Product-based businesses should utilize email marketing to streamline and automate processes. This can be done in three ways: newsletters, promotional emails, and automated email sequences, including lifecycle emails. Product-based businesses should use all three types of email marketing when appropriate to best serve their customers.
Sender Address & Name
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits in your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email account according to their personal preferences. e.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails (or mark them as spam), for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing account. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Most customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Brand Name or Product Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name, Name from Brand Name, or Name with Product Name.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
Choosing an Email Marketing Platform
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate the business’s email marketing. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, MailerLite, SendPulse, or Sendinblue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform and start creating and sending emails and gathering subscriber email addresses. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
Collecting An audience
Small businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, you should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address when they make a purchase (and simultaneously have the opportunity to create an account) or when they sign up for a lead magnet.
In order for your potential subscribers to sign up for your email list and learn about your lead magnet, they first need to fill out a short form, which may be on a complete landing page, a pop-up form, or in another format on your website.
For product-based businesses, you will want to ask your subscribers for their first name, last name, and birthdate (month and date, but year may be unnecessary depending on your industry). You also may want to ask other questions to better serve them, but remember to only ask necessary questions. If you ask questions that are not applicable to the potential subscriber, then they will either click away from your form and website, or they will enter in useless data. Plus, having more fields and questions can deter those who are unlikely to purchase your product, ensuring your email lists are focused on quality leads, rather than quantity. So keep the number of fields relevant to your needs and comparable to the lead magnet you are providing them.
If you already have customers before creating your email marketing program, use that information to determine what fields you include in the sign-up form. If you only know their name and email address, you might not need more information. Or, you may realize you’re lacking a critical detail about those customers. Use this data to inform your sign-up form creation process.
Tip: We recommend creating a special newsletter for your subscribers’ birthdays based on their purchase history. Birthday emails can include a coupon; a personalized ecard, video, or GIF; free gift (often with purchase); free shipping; or a mystery offer, which they don’t find out until they go to checkout. This automated email can offer joy to your subscribers, which may also benefit your business.
Before pushing an automated email sequence live or sending a newsletter, be sure to first create a Welcome email (that you send right after they subscribe) that contains a lead magnet.
Lead magnets encourage people to subscribe to an email list. Subscribers give up their email address, and in return, businesses give them a lead magnet, such as an assessment, checklist, or ebook. Nowadays, people guard their email addresses, so businesses use lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for their marketing emails. If a subscriber is willing to do that to receive the lead magnet, they are already interested in that business.
The best lead magnets for product-based businesses are:
- Assessments or quizzes (or the answer to a quiz they take on your website)
- Guides, ebooks, or reports
- Discount codes
- Desktop or mobile wallpapers
- Free samples
- Challenge details
- Entry into a giveaway drawing
- Free shipping codes
The format of the lead magnet will depend on your product and what your customers could benefit from having. The format will also determine the level of effort required to create the lead magnet. For content-based lead magnets, such as quizzes or guides, consider assigning this effort to your communications team. To create a wallpaper, assign this effort to your design team. When creating checklists or a challenge, consider reaching out to your sales, communications, and design teams. For free shipping, a discount code, or a free product, work with your website team to set it up.
Tip: If you have multiple products, we recommend having multiple lead magnets, one for each top-selling product; be sure to tag or segment accordingly to organize your lists.
For example, a boutique clothing designer wouldn’t necessarily want to provide their subscribers with a free blouse, but their new subscribers may be interested in an ebook that showcases the latest fashion trends. Of course, this boutique would then need to update the ebook annually, at least, to ensure it continues to benefit its subscribers. This extra effort would show the prospect that the brand is trustworthy, leading them closer to purchasing, especially since this type of lead magnet may be used over and over again.
Tip: If you do update your lead magnets, send them to your old subscribers, too. This is a great way to retarget your customers using email marketing.
Email Creation & Design
When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance.
Depending on the products offered, you will want to showcase long- or short-form content within your emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email, as well as the preferences of the recipient, which is where split testing comes in.
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or use a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out.
Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices their subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Automated Email Sequences
An automated email sequence is ideal for nurturing prospective customers based on the challenges they commonly experience and your solutions to resolving them. An automated email sequence is also ideal for streamlining the sales process by leading prospects and new customers through the process of how your business and product work.
