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3 Ways to Use Email Marketing to Build an Audience

In 2020, it’s no surprise to think about email marketing as a channel to drive sales. But if all you send your subscribers are sales-focused emails, you will quickly tire them. They will end up ignoring your emails or unsubscribing, both of which mean a waste of resources.

To make sales with email marketing you first need to build an audience. Doing so requires much more than sending emails with discounts and company updates; it requires to use email as a brand-building, loyalty-inducing marketing channel.

If you do it right, you will see your open rates and click-through-rates (CTRs) grow exponentially, all thanks to the loyalty you’ve earned over time.

In this article, I will share three ways email marketing strategy can help you build a loyal audience.

Deliver Your Brand’s Promise

No matter the size of your email list, you need to use your email marketing strategy to deliver on your brand’s promise.

Your brand’s promise is what your ideal customer can expect to get from your unique value proposition.

If your brand is all about selling environment-friendly clothes, then your emails need to talk about how your company creates these clothes, why it does so, and how your subscriber can also take a green attitude towards their lives.

Allbirds is an ecommerce company that sells wool shoes—except it’s much more than that.

If their brand promise was just that was just to sell wool shoes, that wouldn’t generate much interest. Instead, their brand promise focuses on sustainability and comfort. And so they explain it in their welcome email.

The goal is to show them what your brand is all about and why your subscribers should feel drawn to it. Instead of sending your subscribers information that just benefits your company, put their needs and problems at the forefront of your brand’s communication strategy.

This doesn’t mean you need to forego your commercial needs; it just changes the positioning of your communication strategy.

Soon after signing up, Fanatics sends an email that talks about the benefits of their rewards program. But unlike what other brands may do, they position their subscribers as the hero of the message:

As a subscriber, that spikes my interest right away. They’re not just saying “get in the rewards program and save money;” they say that if I do, I’ll get access to exclusive deals and get closer to my idols. The images shown also help to double down on the message.

Your customer research should guide this email automation. You want to know what one thing your subscribers need from your company.

Look to understand the underlying reason why someone would interact with your brand and what it offers to them. Then use your email to bring that value through your emails before you try to sell them something.

Create Unique Content

A brand’s email marketing strategy is often used to expand the reach of the editorial content calendar. In this context, email marketing works like a megaphone: the content is first published and then expanded through email.

However, instead of just sending broadcasts every time you write a post—especially if that post is about company news your subscribers have little interest in—use it to create unique content that’s only published to your subscribers.

This email I got from a YouTuber who runs a personal development channel is the perfect example. Instead of selling me something or pushing me to his videos, he just tries to connect and explain an idea from one of his videos.

By creating unique content for your email list, your subscribers will feel like they’re being rewarded for subscribing. Even if your company doesn’t send unique content every time, doing it sporadically with the intention to connect with your subscribers, will be an effective way to humanize your brand and build your audience.

Esri, a geographic information system software company, isn’t typically the company that you’d associate with this type of communication. Yet, they consistently publish content directly into their emails.

(Image Source: Really Good Emails)

In contrast with blog content, email content has to be much shorter. A Boomerang study found the ideal length for an email is between 50 and 125 words. Constant Contact found that 20 lines of text—200 words approximately—is the maximum length to get the highest open rates and CTR.

Whether you write 50 or 200 words, or maybe even more, the real goal is to deliver value to your subscribers.

  • Do you have short tips to give? Write them down and send them to your email list.
  • Do your subscribers need to know something special about your product? If so, share it with them.
  • Do you want to get to know your subscribers? Ask them questions.

No matter if you’re the owner of the company or a mid-level manager, you want to think about your email marketing strategy as yet another channel where to create content.

Reward Your Loyal Subscribers

Loyalty is developed through a relentless commitment to your customer. Providing rewards doesn’t mean you’re trying to buy your subscribers’ loyalty. On the contrary, you’re giving them a special treat because they’ve been loyal. In this context, a reward can include:

  • A one-time time-sensitive discount
  • A free service (e.g., audit, checkup)
  • A small gift (example below)

In some cases, you can even focus on acknowledging your customer’s loyalty, like Davis’s Tea does with this incredibly targeted email.

(Image Source: Really Good Emails)

To find more loyal subscribers, you first need to create segments based on the behaviors that mirror your best advocates.

The specific attributes will vary a lot on your business model, size, and personal preference. But in most cases, these will include:

  • High open rates
  • High CTR rates
  • Replies
  • Content consumption (e.g., if they downloaded an ebook)

For example, someone who has opened the last ten emails sent, or someone who has opened every email sent in the last 30 days can be considered as a loyal subscriber. Once you have developed a list or set of tags to describe the loyal subscriber, you can then define the reward.

Ideally, you want to give out something cost-effective but relevant and useful for your subscribers. But your subscribers will love you for it. And their loyalty will only skyrocket from there.

It’s Time to Build Your Loyal Email Audience

If you want to gain their trust and loyalty, you will need to implement these tactics and trust the process. It will take patience as your audience starts to build and open up, and when that happens, you’ll see the difference in your performance metrics.


Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content marketer who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like AddThis, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, Shopify, and many others.