Professional service firms need to work harder than ever to reinvent the way they reach their prospective clients through email campaigns. The marketing environment is much different and complicated in the information age than it was even a few years ago. Client expectations have rapidly changed thanks to the proliferation of new services through digital channels, which have created seismic shifts across communication mediums.
The buyers of professional services are more connected, more informed, and increasingly vocal about their brand choices and opinions. They have fingertip access to rich market data from independent sources, and thus no longer rely solely on what organizations choose to communicate to them. They initiate and dictate marketing discussions and expect one-size-fits-one attention.
Through this primer, we have defined nine key influences that professional service firms should consider when developing email campaigns and how to reach prospective clients more effectively.
Developing Effective Email Campaigns
According to numbers from a survey by Forrester, a staggering 82 percent of businesses claim that email is the most commonly used marketing channel. It tops social media and web channels, which are used significantly less often, at 69 percent and 68 percent, respectively, according to the same survey.
Another study by McKinsey found out that email is a much more effective way to acquire clients than social media- nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined. Data from the study also shows that 91 percent of U.S. consumers use email daily, and the channel is far more effective than social media in terms of conversions and order value.
These stats highlight the fact that email is one of the best marketing channels, and professional service firms need to develop an effective email campaign strategy that will bring in more potential clients while delighting existing clients. Here are nine ways you can use an email marketing strategy to achieve this.
- Provide Value
A successful email campaign is all about giving your prospective clients something that provides value to them and makes them want more. Relevant content will make them choose your business over your competitors, whether that’s educational information about your industry, operational messages about your service, or marketing messages about the products/services you offer. Here you can do the following:
- Send new leads a series of customized messages after they sign up for your newsletter to remind them that they opted in. Each message should include useful content to reward readers and serve as a guideline for what they can expect out of your newsletter. Include information on the timing of email messages, regularity, and content plans.
- Send an email or series of emails to win back prospects who haven’t purchased your services within a specific timeframe. Offer discounts, promotions, or exclusive services to draw them back to your site. Use this to increase lifetime value (LTV) by getting more clients to make repeat purchases.
- Send an email with a testimonial from one of your clients to remind them how useful your services are. You’d be surprised how little of your user-base is even aware of all of your service capabilities or use cases. These types of emails can open up a whole new world of functionality for them and therefore improve retention rates.
- Rethink your Subject Lines
After the email greeting, the subject line of each email you produce is of the utmost importance. While it may be surprising to learn, the content of the subject line takes a back seat to the length of the subject line in question. Experts now believe that the overall length of a given subject line runs in direct correlation to the odds that the email will be opened. Subject lines that are ten characters or less are opened more than 50 percent of the time, while those that are 70 characters or higher have an open rate of 120 percent less than those with suitably short subject lines.
That is, the higher the number of characters that an email subject line has, the lower the number of click-throughs the email will receive, while subject lines that are short on characters are more likely to be read. With this in mind, you will then be able to tweak the system of labeling to ensure that it naturally attracts as many different potential users as possible.
Also, research by MailChimp confirms that specific keywords in the subject line increase open email rates by 57%. The impact you’ll see in the public email rate when you use one of these words in the subject line is as follows- Positive Urgent: + 79% Thank you: + 57%. Conversely, specific keywords can have the opposite effect – Negative Cancelled: -40% Helping: -12% Last chance: -45%.
Professional service firms need to understand that in email marketing campaigns, personalization is becoming the prime source of competitive differentiation. Broad awareness email campaigns do not drive sales as they once did – these campaigns are often out of sync with the pulse of changing client needs. Too many times, these campaigns target the wrong prospective clients, creating unwelcome marketing messages that can damage a firms’ reputation.
You can achieve personalization by knowing your clients, understanding their pain points and needs, and then offering them tailored experiences. Look at the natural segments in your email list or client database. If you have taken the time to collect data on your clients, then it is time to start putting that data to use by personalizing your content for various segments of the population.
According to stats from MailChimp’s latest segmented-list user data, open rates were a robust 14.31 percent higher, and clicks were a whopping 100.95 percent higher than non-segmented campaigns. Specifically targeting segments of your target audience can convert them into loyal followers who are then much more likely to spread the words of your authority to their colleagues and friends who are also interested in finding a solution to their pain point. Here are some recommendations that you can implement to help personalize your messages:
- Personalize your email subject lines based on user data. Studies indicate that personalized subject lines result in a 22.0 percent increase in open rates compared to emails without customized subject lines. Many professional service firms choose not to collect any personal data with email addresses to keep their sign up forms as frictionless as possible. If you want to send emails with personalized subject lines while keeping your sign up types simple, you should at least collect first names with email addresses.
- Personalize referral codes and landing pages- Airbnb, for instance, created personalized referral codes and landing pages with a photo of the inviter. As a result, referrals increased bookings by over 25% in some markets.
- Time of Day Matters
The time of day that you choose to send out your email can have a dramatic impact on both click-through and open rates. The most productive time to send an email is during the very early hours of the day so that it will be seen during the period that most people dedicate to catching up on what has happened while they have been asleep. If you wait until a later point in the day to send out your email, then it is going to naturally have much more competition, not just with other emails your subscribers might have to deal with but also with the stressors of the day as well. That equates to roughly a 20 percent increase in open and click-through rates if done correctly. Along similar lines, the day of the week that you choose to send out your email is going to impact your metrics as well.
