Email Marketing: How to Unlock Your Full Profit Potential

Email Marketing: How to Unlock Your Full Profit Potential

By Annie ZelmNov 29 /2018

Make no mistake—email marketing is still the most cost-effective digital marketing strategy.

Research shows marketers can expect $44 in ROI for every $1 spent on email marketing. Eighty percent of retail professionals say email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention, and 59 percent of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel for revenue generation.

But if you've ever launched an email marketing campaign that yielded only a few meager opens and clicks, it’s easy to dismiss those statistics.

Because email marketing has been around for about two decades now and is still so inexpensive, it’s also perhaps the most overused channel—and the easiest for customers to ignore. When the average person is bombarded with more than 200 emails a day, can you really blame them for not opening yet another marketing email?

There’s no doubt that to make an impact with email marketing today, you have to take a more strategic approach. In this post, we'll show you how to refine your email marketing strategy and turn opens and clicks into real revenue.

Email Marketing: 3 Steps To Amazing ROI

1. Map Email Marketing to the Buyer's Journey

Only a small percentage of your email subscribers are actually in the market to buy something from you at any given time. It’s your job to identify which ones—and make it as easy as possible for them to take action when they’re ready.

That starts by paying attention to the signals they’re giving as they interact with your brand and segmenting your emails based on the buyer’s journey.

Lead scoring allows you to assign a value to your leads automatically, based on both explicit and implicit data. Explicit data is the information your prospects tell you about themselves by filling out forms, such as their title, industry and company size. Implicit data is information you learn from their behavior, such as opening an email or attending a webinar. Using a CRM like HubSpot or Salesforce allows you to automate this process by moving leads to the next stage once they reach a certain point value.

Developing a lead scoring model should always be a joint effort between your marketing and sales teams, but it doesn’t have to be this extensive. At the fundamental level, lead scoring is about determining which leads are ready to be passed on to your sales team and which need more nurturing. It might be as simple as looking at your most recent new contacts and making a judgment call based on the information they provided.

Once you’ve done this, you can begin to map your email campaign to the buyer’s journey.

Here are some examples of how brands have done this.

Awareness - The Welcome Email

Your prospect is beginning to recognize they have a problem, but they don’t necessarily know what the solution is just yet. Maybe it’s a hospital administrator who recognizes the need to improve patient satisfaction scores, or a human resources manager experiencing high turnover in the workforce. Whatever the case, he or she has come across your blog and subscribed.

At this stage, you're just beginning to form a relationship. Send them a nice welcome email introducing yourself and your brand and telling them what they can expect from you. If you send email newsletters, tell them how often and what’s in it for them.

This is a great opportunity to use humor—as long as you do it in a way that matches your brand.

The Hustle, a daily business news roundup, does a fantastic job of welcoming new subscribers in a lighthearted way.

Subscribe to their blog, and you’ll receive an email that starts with, “Look what you did, you little jerk.”

What follows is engaging and conversational. The humorous approach makes it stand out above the typical (and forgettable) “thanks for subscribing!” emails.


Consideration - How Can We Help You?

Subscribers in the consideration stage have defined their problem and are actively looking for solutions. This is where you can help them gather more information and persuade others who might be involved in the buying process.

Visiting one of your product pages is an indication someone is in the consideration stage.

You can send them:

  • An invitation to a webinar covering a topic they're interested in (or a recording of a recent webinar)
  • A checklist outlining what to consider when buying this product or service
  • A link to a page with frequently asked questions

Here's an excellent example of consideration stage content from Tech Target. It’s a cheat sheet that explains where our company’s data should go and invites me to take a survey on data management. (I’m not the right person to receive the email, but it offers something that would be valuable if I was more involved in our company’s data management.)


Decision - The Product Demo or Free Trial

When a subscriber shows signs they're ready to make a decision (such as when they view multiple case studies or visit your pricing page), it's time to move in for the sale.

You can do this by offering them a chance to try out your solution for themselves with a free consultation, free trial or a product demo.

