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12 best practices for email marketing to get more sales

Get the best practices for email marketing you need to reach your goals.

Use these best practices for email marketing, and you will earn more sales from your customer base. Think of this article as a toolbox to improve your next email campaign. Please bookmark this page and come back to it whenever you get stuck in reaching your digital marketing goals. Remember, there is a good chance that your entire target market uses email, whereas they may not all be on Facebook.

Set Your Email Marketing Foundation

These best practices for email marketing only need to set up once and then reviewed quarterly. By putting these best practices into place, you will progress toward achieving marketing goals like a reasonable open rate and conversion rate. It might sound counterintuitive, but it is generally best to focus your limited lead generation efforts on growing a mailing list rather than social media marketing. Email marketing tends to have the best return on investment of any online marketing channel.

1 Build your email list with an email service provider

Sending a large volume of email through Outlook, Gmail, or your email account to everyone in your address book is not a workable email marketing plan. That’s not what those tools were designed for, and you will not get open rate data. Instead, do yourself a favor and use a marketing platform like Mailchimp. When you use Mailchimp, they will automatically track your bounce rate, click rates, and give you advanced features like list segmentation.

Sending your email from HubSpot or Mailchimp also means that you can use your domain name in your email marketing. Using an email service provider will also avoid the temptation to use ineffective tactics (e.g., send emails to everyone in your contact list). Even better, a proper email service provider gives you fantastic marketing automation capabilities (e.g., send a specific email to subscribers when they sign up for a webinar).

Tip: Look for an email service provider that gives you the option to preview emails on a mobile device. Failing to consider the mobile device experience (e.g., how does this email look in the Gmail mobile app?) will make email much less effective as a marketing channel.

2 Use double opt-in for each new subscriber to maximize overall deliverability

A double opt-in process means that a subscriber must perform two steps to join your email marketing list. They enter their email address on your website or landing page. A few minutes later, the email service provider (e.g., Mailchimp) sends a message to the person’s inbox asking them to confirm their email subscription. This two-step process is one of the best ways to ensure your marketing email arrives in the inbox rather than getting stuck in the spam filter.

Using a double opt-in will also increase your open rate because your subscribers have signaled twice that they wish to receive your email marketing messages. If you are not sure about whether your marketing automation tool supports double opt-in, test it by signing up for your email list and see if you receive a confirmation email

3 Set expectations upfront for email frequency

When a potential subscriber joins your email list from an opt-in form or landing page, they have shown some interest in your value proposition. In your welcome email, make it clear how often you will send emails to them. For example, your welcome email (i.e., an automated email sent to new subscribers when they sign up for your email list) might tell people to expect a new email newsletter from you every Friday.

Tip: By setting expectations upfront, you will improve customer retention and find it easier to scale up your digital marketing.

Growing Your Mailing List Faster With These Best Practices for email marketing

By consistently adding new people in your target audience to your mailing list, you will get closer to hitting your marketing strategy goals. For example, if you have an ongoing webinar series where you share relevant content each month, get a quote from a past attendee that you can use as social proof on the webinar landing page. Adding social proof is a proven way to enhance all of the other best practices for email marketing outlined in this article.

4 Use content marketing to build your email list

Right now, your target audience is looking for answers. For example, they want to know how to improve their SaaS conversion rate. By providing relevant answers in your content marketing, you have the opportunity to include a call to action to invite potential customers to join your mailing list. High-quality content is a digital marketing asset that continually works in all time zones. After all, people are continually looking for new insights on Google, other search engines, and social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.

What if you have an extensive contact list of past customers? Should you add all of those people directly to your email marketing list? No, that is not a good idea. Adding people to your email list without permission is not a smart idea from a legal perspective. Further, your messages are likely to get caught in a spam filter when people click the spam button in Gmail and other email apps. The short term boost (e.g., a one percentage point increase in sales) is not worth the risk involved in departing from best practices for email marketing.

5 Create a new landing page for email marketing

Your email marketing strategy should include at least one landing page. Unlike traditional webpages, a landing page is designed with a single digital marketing goal: grow your mailing list. To keep it simple, I recommend offering a free resource (e.g., an ebook, a video, a cheat sheet) as an incentive to join your mailing list. When relevant, you can also direct people on Quora to visit your landing page if the landing page offers a specific resource that answers their question.

In smaller companies, you might not have a dedicated email marketing professional. In that case, focus your landing page efforts on high-value activities like driving signups for a webinar.

Tip: Since a landing page is a crucial digital marketing asset, allocate some of your link building efforts to drive traffic directly from Google to the landing page.

6 Update your social media – including Facebook – for email marketing

While social media is significant in some ways, it has a significant drawback as a marketing channel. You cannot easily export members of your target audience. That’s why I recommend using social media to grow your mailing list. When you create a new landing page offering a free resource, post about it on social media.

Social media platforms like Facebook are great for brand awareness. However, it is best to view Facebook and Instagram as supporting lead generation tools. Focus your marketing strategy on growing your email list. It is much easier to grow your customer base by sending promotional emails to your email list versus posting a call to action on Facebook.

7 Understand the risk of using financial or quasi-financial incentives to grow your mailing list

Some companies give subscribers a gift card as an incentive. As a general rule, I suggest that you not use a gift card promotion to grow your mailing list. The reason is simple. Many different people would like to have an Amazon gift card, and many of these gift card seekers may not match your target market profile. Too many irrelevant people on your mailing list mean you run the risk of a higher bounce rate, lower customer engagement, and reduce online marketing effectiveness. Instead, focus your content strategy and copywriting on growing your mailing list. With an extensive email list, you can produce new orders on demand, especially during significant buying seasons like Black Friday.

If you have the option to spend $1,000 to grow your mailing list, apply that budget to creating high-quality content like a new infographic. A high-quality digital asset can drive traffic from your target market for years into the future.

Making sales with email marketing: the end game of digital marketing

Use these best practices for email marketing to generate more sales from your customer base.

8 Balance engaging content and promotional emails in your email marketing

As a best practice, the email content you send to your email list should include valuable information (e.g., tips to help them get more done). However, sending valuable information alone is not good enough to generate sales. You also need to include a sales pitch in your email to drive revenue. For example, use email communication to tell customers when you launch a new product. You can also use social media marketing to announce a new product.

