Email marketing has come a long way since it started almost 45 years ago. So, where are we with email today in 2022? In this blog, we cover a brief history of email and provide recommendations for the best email marketing practices to follow in 2022.
Email Marketing: Brief History
Mass email marketing began as soon as email was created. In fact, in 1978, Digital Equipment Corporation marketer Gary Thuerk sent the first unsolicited email pitch to 400 prospects.
The opportunity to communicate with potential clients on this level in the new digital space was exciting (and fruitful for Thuerk, if not a bit spammy). But this early method that Thuerk used – copying all potential customers and leads on one giant email list – was less than ideal. It was quite time-consuming and unwieldy to manually deal with mass amounts of data. Not to mention it posed many customer privacy concerns.
Email list aggregators arose soon after. Much akin to our modern MailChimp, they offered safe and easy-to-use applications for storing and using email data.
Next, we saw the HubSpot’s of the world come into their own. These were software companies that offered more robust capabilities for target market segmentation.
Today, email marketing automation platforms are all over, and wide-ranging feature sets are the norm. You have access to easy drag and drop email builders that offer all sorts of templates, making design a breeze. Modern automation lets you send emails to multiple target lists at any time of day and at varying frequencies. You can do almost anything. But the drawback is, so can everyone else.
Email Marketing Today: Top Challenges
Best email marketing practices are constantly evolving, especially in the past couple of years. This is especially true in the B2B space, where the technical end greatly impacts how we approach email.
Now, it’s harder than ever to get our audience’s attention. Potential customers and clients receive so many emails every day. They’ve become numb to the traditional marketing emails, and their inboxes have gotten a lot smarter. Spam and even promotion-based filters have come into play. This means that not only are open and click rates suffering, but oftentimes you can’t even rely on your email being delivered to the real inbox.
On top of these challenges, you still have to get someone to care about what you’re sending. This has always been difficult. But now, the barriers to entry are much lower. Everyone has access to all the same fancy tools only a select few had a decade ago.
The current situation can be a bit demoralizing for both the everyday and the sophisticated marketer. After all, there isn’t a magical checklist you can complete to automatically boost your email marketing metrics.
However, by understanding these challenges and coming up with a fresh approach, you can make the most of email marketing as it exists today.
5 Best Email Marketing Practices to Follow in 2022
The newest trends in email marketing for 2022 are a result of the challenges we now face. Here’s how to push through all that clutter and use the tools you have to the best of your ability.
In the first episode of our (new!) podcast, Marketing Trends 2022, our team talks more about the latest trends in the industry and how to set yourself up for success in the coming year and beyond. Tune in.
Best Practice 1: Simplify Design
Email builders have adapted to incorporate many intricate designs and formats. You can make emails appear almost identical to web pages with current layout capabilities. However, this practice is becoming less welcomed by audiences (and email clients).
When you send an email with a lot of design elements, viewers clearly see a marketing email. The buttons, pictures and colored borders used to be great at getting attention. Now, audiences have begun to associate these emails with nothing but endless sales offers and general clutter. And so have their inboxes.
Programs such as Apple Mail and Gmail look for marketing emails to segregate anything promotional into different inboxes. Even standard business emails have begun to be affected. Very few people will go out of their way to check additional inboxes. This is especially true when they know it’s only filled with marketing messages. Keep design elements simple to avoid ending up there.
Spam filters have also started to mess with email marketing metrics. Your top links are automatically clicked in their search for harmful malware, while the rest remain untouched. While great for user protection, expect your analytics to be thrown off when including a lot of links.
Another reason to keep your design minimalistic is how emails today are viewed most often: on mobile. Unfortunately, our phones don’t do super well looking at complex emails optimized for desktop. With too many columns and elements, your phone will awkwardly stack and shrink elements. It looks like a mess. Toning back a little on the fancy designs can go a long way. Limit your design to a single column and minimal graphics to help with rendering.
Save time and create better-performing emails by keeping the design simple.
Best Practice 2: Simplify Workflows
Bots have destroyed the “modern” email marketing workflow.
Now, there’s simply no way to tell if it’s a bot or a real person opening your email and clicking a link. This makes automatic segmentation a lot less reliable.
Because of this, we need to look at other indicators to determine whether we’ve caught the attention of a real person as opposed to a bot. Look for actions only a human being would do, such as filling out an attached form or buying a linked product. Base your workflows on concrete evidence of audience interaction and human activity. At the end of the day, complex workflows with multiple branches based on user actions aren’t going to work.
It’s time to get back to the basics by understanding your buyer and giving them something of value. Then, when the time is right, they will know how to get in touch with you.
Best Practice 3: Get Greater Features for Less
Back when we had more reliable tracking, email marketing features were necessary for that extensive workflow and segmentation. And those features didn’t come cheap.
Many companies still find themselves paying thousands of dollars a month for them. But that just isn’t necessary anymore.
You can get applications like ActiveCampaign for almost a tenth of the price. Reasonable applications will run you around $20-$200, and have all the features you could ever want. Personalization and list management with drag and drop design functionality is a lot cheaper than it used to be. Get more, for less.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to send high end and professional emails. Explore the market!
Best Practice 4: Use Strong Wording & Purposeful Timing
Your subscribers likely get dozens, if not hundreds, of emails a day. Attention spans are incredibly low due to all the clutter online and in their inboxes. You need to capture a reader’s attention quickly.
Say what you want and get out. And avoid the fluff.
Even better, send your emails out at optimal times. For B2B, people likely won’t be checking their inboxes in the evenings or weekends. All audiences won’t have the same preferences, but testing and optimizing email send times can lead to greater benefits in the long run.
Get to the main point of the email right off the bat with strong and purposeful wording at the right time.
Best Practice 5: Personalize (for real)
Personalization is an excellent way to grab someone’s attention. It makes readers feel the message was curated for them as an individual. However, when we say “personalization,” we mean actual personalization.
These days, it’s easy to just insert first names into an email (hopefully with a correctly set up fallback). But no one is being fooled by this. At this point, everyone knows how this works.
So, actual personalization is much more impactful.
Give your email audiences what they want – something useful to them. Create new segmentation data based on your subscribers’ activity. Check if they’ve visited certain pages on your website, or if they’ve filled out a form online. If so, tailor email content to build off of those interactions. They’ve demonstrated interest in a topic, so feed them content based on that. Deliver your audience offers based on things you actually know about them based on real data.
You aren’t here to try and trick your readers. Instead, add value through personalization.
tl;dr: Email Marketing Best Practices for 2022
With the intense democratization of email marketing today, almost everyone can do it at a high level. This has led to pushback from spam filters and has decreased opens and interactions among audiences. To combat these challenges, it’s important to update your email marketing strategies.
Keeping it simple and personal is key when it comes to email design, workflows and content. Because of this, you don’t need a robust platform with every single bell and whistle, which means you can save money in the process of implementing these best email marketing practices. Focus on delivering value with strong and purposeful wording and you’ll see better results in no time.
Like what you’re reading? We have a podcast that digs deeper into the same topic! Our own marketing professionals talk more about the latest trends in the industry and how to set yourself up for success in the coming year and beyond. Tune in.