Promotional Email: Best Practices and Easy Secrets

illustration symbolizing promotional emailIf you’re like most people that are new to email marketing, you might even equate email marketing with promotional email. After all, you’re building a list so you can sell more stuff, right? 

Well, the fact is that any good email marketer will understand the full gamut of email marketing, and how to best utilize promotional emails as just one type of email. 

This is what we are going to look at today. Not just how to utilize and create promotional emails in the best way possible, but also understanding where it all fits into the larger picture.

When and why you shouldn’t send promotional emails

Look, the whole reason people get into email marketing is because they’ve heard that it has the highest ROI of any channel out there. And all of this is true. However, the reason that email marketers have such astonishing returns is primarily because email allows them to build relationships.

That is, an email marketer who only sends promotional emails will see none of the benefits which email marketing is famous for. Even worse, such a marketer might damage and destroy the email deliverability for their company domain.

In essence, promotional emails need to be just a portion of the emails that you send to your leads, customers and subscribers. That is, most of your emails need to be “value-based emails”, with only a smaller portion of emails being promotional in nature.

Promotional emails are not the same thing as sales emails

Another important thing to distinguish here is that some people confuse sales emails with promotional emails. In truth, promotional emails are a broader category than sales emails.

A promotional email is really any email that centers around promoting something. It doesn’t have to be promoting a sales offer. It could be promoting your product’s latest free feature to your free users, without asking them to buy anything.

In essence, an email promotion is trying to promote something, regardless of whether that something leads to a sale directly or indirectly. Sales emails are a subset of promotional emails, and they are the emails where you send a very direct sales offer.

The ratio within the ratio

When it comes to your email marketing, you want to make sure that the bulk of your emails are “value-driven emails”, and only some of your emails are promotional emails. And then, even within that subset of promotional emails, only some should be direct sales emails.

What this means is that even with your promotional emails, when you’re promoting things, it should mostly be promoting things other than a sale. For example, you can promote that your users try out your latest feature, look into a useful resource that you offer, talk to your customer support and so on.

What are value-driven emails, and what do they contain?

We have to make one clarification here. When we talk about non-promotional emails, we do not mean that you’re not allowed to promote your brand or your products inside. It is merely about whether a promotion is the central topic of the conversation.

In fact, good marketers always find a way to promote their brand or products in every email, and that includes every non-promotional (value-driven) email as well. However, the trick is that all of this is woven into the content in a natural way. Typically it is done as an aside or made to seem like an afterthought.

To simplify even further: the main point is that the email provides value to the subscriber. This is something that you could even put monetary value on. It doesn’t have to be life-changing information that’s worth thousands of dollars. It can be any kind of informative content that adds value to the reader’s life or business.

Though, to be fair, if you run a B2B company, you can write quite a lot of value-driven emails where the advice you give out is worth thousands in additional profit for the reader. This is definitely the case with all the information we share for free with our subscribers for example.

Now, this doesn’t mean that all of your emails have to all be spectacular in order to qualify as “value driven”. In essence, a “value-driven email” is one where the subscriber gains more value from reading it, than what they put into it. That is, the time it takes to open and read the email is well worth the investment for what they get in return for reading it.

With all of that said, this guide is about promotional emails, so let’s get back into the specifics of promotional emails next.

The more data, the better

Let’s be blunt here for a second: there is a reason that you’re promoting stuff. You actually want to get something out of it. That is, there is some goal or conversion at the end of it. Whether you are promoting a sales offer, or trying to nudge people into watching a free video, there is some action that you want them to take.

And here’s a huge secret to getting higher conversion rates in email marketing, and marketing in general.

The more data that you have on that lead or customer, the better you can market to them, and hence the higher your conversion rates will be. But more on that in the next point about personalization.

In order to even make any of that possible, you need to be gathering useful data in the first place, and there are several ways to do that. Fortunately, when you’re with a provider like Emercury, we already collect some of the most important data for you automatically. We track opens and clicks. 

You can then both finely segment people based on these opens and clicks, as well as automatically tag them based on such actions.

This alone is quite powerful, and in the hands of a good marketer, you can do amazing things based on this auto-collected data alone.

However, you can take things even further

Because we really love to empower marketers, Emercury offers full site and event tracking, in real-time. This means that you can track what a customer does on your web properties, and then assign events and goals to different behaviors. This in turn can be used to tag subscribers differently based on what actions they are taking on your website. 

This alone is quite powerful, but we didn’t stop there. Because we want you to easily sync up all the data that you need, we implemented incoming webhooks functionality. If you don’t know what this is – just think “receive data from other systems, in real time”. 

That is, you can set things up so that if you have data in other systems for this subscriber, you can send that data and any changes to that data over to Emercury in real time. In essence, think of any kind of software that is part of your business stack, whether this is accounting or CRM software. If it supports sending to web-hooks, you can configure it to send data to Emercury in real-time.

