Email marketing trends for 2021 across all industries (including the cannabis industry) are heavily influenced by the impact of COVID-19 throughout 2020. As more people worked from home in the past year, entire states went on lockdown, and quarantining became the new normal, communication changed – including email communication.
Email inboxes became more flooded than ever, yet email communication also became more important than ever. For marketers, communications won’t go back to pre-pandemic status in the near future (whether by choice or by necessity), and perhaps they never will.
As a result, marketers need to adapt, and understanding email marketing trends for 2021 is an important step to improve email communications and marketing results. Therefore, following are five key email marketing trends for 2021 that all cannabis businesses and cannabis-related businesses should consider while developing email marketing strategies and plans for the next 12 months.
1. Greater Focus on Finding the Right Tools and Resources
Email marketing isn’t easy. It takes time and a deep understanding of copywriting, consumer behavior, design, data intelligence and manipulation, strategic planning, and more. As more businesses had to rely on email marketing in 2020, a larger number of businesses of all sizes realized just how time-consuming and highly strategic email marketing truly is if you want to get good results.
Of course, there is always a focus on return on investment with any marketing tactic. Email marketing has always been a justifiable investment because it’s inexpensive compared to other marketing investments. As a result, businesses often invest in fewer resources and employees to manage it.
Unfortunately, this is a recipe for failure when it comes to email marketing. You could give anyone keys to a car and they could probably drive it, but they won’t all have the same skill, knowledge, or abilities to win a race. And they may not even be driving comparable cars – just as you may not be using a comparable email marketing tool to your competitors.
The phrase, “You get what you pay for,” applies not just to the email marketing tool you choose to use but also to the people you hire to use the tool and maximize your return on investment.
For example, there are a few cannabis license holder databases available, but none has the depth of information or the quality of reliable data that the Cannabiz Media License Database has.
Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Cannabiz Media’s Cannacurio podcast to hear interviews with our clients or read the Client Spotlight articles to hear what clients have to say about the Cannabiz Media License Database.
2. Improving Send Time Optimization to Boost Recipient Engagement
With email inboxes getting full faster, send time optimization is essential to ensure your email marketing messages are actually seen by recipients. Furthermore, send time optimization is critical to help you send your campaigns when recipients are most likely to open and engage with them.
Engagement is so important for two reasons. First, the more that people positively engage with your messages by opening them, clicking links, filing them in folders, forwarding them to other people, and so on, the less likely your future email marketing messages will be routed to recipients’ spam folders by email service providers (ESPs) like Gmail, Outlook, and Apple Mail. ESPs equate a lack of engagement with unwanted messages, and to ESPs, unwanted messages are spam. It’s that simple.
Second, engagement is crucial to your email marketing results. If people don’t open your messages and click on the call-to-action (CTA) links in your messages, then you won’t get the conversions you need for a positive return on investment.
Keep in mind, conversions happen across the buying cycle and marketing funnel, such as middle of the funnel nurturing conversions like downloading an ebook to learn more about a topic related to recipients and your business or bottom of the funnel conversions like requesting a software demo or contacting a salesperson.
With all of that in mind, the importance of send time optimization in 2021 cannot be understated. Be sure to choose an email marketing tool that offers advanced send time optimization features.
For example, the Cannabiz Media License Database offers two advanced send time optimization features: list-based optimization and recipient-based optimization. Both use artificial intelligence and machine learning based on your account and your prior recipients’ behaviors to ensure your email campaigns are sent at the best time to maximize opens and engagement.
3. More Focus on Integrated Lifecycle Marketing (Including Email Marketing)
Today, consumers expect a seamless brand experience from one experience to the next. This includes email marketing. Therefore, email marketers in 2021 will work closely with diverse team members to ensure the brand experience happening in email campaigns is consistent with all other brand experiences.
Email marketing has become a vital part of the overall brand story, so it’s essential that you invest time into fully understanding your current and prospective customers in order to create the right brand experiences for each target audience.
The first step is to create buyer personas for each target audience within your broader current customer and prospective customer audiences. Once you understand who you need to communicate with, you can segment your email lists accordingly and create the most relevant, valuable content possible for each segmented target audience.
Ideally, integrated lifecycle marketing follows consumers as they move through the consumer buying cycle from not even knowing they have a problem that needs to be solved all the way through to making the final purchase decision and beyond.
However, you can’t create an integrated lifecycle marketing strategy if you don’t know who you target audiences are, so create your buyer personas!
4. More Consideration of Email Fatigue and Inbox Overload
As Beatriz Redondo Tejedor, Head of Content at MailJet (owned by Mailgun), recently wrote, “To avoid a decrease in engagement metrics, companies will need to ensure they are adding value and sending emails their subscribers really want to receive.” This echoes the number one thing that Google wants email senders to do (and the top way to stay out of spam), which is to only send messages that people want.
Email fatigue was a problem before 2020, and now, it’s an even bigger concern. Inbox overload is common today, so businesses need to work harder to send messages that are highly relevant to laser-focused lists.
Relevance is the most important thing. List segmentation doesn’t mean dividing a list up into smaller lists and then sending everyone the same generic message.
Email service providers have declared themselves the gatekeepers to keep unwanted email messages out of people’s inboxes, so the days of sending generic messages to large lists are over. Not only will your results be poor, but email service providers will start to associate your sending domain with spam, which means more and more of your email messages will go to spam.
To stay out of spam, boost engagement, and get the best results from your email marketing, you need to send unique content that is customized to each niche target audience.
5. Increasing Importance of Emotional Connections Beyond Transactional Relationships
Transactional relationships are things of the past. Today, most businesses can’t survive on transactional relationships. Instead, emotional connections that lead to brand relationships built on trust are the key to winning in the marketplace in 2021.
“Long gone are the days in which marketing emails could just be a collection of sales pitches and overly promotional copy,” warns Mailjet’s Tejedor. She’s 100% correct. Sales pitches are inauthentic, and consumers won’t accept this kind of impersonal self-promotion anymore.
Instead, you need to develop an email marketing strategy that leads your audience through the marketing funnel by building brand awareness and trust, nurturing the relationship, and then asking for a sale.
Email marketing requires a customer first strategy in 2021 with every message adding some kind of intrinsic value to recipients’ lives.
Key Takeaways about Email Marketing Trends for 2021
Email marketing has grown in popularity and with the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020, it evolved a bit differently than anyone could have anticipated over the past year. To be successful in 2021, understand and adapt to the trends that will directly affect your results: find the right tools and resources, improve send time optimization, focus on integrated lifecycle marketing, be mindful of inbox overload, and build emotional connections.
If you’d like to see how the Cannabiz Media License Database can help you connect with cannabis and hemp license holders for sales and email marketing, schedule a demo and see how it can help your business grow in 2021 and beyond.
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.