Why and How to Use Content Marketing to Improve Email Relevance and Results

Let’s be honest: There is still a lot of bad email marketing going on. And it doesn’t require much to do a better job of it. I’m not saying everyone should be investing in the latest cutting-edge technologies, like in-app messaging or remarketing automation. I’m just saying we still inflict a lot of bad email on the world of subscribers. And there’s one easy way to stop doing so, and to offer up better emails every single time: content. And there’s one easy way to get better content into your email marketing program: content marketing.

Content is the king message on blue background

How important is content to email?
Over the course of many years at ClickMail helping clients to optimize their email marketing, we have learned that email marketing success is usually dependent on three factors in a breakdown of 40/40/20 proportions:

  • 40% audience (segmentation and targeting)
  • 40% content (offer and call to action)
  • 20% creative (design and images)

When you look at these ratios, it becomes obvious that what you say is as important as whom you say it to…and that means you need great content, even more than you need great design.

How do you create great content for your email marketing? Start with relevance, because if it’s not relevant, it’s not good.

Relevance matters not only because it provides targeted messaging. It builds trust too. According to recent research by Marketo, consumers have greater trust for messages that provide useful information without trying to sell them something. Consumers are also more trusting when content takes the time to walk readers through various paths to a decision. These are both hallmarks of content that is relevant and useful.

Which leads us to the importance of content…

The importance of content in email marketing
Last year when ClickMail partnered with Ascend2 to do a benchmark study on differences between very successful and not successful email marketers, we discovered that, of the marketers who considered themselves very successful, a whopping 55% named the creation of relevant content as the most effective tactic for achieving their objectives. Compare that to the second tactic to be ranked—personalized email messaging—which was named effective by only 17% of the survey respondents. Content was deemed the most effective by over half, and personalized email by less than one-fifth. Obviously, successful email marketers recognize the importance of relevant content in that success.

How to use content marketing for email
You’re probably thinking this all makes sense, but how exactly does one use content marketing to improve email marketing? First off, content marketing for email should fall within the bigger picture, meaning the content marketing strategy for your entire organization. Secondly, what content marketing really offers to email is the relevant content itself to draw from.

Sources for content ideas you can tap into right now
You might be wondering how you are supposed to come up with all of this content. If you already have a content marketing strategy in place, you can simply draw from that. If you don’t yet, check out these sources for potential content you can use as part of your email marketing program:

  • Read through your customer service forms for ideas, such as solutions to common problems.
  • Make a compendium of the best articles from your blog and deliver that as a digest to your subscribers.
  • Ask questions on Facebook for insight into what matters to customers.
  • Ask questions on Twitter.
  • Conduct surveys and use the statistics.
  • Check the FAQ page of your website and poll your customer service and sales teams to find out the questions they get asked most often.
  • Share a customer’s story in an article. Then post the article on your website and send them a link to it, so they can share it.
  • Mine existing content you’ve put together for other purposes. If it’s lengthy, cutting large amounts of content into smaller chunks gives you plenty of fodder for shorter emails.
  • Email content can be more than words. Photos or videos from your customers, product developers or sales teams have a visual appeal words can’t match.

(You can find a longer list of ideas here.)

The role of data
Then there’s the role data should play in your email marketing because some of the most relevant content of all is driven by data. Have you ever abandoned a shopping cart only to receive an email? Have you ever received an email because you had a subscription about to expire? These are circumstances where data-driven content is highly relevant and often highly effective. So why do so many organizations use canned responses that came out of the box? Stop missing the opportunity to include all kinds of relevant messaging in your email marketing strategy.

You can learn more about using content marketing to improve your email marketing with this archived webinar. It will give you plenty of ideas for content and content sources, along with some do’s and don’ts that will guide your processes as you use content marketing to improve your email relevance and results.

Marco Marini
CEO, ClickMail