Online Marketing Automation

Inbound Marketing 101: Email Newsletters

With the explosive growth of social media and smartphones, it’s surprising that email newsletters are still such a popular choice for marketers.

In fact, Jay Baer of Convince and Convert cites this statistic about email marketing:

“People who buy products marketed through email spend 138% more than people that do not receive email offers.”

Let that sink in for a little bit.

In our Inbound Marketing 101 series we've talked about blogs and social media as a way to start a conversation with your prospective customers.

But email is where you want to lead your customers if you want to create a profitable relationship with your customers. It’s where you can ask your prospects to become customers.

We've put together five steps to help you implement a successful email marketing program as part of your inbound marketing cycle.

The five steps are:

  1. Choose the right email marketing tool
  2. Get your prospects an incentive to subscribe
  3. Keep a regular schedule
  4. Use landing pages to close the deal
  5. Test to optimize your email newsletters

1. Choose the right email newsletter tool

Choose the right email newsletter tool

Choosing the right email marketing tool can be a daunting task. There are many companies who can provide the automated tools you need to personalize emails, guarantee deliverability, provide tracking, ensure CAN-SPAM compliance, and others.

Here are a few must have features for your checklist:

Email list segmenting. You probably have more than one type of target persona. By segmenting your lists to based on these personas you can deliver personalized content that is relevant and timely to the right people at the right time.

Easy template design The continued evolution of user experience design has made drag-and-drop template editing a must-have feature.

Launch different campaign types. Would you like to send a traditional weekly or monthly email newsletter, or would you prefer a social media / email hybrid campaign? How about the ability to do A/B testing? Your email marketing tool should allow you the option to send different types of campaigns based on your audience and your needs.

Comprehensive reporting. Your email marketing tool should provide you with a full-range of reporting options so you can optimize your campaigns and improve conversions.

These are some of the essential features you should look for in an email marketing tool. It bears repeating: there are many email marketing tools on the market – one that we recommend is Doppler.

2. Encourage subscriptions by offering something of value

Seth Godin ushered in (or at least announced) the age of permission marketing with his book of the same name. The death of media monopolies has rendered interruption marketing ineffective. Our customers can block us or send us to the spam folder at the simple click of a button – and lately consumers have been sending commercial emails to their spam folders with alarming frequency.

The only way to send emails today (and I shouldn't have to say this) is to get your prospects to subscribe. And the best way to do that is to give your prospects an incentive to subscribe.

Special reports, case studies, eBooks, white papers and free apps are some of the popular offers to convince prospects to subscribe.

Think about it this way: your prospects are “spending” time and effort subscribing to your newsletter. Give them some content in return for that attention - and make sure it’s good.

3. Keep a regular schedule of valuable and promotional content

Email Newsletter Campaign Schedule

Speaking of good content, continue the delivery of good content with your email newsletter by keeping a regular schedule.

Deliver content that rewards your prospects. Sonia Simone of Copyblogger coined the term “Cookie Content.” In her excellent blog post “Who Owes You Their Attention,” Simone says:

“Attention comes from creating Cookie Content that’s valuable in and of itself. It comes from thinking obsessively about your audience…about what they want and need.”

A rule of thumb we find works is for every promotional or commercial email, send 4-5 pieces of “Cookie Content.”

Keep a regular schedule. We talked about maintaining a schedule in our post about blogs. We think it’s equally important (if not more so) in your email marketing program.

Jay Baer talks about frequency as a key to establishing a successful commercial relationship, because you can only establish that relationship over time.

And increasing frequency does not decrease open rates, as this article from the Content Marketing Institute reports.

Finally, email is the best way to offer promotional content, so make sure to invite your prospects to try your product, your special offer or your free trial with dedicated promotional email newsletters.

4. Send your email subscribers to a landing page

I promise this is not a subtle pitch for our product (well it is actually), but if you want to sell your prospects something via email, send them to a landing page specifically designed for that offer.

The Content Marketing Institute recommends creating landing pages to suit short attention spans. Use bullet points, keep key content above the fold, and make sure your offer is fully visible without scrolling.

5. Test your emails

If you chose the right email marketing tool, you’ll have immediate access to statistics about how effective your emails are.

Test anything that can possibly affect the open rate and click-through rate of your email newsletters:

  • Subject line
  • Offer
  • Body copy
  • From line
  • Day of week delivered
  • Hour of the day delivered


Also, test conversions, not just clicks. By integrating your email marketing tool with your landing page tool, you should be able to combine data on email open rates, click-throughs and landing page conversion rates to glean the overall conversion rate of your email marketing campaigns.

Email Newsletters: The wave of the future & the past

Despite the proliferation of social media, email marketing is and will continue to be the most effective online sales tool available to marketers.  As a permission-based vehicle, it is the perfect delivery mechanism for valuable content that is precisely targeted to your customers.

It’s also the perfect vehicle for asking for the sale. Prospects expect an offer from you via email, whereas they’re a lot less forgiving of offers they see on social media or on your blog.

But remember: email marketing is part of your integrated Inbound Marketing cycle, and should be complemented by your blog and social media outposts.