Tip: Use email copy techniques like a strong call to action when offering something for sale. If there is a special discount for buying today, make that clear in your email. To learn the fundamentals of copywriting, I recommend reading “The Ultimate Sales Letter” by Dan Kennedy. It will change the way you write email body text forever.

9 Create an email campaign for sales

You have put in the hard work to build an email list using Mailchimp or another email service provider. Now, you need to create sales-focused email content to generate more income. As a starting point, I recommend using a three email sequence. Of course, you will want to double-check critical elements like including clickable links (i.e., a hyperlink to a sales page with a high conversion rate) before you send your email to the list. Without a clickable link, your email marketing will only contribute to increased brand awareness.

Email 1: introduce the offer to your email subscribers

Use the email subject for the first message to introduce the current promotion and why it matters. For example, you might offer a buy one get one deal for Black Friday in your sales pitch if they buy through your online shopping cart this week.

Tip: If your email open rate is below 30%, use segmentation to identify people who never opened the message. You will then resend the same message to those people but using a different email subject. This tip can quickly increase your email conversion rate. If your email service provider tells you that most of your subscribers use a mobile device to view your emails, then keep this fact in mind. Test your emails on a mobile device before sending them to your entire mailing list.

Email 2: answer questions from your email subscribers

In nearly any kind of email campaign for sales, you will get questions. That’s a positive sign that you have good email engagement even while sending promotional emails. The second email in the sequence should answer the questions your customers have sent in. Remember to include a buy now call to action hyperlink or some other sales pitch in your body copy even as you answer customer questions. If customers have to speak to you first, then provide a simple lead generation call to action (e.g. “reply to this email to find out more”)

Tip: If you already have relevant content on your website that answers a question (e.g., “how much does shipping cost?”), then provide a link to that video, article, or another resource

Email 3: close the sale with social proof

Your third email is going to leverage several factors of influence. Start with social proof. If your product has received reviews, testimonials, and ratings, tell your email subscribers all about it in the email’s body copy.

That’s it! This simple three email approach is one of the easiest ways to plan out a sequence of promotional emails that generate more sales. You can scale up this email marketing campaign over time as your content strategy attracts more people from Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram.

10 Improve your email template with copywriting and visual design

Revising your email template is another effective way to improve your email marketing effectiveness. Many email service providers like Mailchimp provide several email templates. For instance, you can use email design with several columns.  Or you can work from an email template with nothing but text. A simple email design – nothing but body text and bullet points – tends to work quite well in email marketing.

In general, I recommend using a simple email template with minimal graphics to have the best chance to be seen. Adding multiple images to your email content may cause problems for an email client on a mobile device.

11 Review your email deliverability data

Your email deliverability rate is one way you can improve your email marketing success without adding more subscribers. For example, if you see a low open rate (e.g., 10%), that probably means that you have an email deliverability problem and unappealing email subject lines.

Start by using a tool like Spam Check by Post Mark to check your email sender reputation. If you find that your spam score is high, you may need to register a new domain to send an email. At the very least, you will need to revise your email subject lines and body copy.

Tip: There is a way to improve email deliverability, starting with your welcome message. Use copywriting to craft a simple call to action. Ask your customer base of subscribers to send you a short email reply. When email systems like Gmail see a two email interaction, your customer engagement will improve, and you will not need to worry about a spam filter stopping your messages. Besides, the ability to write back and forth with customers tends to improve your conversion rate for sales.

12 Build an email marketing workflow to maintain customer engagement

Consistently achieving a high level of email marketing results takes work. There are so many details to manage. Sure, it helps to use a high-quality mailing list application like Mailchimp. Email service provider tools will give you a workflow at the campaign level. However, they generally will not include other critical elements like testing your emails on Android and including a call to action to drive sales or improve customer retention.

For example, let’s say you publish an infographic. You might start your content marketing efforts by posting about the new infographic on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. You may focus some of your link building efforts to get people to discuss the infographic. In addition to those online marketing activities, tell your email list about this new digital asset. Apply your copywriting skill to encourage people to click the hyperlink and view the infographic on your website. Every email you send, whether it has a sales call to action or not, is another opportunity to apply best practices for email marketing.

What’s next in your online marketing strategy?

Growing your email list is probably a significant priority in your marketing strategy. Using the best practices for email marketing in this article will help you make great progress in your marketing emails.

However, there are other online marketing matters to consider. For example, do you have a plan to increase your conversion rate? Are you using the compound interest effort of content marketing to reduce your customer acquisition cost?

Read This Before You Choose A Content Marketing Consultant: 10 Questions To Help You Make A Good Choice

You’re looking to choose a content marketing consultant for your business? Use this guide to inform your vetting process. Use these questions as you evaluate the consultant’s website, proposals and proposed content campaigns so that you can achieve your business objectives.

1) Will they develop a buyer persona specific to your business objectives?

Until you know who you are marketing to (i.e. the buyer persona), no content marketing program can be successful. An effective content marketing consultant will ask you questions like:

  • What blog posts does your target audience read?
  • What social media profiles and channels do they follow? There may be opportunities for influencer marketing.
  • What marketing channels are currently working effectively to attract your target audience?
  • For business audiences, what LinkedIn people and companies do they follow?
  • For business audiences, what are the business objectives that matter (e.g. get more quality leads into the sales funnel)?

For additional insights on developing a buyer persona to guide your marketing effort, I recommend HubSpot’s excellent resource: How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business. HubSpot is a leader in the content marketing game so it is well worth checking out their blog from time to time.

2) What is their approach to creating a content marketing strategy for your business?

Also known as content strategy, a content marketing strategy includes several critical elements. It starts with your business objectives (e.g. revenue goals, products to emphasize and other needs that the business owner may have). Think of content marketing strategy as the overall approach to using content to grow your organic traffic and get more customers through quality content.

The content strategy should also include measurable items such as conversion rate. For example, will a certain ultimate guide generate a dozen leads per month. After the strategy is developed, ask the consultant to bring it to life by creating a detailed content marketing plan.

