Whether you are just starting with email marketing or you have some experience sending marketing emails, you have probably asked yourself about the types of communications you can send out.
Should you nurture your subscribers with weekly newsletters? Are dedicated sends better at optimizing your sales and marketing funnel? What about email digests?
These are all valid questions that marketing professionals should consider when selecting the right format that meets their email marketing goals. There are different types of marketing communications you can send, and each have their respective advantages and disadvantages. This information should help you make an educated decision about picking the most appropriate email format and how to go about using it.
Many business and organizations send email newsletters in order to stay top of mind for their recipients. In this section we will cover some general guidelines for using newsletters as the foundation of your email marketing program.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of creating email newsletters, you will need to determine your goal. What is it that you want your email newsletter to achieve? You might want to nurture your existing contacts and become the first brand they think of when they need a product or service in your industry. This would be a fantastic goal if you are a B2C company. Or your goal might be to increase sharing so that you attract new people to your list. As you define your goal, think about what metrics you can use to track your progress.
Newsletters are great not only for marketing to prospects, but also for nurturing your existing customers with company news and events, product announcements and feedback requests. Such ongoing communication will help you retain happy customers and collect valuable insights about them. What are the tidbits of information they click on the most? Can you upsell to them at all? Don’t forget that your existing customer base can also spread the word about your company and share resources that you publish with their network.
As you work on your newsletter layout and content creation, stay mindful of your goal and make sure you are working towards meeting it by prioritizing calls-to-actions at the top of the email.
Advantages Of Email Newsletters
- Brand Awareness: Similar to newspapers, newsletters create a certain anticipation in readers. Whether it is a daily newsletter or a weekend communication, you get into the habit of receiving it. If you enjoy the content, you will most likely stay subscribed to the newsletter and look forward to getting the next email. By building a habit in your email subscribers, you enable them to recognize your brand and associate it with a positive sentiment.
- Repurpose Content: Newsletters generally contain information that you have already published. Many companies do quick summaries of their most popular blog posts and link to the articles from their newsletter. In this way, they bring subscribers back to the company website and engage them with more company content.
- Diverse Content: Email newsletters give you the freedom to include different types of content that might be important to your organization. For instance, the same newsletter can contain a popular blog post, a new offer, an announcement of an upcoming event, information about a discount and a link to a survey
Disadvantages Of Email Newsletters
- Diluted Call-To-Action: Due to their format--a compilation of information--newsletters can be overwhelming and ignorant of a specific call-to-action. If you include a series of blurbs or article summaries, the attention of your recipients will most likely be spread across these tidbits of information as opposed to staying focused on a certain element. Of course, you can address this by prioritizing the most important information at the top of the newsletter and include a clear call-to-action after/alongside each block of text.
- Design: With newsletters, the layout becomes a much more complicated task than it is with dedicated email sends. You’ll have to spend some time deciding on the right placement of images and text, alignment and prioritization of information. Thankfully, there are a bunch of websites out there to help you with these efforts. MailChimp, for instance, offers a package of 36 basic, flexible templates you can use to get started.
The two examples above are of Brain Pickings’ weekend newsletter (to the left) and Fast Company’s design daily newsletter (to the right). These emails are always packed with useful and entertaining information, a sure sign of high clickthrough rates and an engaged audience. On the top of each newsletter, you will spot a call-to-action which invites people to either donate or subscribe.
Similar to newsletters, email digests provide summaries of existing information and offer a snapshot of a specific time frame, e.g. a week or a month. Traditionally, digests highlight the most popular pieces of content that new readers will also gravitate towards. For instance, you can receive a digest of top books to read or movies to see.
Digests should be easier to consume than newsletters because they generally consist of lists and links. That helps subscribers scan the email quickly and click on the parts that they are most interested in. The goals of a digest and a newsletter will most likely overlap. Remember to place the most important call-to-action at the top and measure clickthrough rate and conversions. If your goal is to drive traffic to specific pages, monitor CTR closely and don’t forget to optimize the pages to which you are sending visitors.
Here is an example of Copyblogger’s email digest that includes links to important articles and short blurbs describing what the reader will learn about after they click.
