How 7 Experts Solve Their Most Painful Email Marketing Problems

by Anum Hussain

Date

June 12, 2013 at 12:30 PM

professionals-admit-how-they-combat-their-email-marketing-cam-pains-1Planning email marketing campaigns can be, well, a pain. As much as you may love your job, it can still become tedious and difficult to plan email campaign after email campaign. And what happens when you have more emails on your plate than you can manage?

I'd guess that a crafty little outbound devil comes and whispers into your ear a slew of easy tactics to get your message out ...

"Just buy a new email list and send them the same message you sent last week!"

"Design doesn't matter -- just throw in some words and ship it!"

"Segmentation takes up too much of your time ... just send the same email to everyone!"

While these aren't exactly the best tactics ... I understand (even as an inbound marketer) how tempting it can be to take the easy way out.

So I turned to some of the best email marketing experts I know to get insight into the tips and tricks they're using to make email marketing awesome and as pain-free as possible. Below you'll learn about the various problems or pain points they've admitted to encountering, proposed solutions for each, and personal insight into why those solutions are valuable for them.

Pain: Generating the Necessary Clickthrough and Open Rates to Meet Conversion Goals

Solution: Segment Your Marketing Messages 

There's a variety of data around specific trigger words and character counts that help your email open and/or clickthrough rates. According to Experian, including the word exclusive in email promotional campaigns boosts unique open rates by 14%. But if you're looking for a consistent method for generating the necessary open or clickthrough rates, you can't simply manipulate your email copy to include a specific word each time. It's repetitive, uninviting, and frankly not always true for the actual message or offer at hand.

Segmenting your emails is a friendly, lovable way to attract the clickthrough and open rates you're longing for. In fact, data from HubSpot Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella shows that marketers who segmented their email database into 2-6 lists saw an 8.3% email clickthrough rate, as opposed to the 7.3% clickthrough rate seen by marketers who used a single list for all their email marketing.

"For any evangelical inbound marketer, the benefits of any marketing email should be twofold. The recipient should receive something of value and directly in line with their needs and interests, and I, as the marketer, am looking for a certain percentage of clicks and opens in order to meet traffic and lead conversion goals. By utilizing list segmentation, I can send more targeted emails only to the contacts who have displayed previous interest in a certain topic or offer, therefore greatly increasing the likelihood of an email open or click. Most importantly, I've introduced context into the equation, greatly increasing the likelihood of a relationship."

john-bonini   John Bonini, Director of Marketing,
  IMPACT Branding & Design

Pain: Improving Your Long-Term Email Marketing Strategy With A Single Email

Solution: A/B Test Every Email You Send

The "problem" with every email you send is that it depends on a variety of factors for success. Did you see dramatically impressive results because of the subject line or the call-to-action copy? Did the email totally flop because of the visual employed or the length of the actual message?

Unfortunately, you won't be able to solve these questions immediately. And you can't magically create a plan for long-term email success in one day. This makes it difficult to pull out a trick from your back pocket when you're in the need for a quick email win. That's where A/B testing comes in. 

A/B testing can benefit the overall growth of your email marketing channel by providing you with bits of insight every day. Every email you send without an A/B test is a lost opportunity for growth. It's also a lost opportunity to remedy future email campaigns.

Try creating a backlog of A/B testing ideas that you and your colleagues can continuously add to. You can then pull from this list every time you send an email to ensure you're benefiting your long-term email strategy with some insight from your email audience. For example, in 2011, we conducted a test to see if including a personal name in an email's "from" field would increase email clickthrough rate. In the test, we saw that the control (From "HubSpot") had a 0.73% CTR while our treatment (from "Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot") had a 0.96% CTR -- the personalized "From" field was a clear winner with 99.9% confidence.

That one test has now served us through our email marketing strategy as a whole.

"A/B testing is a critical part of improving email results over time, and each email you send is an opportunity to test some element of your campaign. I keep a backlog of these elements to test so I have something in mind every time I'm ready to sit down and create an email."

ellie-mirman   Ellie Mirman, Head of Marketing,
   Mid-Sized Business, HubSpot

Pain: Mobile Friendliness

Solution: Keep Your Emails Clean With a One-Column Layout

A Gartner study revealed that 74% of smartphone owners use their devices to check their email. Clearly, your emails need to be mobile-ready for the mass population of smartphone users.

When it comes to mobile optimization, the immediate thought is to either invest in a mobile application or use software that automatically configures your content for email. While both are beneficial solutions, and the latter is oftentimes critical, having even just a clean email message can help drastically.

Mobile users expect information to be delivered in a way that is clear, concise, and to the point. The best way to accomplish this is by sticking to a one-column template, since this format will more easily adapt to multiple screen sizes. Oftentimes marketers use multi-column templates and fancy formatting to capture reader interest. But all this usually does is distract the reader and create an uninviting mobile experience.

"Consumers now interact with their email on multiple devices, so it is critical for marketers to deliver a consistent experience across all channels. This will improve the customer experience as well as conversion rates."

laurie-cutts   Laurie Cutts, Director of Marketing,
   N
anigans

Pain: Lack of Time to Create Emails From Scratch

Solution: Clone Old Emails & Update With Fresh Copy, Subject Lines, Etc.