Studies show that emails sent on Friday evening after 8 pm, Saturday and Sunday all have a statistically higher chance of being opened, with emails sent on Saturdays after 8 pm gaining the biggest boost of an additional 25 percent chance of being opened and 30 percent in click-through rates simply because people have less to do on Sunday mornings than at any other point during the week.
Note – not everyone on your email list has the same daily routine, nor do they all live in the same time zone. You need to test for your market the ideal time to send out your newsletters and emails.
- Leverage an Email Marketing Platform and Social Channels
The best marketing platforms have tools to help you develop effective email campaigns. Some of the features to look for include:
- Easy Campaign creation and automation, including templates and workflows.
- Integration capabilities with software (such as a CRM) that you already use.
- Audience segmentation capabilities.
- In-depth analytics on email campaign performance.
Numbers from the Litmus’ State of Email Survey showed that successful email programs are 108.5% more likely to generate at least half of the company’s email marketing revenue from automated and transactional emails. There are various email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp and Zoho, which you can leverage.
Besides leveraging an email marketing platform, it is also essential to utilizing social media platforms (think Twitter and LinkedIn) to test out Subject Lines and Calls-to-Action.
Share your content on social media channels using different copy before you send your email and see which performs best in terms of clicks and shares. Identify who’s looking and how many have engaged. Are you attracting the right target audience? Are you getting the attention of those who would buy?
- Your Calls-to-Action
In the B2B industry, once you have designed and developed your email content, make sure that you use the right Calls-to-Action. Most professional service firms’ emails have an objective of driving traffic to landing pages that often offer free tools, checklists, or white papers. But to convert this traffic, you must ensure that the email content itself is relevant and useful to prospective clients. Why should prospects invest more time? What is behind the link? The point here is that consumers get multiple emails per day- why should they care about yours?
- Focus on a Multi-Tiered Approach
Outside of your first email newsletter, you are also going to want to create several generalized emails that can trigger follow on content at specific points in your relationship with each subscriber. That will ensure they feel as connected to you as possible. That should include things like a personalized welcome email when they first join and periodic follow-up emails designed to show that you care about their user experience. Remember, you don’t want to send out so many emails that they start to feel like spam, but you also don’t want to lose track of members of your target audience once you have successfully engaged them.
- Optimize for Mobile
Professional service buyers prefer an experience that is tailored for mobile devices because it adds a wherever/whenever dimension to every aspect of their buying journey. Interesting to note is that a study by Return Path, which analyzed over 27 billion email opens, found out that 55% of users opened their emails via mobile devices.
Successful professional service firms utilize device detection and pay extra attention to their header text. They use button CTAs more than link-based CTAs as buttons are more effective compared to links, especially – when a reader is scanning through a newsletter quickly. The point here is that you should add at least one in your emails. Remember to choose the right design according to your theme and use the proper size with contrasting colors.
- A/B Test
Images and videos help engage the reader when integrated into your email content. Continually test the effectiveness of your campaign by sending two sets of emails: one email with an image/video embedded in it and another one without (just plain text) and see which one works best. Another alternative is to send text-only emails but with different formats. For instance, as the CEO, you can send a more personal email-introducing yourself to clients, and this can make a significant impact on the firm.
Data from research by HubSpot proves that emails sent by a real person are more likely to be clicked on compared to emails sent from a company name. HubSpot A/B tested emails with two different senders: one from “HubSpot” and another from “Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot.” The first generated a 0.73% CTR and the second got a 0.96% CTR.
Other types of A/B testing include:
- Use variable welcome emails. Udemy found that revenue generated in the first week correlated with an increased customer lifetime value when they ran the welcome email A/B testing: The control email welcomed new users with 50% off any course. The variable email leveraged behavioural data to serve up a direction in which the user had already expressed interest. They included that course in the email header, along with the same 50% off coupon. Results: The variable email generated +150% more revenue.
- You can also A/B test the way you communicate your value proposition for a given product to ensure the best results. For example, Airbnb ran one interesting A/B testing by communicating very different value propositions for the same product. In one email, they emphasized that you can earn $25 for inviting a friend (self-interested). In the other email, they noted that you are sharing $25 with your friend (kind). Result: The altruistic email performed better globally.
There is no sure way for a successful email campaign, and that’s why it is essential to leverage A/B testing as it allows you to try different approaches to see which work best. But remember to test small changes in a controlled manner. Don’t change too much at once, or you won’t know which change had a positive or negative effect. It is also crucial to test against what is essential – your primary campaign objective.
Last but not least, don’t forget to measure your email campaign success rates. You can leverage metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, and spam rates to know if your email campaign is succeeding.
Professional service firms that do not adapt to the changing marketing landscape will find it hard to attract modern-day buyers. Today’s professional service buyers are increasingly self-directed when it comes to choosing a brand. Service information is now ubiquitous, mainly due to information abundance coupled with improved search and digital channels.
That means that professional service firms must understand that commercial success lies in the strength of the relationships it creates with clients. As a result, they have to reinvent their approaches in the design and execution of their email campaigns. The nine strategies outlined above can help your firm establish a differentiated approach to email campaigns and hence, maintain a competitive advantage.
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