Our email marketing journey and the lessons we’ve learnt along the way (part 1)

Email marketing is perhaps not as shiny and new as some social channels and messenger apps out there, but the medium certainly isn’t dead. Quite the contrary, studies show that email consistently out-performs other digital channels, including Social and Paid Search.

If done correctly, email marketing can be an ideal tool to build on existing relationships with your audience, ensuring a seamless brand messaging experience and over time, becoming a powerful revenue generator.

We have worked with email at FanFinders for many years now. From a standing start of mailing to a handful of members to our current operation of happily sending out millions each month across multiple continents.

The road hasn’t always been smooth, with a huge amount of experiences along the way. Incredible highs, and terrible pitfalls are both there in equal measure – usually when you least expect them!

To support others at the start of their email journey, we got FanFinders’ co-founder Raphael Marsh to give us the lowdown on the essentials.

1. Choosing a Custom or Managed email setup

When creating a new email stream, your first decisions will invariably involve the logistics. What am I going to use to send out all of this email?

The largest factor in deciding this will be linked to the volume of email you are looking to send. If you know that you are always going to require low-medium volume, (under 1 million emails per month for example) then a managed solution like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor can be a great option. Quick setup, user friendly, access to email templates and all of the technicalities sorted for you.

If, however, you’re going to be a high volume (bulk) sender, then this route can lead to future problems. Managed email has pricing models based around your mailing list size and volume.

As a high volume sender, we’ve always required a custom setup. This means a higher level of configuration and monitoring, but you are the master of your own operation; and specifically, your IP/domain reputation. Costs can also be kept to a minimum, which is obviously super important at scale. 

2. Think about your strategy

Your audience already receives on average 121 emails per day, so it’s essential that your email content is both relevant and requested (opted-in). Think about your members’ needs foremost and tailor your messaging to accommodate.

A healthy email strategy should include a certain variety of email ‘types’. Don’t just hit your mailing list over the head with the marketing hammer. Consider breaking up the flow with a weekly roundup email, or a list of your best blog posts if available. 

Sending a non-sales email should never be considered a wasted opportunity. Instead, building trust with your audience will more than likely see a longer term rise in both your engagement and conversion rates.

Email frequency is important. You have to decide on the numbers of emails you will send per week, which day/s they will go out and what time users will receive them – and then stick to it! Consistency is not just expected by your members, but Email Service Providers will be monitoring your behaviour too.

A consistent email stream (both in frequency AND volume) is a trusted email stream, and will rapidly build a strong IP reputation. By contrast, sporadic sending practices benefit no-one and may even be counter-productive. 

3. Test out those email templates, seriously

Now that you have a solid email strategy, you’re going to need some awesome email templates. Take a look around to see what others in your industry are doing. Ensure you’re looking modern, relevant and the branding is seamless between your website and mail template. 

Design wise; we’d say less is usually more. When we first started out we went to town on the creative. Big images, blends, background graphics – the works. Over the years as we had the opportunity to A/B test everything to death, it has become clear that a more stripped back/efficient treatment is most effective.

Cover off the best practices: every template should include unsubscribe links, company details and a brief line on how you got the email address, for instance. There are more – look it up!   

Your email template must, repeat MUST, be a responsive design. It may look great on your 40” HD monitor but it’s what it looks like on each and every mobile device that counts. Well over 90% of your email will likely be viewed on mobile. Is your messaging large enough to read, call-to-action visible on-screen and large enough to be clicked easily? If not, why not?! Do a Litmus test and find out.

The mantra here really is test, test and test again. Everything makes a difference: font size, colour on your CTA, too many images, not ‘enough’ images – every little detail. You won’t really know how your list responds until you prove it. And even when you have, don’t be afraid to test new iterations every now and again to try and improve the numbers.

Check out part 2, where we cover warming up your IP, more ‘intelligent’ emailing and what to do when things go wrong.