The digest’s design can be much simpler than that of newsletters. Of course, you can build a few different versions and test which one receives more engagement from subscribers.
Like newsletters and based on the goal you’ve set for them, email digests can be sent to different target audiences. One popular option is the blog digest which collects notifications about the articles you publish throughout a certain time frame and releases an email with the links.
Dedicated emails, or also known as stand-alone emails, contain information about only one offer. For instance, you can be notifying your target audience about a new whitepaper you have released or invite them to attend an event that you are hosting.
Dedicated emails help you set up the context to introduce the main call-to-action. In this sense, they are similar to landing pages. Dedicated sends are generally used to reach out to your entire email database, a practice that is not necessarily efficient in optimizing conversions and minimizing unsubscribes.
While there are instances when all of your subscribers should be notified about a specific marketing campaign, such as a timely new offer or an upcoming event, in most cases you would want to segment heavily based on your subscribers’ different behaviors and interests.
Advantages Of Dedicated Emails
- Focused Call-To-Action: Unlike newsletters, dedicated sends can focus on really driving results for one call-to-action. As a MarketingSherpa case study of Kodak’s successful list growth tactic explains, “These calls-to-action were not stuffed at the end of a newsletter or tacked onto another message. They were the focus of a dedicated email, which gave them much more impact.”
- Easy To Build: Once you have your email template in place, building dedicated sends should be easy. You will generally grab some of the information already on the landing page, make a few tweaks to it and spend most time on nailing down the subject line. Unlike newsletters, dedicated emails don’t need to include many graphical elements to separate the different blocks of text and prioritize information. Here, the entire email revolves around a single message.
- Fast To Measure: Naturally, if you have one main message and call-to-action in your dedicated send, it will be easy for you to track progress. You can quickly check the email CTR, landing page views and conversions, and follow the long-term ROI.
Disadvantages Of Dedicated Emails
- Less Consistentcy: With newsletters, marketers generally stick to a specific schedule. For instance, you might create a weekly newsletter that goes out on Tuesday mornings. Or your company might be sending a weekend newsletter summarizing information published throughout the week. With dedicated sends, the schedule is less clear and, potentially, less consistent. You might use dedicated emails when you have published a new offer (which might be sporadic). Even if you decide to maintain a specific schedule, your subscribers might not realize it or expect communication from you because there is no clear connection between the separate sends.
- Homogenous Content: As dedicated sends contain one message, it’s tough to include a shout-out about some other campaign that might also be important to your organization. The workaround is to utilize the P.S. or to decrease the list size and use part of it for the second call-to-action you want to introduce.
Lead Nurturing Emails
As an inbound marketing tactic, lead nurturing is all about understanding the nuances of your leads’ timing and needs. By getting these details right, you set yourself up for success. Lead nurturing introduces a tightly connected series of emails with a coherent purpose and full of useful content. In this context, lead nurturing offers more advantages than just an individual email blast.
Advantages OF Lead Nurturing Emails
- It's Timely: Study after study shows that email response rates decline over the age of the lead. In his Science of Timing research Dan Zarrella, HubSpot’s Social Media Scientist, discovered that there is a positive correlation between subscriber recency and CTR, one of the key metrics of engagement. You need to use lead nurturing campaigns to take advantage of this dynamic.
- It's Automated: Once you set up lead nurturing, emails are sent out automatically according to your schedule as new leads come in. This leads to a high return on a low investment. You might launch the campaigns and forget about them, but the emails will be doing the work for you, helping you qualify leads and push them down the sales funnel faster.
- It's Targeted: Studies show that targeted and segmented emails perform better than mass email communications. Lead nurturing enables you to tie a series of emails to a specific activity or conversion event. You can craft your follow-up email based on the action a lead has taken on your website, thus showing that you are aware of their interests in the topic and what they might need next. Based on this information, lead nurturing emails can highlight reconversion opportunities that tie back to their earlier interests.
