While the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s amazing how far-reaching the effects of a global health crisis truly are. For businesses, the pandemic even affected how companies sell and promote their products and services, including how they use email marketing.
When quarantines began in the United States in March 2020, companies quickly pivoted to digital communications with consumers, and email marketing volume skyrocketed according to Validity’s Disruption: How the 2020 Pandemic Changed Email research report. Sending volumes have yet to drop back to pre-pandemic levels, and that means people’s email inboxes continue to be inundated with messages every day.
At the same time, companies were less careful in terms of who they sent email messages to. More companies mailed to untested mailing lists and dormant mailing lists according to Validity’s research with little or no segmentation and message customization. As a result, deliverability went down and spam complaints went up.
As you’re reviewing email marketing trends for 2021 and developing your email marketing strategy for 2021, it’s important to understand what adjustments you need to make as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. What your cannabis or cannabis-related business did last year may not work this year if you don’t make some changes to adapt with the environment around you.
With that said, following are some key things you should do in 2021 to ensure your email marketing is successful post-pandemic:
1. Test and Adapt to Stand out Among High Email Volumes
According to Validity’s research, email volumes remain high post-pandemic. In fact, they’re expected to continue to grow. That means the battle to get noticed in the inbox is harder than ever.
While email engagement increased in the early months of the pandemic, it has returned to pre-pandemic levels according to Validity’s data.
Bottom-line, testing is more important than ever. With mail volumes high and engagement at pre-pandemic levels, companies need to send highly relevant messages to laser-targeted lists to get noticed in the extremely competitive inbox.
2. Consider Different Sending Schedules
A particularly interesting finding in Validity’s research is related to sending schedules. As people moved to work from home or work more diverse schedules during the pandemic, marketers saw shifts in the best times to send email messages to get the most engagement.
Pre-pandemic, sending in the morning was considered a best practice, but the peak send time to get the most opens during the pandemic was between 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Similarly, before the pandemic, sending messages at the top of the hour was not considered ideal, but during the pandemic, engagement increased for messages sent at that time.
The key is to test different sending days and times to find what delivers the best results for your campaigns with each specific audience. If your tool offers automated send time optimization features (by list or by individual recipient), as the email marketing tool in the Cannabiz Media License Database does, then use it so your messages are sent at the best possible times based on recipients’ prior engagement behaviors.
3. Be Exceptionally Careful of Spam Tactics
During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, companies were more likely to take bigger risks in terms of sending to lists they purchased, rented, or didn’t fully test and vet. As a result, their messages raised spam flags that hurt their sender reputations.
In a nutshell, that means the deliverability of their future campaigns to any lists they use will be limited because mailbox providers have identified them as spammers.
You don’t want that to happen to you, so always use reliable list sources that can guarantee you won’t send campaigns to any spam trap email addresses. During the pandemic, Validity reports that spam trap hits skyrocketed, including:
- Recycled Traps: Very old email addresses that were abandoned for so long that the provider has repurposed them as spam traps to detect, identify, and block spam messages.
- Typo Traps: Email addresses that include misspellings, most often in the domain part of the address like [email protected] or [email protected]
- Pristine Traps: Also referred to as honeypot traps, these are email addresses created for the sole purpose of catching web scrapers whose spambots scrape content from websites, including email addresses. Often, these email addresses are hidden in the code of web pages.
Today, spam trap hits have dropped to pre-pandemic levels, but the damage was already done for many senders. In addition, you can bet mailbox providers, like Gmail, Outlook, and so on, are looking very closely now. Their algorithms update every time you send an email marketing message, so it’s crucial that you’re very careful and only use your own opt-in lists or highly reliable data sources for sending.
4. Invest More in Email, Content, and Messaging
The old-fashioned spray and pray method of email marketing doesn’t work anymore. In fact, if you simply send generic messages to bulk lists, not only will you not get the results you want, but you may end up with a bad sender reputation and see more and more of your messages land in recipients’ spam folders.
Today, what works in email marketing is sending relevant content to small, hyper-targeted lists of people. That’s how you stand out in the inbox and increase open rates in 2021.
The best way to do it is to invest more into your email marketing budget, which includes the tools you use, the person who strategizes and manages your email marketing programs, the person who writes your messages, the person who designs your messages, and so on.
Email marketing works, but you need to make an investment to get good results.
5. Pay Attention to Email Marketing Best Practices
Don’t forget email marketing best practices. If you don’t know them, take some time to educate yourself or see #4 above and invest in working with people who understand the rules and best practices. With email inboxes more crowded and mailbox providers watching closely, this is not the time to cut corners or take risks.
Take the time to create your buyer personas, segment your lists effectively, and write amazing content for your campaigns. Test, track your results, and make adjustments as needed.
Email marketing is a long-term strategy in 2021 that enables you to attract and nurture leads over time so they become customers and loyal brand advocates. Sending one sales messages and giving up is a recipe for failure. Instead, you need a strategy first in order for email marketing to work for your company.
Key Takeaways about Email Marketing Post-Pandemic in 2021
The biggest takeaway is that inboxes are overflowing, and the best way to stand out is to customize your messages based on who the recipients are. Generic messages to bulk lists not only don’t get the results companies want, but they also could get you flagged by mailbox providers as a spammer, which will hurt the deliverability of all of your future messages.
Follow the recommendations above to stay out of the spam folder, get in the inbox, and get positive results from your email marketing investments in 2021 and beyond.
Want to see how you can connect with cannabis and hemp license holders with email marketing and more tools using the Cannabiz Media License Database? Schedule a demo to see how it can help you grow your business!
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.