The 5 Whys of Email Marketing: Reaching the Root of Effectiveness

By Stacey Piper

I remember running my first-ever email marketing campaign in 2001. I worked for an almost $200-million firm and had to outsource the html email job to a vendor because we didn’t have the ability to do it in-house. And lo and behold, we put some of our personal emails into the list and learned quickly—and painfully—that each email box rendered html emails differently.

What’s changed in 20+ years? There are a lot of marketing automation tools, new and exciting marketing channels like Reddit and TikTok, and innovative strategies like mobile geofencing and digital retargeting. And as always, we should continue to expand our horizons. However, good old email continues to rank as one of the most impactful, cost-effective tactics in our toolkits. We’ve learned how to ensure our emails are delivered, in the format we intended, and email open rates and click rates are at an all-time high.

Email marketing can help us increase brand understanding, nurture prospects, engage candidates, and retain customers. In 2021, a survey of major brands found that nearly 50 percent of companies adapted their email strategy due to the pandemic and nearly 30 percent increased their email marketing budgets. With office work curtailed or replaced by remote work, many companies are relying on virtual communication more than ever before. And the metrics are tilting in our favor. In the same survey, about 40 percent of respondents reported increased open rates and clickthrough rates (CTR) since the pandemic. These are big numbers!

According to Stasia, it’s estimated that by 2023, there will be more than 347 billion emails sent and received each day. Yet surprisingly, in companies selling to government agencies, my GenX and Boomer decision-makers and leaders often doubt the value of email marketing, asserting that their marketing emails are unlikely to get through the firewalls and spam filters of their target audience. After nearly three decades as a professional marketer, I’m astonished by the number of large organizations who have yet to invest in a marketing automation tool for their email marketing. Billion-dollar brands are shying away from using email to nurture leads, send targeted emails to boost customer engagement, or push prospects through a sales funnel with content mapped to the buyer journey.

The Basics of Email Marketing

Like the 5 Whys technique of Six Sigma methodology, you need to ask yourself why you don’t trust this tactic and why email isn’t working for you. To get to the root of email effectiveness, employ these five basics.

  1. Call-to-Action: Marketing emails are a deliberate interaction with a prospect or customer, so stop sending “so what” emails. Make sure that the recipient knows what you want them to do, make it easy for them to choose to take that action, and give them meaningful content on the other end.

  2. List Segmentation: Employ data hygiene rules and criteria for organizing your customers and prospects into smaller, targeted groups based on demographic, psychographic, and firmographic information. Purposeful email segmentation is a differentiator allowing you to make your messages and content more specific, thus increasing relevancy, engagement, and conversions.

  3. Relevant Content: Content isn’t “one size fits all”—content should be built for and mapped to the buyer journey. You’ll be surprised to learn that a prospect who never opts to download a white paper may watch a video, listen to a podcast, or register for a webinar.

  4. Personalization: Today’s digital natives have high expectations of brands on digital platforms due to how they interact with consumer brands. Therefore, B2B and B2G companies are being challenged to deliver a superior user experience at an accelerated pace. Find ways to integrate customer- and company-specific information into your email copy, which will also serve your inside sales teams and nurture campaigns.

  5. Analytics: Start by socializing the concept across your stakeholder groups that the target is always moving, the medium is always changing, and that your plan is to test and learn so you can fail fast and change course. Establish goals, and use tags to evaluate, pivot, and improve results. Set up A/B testing or conduct pilots. Score your leads to provide the best insights and convert the most qualified leads to sales.

Think—and plan—strategically before sending your email out into the metaverse. This isn’t a new frontier, it’s one in which you have ever-increasing competition for attention. As with any channel or tactic, marketers need to monitor the effectiveness of and engagement with their strategies and content and tweak their campaigns accordingly.

By applying cause-and-effect thinking to your email, you can deploy emails that reach their targets, are opened and read, and maximize the return on your email marketing investment. Learn more about email marketing in Government Marketing Best Practices 2.0: What You Need to Know for Accelerated Success, one of GovBrew’s top govcon books.

Ready to take your email campaigns to the next level? Contact me for a consultation with your leadership team.

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