By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire
⏰ 4-minute read
Catherine Mears is a marketing expert who’s developed results-driven email marketing campaigns for brands like Soccer.com, Red Hat and Pentair.
According to Mears, any good email marketing program begins with clear goals, an analysis of customer personas, creation of multiple channels to capture email addresses and a strategically-built onboarding sequence.
Both B2B and B2C marketers need to understand the foundational steps of email marketing to build an engaged, active list of email subscribers.
Email marketing is one of the most powerful tools for generating brand awareness and increasing sales. Marketing teams across industries must understand the basics of email marketing and integrate it into their overall strategies in order to win.
Catherine Mears is an email marketing expert and consultant who has worked for Red Hat, Soccer.com and water treatment company Pentair. As Pentair’s current martech leader, Mears builds email marketing campaigns from the ground up. Her specialities include strategy and segmentation that drive customer engagement, conversion and retention.
Email marketing is a complex practice that must be tailored to a given company’s goals. But, Mears said, every successful email marketing campaign is the product of four basic steps.
1. Set a campaign goal.
Mears said the most important step is taking the time to assess, plan and make goals for an email marketing campaign before launching it. The metrics you track during and after the campaign will correspond to your goal. Examples of campaign goals include:
Convert X percent of website visitors into email subscribers.
Populate a new email marketing list with X number of subscribers.
Grow an existing email marketing list by X percent.
Increase your volume of leads per month by X percent.
Increase your email open rate or click-through rate by X percent.
Convert X percentage of prospects into paying customers (or at least tee them up for sales teams to drive the deal home).
👉 eMarketer's email marketing performance metrics can give you an idea of typical campaign goals in North America. Note, however, that some industry experts see benchmarks as limiting or discouraging and instead suggest following your company's own growth goals instead of looking to peers.
2. Define your email audience.
Identify the various audience members you are trying to target with your marketing emails. Create personas for the types of folks on your email marketing list so you can communicate to them in language that resonates and increase your potential of driving conversions.
After defining your audience, Mears recommends getting ultra-targeted with customer personas. At Soccer.com, customer personas included “team buyers that purchased jerseys and equipment for soccer clubs, as well as soccer fans and players across the globe,” she said.
Mears kicked off her email onboarding process with broad messaging that positioned Soccer.com as a one-shop-stop for all things soccer-related. However, once customers entered her email marketing funnel, Mears segmented them into customer persona groups. From thereon out, she spoke to each demographic -- like fans of a particular soccer club or repeat purchasers of a specific equipment brand -- with different language.
Pentair, where Mears currently works, sells a variety of water treatment products to residential, business and industrial clients. In her current role, Mears once again sorts users into highly segmented customer personas after that first onboarding email. Pentair’s personas range from commercial fish farmers looking for filtration systems to residential clients seeking automatic pool cleaners.
The pain points that lead to a purchase decision for soccer fans and commercial fish farmers couldn’t be more different. Thus, the emails they receive must have distinct language that plays up their problem and how a given company can provide the solution.
👉 Telecom marketing agency Mojo Marketing provides a deeper look at the role customer personas should play in your email marketing campaigns.
3. Build your email list.
Once you have a campaign goal and customer personas, it’s time to build your list and onboard your new subscribers. To capture email addresses, Mears recommends the following methods:
Create a website popup that every new site visitor sees.
Capture email addresses at the point-of-sale in both e-commerce and physical retail locations.
Display newsletter sign-up messaging on every page of your website.
Offer valuable content in exchange for email addresses (otherwise known as gated content).
Host contests that require email addresses for entry.
The most successful tool for email capture at Pentair is a popup on the website homepage, Mears added.
👉 HubSpot provides a solid list of additional ways to grow your email marketing contact list.
4. Create an onboarding sequence.
The onboarding sequence is your first opportunity to make a good impression. Its goal is to convert newly-subscribed email readers into paying customers.
The types of emails in the sequence and their messaging can vary. The series usually kicks off with a welcome email that reintroduces your product or service and invites a user to actively engage or consider engaging with it. The next emails might further describe your product’s benefits or show how others respond to it on social media. The sequence continues until a user becomes a paying customer, perhaps thanks to an onboarding email offering a special deal.
Mears shared a few best practices regarding onboarding sequences:
Design the entire onboarding sequence before activating it, or sending its first message.
Send a “welcome email” right away (i.e. after a user gives you their email address).
In onboarding emails, reintroduce not only your company but also your product or service and its benefits.
Put yourself in your customer's shoes when writing email copy. In later stages, apply dynamic or tailored content based on the personas you’ve defined.
👉 TechnologyAdvice, a site that connects software buyers and sellers, recommends a seven-step onboarding sequence. While that's a bit much for B2C customers -- the best B2C sequences typically include fewer messages -- it's a good place to start for B2B advice and fresh ideas.
🌱 The bottom line
Email marketing is a massive opportunity for both B2B and B2C businesses looking to grow their audience and drive sales. Through goal-setting, a solid understanding of customer personas, smart email capture processes and strategic onboarding sequences, you’ll build the foundation of an email marketing program that drives results.