Example content marketing plan to achieve your business objectives:

  • Update buyer persona profiles based on recent sales calls and a survey of your target audience.
  • Create fresh content (e.g. blog posts, status updates for LinkedIn) to increase organic traffic.
  • Update existing content with new data, images and insights so that it continues to bring in quality leads.
  • Promote your existing content using search engine optimization techniques.
  • Increase traffic further by using pay per click marketing channels and social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
  • Measure progress towards achieving your business goals. This measurement process will help you to decide when to change the existing strategy, increase promotion efforts or stick with your current approach.

After you see the plan, you will see what level of marketing effort is required to achieve your organic traffic goal. As an entrepreneur, you should also ask how much time you will need to invest in the process. I recommend that the entrepreneur or business owner spend at least a few hours per month reviewing the content marketing plan and providing input for strategic content.

3) How will they use search engine optimization (SEO) to reach your target audience?

Content marketing consultant and SEO are closely linked together. If your content marketing consultant is uncomfortable using Google Analytics, that’s a flag! To be fair, the marketing department in a Fortune 500 companies may use different analytics tools to measure the success of content on various social media platforms. For a small marketing team or a single marketing expert, Google Analytics is all you need.

Further, a good content marketing consultant should have access to one or more SEO software tools. I currently use UberSuggest. Other good options include Ahrefs and SEMrush. The logical starting point for search engine optimization is to examine how your existing audience finds you through organic search. Use Google Search Console – a free tool like Google Analytics – to ground your digital marketing results in reality.

4) Do they use content marketing in their consulting business?

There are many marketing channels that a content marketing consultant might use to attract clients. They might drive organic traffic from Facebook and then drive traffic to a landing page. Some have good results with cold calling and sending emails which are excellent ways to generate quick results.

Ultimately, a good content marketing consultant should practice content marketing in their own business. That means publishing fresh content regularly to help their target audience (e.g. business owners, a marketing team interested in outsourcing or others who need help with digital marketing).

That’s why I’ve committed to publishing in-depth fresh content to this website. Some of my most popular articles include “How to Create a B2B SaaS Marketing Plan in 6 Steps” and “How To Increase Your SaaS Conversion Rate: 7 Practical Ideas.”

5) How will their proposed marketing campaign drive organic traffic? 

Putting resources into creating blog posts, LinkedIn status updates and search engine optimization is all designed to achieve growth for the business owner. While there are various ways to measure the value of a content marketing project, increases in organic traffic is an excellent metric to use. Some consultants may also use pay per click digital marketing to drive traffic to your blog content. If you have the budget, using pay per click traffic is an excellent way to make faster progress toward achieving your business goals.

Once you start to see consistent growth in your organic traffic from your existing content, the job is not done. That’s why email marketing is next on the list.

6) Do they have a plan to use email marketing to fulfill your marketing needs?

A marketing campaign that creates quality content that attracts site visitors that match your buyer persona is on the way to success. However, a good content marketing consultants don’t stop there. They should also provide guidance on email marketing and perhaps write your email campaign for you.

For example, the marketing expert you work with may propose an email campaign to grow sales for back to school season. In other cases, your email marketing campaign might focus on converting free trial users to paid accounts. Finally, if the business owner appears on a podcast or publishes a guest article, then spread the good news by creating an email campaign about that news.

7) How will they execute content creation?

When a business owner looks for a content marketing consultant, sometimes they imagine that they will only get blog posts and other content creation help. There’s no question that quality content plays a central role in growing your organic traffic. However, there are different ways to manage the content creation process.

How To Create Content Option 1: Strategy and Content Creation

Using their marketing experience, the consultant does everything. In this type of content marketing project, the consultant will determine your marketing goals, review your buyer persona and create content to attract customers. They can also help you to become a guest on a podcast as an added service.

How To Create Content Option 2: Content Marketing Program Design Only

In this situation, the consultant will leverage their marketing experience to design the content marketing program. This program may include backlink strategies to increase organic traffic, title ideas for a blog post, strategic content suggestions and other inbound marketing techniques. When you have this kind of inbound marketing plan to use as a starting point, you can ask your marketing team to create content or work with an external copywriter.

As a general rule, you should start with defining your content strategy before investing resources into content creation.

8) How will they use landing pages to convert site visitors to leads?

Would you be happy or angry if your website received another 100,000 website visitors next month? The correct answer is “I don’t know based on that information.” You need to know if those website visitors actually correspond to your target audience. Further, you need a process to convert online window shoppers to people who have raised their hand to receive additional email.

That’s where a landing page comes to play as an important content marketing tactic. At its most basic, a landing page offers something to your prospects in exchange for contact information. The subscriber receives something free (e.g. a quality report piece like a well designed PDF or a coupon code). The business owner receives permission to follow up with that prospect using an email campaign.

A landing page will not achieve unless it is integrated into a broader digital marketing plan. For example, how will you put the landing page in front of your buyer persona? You could use organic traffic and search engine optimization. As an alternative, you could focus your content marketing plan on podcast production. In either case, your marketing goal would be to create quality content and then direct people to your landing page for more information.

9) Do they have the courage to experiment with content strategy?

As a business owner, you probably want immediate results. You want the phone to ring right away. Sometimes, a content marketing consultant can make that happen with an email campaign. I’ve certainly made the phone ring for clients. Unfortunately, achieving results usually takes a marketing effort measured in weeks or months rather than days.

In many cases, a content marketing consultant needs to approach their work like a scientist. That means using different content creation techniques week by week. It means using a landing page to grow your email list. If you’re not sure why growing an email list is so important, I recommend you reading my previous post: Why Email Marketing Is Important To Your Digital Marketing Success.

Ultimately, the best content marketing consultant has a lot in common with Thomas Edison. The inventor was famous for trying many different versions of the light bulb idea finding a variation that succeed. While expertise can reduce a consultant’s learning curve, you should expect that it will take some trial and error before you start to attract more ideal customers.

10) Does the marketing expert use a consulting process?

Whether you choose to work with a marketing agency or a consultant, a consulting process is important for your success. A consulting process is a step by step master plan to combines clear direction from you as the client, your business goals and familiarity with the major digital marketing platforms like Google, search engines and social media. Before the consultants starts to make changes, they should spend some time seeking to understand your current approach to content and whether you have a strategic distribution plan.

