What Is An Email Marketing Ecosystem?
The email marketing ecosystem is based on three main components; audience, automations, and campaigns. By building these pillars, you can grow your e-commerce revenue on autopilot!
The most common question that I get as a marketing expert is, “what are the integral components of email marketing?” in return, I always answer with a counter-question, “what does your email marketing ecosystem look like?”
So, I know it sounds kind of crazy, like “an email marketing ecosystem?!”.
Basically, it is a way of thinking about your email operations that works to help you understand where each component of your efforts fit and how they impact your success.
So, we break everything down into a three-pillar framework that simplifies how to build a system to grow your business using email and maximize your efforts.
If it sounds intimidating, spend a few minutes going through this and you will feel a lot more confident.
Main components of the email marketing ecosystem
These are the three pillars that make up your email marketing ecosystem.
1. Audience Building
This is where you are working to build your audience, collect and refine your segmentation data and work on your deliverability.
This is a critical component of your ecosystem because this is where you are building and growing your list in ways that allows you to add unique value and ensure you have a good sender profile.
It is crucial that you know and understand your audience well. You should know what makes them unique and what valuable qualities and characteristics they have. You can do this by collecting segmentation data around the use cases for their purchase or what activity they are using it for.
In so many ways, it gives us more data to leverage in your email automations to create highly contextual and impactful messaging.
Your focus should also be on the growth of “the right audience, not the bright audience”, a smaller more engaged list is going to lead to better deliverability and more revenue in the long term.
This ultimately also helps in your retention marketing strategies.
2. Email Automations
Email automations are a crucial area of marketing for any e-commerce business. In so many ways they form the foundation of your lifecycle marketing activities and provide a stable foundation of revenue for your business.
It’s the automations that usually drive your audience into making the first purchase from your store and then keep them coming back on a regular basis.
In email automation, the behavior of customers is very important. The online actions they take or don’t take are what triggers each automated email they receive.
Because they are triggered based on behavior, you can make them much more contextual and relevant for the receiver than a general campaign email. So, building these around the behaviors you want to see along your customer lifecycle is how you can line these up with the right message at the right time.
From driving them to make their first purchase to coming back for their 10th purchase and everything in between. Then layering the data, you collect along the way is where the real magic happens in making these impactful.
Once these automations are set up, they keep working in the background in perpetuity. We have some clients with 30+ revenue-driving automations that make them money month after month. There are a ton of misconceptions about email marketing automations.
I always compare email automations to a 401k retirement plan, they are not sexy or exciting early on, but the gradual compounding month over month, year over year is where the magic happens!
Then from there, you can improve them gradually by testing and iterating to ensure better and better performance over time.
3. Email Campaigns
The third component is the process of sending consistent campaigns. This is the area that most people think of when they think of email marketing.
After the audience has made its first purchase, or even if a customer has become your regular buyer, you must consistently inform, educate, and entertain them.
Depending on the business type, they may need to make another purchase sooner or later, and this is why maintaining top-of-mind awareness through value-added content actually drives revenue!
In many cases, they may be looking to replenish an existing product or purchase something complimentary to their original purchase. So positioning yourself as the trusted resource in the space takes you from a commodity supplier to a differentiated source.
Campaigns may be seasonal or general based on the time of year and send to a specific segment at a specific time.
The more you continually engage your audience the more loyal they will become and the more you will be able to drive repeat purchases with higher average order values. Finding the right cadence for sending, along with the right balance of value-added content vs. promotional content, takes time, but you will be able to hone in on what is working over time.
This is where campaign planning plays a large role in keeping the cadence going and where we use some tools to make that process more consistent and replicable. So we are not constantly reinventing the wheel.
And once again the more contextual these campaign sends are the better they will perform, if you know your audience is “toddler parents” and your messaging is around making parenting a toddler easier, they will be much more likely to engage with that email.
Again you are using data you gain from your audience building and automations to segment these campaigns to keep that communication going with relevant messaging.
How do I understand my audience?
Understanding your audience is one of the most important steps of creating an effective email marketing strategy. You first need to categorize it into segments. These segments describe the specific type of audience needs (we have another article and video that, in full depth, discusses strategies to approach segmentation).
The primary segmentation variable allows you to understand who your customers would be and what would be their needs, and how you would cater to those needs?
