Email is a powerful marketing channel, but it's also one that presents many questions and difficulties. In its 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, MarketingSherpa surveyed 2,735 companies and asked them to rank the significance of 12 common email marketing challenges. In this blog post, we will focus on the top five challenges and suggest some ideas through which you can address these issues.
The best inbound marketers like to amass valuable data across their different channels. For instance, they might like to see the possible relationships between landing pages and emails or track the sales process of an email conversion. In addition to the obvious reporting benefits such integrations provide, they also open the door to a much more enjoyable experience for email subscribers.
Just think about it: if you could bridge the gap between email marketing performance and social media activities, landing page conversions, or new customer acquisitions, you are that much closer to improving your sales funnel and delivering content that your community loves.
'Other data,' including form submissions and activities on site, can point you to the resources your recipients are truly interested in. In that way, you have a clear understanding of how to further engage them through careful targeting and segmentation.
Solution: Integrate Your Data Systems
In order to integrate your email marketing with your other data systems, you need to use marketing software that allows for that integration to take place. In fact, integration is the foundation on which HubSpot’s software was built as it connects SEO, blogging, social media, lead management, and reporting with email marketing and lead nurturing.
Combining your different marketing databases allows for clear segmentation and the ability to better target your customers and prospects with relevant email messages. Once you have access to an integrated marketing system, keep your buyer persona in mind and focus on the opportunity to target the right audience with the right message.
The more targeted your email campaigns, the more content you’ll need. The key to promoting relevant content in email is to provide an offer that is connected to the initial request. What action have your contacts taken on (or even off) your website? Offer them content that fits with their intent and their needs.
Deliverability rate is the percentage of email messages delivered to your recipients’ inboxes
versus the total number of messages sent. It tells you how many of the emails bounced back,
and it's a sure sign of inactivity. The two factors that influence deliverability rate are soft bounces and hard bounces. The soft bounce is temporary and occurs when an email server rejects an incoming message (for instance, when your recipients’ inboxes are full). A hard bounce, on the other hand, is less benign and represents a permanent error to deliver an email. This generally occurs when the addresses you send to are bad or don’t exist.
A low deliverability rate might get you blocked by ISPs (internet service providers). If your list is full of inactive emails, you don’t really know what your complaint rate is. Sure, you probably look at the total complaints over total list size, but ISPs are actually registering the total number of complaints over the number of active email users.
In addition, ISPs can mark abandoned email addresses as spam traps. So even if you have acquired emails legitimately, the abandoned addresses may have turned into spam traps. Aside from all the ISP problems, low deliverability rate also means you are wasting money sending messages to nonexistent addresses.
Solution: Practice Good Email Hygiene
Start by cleaning up your email list by removing the unengaged addresses. (You can identify these addresses with metrics such as opens, clicks, or website activity.) If you have a really serious problem with deliverability, you might want to redefine your opt-in process to prevent invalid emails from getting on your list. Either ask people to enter their email twice or experiment with double opt-in. Lastly, make sure your recipients have an opportunity to update their email addresses. Invite them to your preference center from every email you send. That might also help you with segmentation and achieving higher engagement overall.
In MarketingSherpa’s survey, marketing professionals shared that their third most serious challenge in respect to email marketing is growing and retaining subscribers. No wonder! Increasing the size of your email list and keeping your contacts engaged in your messages is no easy task. In fact, according to MarketingSherpa, the average email list depreciates by 25% every year.
Unfortunately, companies often battle this problem by purchasing lists. This practice will surely get you into trouble: it might add invalid addresses to your list, and thus, pollute your entire database. Even if the addresses you acquired are valid, the new recipients will most likely not be interested in your content and either unsubscribe or not engage with your emails altogether.
To retain subscribers, a lot of companies also send fewer emails, thinking that the communication frequency might in some way define engagement. A few emails means they are more special, right? Wrong. Frequency of emailing, as we have established in our Science of Email Marketing research, doesn’t necessarily negatively impact subscriber retention.
Solution: Earn Your Email Subscribers
Don’t purchase email lists; instead, earn your subscribers. Be clear to your target audience about what they will get out of subscribing to your emails. Give them a clear description of what the value proposition is. For example, will your emails offer: (1) tips and tools on how to run their business more efficiently, (2) product updates from your company, or (3) special offers via email? Your audience will want to know “why” they should subscribe before they decide to clutter their inbox with even more emails.
Are you concerned that you are emailing your subscribers too often? Give this thought a break and instead ask yourself if you are emailing the right people with the right message. In order to retain your email subscribers, you’ll need to provide them with ongoing value that is targeted to their needs. Make sure you are segmenting based on knowledge you have about your recipients.
Don’t limit your email testing to subject lines. Embrace testing of various elements in your email marketing efforts to optimize email performance. For instance, you can do A/B testing of the landing pages you're promoting in your emails.
Interestingly enough, this problem is tightly connected to challenge number one -- integrating email marketing with other data systems. When your marketing channels are not speaking to one another, it’s hard to identify how they affect conversions. For instance, you might see that your email blast got a 3.4% click-through rate (CTR), but can you also see if that communication contributed to generating new leads? What is more, do you see if it resulted in any new customers?
Solution: Closed-Loop Marketing
The solution to achieving measurable ROI from your email marketing campaigns is to practice closed-loop marketing. Follow a contact from the point of visiting your website through further engagement (viewing other web pages, downloading resources, clicking on your emails), to her final conversion into a customer. Implementing closed-loop marketing empowers you to track leads from their initial channel through a first conversion all the way to becoming customers. Such intelligence, in turn, enables you to identify your most powerful marketing channels and assign clear value to each of them. In this way, you will be able to measure the ROI not only of your emails, but also of your other efforts, which might include social media marketing and blogging.
Your email campaigns should only be a part of your holistic marketing approach. The real power comes from achieving a strong marketing mix. Email cannot be truly as fruitful just by itself; rather, it should also strengthen your other initiatives, just like you shouldn't use social media in a vacuum, only rely on blogging, or trust that search engine optimization is enough to meet your goals. This, however, seems to be a challenge for marketers. How do you optimize your sales and marketing funnel with emails?
Most marketing professionals are accustomed to sending one-time email blasts that are not necessarily related to the actions of their email subscribers, their interests, or needs. Such a practice doesn’t help push leads down the sales funnel, and it can actually alienate them.
Solution: Nurture Your Leads
Lead nurturing sometimes goes by other names: marketing automation, drip marketing, auto-responders, etc. Simply put, lead nurturing is a system that allows you to send an automated series of emails to an early stage lead in order to better qualify them before handing them over to your sales team.
If it typically takes your leads a month to make a purchasing decision, then make sure you’re spreading out your communications to keep them engaged throughout the month. By taking this approach, you save your sales organization time because you educate and qualify the lead overtime.
Among some of the key benefits of lead nurturing is that it enables marketers to establish contact with their fresh leads fast and stay top of mind for potential, and even current, customers. In comparison to email marketing, lead nurturing is also relatively easy to set up because it is automated and doesn’t need a ton of maintenance over time.
What are some of your top email marketing challenges? Do you have any to add to this list?
Originally published Feb 3, 2012 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017