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VideoBlocks has A/B tested millions of emails — and that’s just since 2013 when Bill Zhang joined the company as its director of lifecycle marketing. What has he learned? “Every rule that they say is a best practice, I can give you five examples of why it’s not,” he reports.

Testing is huge at VideoBlocks, which provides a subscription service for downloading stock video, backgrounds, and effects (its sister sites, GraphicStock and AudioBlocks, provide images and sound). In fact, being data-driven is a stated company value — and it’s this approach centered around data, testing, and iteration that’s helped build this fast-growing, multimillion dollar company.

Videoblocks Bill Zhang quote

“We test something and if it works, we go with it, even though it might be the most ugly creative or template,” Bill explains. For VideoBlocks, continuous email testing is a way to listen, find out what the customer wants, and keep steering towards more relevance — which, of course, is the key to successful email marketing.

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Are you letting your true colors shine through in your emails or are you too afraid to let them show?

Businesses often fall into the trap of making their first emails product-centric and come up short on personality. They throw a bunch of features, links, and stock words at recipients without securing them to the “why” driving their product and company — and that’s an opportunity wasted.

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Are you ever convinced by those winback emails that lament “We miss you!”?

That particular sentence makes me cringe. There’s the misplaced focus on the business, dismissing whether I’m missing anything or not. Plus, somehow the wording always prompts the thought that it’s not really me that they miss but my money.

LUSH Winback We Miss You Email

Winback emails aim to reactivate former users and customers, but they often miss the mark because they fail to connect with and feel relevant to its recipients. It’s an awkward stage — you’re reaching out to people who have recently shown that they might not like you or want to stick around. But that’s no reason to discard those relationships or risk throwing away value and trust that you worked hard to build along the way.

So how do you get back in touch without coming off as selfish or desperate? You have to think about who you’re trying to motivate and what’s in it for them. And when it comes to reengaging trial users for SaaS and subscription businesses, that isn’t always easy.

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Once upon a time, email marketing was all about email blasts. You’d set up a single message to broadcast to the masses, rinse, and repeat.

Now, this “batch-and-blast” method of bulk-sending promotions willy-nilly to any email address you can get a hold of is obsolete. Not only are there technical capabilities to easily segment and target our messages, we’ve developed a smarter understanding of effective email marketing.

Despite this, the lingo and attitudes of batch-and-blast haunt the way many people still talk and think about email today. Think about it: “blasting” people with email or employing the ol’ “spray and pray” approach uses the language of violence and recklessness. Marketing isn’t a war but a process of persuasion, getting people on your side rather than assaulting them.

The supposed collateral damage of batch-and-blast actually harms your email marketing performance. It subtracts rather than builds goodwill, it’s counterproductive to your deliverability, and it’s just not a smart way to work.

So what’s the modern, more peaceful, model for how to approach email marketing?

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Are you preaching to your email choir?

Let me explain. While the phrase “preaching to the choir” usually suggests a waste of time trying to convince people who are already on your side — when it comes to marketing, most people have the opposite problem. They’re trying to broadcast their message to anyone and everyone — and that’s a waste of time and goodwill.

One of the most counterintuitive laws of persuasion is that the more you try to appeal to everybody, the more you end up connecting with nobody. Aiming for the indiscriminate masses dilutes your message. Writer Chris Guillebeau puts it well:

Too many marketers are like panhandlers. “Hey man, spare some change? Check out this great offer I’ve got … it’s just what you need, you’ll love it, really.”

Segmentation is the not-so-secret key to email marketing success, because it’s all about preaching to your choir. Segmentation is when you group people based on certain shared characteristics in order to customize your message to strike a chord. It’s a way to personalize your communication that’s still scalable.

Using segmentation to communicate with instead of communicate at your audience simply works to improve metrics across the board. Your opens, clicks, and conversions go up while unsubscribe and spam rates go down. Because you’re sending better targeted emails, you also end up sending less email. That means happier subscribers, better deliverability, and increased revenue.

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