This segmentation of the audience would assist in distinguishing between the different types of customers and offer them the kind of communication and information that will be most valuable and effective for them.
The segmentation of the audience according to their features and qualities will help you identify the most profitable audience among your customers and will make it easy for you to understand how you can serve them through the appropriate use of emails and SMS messages at each stage of their journey.
The groups that know their customers best are the ones that thrive here because they are so in tune with their needs.
After you have figured out your strategy for building up your audience, your focus should move on to how you grow/increase your audience.
What are the insights we want to collect?
You must know/understand what first-party data you want to leverage through your customer journey’s consistency. Like, you’re not going to get all the data out of the gate at once, but how would you collect and use that overtime to improve the relevance of your emails?
This is how you build the audience and find different ways of catering to them in a unique, desired way.
Meanwhile, your focus should also be on the deliverability of your emails. Having high deliverability means that your emails don’t only reach the customer’s inbox but also drive them to engage with them.
But if the deliverability is low, it can cause your email to be sent to the customer’s spam folder. This lowers the customer’s chance of engaging with your mail as spam folders are rarely checked by people.
This would mean that you are not visible in their inbox that much, which means that something needs to be done to increase the deliverability of your emails.
As it is evident that deliverability adds value to your emails and improves your email marketing, you must keep an eye on the content, relevance, and value of your automated emails. A high deliverability level ensures that you are a reputable sender and keeps you from entering the spam folder.
How to get the most out of automation?
Since you have built your audience and have people coming to the store, you now want them to keep coming back to make more purchases. Automation helps you through that, and it is the second most important component you focus on (as mentioned earlier too).
Automations are ideally the basic components of email marketing that drive that first purchase and customer in the store. Nurturing them through the purchase process and making them feel confident in their decision to purchase.
With the first purchase being made by a customer, your focus should now be on onboarding the customer to the product they purchased and your business. The second purchase starts the second the first purchase happens.
Automation also allows you to pull people back into your funnel to create repeat purchasers. This makes a solid baseline of performance for months as you bring in new customers to the store and work consistently in the background to drive revenue for your business.
Every time you add new automation, you can expect your business to go one level up, but to achieve such results, you should know a few things beforehand.
First of all, as I discussed earlier understanding, your audience is crucial to running your business. Secondly, customer behavior is very important to introduce new automation.
As a seller, you should have information about your customer’s purchase journey.
- What have they purchased?
- What are they interested in?
- What do they search for?
- Are they price conscious and like to stay in a certain range?
- How frequently do they buy?
These questions will help you determine what kinds of behaviors YOU want to drive along; you will have to identify what behaviors you want to drive. Do you want them to keep coming back frequently? Do you want them to buy a complementary product of the previous product?
When studied and answered, all these questions help you reverse engineer the customer’s behaviors into the way you want to see and understand. It enables you to identify a way to get the customer back in the store to make a second purchase or keep them coming back regularly, even if they don’t want to. So how do you do that?
You make them offers that force them to engage in your business. Such offers could be in the form of discounts and bonuses.
Sending these types of offers pushes them to look into your store again and fulfills your goal of creating a repeat purchase behavior.
But it should be kept in mind that it has to be done in an automated way, i.e., it should be highly contextual and relevant to the customer’s needs and behavior. As this automation is set to be triggered on specific customer behaviors, the emails created through them are typically very relevant, highly targeted, and very specific for every type of customer.
Along with this, you also should test the automation you are using. This acts like a digital sandbox that allows you to understand what kind of messaging works.
How do those value propositions work, and what is driving value to your business.
Developing an understanding of this also enables you to incorporate this information into other areas of marketing.
Is your open rate improving with shorter subject lines… You will only know if you test!
Automations need to be consistently tested, improved, and optimized to perform better and eventually drive more revenue for the business.
These are the automations that can bring advancement in email marketing by allowing you access to a one-to-one test case.
It is like a very specific apples-to-apples comparison that aids in understanding what actions to take, whether to incorporate it further or cut it out and understanding what is not working for you and how to improve what is working.
You consistently check existing automation and experiment with the new ones. But it is important to consider what impacts this new automation would have on the business revenue and how much effort it will require to introduce it.
