If you were to ask any given company what its corporate communications strategy is, you would mostly likely hear email as the answer. Despite its age in the online world and the onslaught of other emerging communications technologies, email remains one of the most widely used forms of correspondence online. It is still a viable marketing tool for most industries. With all the junk email people receive on a daily basis, crafting good content is essential for email marketing success. Check out these email marketing best practices for use in your next campaign.
Effective Email Marketing with Your Subject Line
The subject line is perhaps the most important aspect of an effective email marketing campaign. It is the one string of text that will decide whether your email gets opened or not. People (especially professionals) receive hundreds of emails every day. That is a whole lot of clutter to sift through, and if your subject line is not compelling, the rest of your message won't get face time. Here are some tips to making a non spammy and actionable subject line in your email:
- Avoid certain words: Chances are that even if you are an email marketer, you receive a lot of emails yourself. You know the good ones from the bad. Ignoring for a moment the messages from people you know, the sales-oriented ones are easy to spot. The really bad ones use words like "free" or aggressive calls to action such as "Limited time only!" "Act now!" "Contact us today!" or something similar. You can bet that if your subject line contains any of those, your open rate is also low. Using all capital letters in the subject line is also a no-no. Effective email marketing campaigns use language to convey a value proposition and give the recipient a hint at what they can expect to do once the message has been opened. What is it that you can offer your recipients? Speak to the results that they are looking to generate. For instance, if you are sending out an email to Internet marketers, a subject line like "Increase your conversion rates by 40% with our eBook Download" sounds more enticing then "Free eBook Download!"
- Actionable subject lines: Following the call to action theme, you want your readers to understand what they will be able to do once they open the email just by reading the subject line. The use of verbs is important as it conveys the message that the recipients will actually be able to use your email to add some value to their lives. Words like "achieve," "become," "apply," "connect," "publish," "improve," "measure" or "understand" all act as one-word action messages that tell the reader what to expect. Let them know that they will be able to learn something, apply something or, in general, take the next step to enriching their lives with whatever it is you have to offer. Be as specific as possible. For example, the subject line "Learn the ABCs" is very specific, as opposed to "The ABCs." In the first line, the reader knows he or she will be learning the ABCs, whereas in the second one, the email could be about the history of the alphabet, a band called the ABCs or who knows what.
- Segment your marketing list: Not all messages appeal to all people, and the more you can find out about the recipients on your email list, the better you will be able to market to them. Once you have more detailed information, tailor your subject lines (and messages) to those who will find them most appealing. For instance, if you were selling property management software to landlords, you may segment your list to differentiate between those who own apartment buildings and those who manage residential properties. It's also important to know the time of day you should send out emails for your campaign. There are times when your target market may be at their computers and times they aren't. This may vary based on the industry you are marketing to, but knowing when to send will help increase your open and conversion rates.
- Above all else, be consistent: Remember that your recipient opened your email because they liked what they saw in the subject line. If you don't deliver the same (and a more comprehensive) message in the body of the email, you won't accomplish the ultimate goal of getting them to perform the action in the email. Make sure the message in the body of your email is consistent with what the reader thinks they will be doing when they read the subject line.
Email Marketing Techniques for The Body of Your Email
Once someone has opened your email, you have your foot in the door, so to speak. Now you have to get them to do whatever it is you want them to do. Here are some email marketing techniques for how to make that happen with the body of your email:
- Keep it short and to the point: Whether people are reading a web page or an email, huge blocks of text cause anxiety. No one wants to read through tons of text, and they are even less inclined to do so if they are busy (which they probably are). In the first paragraph of the email, you should deliver on your value proposition and instruct your reader on how to go about obtaining it. If this is a free download, tell them how to do it. If it is a special offer, tell them how to take advantage of it. All of this should appear right at the top so they don't have to scroll to find it. In landing page design, LIFT analysis is often performed to identify areas of improvement. The same concepts can be applied to emails.
- Keep images to a minimum: If you can avoid using images altogether, this is ideal. Virtually every email (web-based or desktop-based) has default filters for images. Keep in mind that any images you have in an email will not show up at first and also create extra steps for your reader to perform in order to view your message. You definitely want to avoid putting crucial parts of your message in image form because if a reader decides not to download images or just doesn't have the time, you have already lost your opportunity to communicate with them.
- Make your action as easy as possible to perform, and let your reader know about it: Most emails sent for marketing have some type of link in them that require readers to click through to a web page. This is fine; however, you want to make this as easy and unambiguous as possible. Just like on a landing page, people have little patience when it comes to performing actions online. The more obstacles there are, the less likely they will be to do what you want them to do. For instance, say you want your reader to take advantage of a special offer. They open your email, read about the offer, then there is a link they are instructed to click in order to take advantage of the offer. Explaining in the first paragraph that they can get what they want in "x amount of steps" is a good way to assure them that it won't take long to get gratification. Avoid long forms asking for excessive amounts of unnecessary information or poorly designed landing pages.
Make quality content: Your email should do a few things when it comes to the actual content:
- It should build trust and add value.
- It should be shareable (even if that is not your goal).
- It should entice the reader to take the next step.
Your message should add some type of value such as useful statistics, thoughtful advice or some other tidbit that makes it worth someone's time to read. I receive tons of emails all the time and the writer just wants to talk about "me." In other words, don't talk about yourself, your company and your products/services. Talk about how you can add value to your recipient and their personal life or business.
Your content should be shareable. This is not a primary goal, and what I mean by this is that you should write content that others would find valuable enough to want to share with others in their profession. The most powerful messages are those that others find so valuable that they market them for you. Lastly, your content should have a call to action. Include language that entices your reader to act on your value proposition. Remember, don't be too pushy, but be clear and concise on what it is you want them to do.
Email remains one of the most widely used forms of communication on the web. Crafting compelling content for email marketing can be very simple if you keep some simple conventions in mind. Avoid spammy language, deliver value to your readers and make things as simple as possible for them to achieve.
Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.