Here's an excellent example of a decision stage email from Spotify. The company knows I’m a frequent user who is not yet a paying customer. To entice me to sign up for Spotify Premium, they’re offering a Google Home Mini.


Delight - Keep Them Coming Back For More

For most businesses, it's more profitable to keep current customers than it is to acquire new ones.

Yet most email marketing focuses primarily on converting leads, rather than building relationships with existing customers. To keep relationships strong with current customers—and encourage them to make new purchases—you need to go above and beyond. You need to delight them.

A few ideas for using email marketing to delight customers:

  1. Use progressive profiling to find out more about your customers (such as their birthday.) Send them an email with a special offer good for that month.
  2. Include social proof in emails (ex., “Join more than 10,000 HR professionals who are members!)
  3. Host a contest for customers who renew or purchase an additional product.
  4. Re-engage inactive subscribers by sending them your best-performing blog post from the previous month, rather than the usual “we’ve missed you” email.
  5. Try a referral campaign to reward customers for recommending a friend.

In this email, Clear, a security company that stores biometric data, delights their subscribers by offering them a chance to give their friends and family members a three-month free guest pass to save them time at the airport.


With each stage of the buyer’s journey—as you learn more about your customers—your email marketing should become progressively more personalized. After all, it's how we build relationships in real life.

2. Use Data To Make Emails More Relevant

Consider all the data you have on your customers and prospects. How are you using it to make your email marketing more relevant to them? Chances are, you’re not using it nearly as well as you could.

Consider these examples shared by Jessica Best, director of data-driven marketing at Barkley, during a recent Content Marketing World workshop:

  • The Skimm acknowledges subscribers’ birthdays in the bottom of every email.
  • A retailer uses data on when parents purchase “baby’s first ornament” to determine the age of the children they show in email images.
  • A children’s clothing boutique shifted its email marketing strategy after data showed its best customers are new grandmothers, rather than new mothers.
  • An airline achieved a 60 percent open rate by including customers’ most recent destination in a subject line (ex., Want to fly back to Atlanta sooner?)
  • A bank determined it was most likely to upsell new customers on new products within 90 days and achieved a 230 percent return on investment by sending a series of five emails to new military members within that time period.

As you can see, making better use of data to shape your email marketing strategy has a tremendous impact. It requires more planning, but in the end, you’ll see much more impressive results while sending fewer emails.

3. Make Emails Clickable and Skimmable

According to the 2018 Litmus State of Email Marketing Report, 60 percent of B2C customers now open email on their mobile phones. For B2B customers, it’s about 25 percent. And assuming they open your email, the average person will spend eight seconds reading it.

That means it’s more important than ever to ensure your emails are both clickable and skimmable on any device.

That means ensuring your email is designed well and able to be viewed, even if the recipient has images turned off. (As many as one in four people do, so if your email is one big image, that’s a fourth of your customers getting a blank email!)

As you write your email copy, remember the three Cs —keep it concise, clear and clickable. More specifically:

  • The format should allow the reader to digest it within seconds. Use bold text and bullet points to help important words stand out.
  • The message should tell the recipient exactly what you want them to do, leaving no room for ambiguity. (Clarity beats cleverness.)
  • Call-to-action buttons should be at least 40 pixels tall by 40 pixels wide to ensure they’re easy to click on any device.

Following these email best practices will improve conversion rates, which will ultimately improve sales.

Email marketing is still the most effective channel with the highest return on investment. However, these days that’s only true if you have a strong email marketing strategy, use data to make your emails more relevant and ensure your emails are easy to digest. If you’re not doing that, you’re just contributing to the clutter—and you’ll continue to see diminishing returns.

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The Author

Annie Zelm

Annie is the driving force behind content strategy for clients. She uncovers insights about what motivates buyers and uses that knowledge to shape client websites and editorial calendars. Annie brings several years of PR experience gained from working at the amusement park, Cedar Point.