When possible, many marketing experts will ask the business owner to speak directly with current customers. Such conversations are important to ground the buyer persona in reality. For example, let’s say the marketing expert is planning to create a series of five blog posts to help finance managers become more effective. As a starting point, it would be helpful to clarify the current needs and concerns of this buyer persona. With this research process, it is less likely that any blog posts you order will move you toward your business objectives.

Want To Work With Me To Build Your Content Marketing Strategy?

You want more qualified leads from Google. You’re putting hours of work into your marketing effort. You’re worried that you are going to miss achieving your business objectives. There’s a better way! Reach out with me to build a marketing plan that brings in leads month after month. Working with a consultant means that you don’t have to spend all day learning how to use marketing automation. Instead, you can have a discussion about your marketing goals, provide some clear direction on your buyer persona and then let the consultant handle the digital marketing details.

If you want to get in touch, fill in the contact form and we will discuss ways to achieve your marketing goals.

How To Calculate Cost of Customer Acquisition And 3 Ways To Improve It

Cost of Customer Acquisition: multiple people have to be involved.

Your cost of customer acquisition (CAC) is a critical SaaS metric to know. With this key business metric, you can make better decisions to increase monthly revenue. Without it, you have to rely on guesswork to hit the numbers on your business plan. Keep reading to find out how to calculate customer acquisition costs and ways to improve your scalability and profitability. When you know that you can spend $10,000 in a time period to generate $20,000 in total revenue, you will have a truly viable business model.

Calculating Customer Acquisition Costs

Your approach to calculating customer acquisition costs requires that you have reasonably robust data and then use customer acquisition cost formulas. Unlike cost of goods sold or payback period, customer acquisition cost keeps you focused on the cost to increase total revenue. When you know how much budget it takes to increase the total number of customers in your business in a given period, marketing planning becomes much more manageable. When you understand your customer acquisition cost, you’re much more likely to achieve your return on investment and payback period goals.

Example of Customer Acquisition Cost For A Monthly Time Period

Fancy SaaS App has a $500,000 marketing budget, and the marketing team has been working hard to acquire more customers. Last month, the company spent $50,000 on a marketing campaign to acquire 100 customers generating $100,000 in total sales revenue. In this case, the company’s customer acquisition cost was $500. They can use that number to evaluate performance in the current month and see if they exceed the industry standard. If they fall short, it might be time to make changes to their inbound marketing or review your acquisition strategy. For example, you might find that cost per lead has started to increase in your social media advertising campaign. In that case, you probably need to look at changing your sales process to include strategic partners and content marketing.

Successful companies never assume that their marketing staff has the final answer to lead generation. They are always looking for new ways to improve campaign costs, reduce cost per action, conversion rate, and improve cost per acquisition. Before you start to make changes to your operating expenses or sales costs, you need to calculate your current cost to acquire a new paying customer.

Formula for Customer Acquisition Cost For A Monthly Time Period: The Basic Version

As a starting point, consider the following customer acquisition cost formula, at its most basic, is a simple equation. You divide your total marketing spending by the number of customers you acquired. Finally, you also need to choose a time period for reporting, such as monthly or quarterly. That way, you can compare results in any given period over time (e.g., June 2020 compared to June 2019). If you have a self-serve business model, instead of a sales process with multiple meetings, where customers can buy online, this basic version works well.

For the formula to provide meaningful results, you must have high-quality data. For example, your marketing expenses need to be comprehensive – covering Google, Facebook, the effort to publish a blog post, other social media services, and everything you do to convert a potential customer to a paying customer. In the current month, you might find out that Google Ads has a far better return on investment than inbound marketing. In that case, you might ask for a larger marketing budget so that you can continue to grow your customer base.

Beyond tracking the cost of your marketing efforts, you also need to track the source of each paying customer. For example, are you getting customers from LinkedIn, email marketing, a blog post, or a specific landing page or some other advertising channel?  Without this information, it will be very challenging to grow your customer base predictably.

Tip: Running out of leads? You might need to explore some new SaaS marketing channels.

Formula for Customer Acquisition Cost: The Advanced Version Including Sales Expenses

If you run a simple, self-serve e-commerce business model, the basic customer acquisition cost formula is all you need. For example, if a customer can enter a credit card and buy the product from your website, your SaaS business is similar to an e-commerce business. However, many SaaS companies need advanced customer acquisition costs because they have a multi-step acquisition process.

Sometimes known as “fully loaded CAC,” this advanced approach to customer acquisition cost gives a more accurate picture of your total cost to acquire a paying customer. It is different from the basic version because it involves your total cost to get customers rather than just marketing spend. As a rule of thumb, fully loaded CAC includes the cost of the sales team, marketing spend (including the cost of inbound marketing), sales expenses, overhead costs, and all other marketing efforts like marketing salaries. By the way, make sure your sales costs calculation includes any expenses that your sales people spend, like sending gifts to potential customers.

By the way, calculating the cost of content marketing isn’t difficult. The important thing is to track it. If your marketing team handles blogging, publishing a podcast, and infographic creation internally, you need to use time tracking. Use a tool like Toggl and ask your marketing team to track how much time it takes to create each content marketing asset (e.g., 5 hours to create an advertising campaign, 16 hours per month for blogging, and so forth). Then you can analyze the cost of your marketing efforts in relation to the total new customers you attract in each time period.

Tip: HubSpot’s article on customer acquisition cost makes a great point that CAC should also include marketing and sales software, outsourced services, and overhead for marketing and sales.

A Key Lead Generation Question: Is Your Customer Acquisition Too High?

The best way to tell whether your CAC is too high is to measure it in relation to another metric. Specifically, we are going to look at customer acquisition costs in relation to customer lifetime value. If your CAC is less than customer lifetime value, you have a successful marketing and sales process. Congratulations! If customer acquisition costs are greater than customer lifetime value, there is a problem. If you have a small business, you will need to be more conservative in how much you spend because you may not have a free product available to attract the interest of your target audience.

There are two ways to improve your ratio of customer acquisition cost to customer lifetime value. Start by double-checking if your customer lifetime value amount is reasonable. For example, you may have a referral program where 20% of customers tend to bring in new prospects. In that example, there is a value in your referral that should be added to your customer lifetime value.

Next, take another look at your customer acquisition cost over time. If your customer acquisition cost has recently increased significantly, that situation may be acceptable. You might have decided to put more resources into high-quality customer success story videos in the past quarter. Creating those assets involves paying upfront while the resulting increased SaaS conversion rate will only appear later. What if you don’t have any long term marketing projects recently?

