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Content Marketing Meets Email: Examples & Inspiration for Marketers

You probably know you should be using content in your email program, but where do you start? In this article, we’ll cover:

  • How to lead with content to keep subscribers active
  • How to increase sending frequency with content-rich emails
  • How to mix content and commerce in email
  • How to use drip campaigns to stay relevant

It’s critical to respect your audience by creating great content. But what’s next? Many of our clients approach us with the question of how to incorporate content marketing into their existing email campaigns.

We certainly know that engagement drives conversion, but the path between storytelling and your cash register can feel like a circuitous one. Email, typically the most valuable arm of your owned media, also drives a higher level of engagement than any other marketing channel at your disposal; your content is likely the most interesting part of your marketing strategy, so it’s paramount to use it effectively with your hard-earned email subscribership.

Here are a few tips for utilizing both custom and licensed content for maximum email engagement.

1. Lead with content to keep subscribers interacting with your campaigns

First, let’s talk about how to incorporate content into your email messages. Whatever the product or service you’re trying to sell, it’s safe to say that a very large percentage of your email subscribers (97% or so) aren’t actively shopping for your product at any given time. While that vast majority may have some interest in your new product line, they have no reason to continue opening (or interacting with) your emails if you’re not offering anything beyond a sales pitch.

With that in mind, consider leading with a story instead of your sales message. Put the content above the fold, and use it to create a compelling subject line for your email send. The example here from Arc’Teryx links to a landing page full of the best content they produced all year.

Arc’Teryx “Best of 2016” email, sent December 28, 2016.
Accessed via Milled.

You don’t have to abandon product altogether or bury it at the bottom of the email, but don’t be shy about putting an interesting article first and foremost. It gives a larger portion of your list a reason to engage with your email delivery, and customers who are in the market to buy right now will still be able to do so.

2. Consider increasing send frequency with standalone content emails

How often do you actually have a new product launching or a promotion worth talking about? If you’re sending emails once or twice per week, it’s easy to run out of things to say and drive subscribers off of your list with a repetitive message. This is especially the case for retailers, where simply sending “buy more stuff” once a week can churn list members as quickly as you’re able to acquire them.

Marmot has seen great results by sending two emails per week, one solely product-focused and one solely content-focused. While we’d like to see further A/B testing of mixed messages in this particular case, on a basic level this allows them to email twice as often as they would otherwise, and the content emails see a nearly-identical open and click rate as their product-specific counterparts. This is a great opportunity to make use of licensed content, mixing your custom articles with syndicated pieces for robust, appealing emails.

Marmot’s “Training for Ski Season” email, sent November 5, 2016
Accessed via Milled.

As above, most customers simply aren’t in the market to buy a product every single week, and some products (for example, Yakima car racks) have such a long purchase cycle that even your happy repeat customers aren’t reaching for their wallets every time they see your emails. Keep your brand at the front of their minds, and the top of their inboxes, by sending great content.

3. Mix your content message and product or service message thoughtfully

This seems self-explanatory, but it’s something a lot of brands struggle with: how do we incorporate our products into content-heavy emails? This opportunity can be easy to overlook, but it helps make the connection between content and your bottom line. Rapha has always done a great job with content (even in print), but they also always have product in the mix.

Rapha’s “City Heights” email, sent November 11, 2016
Accessed via Milled.

Matcha’s recommendation is to simply choose products or services which are relevant to the content you are producing or licensing, then incorporate these in the same email.

For example, if you’re a retailer selling jackets, pair an article about the best backcountry ski tours with an appropriate selection of ski apparel. If you’re a destination marketer selling a travel itinerary, pair content about the best spring waterfall hikes in your area with the service you’re pitching.

4. Create post-purchase drip campaigns around relevant content

This one is a little trickier to set up, but one of the most effective at turning one-time customers into repeat customers.

Let’s say your company sells running shoes, and you just sold a pair of trail running shoes to someone who lives in Birmingham, AL. What now? Well, if you’re syndicating content from Matcha, you can send them an email suggesting articles about the best trail running in Birmingham.

Now, you don’t have to create specific campaigns which are quite this narrow; segmenting by place + activity can be a lot of work. It’s easier, though, to email mountain biking content to someone who just bought a helmet at your online store, or to email outdoor activities in California to someone in San Francisco who just bought a fleece jacket. Focus on areas and activities which are important to your business, then think about how you can use content to engage those customers in a unique way.

Good content is good brand-building, and the reasons to incorporate content marketing in your regular marketing emails are the same reasons you sought to create content in the first place.

Tell your brand’s story, and you’ll connect with customers in a way that not only makes them more likely to purchase your product or service, they’ll be far likely to purchase again in the future.

Matcha makes content marketing simple. We provide licensed and custom content to fit your budget. We built software to make publishing to your site a simple process requiring no more than a few clicks of the mouse. Our experts can help you source, distribute, and measure the impact of your content marketing program. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on marketing travel and the outdoors or you can learn more about Matcha, here.

Featured image provided by Rapha’s emails consistently feature high-quality content.

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