Personalization as the secret to profitable promotional email

If I ask you what it takes for a promotional email to do well, you are likely to say that the copy matters. And yes, you wouldn’t be wrong, but that much is obvious. 

The copywriting and storytelling has to be on par for sure. It has to hook the reader in, and do a good job of selling them on whatever it is that you are promoting.

Here’s a secret though: it doesn’t matter how good you are at selling if you’re selling the wrong thing to the wrong person. And by the wrong thing, I don’t necessarily mean the wrong product or service. Though personalization does help with selling the right product and service as well.

Even if we are looking at selling the exact same service to two different leads, good marketing will focus on different things. One lead needs to be sold on how this service will cut their costs. Another lead needs to be sold on how this will save them time with the amazing customer service that you always provide.

This is where data meets personalization

By utilizing the data that you gather on your subscribers you can build finely refined segments. And fortunately, this is really easy, fun and exciting to do with our advanced segment builder. And it becomes even more fun if you get access to our smart-segments technology. This allows you to send different broadcasts to different customer personas.

Furthermore, you can utilize the different tags and data fields to drive your automations in different ways. That is, you can promote things differently based on how a subscriber behaves inside of your list.

You can have automations that trigger the moment they receive a certain tag, give you some piece of information, or trigger an event on your website. The automation itself can have multiple routes and alternate paths based on conditions relating to the data you have on this subscriber.

And to make things even more fun, you can utilize our smart-personalization technology so that even the same email can display different content based on who is receiving it.

Promotional broadcasts vs automated promotions

A lot of people associate email broadcasts with promotions, and assume that broadcasts are for selling things, and automation is just for onboarding and welcome sequences. Nothing could be further from the truth, and this isn’t really what distinguishes the two types of sending.

If you want to get good at promoting your stuff, you need to really get a good understanding of when it makes sense to use broadcasts, and when to leverage automations.

Now, since MailCon hosts our super popular guide on broadcasts vs automation separately, I’ll just give you the short summary here.

The gist is that broadcasts are primarily for things that are one-off and based on a universal calendar. If that sounds weird, let me give you an example. If you broadcast out a promotion for Black Friday, that holiday is on the same date for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you joined the list 3 months ago, or 3 years ago.

Sure, you might send different broadcasts to different segments. You might start sending Black-Friday broadcasts to the high-responder segment an entire 2 months earlier than the “fresh leads” segment. But everyone on that segment is going to get a broadcast at a time that relates to a universal event, not one specific to them.

Automations on the other hand are based on personal timelines. For example, you might have an automation that sends a promotional email to any person who visits your pricing page. In it, you set it so that an email is sent 48 hours after they visited the pricing page. So in that sense, the sending time is based off of a unique, personal timeline. It is 48 hours after they first visited the pricing page, and that event is different for everyone.

Bonus hack: promote free stuff and gifts

Getting people habituated to something is a huge trick in marketing that you can utilize with promotional emails as well. And the best way to accomplish this is to write promotional emails that promote things that are of value, and yet free to the subscriber.

You know how in marketing we give out valuable lead magnets in exchange for someone’s email address? If you’re doing it right, those lead magnets should be valuable enough that you could have sold them as eBooks, and charge for it. Yet, you give it away for free to that email address. This is a valuable product given at the price of zero dollars.

Let me make this a bit more specific though. As an email marketer you should be sending gifts and free stuff in addition to just the valuable content you share. That helps increase deliverability, click-through rates, build trust and deepen the relationship as well.

The trick is that you can send emails to promote these gifts as if they were a paid product or anything else that you are promoting. That is, you can practice your promotional campaigns by promoting gifts and free items. You get good at promotional email, and you get people habituated to opening your promotional emails and acting on them.

Get A Partner On Your Side

There’s no need to go at this alone. While we do put out a lot of free content to help you, nothing beats a one-on-one conversation. In these articles we try to help clarify things as best as possible. However, every business is different, so we have to generalize.

If you want to understand better how to implement email marketing in your specific business, let’s have a chat. At the moment I am still able to do some free demos, so be sure to book one while I can still do these.

I would love to hear about your specific needs, challenges and any confusion you might have about best practices. And then, help you see how you can use Emercury to improve your bottom-line.

Alternatively, or in addition to booking a free demo, you can also grab a username for our forever-free-plan while we still have it. It’s probably the most generous email marketing automation plan on the planet. We include almost every feature in this plan, with very few restrictions.

Remember, you get to keep this plan for life, for free… Provided that you grab a username while registrations are still open. Be warned, we might decide to pull this way-too-generous offering at any point. So click that link to check if we still allow registrations.

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