The most common other causes for high customer acquisition costs are poor tracking and ineffective marketing. In the case of poor tracking, you cannot track conversions. For example, your marketing may have generated 100 leads this month, but you only logged half of them. Improving the accuracy of your marketing and conversion tracking is the first area to improve. Finally, you have to face the reality that your marketing may have failed. That happens to many companies! It is especially common when you are first developing your go-to-market plan, launching a new product, or pitching to a new type of potential customer.

Importance of Customer Acquisition Cost: It’s One of The Best SaaS Metrics

In sales and marketing, customer acquisition cost (CAC) is one of the most exciting metrics to track. By tacking this measure, you can make better marketing budget decisions. You can add another $10,000 to a specific marketing channel with a high level of confidence of a good return. Further, a robust understanding of customer acquisition cost means you can have better conversations with lenders, the sales team, funders, and management.

Since there are some measurement difficulties involved in customer acquisition costs, make sure you understand your data. I wouldn’t want you to make irresponsible promises about growth based on a $1,000 CAC! When in doubt, I suggest taking a conservative approach where you assume that marketing costs will increase over time. This assumption is grounded in the reality that almost all marketing channels, especially pay per click advertising, have shown higher costs over time. If customer success plays an active role in growing total revenue, then including customer success costs into customer acquisition cost makes sense.

Since customer acquisition cost is usually calculated based on a monthly or quarterly time period, there is a time lag. That’s why you should also keep track of a leading indicator like cost per lead as you manage week by week.

Improving Customer Acquisition Cost: Your Top 3 Steps

There are multiple proven strategies to improve your customer acquisition. You have already learned a few of these methods. Use this section as your to-do list to get more conversions at a lower cost.

1. Improve your conversion tracking accuracy

Start by checking your website analytics to ensure that tags are in place. After that is confirmed, check that you have correctly set up goals. For those of you using Google Analytics, use this resource to set up a goal.

For LinkedIn Ad conversion tracking, consult this official article, “Set Up LinkedIn Conversion Tracking.” For Facebook Ad conversion tracking, use the following resource: Facebook conversion tracking.

2. Define and reduce the sales cycle

The amount of time sales take to close is an essential factor in your customer acquisition cost. For example, let’s say that you have a 30-day free trial. Most customers sign up for a paid account after 25 days. Coincidentally, your email marketing system sends out a message on the 24th day of the free trial telling users that their free account is about to expire.

In this example, you can reduce your sales cycle by changing your email marketing. Specifically, attempt an experiment where you send more emails in the second and third weeks of the free trial. This approach may cut your sales cycle down by a week or more.

3. Identify low performing marketing channels for reduction

Optimizing your customer acquisition costs also requires taking a look at costs. Put on your CFO hat for a moment and ask yourself if your marketing channels are generating results. For example, you might have tested Instagram for 60 days to see if you might diversify your SaaS marketing channels. Unfortunately, you saw almost no new leads or traffic from Instagram. Assuming your conversion tracking is correctly set up (see tip one above), it might be time to cut your losses on Instagram or reduce your time investment on that platform.

Redirecting marketing budget from low performing marketing channels to higher performing channels is one of the best ways to improve your customer acquisition cost.

What Should You Fix Next In Your SaaS Marketing

I recommend improving your SaaS conversion rate as the next step in boosting your total revenue without increasing your advertising budget. With a better conversion rate, you can increase the number of leads you get from each landing page, you can reduce your cost per lead over time. A better conversion rate in your upsell process us another way to grow total revenue from your existing customers is another great area to develop.

Why Email Marketing Is Important To Your Digital Marketing Success

why email marketing is important

You’re about to find out why email marketing is important to the success of your business. I’ve built a 6,000 subscriber email list and used it to sell products. If you want to grow your email list with less marketing effort, you’ve come to the right place.

Why Email Marketing Is Important: It’s All About ROI

Whether you run a small business or a significant corporation, email marketing consistently delivers robust results. Why is that the case? Effective email marketing is based on trust. A potential customer permits you to send them an email message whenever you want. Assuming your email list is well aligned with your target customer profile, you have a list of people who are ready and willing to hear from you regularly. The fact that people have given permission for you to contact them makes email different from every other digital marketing channel.

In terms of numbers and studies, the following studies and research show why email marketing is so crucial to the success of your business.

Social Media vs. Email Marketing: Why You Should Put More Effort Into Email Marketing

Social media platforms are appealing in many ways. They already have a large number of users. The digital advertising options offered by LinkedIn and Facebook are exciting. So, why not put all of your efforts there? There are a few reasons why email marketing should be your top priority in your marketing plan.

Avoid Digital Sharecropping In Your Digital Marketing

Imagine you are a farmer. Would you rather buy your own land and farm it or rent somebody else’s land to farm? Everything being equal, it is always preferable to have your land. By building up a list of followers on social media platforms, you are renting land in somebody else’s fields. With email marketing, you are much closer to owning a relationship with a customer. That means you don’t have to struggle to keep up with changing rules.

Higher ROI: Email Marketing Is The Number One Marketing Channel

When you compare email marketing and social media from a return on investment perspective, email marketing tends to win. Take note of the following findings to see the difference:

“ROI from email marketing now stands at just over £42 for every pound spent; a rise of almost £10 since the previous study. B2B organisations collectively report just under £36 ROI, but a lower proportion are measuring, compared to B2C organisations we surveyed — which score an average return of nearly £48.” – Marketer email tracker 2019, The Direct Marketing Association (UK)

“Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter.” – McKinsey research cited by Campaign Monitor.

If your small business is ever struggling on where to invest your next marketing dollar, choose email. It remains the fastest path to increased revenue.

Reduce Dependence on The Digital Marketing Giants (Facebook and Google)

Social media companies like Facebook have come under fire over the past several years. For example, there is a sad reality that these platforms have had a negative effect on political discourse. Further, these platforms have also had a negative effect on

Email Marketing: Four Metrics To Track To Improve Your Mailing List Conversion Rate

Whether you are sending email newsletters or promotional emails, you need a few key metrics to track your results. First off, start with the bottom line. Did your email generate sales? If not, did it move the needle in another metric linked to sales (e.g., engagement with our sales cycle)? If nothing is happening in terms of revenue, it is time to look at a different email measure. In case you’re unclear, we’re focused on sending promotional email from a service like Mailchimp or ConstantContact rather than using your personal inbox to send messages.