Time seems to be the pain point for, I don't know, everything? But when it comes to email specifically, according to BTOB Magazine, 49% of B2B marketers spend more time and resources on email than on other channels.

One of the easiest ways to save some email creation time is to clone existing emails. I know -- you're probably thinking this is a pretty cheap tactic. We're not saying you should simply resend the same messages, but rather use the same solid foundation you've already built to create future email messages. For example, image placement in many email service providers is incredibly more efficient when you simply drop a new image in place of where an old one was, versus dropping and resizing and/or reformatting a new image.

"As marketers, we just don't have the time to always be starting from scratch. If I need to put together an email quickly, I'll find one that I've already sent that uses the template I want, and update the copy, images, and links. This way I don't have to deal with tedious formatting, and it's ready to go much sooner."

sarah-goliger   Sarah Goliger, Inbound Marketing
   Manager
, HubSpot

Pain: Designing Emails When You're Not a Designer

Solution: Use Pre-Built Templates

As we've already discussed, time is a much-needed resource when it comes to email marketing. And while you may be trained in how to use your diction to properly position and promote your message, you may have never received the opportunity to learn the design component.

That's where pre-built/pre-designed templates can be extremely valuable. By having a set of email templates at your disposal, it allows you to "drop in" your core content and prepare a professionally built email much faster than if you were to outsource design or let design live in a silo outside your immediate team. Consider hiring a designer to build a series of templates that work with your email software, and have those ready in your back pocket for future email sends.

"Designing email campaigns can be a source of both pleasure and pain for marketers. The pleasure comes from laying out your message in an appealing format for your readers to enjoy. But time and resources can be a pain. In the end, your team should have a design-driven framework to tell a story. The bones of a campaign come from a template, but the meat still comes from the marketer."

jenn-shclick Jenn Schlick, Product Designer,
   POP-Market

Pain: Overseeing a Tiny Mistake in a Huge Promotion

Solution: Create an Approval Process or Checklist

Oh the joy of clicking "send" on an email. You've dedicated time to the message, the layout, the call-to-action, and every detail in between. An hour later, you get your first response. YES!, you exclaim in joy, only to learn that your email didn't include social share buttons for people to spread the content.

Whether it's forgetting to include social share buttons, specify a suppression list, or a good ol' typo, tiny mistakes like this can give you a big, unnecessary headache. You can resolve this by either having an approval process in place for your emails, or by simply creating your own email checklist. The checklist option is more tactical, including elements such as sending to the right list, selecting the correct suppression lists, ensuring all hyperlinks work, and proofreading all content in the email.

"In many companies, there is an approval process before sending an email. Certain people need to write copy, others design the email, and others need to review and approve before it goes out the door. Because of this, email can get stuck in circles, or, a marketer is rushing at the last minute to send something out. To ensure that the email creation process goes smoothly, set up a brief process document that everyone has visibility to. Also, let other knows that in order to send out email, requests and deliverables need to be given X amount of days in advance."

jessica-meher-quirk   Jessica Meher-Quirk, Head of
   Enterprise Marketing, HubSpot

Pain: Running Simultaneous Email Campaigns

Solution: Create Static Lists to Keep Track of Every Campaign 

Gary DeAsi from SmartBear Software says that email can quickly become a juggling act when you have to keep track of which leads receive which emails, which leads have been touched recently, and which leads have not been touched in a while. Many times leads will belong to multiple segments, so they may qualify for several email campaigns in a given time frame. When you're running many simultaneous email campaigns and using filters to suppress leads who have already been sent certain emails within certain time frames, this can cause your marketing automation system to take much longer to calculate your inclusion lists and get your emails out, and it's a real pain to keep track of manually.  

This problem can be solved by creating smart and static lists. You can do this in a number of different ways, but two common ways is by asset and by time frame.

For example, if you were sending out an ebook to a segment in the first week of a given quarter, you might create two lists. One that "was sent ebook A" and one that "was sent email in week 1.” Now you have to ensure that any leads that get sent that ebook are added to static list number one, and any leads that are sent an email that week are added to static list number. Then when you go to send that ebook out again in a future email campaign, simply add a filter that suppresses any leads that are a member of list number one, and when you send out more emails that week, add a filter that suppresses any leads that are a member of list number two.

"Creating static and smart lists will allow you to ensure leads are not sent the same piece of content multiple times, and are not touched multiple times within a given time frame. If you try to accomplish this using filter logic, it will take the system much longer to calculate, whereas with static lists it is a simple true/false statement. This trick will help you be really granular, timely, and precise when managing multiple email campaigns simultaneously, and you will also notice it comes in hand down the line for reporting."

gary-deasi   Gary DeAsi, Marketing Operations
  Manager, SmartBear

Everything You Need to Send the Perfect Email

In addition to curating the insights above, I spoke with a handful of email marketing experts at HubSpot to dive deeper into how I, as a content strategist, could create something that would benefit their email marketing lives. I invited these experts to a brainstorm meeting during which I posed questions about what would make their email marketing lives easier. This brainstorm unveiled endless opportunities to support email marketers of the world, ultimately leading to the creation of Marketing Box.

Marketing Box is a free, virtual package of all the templates, tunes, and training you need for email awesomeness. You can learn more about it, and the science behind it, in the SlideShare below and download it to use as your own resource here.

What other email pain points have you come across? How do you alleviate them? Share in the comments!

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