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3 Epic Email Marketing Case Studies that Will Revolutionize Your Marketing

Email marketing is the king.

The king of online sales that is.

Even with the attempted coup d’etats by social media, webinars, and content marketing, email still reigns supreme.

The problem is, most people have no idea what they are doing with regards to email marketing. There’s a lot of advice out there, but not enough actionable email marketing case studies you can imitate for your own results.

If you don’t believe me, just open up your inbox right now.

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If it’s anything like mine, then it is probably flooded with hilariously inadequate emails so poorly written and designed that they couldn’t sell fat loss pills to Peter Griffins.

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But, occasionally, you find a hidden gem amidst all the garbage.

That rare email that is written so persuasively that it could sell anything to just about anyone.

So what is it that sets these emails apart?

What separates the wheat from the chaff so to speak?

Well, that’s exactly what we are going to address in this article.

Today, we are going to examine how a few key companies have been redefining the game of email marketing for all of us…

And how you can do the same.

Sound like something you might be interested in?

Let’s get into some successful examples you can use in your next email marketing campaign.

And in the famous words of the Black Eyed Peas… “Let’s get it started in here!

1. Charity Water – Increasing Email Frequency Increased Donations by $800,000

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Most companies, especially charities and non-profit organizations operate their email marketing campaigns under the “set it and forget it” mindset.

After a transaction or donation has concluded, clients will typically be sent to a thank you page and receive a short “Thank You” email.

This email typically does nothing other than to provide the client’s transaction details, thank them for their purchase, and maybe try and get them in on an upsell.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, there is a better way.

A new non-profit, Charity Water, has been absolutely crushing it in the email marketing game by taking an unconventional approach to their follow up emails.

Instead of following the traditional route, Charity Water has created an email campaign designed to take their donors on a journey.

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With any charity, there is a long road that a donation takes from the time it leaves the donors wallet to the time that a project is completed.

For starters, the money has to be sent to partners who are in the field and used to source supplies, permits, and transportation for volunteers and staff.

Then, projects can take anywhere from 6-18 months depending on the scope and size of the work the organization plans on doing.

And most charities leave their donors out of this process completely.

Not Charity Water.

They send you regular email updates explaining where your money was being used and how much progress has been made on the project.

They even show you which country your donation is impacting, photo updates from the project site, and regular information on progressions within the charity itself.

You become a part of the story.

Seems like a pretty cool way to incentivize repeat donations and build strong relationships with your donors right?

More than you know.

By using the above method along with some other creative marketing efforts, Charity Water was able to raise nearly $30 million in 2014, according to their annual report.

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That’s pretty unheard of for most charities.

So what is the takeaway here?

How can you use the expertise of Charity Water to increase the success of your own email marketing even if you do not run a charity?

How You Can Apply This to Your Business

The biggest takeaway that I have gleaned from Charity Water’s email campaign is that you need to build a strong relationship with your customers through regularly connecting with and updating them.

For many of you this will mean increasing the frequency that you send out emails.

But things don’t stop there.

This isn’t just about sending out more emails and trying to sell them on some new product or service.

It’s about building an authentic relationship and creating customers for life

I know that this may seem a little bit mystical and woo-woo, so let me give you a practical example of how you could use this in your business.

Let’s pretend that you run an online fitness company and you are selling your product the “8 Week Fat Loss Challenge 2.0.

You could take the traditional route and send one email thanking your customer for their purchase and telling them about how their life will never be the same.

Or, you could take them on a journey and all but guarantee a lifelong relationship.

By taking a page out of the Charity Water handbook, you could try out the following strategy.

  • Send one email presenting a challenge to all of your clients at the beginning of the week (e.g. most weight lost, biggest athletic improvement, best diet)
  • At the end of the week, send out a follow-up email showing the challenge winner and showcasing progress pics from other clients, finishing the email with a tip or trick to help them get more out of your product.
  • After they have completed the 8 weeks, send regular follow-up emails asking how they are doing and offering exclusive free content

This strategy will create a deeper level of engagement with your clients and build a community around your brand.

And if you can execute it properly, it will lead to an increase in open rates across the board, easy upsells, and lifelong loyalty.

Not bad for an extra two emails a week, huh?

2. Dropbox – How Focusing on Design Helped Create a $10 Billion Empire

A trend that I have noticed among many of the A+ players in email marketing is that they are reducing their focus on fancy copy and increasing their focus on creating incredible designs.

Now, before I delve into this segment of the article, I want to make something very clear.

Long form copy works great for email marketing.

There is nothing wrong with it.

And if you have a company that is built around your personality then I recommend that you continue your email marketing efforts with a heavy focus on well-written copy.

However, if your company’s success is not contingent on your customers buying into you as a brand leader, then learning how to create beautiful and straightforward designs that sell your products for you, is the way forward.

Let’s take a look at one of my favorite examples.

Dropbox.

Dropbox is a wildly popular online storage service that has skyrocketed in growth and is now an empire worth $10 billion dollars.

That’s worth almost as much as Snapchat and more than the GDP of many countries!

Something that has set Dropbox apart for years and helped them reach their wild levels of success is the incredible simplicity behind everything that they do.