Automated email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based. Time-based emails are scheduled in advance at a specific time. Each email in the sequence is sent at a specific time interval. (For example, email 1 is sent immediately after a subscriber is added to the list, email 2 is sent one week later, email 3 is sent one day after that, etc.) This type of sequence is ideal for sending onboarding sequences to inform your new customers how your business works, what they can expect when working with you, and general maintenance tips on how to get the most out of your product.
Trigger-based email sequences are based on triggers, meaning when a subscriber opens an email or clicks on a specific link within an email, they are “triggered” to receive a specific email based on their open or click (or lack thereof). These triggers show your subscriber’s behavior, so it helps them see more relevant content based on their actions and preferences. Trigger-based sequences are often more complicated than time-based sequences because they offer more options within the sequence, but they deliver a more unique experience for each subscriber based on their behavior. By delivering a more relevant user experience to your subscribers, open rates, click rates, and purchases are likely to increase.
Ideal sequences for product-based businesses include:
- Welcome sequence: Turn one email into a sequence and show your new subscriber their options, your business history, etc. Give them the virtual tour in multiple emails rather than jamming everything into one email or expecting them to go out and search for those details on your website. Be sure to give them a lead magnet in the first email.
- Onboarding sequence: Give your new customers the best tips on how to get the most out of their new product. Include a thank-you email for their purchase, a shipping update, a product arrival email, a request for a product review email, and a product promotion email, or any of the above, to streamline your customer service efforts via automated email.
- Repeat customer emails: When the time is right, send a short sequence reminding them that they might be out of your product or may be interested in a similar product.
One type of automated email sequences product-based businesses can greatly benefit from are lifecycle emails. Sending specific emails at the right times during the customer journey can improve the customer’s experience. These lifecycle emails include:
- Welcome emails
- Onboarding sequences
- Abandoned cart emails
- Follow-up emails
- Thank you emails
These short and sweet emails essentially show the subscriber that the business cares about them in a timely manner. These emails can be automated and trigger-based or they can be created in advance and sent in batches, depending on the structure of the business. Either way, they can help customers stay engaged with the business and help them through the customer journey in an automated fashion.
Email Marketing Best Practices
Re-send to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase campaign performance with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
A/B Testing: Creating and sending email content to subscribers isn’t enough for product-based businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method, which is also called split testing. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and conversions. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email/name
- Call-to-action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more conversions? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the other 80% of the audience.
Testing should happen frequently and, if possible, for every email sent to increase conversions.
Note: Some email automation platforms, like Mailchimp, don’t offer A/B testing for lists that have less than 10,000 subscribers. This is because they recommend a test group of 5,000 subscribers each. (Mailchimp also does not offer A/B testing on their free plan.) However, if your list is small, you can still A/B test sequence to sequence or newsletter to newsletter. Just remember to only change one thing for each (except the content, of course), and test each change for a few campaigns rather than just one.
Personalize Emails: Personalizing emails starts with using the subscriber’s name in the email and continues by using the user data to personalize each subscriber’s emails in an effort to improve their customer journey. To do this, you must use behavioral targeting from the very beginning, which means you need to place a tracking code on your website that works with your automated email campaigns to send the emails based on website triggers.
Having this tracking code not only sends emails to your subscribers based on their actions on your website, but it also provides you with data and insights that you can use later. For example, if you notice a group of subscribers is more interested in one of your products than others, but they haven’t purchased it yet (or haven’t in a while), you can target them with a discount campaign to push them closer to conversion. These data-based lead nurturing campaigns combine marketing and sales with the power of automated email. You can also use the data in your email marketing platform to recommend similar products based on previous website page views or other customers’ combined purchases.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your subscribers is a great way to further personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments can be as simple as “prospects” and “customers” or far more complicated. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
You can segment or tag subscribers by what products they’ve purchased, when they purchased those products, what type of content they’ve read on your website, birthday month, how they came across your product, and more. The more a product-based business can narrow down their customers within their email marketing, the better they can send the right messages at the right time.
Email Scrubbing: Even with product-based businesses, subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists. Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t need to be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit your business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a small business can manage these processes better in-house because they know their customers.
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