1) Response Rate Per Email Campaign

If your business relies on sales calls (or demo sessions to showcase enterprise software), tracking response rate or reply rate is the right email marketing metric to track. Email tools like Mailchimp can track replies automatically. If you have a small list of 100 email subscribes, counting replies manually works as well. As a benchmark, aim for a 3-5% response rate. That figure should be much higher if you are sending a promotional email to repeat customers.

2) Open Rate Across Marketing Campaigns

By aiming to achieve a higher open rate on the email you send, you stand a greater chance of achieving increased revenue. Let’s illustrate this metric with two examples:

Email 1 has a 10% open rate to 100 email subscribers. That means only ten people in your email database saw the marketing message. This is a terrible open rate, likely caused by a boring subject line.

Email 2 has a 25% open rate to 100 email subscribers, so 25 people in your email database saw your promotional email. You have a much greater chance of achieving increased revenue.

If your open rate is falling over time, there are two fixes to consider. First, look at the subject line that you use in your email newsletters. If they are boring and fail to offer a clear benefit, you will need to do better. If you need inspiration for email subject lines, check out this analysis, I wrote: Marketing For A 8 Million Member Loyalty Program: Shoppers Drug Mart Email Marketing Case Study.

3) Your Email Campaign Unsubscribe Rates

You should expect an unsubscribe rate above zero from your email users. After all, most subscribers are window shoppers rather than potential customers. Some people may join your list and decide that they don’t like your content or even your email template. It happens! The key to this measure is to track the trend. If unsubscribe rates were historically around 1-5% and they suddenly spike, then you have a problem on your hands.

4) Mobile Device Performance

According to a 2015 TechCrunch article, 75% of Gmail users access email on mobile. Since then, the mobile usage number has probably increased.

That is critical to know because the mobile device screen is small. Further, mobile device bandwidth is typically more limited than a full computer. Therefore, you should track performance (e.g., open rate and clicks) on mobile devices vs. computers. Your marketing tool should make it easy to preview your marketing email on a mobile device. If not, send a test message to yourself and open it on your mobile device.

Email Marketing Is One Of The Best Ways To Execute Tour Marketing Strategy

Your marketing strategy covers big picture questions like pricing, target customer profile, and positioning. You can use email marketing to execute your marketing strategy and to refine your marketing strategy over time. Here are some ideas to get started

Fine Tune Your Marketing Strategy With Market Research

In the digital marketing world, we have so many tools that it is easy to imagine that we know what potential customers will buy. With email marketing, we can ground that confidence in real data from your email users. For example, run one or two marketing campaigns by email to test which price point has the best conversion rate. Based on that information, you can verify which price converts best.

Go Deeper Than Brand Awareness

In your marketing strategy, you may make some assumptions about brand awareness, such as “3,000 people know about our brand.” Or perhaps something more refined like “our customers value our marketing automation app because it integrates with HubSpot. By running some marketing campaigns via email with a survey, you can see what your current and potential customers think. Based on that insight, you can update your email template, digital marketing messages, and spend your marketing budget more effectively.

Optimize Your Customer Acquisition Process

In digital marketing, there are many paths to a sale. You might be used to selling a SaaS product by offering a demo on a sales call. What if your small business customers prefer a free trial instead? Rather than changing your website copy, send an email message to your list and offer them a free trial (or a low priced free trial like the $7 trial used by marketing tool Ahrefs). You may find that this is a more cost-effective way to improve your customer acquisition instead of using sales calls.

Promotional Offers In Email Marketing: The Key To Increased Revenue

Yes, you can sell products and services directly through email. The key is to strike the right balance between sharing relevant content and sending offers regularly. As a general rule, at least 20-25% of your email messages should contain a clear call to action to buy something. The rest of the time, you can focus on sharing valuable content like links to new blog posts, podcast interviews, and tip sheets.

What About Email Automation For Customer Acquisition?

Once your email list is up and running, you may be wondering about email automation. Instead of doing everything manually, email automation rules can help you to sell more. Here are some of the ways that you can use email automation to get better results from your customer base.

1) Onboarding: Guide your customers through a welcome marketing campaign

Your past content marketing effort probably contains a wealth of resources. You might have published a great interview in the past like my interview with David Woodward at ClickFunnels (From $0 to $70 Million: Inside The ClickFunnels Marketing Machine). At the bare minimum, each subscriber should receive a welcome email. Your welcome email will usually give people access to a lead magnet and tell them what to expect. For example, will you send a weekly email newsletter? If so, set those expectations early so that your target audience knows what to expect from your email content.

2) Use Marketing Automation To Send Different Types of Email Content

As your email list grows, you can start to use marketing automation to improve your email marketing results. For example, set your marketing automation to tag email users that open five or more promotional emails. That level of engagement with email content signals that the user may be ready to buy. Consider direct response marketing tactics like sending a coupon code to get them to subscribe.

3) Use personalized marketing in your email content

While GDPR has made personalized marketing more challenging in some ways, personalization is one of the best ways to improve your email marketing results. At its most basic, collect the customer’s first name so that you can address them by name in the email. In B2B email marketing, experiment with gathering more data over time, such as company name, job function, and company size. Based on this information, you can segment different groups of potential customers. Whether you are the business owner or a marketing automation specialist, personalized marketing is one of the best ways to improve your results.

Improve your digital marketing in the next two hours

If you already have website visitors and a growing mailing list, there are a few ways you can get better results like a better click-through rate and increased revenue without increasing your marketing budget. Set aside your brand awareness goal for a while and get faster results for the business owner with these tactics.

1 Write a follow up email – a simple tactic for more profitable email marketing

A single email message does not make an email campaign! You need multiple messages to test different marketing ideas. When you send an offer, a coupon, or another call to action in your email marketing, write a follow up message. In many cases, adding a follow up email to your marketing campaigns will improve your results more than anything else.

