Okay, so you understand why you need an email marketing strategy and you’re sending out emails to your list on a regular basis. You’ve even created a welcome email that automatically goes out to new subscribers when they sign up, and your website is optimized with calls-to-action for visitors to join your list. But you’ve heard about advanced email marketing techniques like segmentation and A/B testing and you’re starting to wonder what else you should be doing to make the most of your email list. Here’s what you need to know to take your email marketing to the next level.
Your marketing funnel and the customer flywheel
If you know how new people generally discover your business and how they become customers, you can encourage more of that by creating a marketing funnel. For this, I like to use Mailchimp’s automations. By creating an email automation, you can set up a series of 2, 3, or even 10 emails that automatically send out over time and slowly introduce people to your company. The types of automations you might use for your online shop include abandoned cart messages or product retargeting emails, which can send follow up emails to visitors who view an item on your site but don’t make a purchase.
Is there a series of steps that would lead people to shopping? How can you get people to begin to feel like part of your community? This is where the customer flywheel comes in. Recently, many marketing professionals have begun to shift to using this term instead of “marketing funnel” because it puts the focus of your business on your customers rather than on your product. And at the end of the day, it’s your customers that drive your business forward.
Rather than thinking of it like forcing your customers down a funnel to make a purchase from you, think about it like a circular flywheel where you are consistently attracting, engaging, and delighting your customers. That’s the kind of customer service and marketing that creates repeat business and raving fans. If you can think of a handful of things that people would want to know about your business, your niche, and/or your products, you can turn each into a simple and friendly email to help people get to know you and feel involved.
You’ll want to spread your email automations out, keeping in mind your regular newsletter schedule (and here is where it helps to have an editorial calendar and regular newsletter schedule!). For instance, since I know my newsletter always goes out on Wednesday, I set up automated email sequences to go every day but Wednesday. That way people won’t get two emails in a day from me.
You can also make it clear that a new member is getting a welcome series of emails, if you’d like. For instance, your first email could say, “I’ll be sending you an extra email each week for the next few weeks as you get to know our company…” Or you could set up your welcome sequence so that each new subscriber gets those emails first, before they end up on the regular list. It’s up to you and what your goals are!
Segmenting your list
Many of our clients engage with their customers both online and in real world settings (like a brick and mortar shop or at trade shows or craft fairs), so it’s important to segment your email list so that you can send different messages to these different groups of people.
Mailchimp lets you segment by location automatically. When you use segmentation, you can send out very specific brick and mortar emails to local customers without worrying about annoying people who can’t attend. You can choose to send special emails to just this segment of people, or you can send an adjusted version of your regular weekly email to the local segment.
When you connect Mailchimp with Shopify and turn on e-commerce tracking, they will automatically sync your customers and pull their purchase data into Mailchimp, making segmentation a breeze. Mailchimp offers a handful of pre-built e-commerce segments that you can use to improve your sales. You could send special gifts or exclusive discounts to Repeat Customers, or send an enticing offer or announce a new collection to your Potential Customers or Lapsed Customers segments.
Mailchimp recently introduced Tags, which have replaced static segments. Tags are a great way to label and organize your Mailchimp contacts. You can use and organize them however you’d like, and only you can see them. You could create an “Influencer” tag to earmark which customers have a large social media following, or keep track of the customers that only purchase during a sale.
Exploring A/B testing
Do you ever wonder why more people aren’t opening your emails? Creating an A/B testing campaign can be a great way to determine what’s working and how you can improve your ecommerce email open rates. Basically, you test two variables like subject line or send time, sending half of your list option A and half of your list option B.
The simplest way to dip your toe into A/B testing is to test two subject lines. If you do that a few times, you can get an idea of the types of subjects that people respond best to. You might test completely different subject lines against each other, or you might test a subject line that is very similar, but one version includes emojis and the other doesn’t.
The bigger your list, the more accurate your test will be. If you only have 100 or 200 subscribers, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time setting up, running, and evaluating tests unless you do have a burning question that you would like to answer for yourself. Just doing it to do it is not going to be the best use of your time. If you do decide to do A/B testing, make sure you set aside the time to analyze what you’ve found out and put it into action.
Leveraging old blog posts
Your ecommerce blog can be a great way to drive traffic from search engines and generate sales for your website. It can also be a nice way to get an automated flow of signups to your mailing list.
You don’t need to spend a ton of time on this, but I’d recommend slapping your newsletter signup form on those high traffic posts. You can tailor the call to action a bit for each one, or just have your usual signup message.
