Newsletters 101: Using Email to Grow Your Brand

Running an online store requires playing a lot of roles. It’s no small feat being the creator, store manager, marketer, distributor, and the list goes on. But just because you can wear all those hats, doesn’t mean you have to.

Implementing smart email marketing is one of the most effective ways to ease the day-to-day burden of your shop operations. It’s also one of the most affordable and powerful ways to drive demand and grow awareness for your online store. We’ll lay out everything you need to know to get started achieving these results with email marketing.

Why You Need Email Marketing

When done correctly, email can be your largest source of growth and most cost-effective form of marketing. It’s a must for all business owners, but especially when you sell online. Data shows that every dollar you invest in an email campaign generates an average of $44. That means you’re all but guaranteed noticeable results when you put your time into an email marketing campaign. This is especially critical if you’re working with a limited budget, resources, and time.

Email marketing is also not only about sending messages to your subscriber list. It’s how you convert a fan into a buyer, turn a one-time sale into several, build loyalty with your community, and get in front of more people. And according to Marketing Sherpa, 72% of customers prefer email. At the end of the day, you have to meet your customers where they are, and the data shows that most of the time, that’s email.

If you don’t already have email campaigns set up for your online store, it’s never too late to start. And while it may take the time upfront to get it going, it can be a fruitful and ultimately-passive way to generate demand and drive traffic to your brand.

How to Get Started

If you’ve never done any email marketing, it can seem intimidating at first. But if you’ve ever received an email - and it’s 2020, so we’re assuming you have - then you already have a good starting point. Consider the emails that you open every day:

  • What makes you click on them?
  • What did the sender do to earn your loyal opens?
  • What do you like and dislike about all the emails you receive?

Set yourself up for success by thinking about email from the user’s perspective. Then, follow these steps to keep going.

1. Pick a tool

There are many email service tools to choose from, and they can vary in features and pricing. It’s important to find the right tool based on your needs, resources, and budget. Use these questions to help guide you when making your decision:

  • What are your email building needs? Do you know HTML or do you need an email builder that is easy to use out-of-the-box?
  • Is the software user-friendly and intuitive?
  • What’s your budget?
  • What integrations do you need?
  • What advanced features do you care about? (We’ll talk more about this later.)
  • Do you need to migrate current lists or data?
  • What level of customer support does the software offer?

This is not an exhaustive list of considerations. But it covers the basics to help point you in the right direction when selecting your ideal email tool.

2. Create goals and track stats

Once you’ve chosen your software, you might be excited to jump in and get going. Yet we encourage you to pump the breaks and first consider your overall business goals. Then, map out how email fits into that broader strategy and assign some email-specific targets. What are your main marketing objectives, and how will email help you achieve them?

This might look like: a high-level marketing goal to drive 10% more traffic to your online-store from the previous year. Your secondary goal may be for email to drive 5% of that. Then, your key stats to track could be link clicks to your online store from your emails or unique-email coupon codes used at point-of-sale, as a couple of examples.

Various factors determine the success of an email campaign. So the more specific you get with your goals and metrics, the better you’ll be able to track and analyze your progress, and then optimize along the way.

3. Grow your list

If you’re thinking, “wait, I don’t have a list!” don’t fret. You have former and current customers to begin with! It’s incredibly important to ensure you have proper permission to email these people first. Once you do, you’ll have a solid foundation from which to start your list.

Engage other strategies and marketing channels to help grow your subscribers. Consider offering incentives - perhaps a discount or a free item - to sign up for your email list on your website. A common option is to include a sign-up form on your site to prompt users to sign up. Some email software supplies this capability, making it a lighter lift on your end. Also, discuss and promote your emails on social. This is a great opportunity to tell an already-engaged audience what they can expect to gain from your emails, and what they’re missing out on!

One note of caution: Avoid temptation from those who offer to sell you email lists. This can damage your brand, your sender reputation, attract the wrong audience, and more.

4. Plan your content and campaigns

Now you’re ready for the fun part! What content are you going to start sending? Like every other step thus far, there are many options. From newsletters, announcements, offers, and more, there’s no right or wrong here. Just make sure that whatever you launch ladders up to your overarching strategy and goals.