What if your digital marketing efforts are aimed at multiple types of potential customers or buyer personas? In that case, pick the top three types of customers you want to focus on. Then, write a follow up email that suits each of them. Save these emails into your preferred email service provider so that you can easily use it to improve your results daily.

2 Send a referral request email to your repeat customers

As a business owner, referrals are probably your favorite way to get more customers. However, there is usually no referral strategy or process. We’re about to change that! Take some time today to write an email to a repeat customer (e.g., a SaaS customer who has been a paying subscriber for at least two months) and ask for a referral.

SaaS North Day 2 Notes: Positioning, SaaS Models & Marketing Beyond Google and Facebook

SaaS North 2020 continued to deliver fantastic value on day 2. Here are my notes and screenshots from some of my favorite sessions.

Session: Positioning for Advantage — Reaching Your Best Customers in Noisy Crowded Markets by April Dunford

Striking a perfect blend of pop culture references and business tips, Dunford’s presentation was excellent. Specifically, I found her tips on how to position against an established company fascinating.

For example, Dunford presented the “donut” content metaphor that LevelJump Software used – Sales Tech Explained Using Donuts – to illustrate its positioning:

Tip: For example, emphasize niche fit for your product (e.g., “CRM for investment bankers”), which makes you a better choice than a general-purpose CRM used by many different companies.

Tip: Worried about losing to giant companies in your industry? Look for other ways to describe them. For instance, instead of describing them as “established,” why not describe them as “legacy”? This subtle change in positioning is not going to win the sale, but it may be enough to open the door for a conversation.

If you want more about Dunford’s strategy, take a look at her website or her book: Obviously Awesome.

Session: What the future of SaaS means for your product strategy

With 17 years of experience in the SaaS industry, Hiten Shahh shared several great lessons. As a student of history, it was great to see that he drew lessons from historical organization charts. Shah makes the argument that “SaaS ate the org chart.”

Bottom line: “your marketing department now requires less headcount because of SaaS.” Hmm… I’m not sure if that is the case, but it is a fascinating claim. When you look back over the last decade, the explosion of marketing technology companies (from 150 in 2011 to 7000+ in 2019) support the view that marketing departments can accomplish much more than they could in the past.

The rise of All-in-one SaaS solutions.

For example, Mailchimp has significantly grown. It might be best known as an email marketing tool, but they have more services, like landing pages. We see the same trend occur with Google’s G Suite, which has multiple product offerings

Five ways to build a $100 million SaaS business

Are you charging $100 per month? That is a tough, long road to build $100 million ARR SaaS. If you want to make it to that $100 million in annual recurring revenue, your pricing needs to reflect that fact.

Power users are a critical SaaS market

This is a fascinating argument. It is a great point. Just think about all of the courses, books, and additional software for Microsoft Excel. There is probably a market of more than one million power users for Excel. For example, Hey and Superhuman are SaaS products for email power users. These types of power users tend to use these SaaS products in their work.

Introducing SaaS Remixes

Bundling and unbundling has been one way to build SaaS products. In Shah’s view, the bundle and unbundle strategy is mostly played out. Instead, he advocates looking at Asana as an indicator of the future. For example, take a look at products like Monday.com and ClickUp that offer an increasing number of task and project management capabilities.

Session: Sell Like A Marketer

Presented by Hana Abaza (Shopify), Dev Basu (Powered by Search), and Riaz Sidi (Sidi.io).

In this section, I’m blending rough notes from the speakers and my observations.

In the opening poll for the event, lead generation and conversion were the top concerns for marketers attending this session. Overall, lead generation and conversion are getting more complicated. It’s good to question whether there are deeper problems in your offering – is your product a nice to have or a must-have? It’s an excellent time to revisit the fundamentals like SaaS marketing channels and SaaS conversion rate. It’s effortless to gloss over fundamental questions in marketing when problems come up.

When in doubt for lead generation, look for bright spots that are working well and put more resources into those areas.

Change how to think about analytics. It is more than reviewing data in a Google Analytics dashboard. Make time to speak with your sales staff. Add a voice of customer widget to your website that gathers feedback from website visitors without a lead generation objective. Qualitative insights from these conversations add depth to your marketing analysis.

What are some marketing traits that SaaS sales professionals can adopt? Review demo call recordings using recordings from Gong.io or similar tools. Salespeople can adapt to the ongoing conversation much faster than a website. If you try to send a prospect directly from ad to a demo form, they are likely to bounce. You need more steps to the process.

As a marketer, apply the same bright spots filter to the insight you get from sales representatives. If low performers on the sales team complain about lead quality while the sales stars have other feedback, then you may not have a lead problem.

 If marketers get the negative feedback from sales about leads, question why that is the case. For example, you might have a lead that is not ready to buy. Also, it is helpful for sales staff to understand the levers that marketers can pull. For example, we can adjust targeting (e.g., you are getting small business leads vs. sales team wanting enterprise leads).

Eighty percent of SaaS companies have struggled to get through 2020 successfully, while a handful like Zoom and Shopify have done well. So, what can those companies do? Start with empathy better and listen to the problems they have. If a company laid off have of their employee base, your advertising strategy might need to change. Instead of thinking about prospects in a buy vs. not buy, focus your marketing on building email lists and retargeting audiences.

Session: End Your Marketing Reliance on Facebook & Google’s Duopoly

Presented by marketing expert Rand Fishkin, this was a fascinating exploration of the downsides of trying to win with Google and Facebook. In less an hour, the presentation covered plenty of fascinating points. Here are some of the highlights:

  • GDPR has had the result of strengthening Facebook and Google’s marketing strength by locking in their advantages. That’s one more good reason to look for alternatives to the digital marketing duopoly.
  • Use a market research tool like SparkToro or Similar Web to discover websites. Based on the presentation, I started a free account at SparkToro to research what websites SaaS companies are using.
  • 5 Step process to expand beyond Google and Facebook in 5 steps

This is marketing 101. The twist? Exclude Google and Facebook-owned properties from the list.

1 Figure out who your customers are

2 Find the messages that resonate with them

3 Uncover the sources that influence them

4 Discover where those audiences engage

5 Amplify messages that work in places they pay attention to

  • Social media marketing tip: content that keeps people on the platform tends to do best. Instead of asking for a retweet, Fishkin recommends asking people to leave a comment. Adding links to bring people to your website and away from the social media platform might not do as well.

