Email and inbound marketing: building a strategy

Email and inbound marketing: building a strategy

Like Romeo and Juliet, Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, email marketing and inbound marketing seemingly come from two different worlds. But like the aforementioned duos, they can work together beautifully.

Although email marketing is traditionally seen as an outbound tactic, it’s also pretty key to some aspects of inbound too. Lead nurturing on any scale isn’t possible without email marketing. And once you’ve reeled contacts in, you need a way to remind them why they came to you in the first place, and keep them coming back. Email marketing is a great way to do that.

That being said, there’s a lot more to incorporating email and inbound marketing than you would see your classic outbound “mass” email campaign. Here’s a quick guide to using email effectively as part of your inbound strategy.


Segmentation is key

300 billion emails are sent worldwide per day, and there’s nothing worse than receiving a barrage of emails which aren’t relevant to you in any way. Using email as an effective part of your inbound strategy means thinking about who the customer is, their relationship with your business and their position in the buyer’s journey.

To give a personal example, I recently ended my lease agreement with Mini. I no longer have any ties to Mini or BMW, other than – clearly – existing on a marketing list somewhere.  Last week I received an email inviting me to an exclusive event for Mini owners. Instant unsubscribe. How could Mini have avoided this? They could’ve built two – or maybe even three – lists: customers, prospects and lapsed customers. Considering I was technically still signed up to receive emails from them, they’re still free to email me, but by placing me on a list of lapsed customers, they could’ve sent me much more relevant content.


Personalisation is even better

If segmentation is the foundation on which good email marketing is built on, personalisation is the next level. To truly smash this form of communication, you need to be thinking about how each and every email can be personalised to the person receiving it. And it’s not just about adding a token so it says “Hi Charli” at the start.

Here’s another example from my daily adventures. In contrast to my recently severed ties with Mini, I’m an ongoing and loyal customer of giffgaff. Today they kindly sent me an email to let me know that the debit card tied to my account was about to expire. The email started with “Hi Charli”, included my member name and even included the last 4 digit of the debit card in question. It provided me with a link to update my debit card details should I need to.

While this wasn’t necessarily a marketing email, I found it useful, and served to strengthen my loyalty to giffgaff. That’s how you use personalisation.
If you’re really killing it with personalisation, you can not only include things like the contact’s name or username, but a whole host of tailored content which will chime with them. Think about how a certain online retailer uses email marketing to send you products you might be interested in, based on your buying habits.


Avoid data regulation pitfalls

We’ve covered this topic in a lot of detail in other blog posts, so I won’t go into that here. If you’d like to read more about the upcoming GDPR legislation and its potential effects on email marketing, check out these blog posts:

It all boils down to this: don’t email people who haven’t specifically asked you to email them. And even then, you can only send them emails about what you’ve said you’re going to contact them about. For example, under new legislation, you can’t ask someone to sign up and receive updates from your blog and then inundate them with special offers and new product announcements. Familiarise yourself with the guidelines, toe the line and you’ll be fine.

We also have a handy checklist which can help you ensure you’re complying with GDPR and getting clear consent from your contacts to send them email, which you can download here.


Keep on top of your data

Segmentation and personalisation in email marketing rely on one very important thing: good data. It’s no use trying to build lists of customers and prospects if you can’t differentiate between a customer and a prospect. And there’s no use trying to develop a personalised email that lets a customer know when their warranty is expiring if you can’t plug that information into your marketing platform.

Getting your hands on this kind of detailed data can be tricky, but it is possible, and if you can get it right, it pays dividends. Technology exists now to help you connect all kinds of systems to your marketing automation and email platforms. Whether  it’s connecting Microsoft Dynamics CRM to HubSpot, or MailChimp to your ERP system, there’s bound to be a connector out there to get you off and running.

And don’t forget to keep your data up to date – the only thing worse than no personalisation is out-of-date personalisation (ahem, Mini). Regular data cleanses are good idea, but if you should also try and update contact records and other data as and when you come across changes. If your sales team are responsible for maintaining customer data, you should liaise with them and put in place a process to make sure everything stays accurate and up-to-date.


Don’t turn your back on email

Transitioning to inbound doesn’t mean turning your back on email. It’s about rethinking your approach to a communication tool that’s still a pretty powerful driver of any digital marketing strategy. Just remember to keep the communication personal, relevant and useful and you won’t go far wrong when it comes to email and inbound marketing.