If you’re not sure where to begin, start with one content idea and focus on consistency. If you’re going to start a newsletter, for example, you should publish at the same frequency, day, and time. We recommend creating an email content calendar in whatever format works best for you. This will help you maintain consistency and plan strategically. This will be especially advantageous for particular seasons, holidays, or larger campaigns.

Three of the Most Effective Email Campaigns

Because email is one of the most effective pieces of your marketing pie, it requires a lot of strategies and thoughtful sequencing. Ergo, emails that are set to send to the right person, at the right time, in the right order of events. There are many types of campaigns you could put in place, but we selected three that are the most impactful, both for your business and your audience.

Welcome Email: Just as you extend a warm greeting when you enter one’s home, you should do the same when you’re welcomed into someone’s inbox. A welcome email is set up in your ESP to automatically send when someone becomes a new subscriber. It’s your chance at a first impression; welcoming them to your list and thanking them for doing so.

You should also give them an idea of what to expect from your emails, and a thank-you gift (a piece of content, a discount, or a download). On average, welcome emails generate up to 320% more revenue per email than other promotional emails. So the investment in making this campaign the best it can be is sure to be worth it.

Curation Email: One of the most popular campaigns among ecommerce marketers is the curation email. It’s an email that aggregates your best work or products. These are great to use when you’re low on content ideas or want to capitalize on an event, holiday, or moment in time.

As your subscribers have the opportunity to choose what most interests them, you’re then able to learn from their selections. This data can then help inform segmented emails with content or product recommendations tailored to their interests.

Referral Email: If you’ve bought anything online in the last year, you’ve likely seen or participated in at least one referral program. “Give $20 to a friend, and you’ll get $20 to spend, too.” Sold. If you don’t already have a referral program set up, you should. This type of marketing generates 3-5 times higher conversation rates than other channels. Plus, the lifetime value of a new referral customer is 16% higher than the average customer!

And when you have a referral program, you should be sharing that with your list with a referral campaign! It’s as simple as an email that introduces the referral offer, and clearly describes any related instructions. It’s an easy, and somewhat passive, way to drive the most influential purchasing factor - word of mouth.

Always Be Testing

Once you have a few emails under your belt, your email tool will surface enough analytics to draw data-backed learnings about your subscribers. You’ll be able to see which emails inspired the most amount of opens, what subscribers clicked on, and if they’ve unsubscribed altogether. While this is valuable, testing is one of the greatest tools to help you continue learning what works and what doesn’t.

One of the most common forms is A/B testing. This is a type of test you set up in your email software that involves creating two variant emails. Typically, the emails are identical except for one element, so that you can identify which one performs better. Perhaps you change the subject lines, so you can see if a more emotional subject line performs better than a more direct line. You can also test content within your email. One email may lead with an image of a person, and the second leads with an image of art - A/B test them and you can see which appeals to more subscribers.

This isn’t exclusive to the beginning of your email marketing journey, either. You should always be testing all aspects of marketing to continually optimize your efforts.

Automation for Next-Level Email Marketing

When you’re ready, there are more advanced features like automation that are the bread and butter for every email marketing strategy. Automation allows you to send most of the triggered email campaigns we mentioned above.

Could you imagine having to create those sends manually? Whew. Automation is what can make email marketing a somewhat passive method of driving awareness and traffic. It will also be your biggest time-saver in the long run. Setting up automation workflows correctly may take 20% of your time, but it could lead to 80% of your revenue growth in the long run.

Most email tools will have automation features you can take advantage of. You may have to pay a little extra depending on what you want to do and which software you’re using. But you can rest assured that the tool will take care of the heavy lifting.

Make Email Marketing Work for You

Getting started with email marketing and creating successful campaigns isn’t as hard as it may seem. The key is starting with a solid marketing strategy and ensuring your email aligns with your online store’s goals. Pick the right tool for you, plan your content, measure your success, and test along the way. And don’t forget to embrace inspiration from your inbox. Email is affordable and effective, but it’s also an extension of your store and your brand - you’re getting a personal invitation to be in someone’s inbox every time you send. Have fun and make the most of it.

Chelsea Castle

Writer, strategist, and content marketer living in Nashville, TN.

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