Creating special opt-in offers
To entice your website visitors to sign up for your email list, consider creating special opt-in offers. Many ecommerce shops create a discount code to incentivize people to sign up for their email list, but you could also get creative with it. For instance, if you run a knitting studio, you might promote an exclusive “knit-a-long” for email subscribers. When someone new signs up for your email list, the automated series of welcome emails they receive could be 1 email per week for the first month that gives them knitting tips, links to exclusive knitting videos and showcases the finished work of other participating knitters.
Cleaning your list
It’s important to maintain a clean and healthy email list. You should never buy a list of email addresses, because those people haven’t opted-in to receive emails from you and are very unlikely to become your customers, but you should also make sure that everyone who is on your list still wants to be on it. If you have a list of 5,000 subscribers but only 100 of them regularly open your emails, you may not only be annoying those 4,900 people with your emails but you may also be losing money each month on Mailchimp fees by keeping your list that big when it doesn’t need to be.
Over time, some of your subscribers will become stale. This could be because you offered a discount code to incentivize people to join your email list, but they only wanted the one-time deal. It could also be because they changed email addresses and the email account itself is no longer active.
Many creative business owners start collecting email addresses early on but then don’t send emails regularly. If this is you, and you haven’t sent your subscribers an email yet, or it’s been a long time since you’ve sent one, you may want to send a re-engagement campaign to reconfirm your list, reminding them who you are and giving them an incentive to shop with you again.
All emails from an email marketing service like Mailchimp must contain an unsubscribe link in every campaign to comply with anti-spam laws. Mailchimp may clean some addresses automatically, if the emails bounce when you send a newsletter. You can also monitor your open rates and create segments to view which subscribers haven’t been opening any of your recent emails. If you notice that certain subscribers have disengaged, it may be time to reconfirm them or simply remove the inactive subscribers from your list.
Another reason it’s important to maintain a clean and healthy email list is in case you are using it to create lookalike audiences for advertising on Facebook or Instagram. If you are creating a lookalike audience from a list with lots of stale subscribers who aren’t interested in your brand, you may also end up wasting your advertising dollars by targeting the wrong type of people.
So, if you’re trying to build your list to use it for a lookalike audience… it’s not a good list if it’s 50% people who are going to unsubscribe the next time you email them. You want a smaller list full of people who are GLAD to be on the list. Then your lookalike audience is more likely to also be glad to hear from you.
That feeling when email marketing makes you go “ugh”
When the topic of email marketing came up in our Facebook group, it generated a lot of discussion. One thing we learned is that while many business owners know they should be sending emails, they really hate email marketing. This could because they’ve gotten the idea that it’s more complicated than it needs to be.
If all of these advanced email marketing techniques seem like too much for you, focus on the content of your newsletter. And by content, I don’t mean that it needs to be a novel’s worth of text. If you sell art or beautifully designed products, focus on that and share mostly images of your products in your email newsletters!
Our client Tiffany Emery of Adoren Studio told us this:
“I’ve read all your articles on newsletters and I definitely fall into the camp of people who struggle with what to write; however, this is mostly because I have been trying not to write sales emails, so hearing you say that I have permission to sell is actually kind of a relief. It’s so hard all the advice out there is often conflicting and sometimes paralyzing! It’s like an entire job to become a blogger in my genre and that is what is delaying my efforts. I can sell some art, lol. Thanks for your insight on that.”
Send often, sell your products, don’t worry about writing a ton of words (if they love your product, just showing photos of it with a bit of encouragement is fine). People will unsubscribe and you will do a little happy dance when they do! Those are all the people who weren’t going to buy from you, leaving. They won’t muck up your lookalike audience, they won’t cost you in your mailing list program, and your open rate and click rate will be much higher, because those duds will be gone.
I promise you that there is no one sitting there with their finger on the Buy button about to make a purchase who will get an email from you, be offended, and decide not to buy. The people who don’t want the email also don’t want the products. If they do want your products without the email, well then it’s fine for them to unsubscribe, too. They can follow along on social, or just keep what they want bookmarked, and come back to it.
At the volume my Shipshape Collective email list is at now, 50 – 60 people unsubscribe every week when I send a newsletter. That is fine, because many more than that are subscribing each week! I gave them a chance to be interested by sending them my best stuff first in an email sequence, and if my best stuff didn’t win them over, nothing is going to. As long as your list is growing, that “churn” is not something to worry about. If you’re losing more people than you’re gaining, you may have a problem. But unsubscribes are the very nature of how mailing lists work.
If you have been using Mailchimp’s basic features with success, but feel overwhelmed by the idea of setting up these more advanced features, we can help! Learn more about our advanced Mailchimp setup services for Shopify.
Get out there and send some email!
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