Email is a great way to reach your audience. Because most people are checking their phones or desktop computers throughout the day, you’re putting your message in front of their eyes.

But not all emails are created equal. If they don’t get opened or result in the action you want, they’re a waste of time. Want to become an email marketing machine who generates more leads and click-throughs and forms meaningful connections with current and prospective customers? Follow these best practices.

1. Set Clear Objectives

The first step in a successful email marketing campaign is deciding what success looks like for you. Do you want to get more leads? Turn a bigger percentage of your leads into sales? Increase visits to your website?

Think of your first attempts at email marketing as an experiment. You wouldn’t just start filling beakers and mixing chemicals before you know what you hope to find out. The same is true with email marketing. Before you send a single email, you’ll need to set your goals, so everyone on your marketing team knows if they’ve succeeded — or if they need to go back to the drawing board for the next attempt.

2. Define Your Audience

Who are you talking to? Current customers? Potential customers? Distributors? Your own employees? Getting people to open and act on your emails is all about knowing what they want. And this may vary depending on the email topic. Some emails, like sales or product announcements, might make sense for your entire audience, while others, like changes to bulk purchasing discount structures, might only make sense for distributors.

Pro Tip: When building your list, include the NAICS code of your contacts so you can easily sort by industry. If you want to send an email to only food manufacturers, for example, a well-organized list will let you search for NAICS code 311 and see every address relevant address in your list.

One crucial step in sending to the correct audience is to segment your email lists. Marketing email clients like HubSpot, Zoho, and others will let you add information about the people on your lists, so you can send to specific groups. For example, if you needed to send an email to all your customers in California after an earthquake there, a well-segmented list will make that easy.

3. Craft Clear Calls-to-Action

Now that you know what you’re trying to achieve, it’s time to plan how you’ll influence email recipients to open your email and take action. An essential part of that is a call-to-action, or CTA. Think of a CTA as a road sign directing your readers to a destination, whether it’s an article, a product page, or a launch webinar.

You might, for example, tease the content of a blog with a little preview of the information it contains. Say your blog is about 10 reasons to buy your product. You could quickly summarize the first two reasons, then use a CTA that says “See the other reasons” to urge the reader to click a button that would take them to the blog post to read the rest of it.

It’s important to make sure CTAs match your marketing objectives and your audience’s needs. If you want to drive phone calls to your sales representatives, you’d want a CTA that leads them to a “Contact Us” page, not a “History of Our Company” page. The contact page will get them where they want to go (a conversation with someone who can answer their questions) and help accomplish your goals (more visits to the Contact Us” page.) So, be specific when writing your CTA: What will your reader get by clicking the button? Give them a good idea of what’s on the other side, and they’ll be happy to make the leap.

4. Be Helpful and Remember Your Audience

In a perfect world, your audience would be waiting with bated breath for our next email. In reality, people are inundated with emails: The average office worker receives more than 100 a day. So, you’ve got to offer them something that matters to them.

To do that, practice the “What’s in it for me?” rule. Every time you write an email, put yourself in the position of the person reading it. What’s in your email that matters to them?

Does it offer them information?

Does it answer their question? Solve a problem? Give them the information they need to feel more confident making a purchase? If your email is all about you and not about your reader, it’ll wind up in the virtual trash bin and won’t get the action you intended.

Does it offer them value?

Try giving something in every email you write. A coupon code to save on an upcoming purchase. A tip about product maintenance. An answer to frequently asked questions. Or a helpful how-to video. If your audience always gets something of value when they open an email from you, they’ll learn to open them instead of ignoring them.

Does it offer them peace of mind?

Pro Tip: Have a great testimonial? Turn it into a longer case study (or a video) that lays out how your solution helped a company. It’s a great tool to get potential buyers to trust you. Using real pictures of the customer helps, too.

Say the goal of your email is to get contacts you met at a trade show to schedule a demo of your product. You might include a few testimonials or case studies from users about how your product has helped them. It’s best to use the full names, companies, and titles of any customer who gives you a testimonial. (Just ask their permission first!)

The best testimonials are first-person stories where someone explains in their own words what their problem was and how your product helped them overcome it. Mentions of how your product or service helped them save time and money are especially helpful. Everyone wants to make more money and spend less resources getting there.

5. Stay on Brand

While it’s important to focus on your customers in your emails, it’s equally important to remember your brand. Your email should look and feel like it came from your business. It should use the correct logos, colors, and fonts so it fits in with the rest of your marketing collateral (your website and brochures, for example.)

And it should have a tone that readers expect from your business. If you use humor in your radio ads and on your website, readers will expect it from your emails and be disappointed if they receive a dry, boring block of text from you. (As a general rule, you can go a bit more conversational in emails, but it should still sound like your brand.)

6. Create Engaging Subject Lines

Pro Tip: Try A/B testing your subject lines to see which resonate best with your readers.

You might think that the most important verbiage is the body of your email. But the subject line is the most valuable real estate in the entire email. It signals to the reader why they should open it —or ignore it.

So, make your subject lines count. The reader should immediately be able to tell that the email is relevant to them, or they won’t click. So feel free to tease about inside content or create witty, offbeat subject lines, but always remember who you’re talking to. You could write the most clever, punchy subject line ever, but if your target audience doesn’t get it … it’s not going to work.

7. Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Emails

Congratulations, you’ve sent your email! Now it’s time to see how it performed. Using marketing email platforms like Zoho, HubSpot, or Pardot, you can see data like:

    • Open rate: The percentage of recipients that opened the email.
    • Click-through rate: The percentage of recipients that clicked on a link in your email.
    • Forwards: How many people forwarded the email to another person.
    • Bounce rate: The number of emails you sent that were not accepted by the recipient’s email server. This could be because of spam settings or other factors.
Pro Tip: Wait a few days to a week after sending to analyze the data. Not everyone opens emails as soon as they receive them.

After you see how your email performed, you can tweak elements of it for your next send. Each email you send is an opportunity to try something new and see how each individual change impacts your open rates and other performance indicators.

Email Marketing for Manufacturers: Lessons We’ve Learned

Skimmable Is Best
People don’t want to read a block of text to get the information they need. They want to find it quickly and move on with their busy day. Restructuring how our emails looked to make them easier to skim (for example, using more subheads, less text, and more images to easily move the eye down the page and breaking up long passages with bullet points) helped us increase our engagement metrics.

Let the Right Ones In
We also learned that not one solution fits all. Sending one email to everybody wasn’t working for us, so we segmented our send lists to easily target the right sections of our audience for each email and got much better open rates.

Make Them Want More
Another lesson we learned was about the importance of subject lines. Creating more engaging subject lines that promised at the content of the email increased our open rates.

An Example of a Successful Email

This example from a fictional manufacturer to a distributor showcases many of the best practices of great email marketing.

E-mail Marketing Diagram

Now that you have the right tools and insights, you’re ready to get started growing your business with email marketing. Just remember, no email will be perfect. The goal is to constantly test elements of your emails to see what works best for your audience.

Ready to explore more aspects of digital marketing for manufacturers?

Our e-book is the guide you need.

Digital Marketing Strategies for Manufacturers