Through this experimentation, you can measure and understand the performance of your emails over time. You focus on what ensures more customer engagement and cut out what doesn’t give the desired result.
So you need to be strategic and intentional about what kind of automated emails to introduce when you introduce it.
How do Campaigns help in Email Marketing?
Campaigns help in targeting a specific type of message for a specific kind of audience segment. Meaning you may send emails to every segment according to their needs. One category of the audience might get more messages than the other category, depending on their purchase behaviors.
For example, an introduction of a new product in your store might be more relevant and of more interest to one segment of your audience only and not to the others. So your focus would be on keeping that segment more updated and engaged than the others.
Maybe this is where we’re really trying to create a pipeline of communication and a drumbeat between us and our valuable segments. It helps you understand who you need to communicate with on what frequency.
Instead of sending every message to everyone in your list, you simply figure out which message concerns which segment. And it becomes easier for the audience also.
Because when you spam them with your mails, they are likely to lose interest in your messages and may not open them and engage with them on a regular basis. This again leads us back to the issue of deliverability.
So, running a suitable campaign for your business and sending out reasonable and relevant emails to the customers regarding your products and services is an important component of email marketing that builds a consistent and reliable stream of content for the customers and gives you more and more opportunities to add value to the audience without burning them out.
This again concerns maintaining the drumbeat of the message in terms of the frequency of sending the email and the timing of sending it.
In some businesses, the production of some products is time-based and time-specific.
For example, if you are a coffee brewer, your products would vary seasonally. In winters, your customers are brewing all hot coffee, and in summers, they may also be adding cold coffee to the mix. So the content you are sharing and the way you will interact and communicate with your audience will vary.
So you have to plan your marketing strategy according to that, but you should make sure that you are hitting that consistent cadence and you are keeping that flow, so you can keep building on that relationship along their journey with you.
What does our messaging need to be like?
Now, we’re going to talk about the design of your email. This also affects the value of the email. You should be able to figure out which design works the best for the customers.
You have to bring about changes within your email designs according to your customer’s tastes and as well as according to your brand so it sounds authentic and consistent. This helps provide value to your audience and keeps them engaged.
Here’s how you should do it:
Understand What Your Content Mix Is
Understanding what your content mix is, is crucial to make your email effective enough for your audience. It tells what your content consists of and how do you combine different factors to design your email.
If you are super promotional, you may want to add a different mix to your content to not make it sound mundane and stale every time you send it. When all of your messaging sounds the same you basically position yourself as a one-trick pony.
But on the other hand, if you’re too content-heavy, you may not be able to drive revenue the way you want to. That’s why it’s important to create an understanding of what your email content mix needs to look like and which mix would add value to your message and bring customer engagement. This gives you the opportunity to build a relationship with your customers and along with helping them to purchase over and over.
Basically, the content acts like the lead into a joke, and the promotion is the punchline.
They both work together to build anticipation and drive action, but if you only have one or the other, it doesn’t have the impact that it could.
The simultaneous focus on the audience and the automated campaign keep our customers engaged and excited and make them returning buyers.
Each time they purchase from you, it is between automations and campaigns. And if they get appropriate campaigns in their inbox, they become more and more loyal to your brand and more excited and trusting towards your store.
So, all in all, if you send the right message to the right customers at the right time, you’ll be able to get them where you want to get them in terms of like opening their emails through campaigns and automation and making them regular buyers.
All the components that we learned about in this article complement and supplement each other.
To build a strong email marketing ecosystem, you can’t focus on sending campaigns only or building lists only, or building automations only – to really build out your ecosystem, you need all three.
Using a combination of these three components can prove to be highly beneficial for your business if you learn to use them well.
The better you know your audience, the more relevant your automations and campaigns can be and the more strategic you can be as an eCommerce business. By getting familiar with your audience, you can send only relevant automations and campaigns to relevant customers, and this is where the real magic starts.
This drives more revenue and more customer growth because then we can get highly strategic and targeted with what you do. It can then make your dream of fulfilling your ultimate goal of having predictable recurring revenue from predictable recurring customers.
These pillars may sound tricky or complicated out of the gate, but once you get ahold of everything, this strategy really does run itself!
I hope this article helps you understand how the email marketing ecosystem works and provides you a chance to learn new and helpful things.