Want to learn more insights from the SaaS North 2020 conference? Check out my notes from Day 1: 2020 State of SaaS: Notes from the SaaS North Now Conference (Sept 9, 2020).

2020 State of SaaS: Notes from the SaaS North Now Conference (Sept 9, 2020)

I was excited to join about two hundred people at the SaaS North virtual conference today. Here are some of the quick notes from the Sept 9, 2020, sessions. The conference series started five years ago, and I was pleased to attend the opening event. To get up to speed quickly, check out the SaaS acronyms article.

Opening Presentation From L-Spark

At the start of the event, L-Spark shared a few comments on the state of investment in the SaaS industry. There are some notable changes, like a growing interest in venture debt. It’s helpful to remind ourselves at the successes from earlier in the year like ApplyBoard that won $55 million in investment. For Canadian SaaS companies looking for investment, make sure you check out the screenshot below about the most active Canadian investors in Saas.

Nathan Latka’s Presentation on The Fastest Growing SaaS Companies of 2020

Nathan Latka’s presentation on the fastest growing SaaS companies of 2020 and how they did it was one of my favorite parts of the event. Out of all of the screenshots, Latka’s presentation on new hybrid SaaS models was especially impressive:

What if you’re not quite ready to change your business model? In that case, get back to the basics of using SaaS marketing channels to acquire more customers.

ZenBusiness – Professional Services + SaaS for higher net dollar retention

they grew from just over $1 million to more than $17 million in 2020. They have more than 70,000 customers in 2020. The company is focused on net dollar retention, a SaaS metric typically only considered in larger companies. According to Latka, selling services is an excellent way to boost net dollar retention. That makes sense to me when you think about the business model used by some of the largest technology companies in the world, like HubSpot. Boost net dollar revenue by selling services!

Rock Content – they grew 85% year over year with a marketplace plus SaaS model

They’ve gone from $3 million in 2018 to more than $24 million this year. The company makes $10 million through its marketplace (i.e., 40% of total revenue). In contrast, the company makes about $14 million in traditional SaaS subscription revenue.

Kovai – 12% year over year growth as a bootstrapped company

This company stood out because they built the company on a bootstrapped company. The company is like Loom in that it offers a freemium company. In the case of Loom, the company got 3% of free users to buy a paid account.

ClickFunnels – 180% year over year growth

I interviewed ClickFunnels before on the blog (From $0 to $70 Million: Inside The ClickFunnels Marketing Machine), and it was fascinating to see the company’s growth strategy. Specifically, the company can achieve an instant payback period. In the case of ClickFunnels, they sell books and other products, which helps them to recover their advertising cost right away.

Session: How COVID-10 is Messing With Metrics

By comparing April 2020 to August 2020, SaaSCan research found some surprising results in the SaaS industry. Companies with a monthly billing model generally did better than SaaS companies that require an annual contract. The panelists also commented that many customers shifted toward to monthly plans. Companies that fail to offer month to month plans generally had worse actual net dollar retention.

The story in actual logo churn is a bit different. Slightly over 50% of respondents had no logo churn. One side of the coin, company factors like industry vertical and billing model, had a significant impact on churn. That’s part of the story. It also matters what your company does! Many companies reported investing more resources into customer success, which led directly to improved churn. In other cases, SaaS companies have improved their results by changing the product (e.g., adding a use case directly related to the pandemic). Fundamentally, the value of your product drives retention even in times of economic turmoil.

Retention and churn measurement – everybody measures these factors, right?

Alas, the researchers found a surprising story here. Nearly half (44%) of companies are not measuring net retention. They also found that 24% of companies are failing to measure logo churn. Both of these measures tell critical facts about the health of the SaaS company.  

Session: Adjusting your marketing toolkit for the new economy, your new budget, and an all-digital world

Marketing in a post-pandemic world, are we there yet? IT was fascinating to hear how Gong has evolved because I’ve written about Gong’s content marketing experience (see the details here: 4 Lessons From Sales TO’s Sept 2019 Event). Here are a few of the quick notes I took from the fireside chat with Udi Ledergor, CMO at Gong.

Act Quickly.

Gong received some guidance from Sequoia, one of their investors. The companies that act quickly in a downturn tend to do the best. Within a week, Gong had a new strategy for sales, marketing, customer success, and product.

Changing the narrative.

Deal intelligence was a focus for the company in early 2020, and that was abandoned. The company also wholly changed their content calendar. They also completely changed their event calendar. The company had completed a multi-city roadshow in early 2020. The sales team was having difficult conversations such as CFOs at customers getting involved in discussions. For example, Gong’s typical use case had focused on onboarding new sales staff. Instead, the company showed how Gong is a productivity tool to increase results from your current staff.

Changing website headlines.

Early in the pandemic, the company changed its website copy from emphasizing “revenue intelligence” to “remote sales.” In this two-week website experiment, they had a 12% lift in conversion rate. That’s one of the best examples I’ve ever seen about the value of changing headlines!

Focus on what you can control

Gong didn’t have complete information about anything as the pandemic took hold. Just one or two factors in marketing. Specifically, the company focused on experimented with changes in the narrative, website messaging, and updating slide decks for the sales team.

New product features

In 10 days, Gong produced a new feature to monitor their sales teams remotely. This feature helps remote sales managers to understand what their remote sales staff are doing. This is an excellent example of adjusting the product to resonate better.

Sharing customer success stories in a different way

In the past, the company would take weeks or months to film video, edit it, and travel to customer offices. That approach to creating video customer success stories wouldn’t work. Instead, the company took a streamlined approach. Specifically, the company recorded some video interviews and took video from other sources to produce a video! It may not be the HD video that you’re used to producing, but it is worth it.

Virtual events are here to stay

Right now, it looks like Gong is committed to virtual events. What stood out to me is that Gong had great success early in the spring. After that event, they attended more than ten events to observe the different types of events, speakers, and platforms. As a result, the company launched a major virtual event in July 2020. Instead of doing one major traditional event per year, Gong is moving toward running four major virtual events per year.  The sales team loves this format of having multiple virtual events per year because they get a more consistent stream of leads. Gong also found that including more 1-on-1 networking space in virtual events.

That’s it for today’s report on the SaaS North conference. If you liked this post, please share it online!