t random.” 
    • Let your test run as long as possible. “If you wait only 4 hours to find a winner, 50% of the time, the winner can change 24 hours later.”
    • Repeat tests to find your true winners. “One test win does not say it will happen every time,” he says. Repeats your tests to find a working trend.

5. Optimize based on testing, and then continue testing.

“Be smart,” Chris says. “Some people are big fans of holdout groups. I’m not a big fan, especially during the holiday. Why would you want to lose that revenue” from the subscriber group that doesn’t get your messages? 

6. Evaluate your progress and look for sustainable trends.

“Keep trying to move forward,” Chris says, “Small incremental gains are great. If you hit a home run and have a big gain, that’s great, but generally, incremental gains will be what gets you to your goal.”

Coming up next: Email automations

“Automations for most ecommerce companies are big revenue drivers,” Chris says. But what are the automations that will generate the best results for your email program? We’ll share  Chris’ strategies and tips in our next blog post. 

If you just can’t wait (we don’t blame you!), watch How to Turn Your Email Program into a Revenue-Generating Machine, then share the highlights in the blog post with your email team.

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