Disadvantages Of Lead Nurturing Emails
- Generates Less Concurrent Buzz: With dedicated sends to your entire email database, you can generate a lot of buzz around your brand. There is an explosion of engagement resulting from the simultaneous forwarding and social media sharing (especially if you have Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook sharing links in your email). Lead nurturing cannot quite achieve the same buzz effect because it is programmed to schedule fewer emails to segmented audiences. So while there will still be sharing, you won’t see a huge spike in traffic and conversions on a specific day. Rather, the visits and leads will trickle in.
- Passive Tracking: Because lead nurturing is automated and marketers often forget about it after they’ve set it up, it also tends to be under reported. Make sure your lead nurturing campaigns include unique tracking tokens and revisit your marketing analytics to evaluate performance and prove the ROI of your efforts.
All the types of marketing email we have discussed so far assume that you are sending communications to your own email database. If you want to reach a different audience and gain new leads, you might want to try out sponsorship emails. You pay for including your copy in another vendor’s newsletter or dedicated send. Research shows that US firms alone spent $1.51 billion on email marketing in 2011.
Sponsorship email campaigns are one component to a paid media strategy, which could also include pay-per-click (PPC), display advertising, mobile advertising, affiliate advertising, etc. In this paid media universe you have the benefit of being specific when describing the target audience you want to reach. For instance, you might want to focus only on Asian American females in the 30 to 40 years-old range.
Generally, you’ll have to design your email copy or ad placement in alignment with the specifications listed by the vendor. Check if the partner has any size restrictions or image suggestions. Provide them with both the HTML and plain text version of the copy in advance.
The key element in sponsorship emails is to evaluate the vendor. Make sure you trust that they are a credible partner before you proceed with the relationship.
Advantages Of Sponsorship Emails
- Highly Targeted: The biggest advantage of sponsorship emails is that you can be specific in defining the segment you want to reach. Get granular in identifying the different characteristics of your target audience--number of employees, geographic location, their interests and challenges, etc.
- Exact ROI: There is a very specific investment in sponsorship emails--you know how much you are paying the vendor. Now you only need to track the results you are getting (visits, leads, sales) in order to determine what is your return on the cost you have paid. Knowledge of the exact ROI will help you fit in your marketing budget and build accurate marketing reports at the end of the quarter.
Disadvantages Of Sponsorship Emails
- It's Paid: Sponsorship emails are being sent to people who you haven’t earned as subscribers (they didn’t opt-in to your list). In this context, you have to pay in order to get content in front of them. Vendors offer different payment packages and here you enter the land of negotiation. Some of the most popular options are paying a flat free, paying based on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) model or paying per new lead acquired.
- Dedicated Resources: Sponsorship emails and management of the vendor relationship require a big marketing effort and tight control. “For this style of sponsorship to be successful there needs to be a dedicated team behind it that understands data, brand synergies, and the ability to unearth unseen co-branding opportunities,” writes Jackie Fast, Managing Director at Slingshot Sponsorship. If you have a small marketing team, it might be tough to take full advantage of sponsorship emails.
Transactional emails are the messages that get triggered by a specific action your contacts have taken and enable them to complete that action. For instance, if you are signing up for a webinar, you will fill out a form and then receive a transactional (thank-you) email, which gives you login information in order to join. If you are using a double opt-in, people will receive an email asking them to click on a link in order to confirm their registration.
Transactional are also the messages you receive from eCommerce sites that confirm your order and give you shipment information and other details.
Advantages Of Transactional Emails
- High CTR: Recipients anticipate transactional emails because they help them complete an action. That is why they open them and click on them. Take advantage of this dynamic and include a highly customized call-to-action (maybe even as a P.S.) to leverage the fact that the subscriber is fresh and very actively engaged with your email communication. A 2008 Jupiter research showed that marketing content in transactional messages helped increased revenue and brand recognition.
Disadvantages Of Transactional Emails
- Creates An Obstacle: Sometimes the idea of taking yet another action discourages contacts from completing their activity altogether because it seems to them like they are jumping through hoops.
These six types of emails are a great foundation to your overall email marketing strategy. However, if you are interested in learning more about optimizing your emails, contact us. Our industrial experts can guide you in creating a strategy that will help your business grow.