From their signup process to the layout and navigation of their website, everything oozes simplicity.

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And nowhere is this more evident (or pertinent to this article) than in their email marketing.

In fact, one of the best examples of this simplicity in action is found in their “Baby come back” email.

I know it seems like a stretch for anyone to actually appreciate a company for sending you an email after you have canceled your subscription to their services.

But by pairing simple and poignant cartoons with a tongue in cheek emoticon and some very simple copy, Dropbox accomplishes this goal admirably.

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Against the advice of almost every successful email marketer, Dropbox basically ignores their copy and focuses almost entirely on the design of the cartoon.

In fact, they ignore almost all of the traditional rules of email marketing.

Their email copy is short and product focused instead of the recommended long form, benefit-focused copy you see from most companies.

And yet, despite their apparent rule bending, Dropbox has still become one of the most powerful companies in the online world.

That is the power of effective design.

How You Can Apply This to Your Business 

Implementing this concept is pretty straightforward.

Step out on a limb with your next email campaign and focus on design instead of copy.

If you are not the artistic type, then hire an outside contractor with a proven track record and an eye for design who can help you to develop a campaign that catches your customer’s eyes.

Do your best to limit your copy to 100 words or less and allow the images within the article to speak for themselves.

If you are a little bit risk averse (which will be addressed in the next case study) then simply run an A/B test.

What’s the worst that can happen?

If you are still a little bit confused as to how exactly you are going to start incorporating images and cartoons into your emails, here are some other examples that will help get your creative juices flowing.

First up are the folks over at 99 designs.

Now admittedly, with a name like 99 designs you would expect them to have impressively aesthetic emails.

And they do.

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Next, we have Uber who perfectly balance imagery and copy in a way that few other companies can, which might be why they are valuated at $68 billion.

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And finally, is the company Poncho.

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Hiring a designer to stylize your email marketing campaigns doesn’t have to be expensive. Try sites like 99designs and Upwork.

If you have no budget, try using free tools like Canva and Snappa.

Use the examples above whenever you are creating your next email campaigns and see what the results are!

3. Dell – How a Gif can Equal 109% Increase in Revenue

Dell was recently faced with a unique problem.

They were in the process of launching XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook which is basically a hinged laptop that transforms into a tablet.

“That sounds like a cool product. What is the problem?” you ask?

I’ll let David Sierk from the Email Strategy and Analytics department at Dell explain (now Product Manager at Google).

“No one knows what a convertible is yet. It’s not synonymous with products like the tablet is now or anything along those lines.” 

So how did Dell handle this problem?

Did they just do what they had always done before, crossing their fingers and hoping for the best?

No.

They innovated their way through the problem.

Instead of the traditional email marketing tactics that Dell uses, they decided to create a gif of the product that would compliment their creative tagline, “Go from dreaming to doing in a flip“.

This gif showcased the convertible flipping from a laptop into a touch screen tablet capable of running Windows 8.

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This quickly explained to customers exactly what the convertible was and how it could impact their technological lives.

When this gif was paired with the well-written email copy:

Buy a select XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook and get a $200 Dell Promo eGift Card* to build your home entertainment system

XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook – The power of an Ultrabook and the ease of a tablet combined into one beautifully designed machine.”

The results were pretty spectacular.

When compared to their campaign benchmarks, these are the results that this email generated.

  • 6% increase in open rate
  • 42% increase in click rate
  • 103% increase in conversion rate
  • 109% increase in revenue

Think about that for a moment… 109% increase in revenue.

Not something they could have accomplished with a simple picture.

dell-xps

Those numbers are almost unheard of and were created with a simple gif.

If you watch this video with Marketing Sherpa, Sierk goes into more examples like using gifs for rotating products or even falling snowflakes on Christmas emails

How You Can Apply This to Your Business

While some of you probably think that the main message behind this case study is to start using more gifs within your emails, I disagree.

I think the biggest thing that we can learn from Dell is the power of innovation.

The marketing team over at Dell knew that simple text and pictures would not cut it.

They also knew that linking to a YouTube video or some sort of product tour would likely yield a lower conversion rate.

And so they innovated their way out of the problem by creating a gif.

Do I recommend using gifs in your email marketing campaigns?

Absolutely.

They are a great way to quickly convey a message and entertain readers. Take this example from Chipotle.

chipotle

However, if there is one key takeaway from Dell’s success, it is that intelligent risk and innovation can lead to big results.

If you have a marketing tactic you have been dying to use but are afraid that it will eat dirt, give it a shot anyways.

The worst that can happen isn’t that bad.

And who knows, you might even see a 109% increase in revenue yourself!

Conclusion

If you have been looking to take your email marketing from good to great, then the above case studies are a great place to start.

All three of the above campaigns have yielded incredible results and helped their respective owners build powerhouse companies that are now the leaders of their industry.

While you may not use a specific tactic from any of these case studies, the lessons that can be learned from these companies will apply to everything you do.

From sales to content creation to email marketing.

Keep learning from the best until you become one of the best.

What is your favorite email marketing case study?

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Author: Sam Oh
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