Have you ever sent an email to clients only to get no response? Did they even open it? Or open it just to delete it? Maybe you don’t even know where your campaigns are going wrong?
We’ve all received an email we immediately deleted, marked as spam or ignored altogether. If this is happening to your emails, you need to determine why. Maybe you aren’t effectively grabbing your audience’s attention. Or perhaps your subject lines don’t reach out and say “Open me!” Or your calls to action don’t scream “Click me!”
As long as you aren’t heartlessly spamming your subscriber lists, email marketing is an incredibly powerful tool for getting messages directly to your clients and prospects. It strengthens client relationships and keeps reminding your prospects to reach out to you. So, let’s discuss how you can improve your email marketing efforts.
First, let’s review the types of emails you might send:
These are usually informational or promotional messages sent to people who asked you to keep them updated, such as prospects, clients, reporters, vendors, affiliates, etc. Marketing emails encompass a variety of content, but most are used to send newsletters, sales promotions, announcements, press releases, follow-ups and surveys.
This type of email is usually automated and triggered by your customers’ activities. Examples of transactional emails include welcome messages, order tracking, received payments, registration confirmations, etc.
Don’t underestimate the potential of these messages. If you’ve sent a customer a transactional email, they’ve completed at least one action that indicates they’re very likely to engage with you again. These are trusted emails, which means they have higher open rates and provide plenty of opportunities for engagement and cross-selling.
These are emails with important information about your business, such as holiday closures, maintenance plans, or changes to your service availability. It’s tempting to skip an operational email if you think it won’t impact your sales, but it’s important to be consistent for the sake of trust, engagement, and thoroughness.
Again, there’s also hidden value in these messages. Although they may seem strictly informative, they can be crafted to improve your sales and your image. For example, if your service will be down for maintenance, describing what kind of updates you’ll be performing is a great way to remind your clients of the value you provide.
Whatever emails your sending, it’s critical that you consider what you’re trying to accomplish and structure your message and strategy accordingly. Here a few tips that guarantee success:
1. Build your subscriber list
Even if you’ve already got a long list of emails for clients and prospects, you should never stop adding to it. Especially since it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds. For example, make sure your list is always growing passively with a signup feature on your website. Subscription forms should be on your home page, blog page and everywhere else you can fit it without taking away from more important content.
Digital Fire does a great job at collecting email subscribers on their home page, which includes a sign-up box that hovers over the page and follows users as they scroll. It’s impossible to miss (without being annoying) and plainly explains the value of subscribing to their email list.
You can also build your list through more traditional means. If you have a booth at an industry conference, provide an option for people to sign up for your newsletter. Even if you don’t end up closing at sale directly at the conference, getting someone to sign up for your email list can turn into a business opportunity down the road.
2. Encourage readers to reply
Unlike direct mail, email marketing opens the door for meaningful conversations with real people interested in your business. Just throwing information to leads and clients is a waste of time, so make sure you always focus on these three variables:
Irresistible subject lines – Speak to readers directly and promise them something that stands out from the other emails in their inbox. The best way to go about this is with automated solutions that personalize your emails (which we’ve written about in-depth).
An entertaining and distinctive voice – Just because readers open your email doesn’t mean they aren’t queued up to quickly delete it. Always make sure your message sounds like it came from a real person who cares, not some faceless marketing machine.
Targeted content – Segmenting your email lists by reader demographics makes it easier to create a message that really resonates with their needs and interests, which makes them more likely to take up an offer, engage with you or even to pass it onto other prospective clients.
The focus of these points is to encourage recipients to respond. Sometimes that means they click on a link in your message, but whenever possible, encourage them to actually respond to your emails. That's a surefire way to show you’re interested and responsive to what your subscribers have to say.
3. Make it personal
Whenever possible, add a personal element to your emails. Most email tools allow you to enter shortcodes that will be replaced with the recipient’s name when the email is sent out. Emails from Treehouse Co-Founder Ryan are always fun and personal. The subject lines are creative, messages are sent "from" Ryan's email address, and the content is personalized. If you reply to the mail, you'll even get a prompt response from Ryan himself!
On top of this, you can segment your messages to particular portions of your audience. If you have a business that works with multiple industries, consider sending out different versions of your email with each one providing information specific to each industry.
4. Keep your emails out of spam folders
If your carefully constructed emails are flagged as spam, they’ll never see the light of day. Start off by making sure your recipients have opted into your emails so you aren't running afoul of any regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act.
Beyond that, avoid using all caps, too many exclamation marks, and hyperbolic phrases ("ACT NOW BEFORE TIME RUNS OUT!!!!"). Poorly formatted HTML in your emails can also hurt how they’re handled. Every spam filter is different, so an email might pass through one filter but get flagged by another. For more comprehensive info on how spam filters work and how to avoid them, check out this guide by MailChimp.
5. Make sure your emails look clean and crisp
This sounds obvious but you’d be surprised how many people send emails that look like amateur websites from the ’90s. If someone has opened your mail because of an engaging heading, you want to keep their interest. This means:
- Using short paragraphs and ensuring that keywords and phrases relevant to your readers stand out.
- Including bullet points to help people skim the content and take in the vital points.
- Inserting pictures sparingly. Images should illustrate your message rather than replace your content. Some email providers
- block images or consider them an indicator of spam.
Here’s an example of what an email newsletter template might look like.
6. Include interesting links and calls to action
The aim of most email marketing campaigns is to increase traffic to a site, sometimes a specific landing page. No clicks means no customers -- it really is that simple. Always try to include visually striking buttons with text that give readers more than one opportunity to interact (e.g., Find out more! Download Now! etc.)
Check out this example from one of Airbnb's event promotion email:
In general, calls to action should be written as just that -- actions. The more exciting the action you describe, the more enticing it will be to your audience.
7. Make it easy to unsubscribe
It may seem as though you are cutting off the ‘conversation’ by giving clients the chance to opt out, but if a user wants to remove their name from your lists and can’t do so easily, they’ll flag emails as spam which will cause you problems in the future.
8. Make emails mobile-friendly
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Many people reach for their phone. In fact, 66% of email opens occur on smartphones or tablets. If your emails aren’t optimized for viewing on these devices, you’re potentially missing out on a huge number of clicks.
9. Test, test, test
Never send anything without making sure it’s working properly. Double-check that your messages look the way you want them to by sending them to employee accounts. Ideally, you will view them on Outlook.com, Gmail, and Yahoo, and on a variety of mobile devices before finalizing your drafts.
For more robust testing, check out Litmus, a tool that tests and provides screenshots of your email in dozens of different email tools.
Ensure that all your links work, and any personalization shortcodes aren’t failing. Sending mass emails without double-checking the content would be like turning up to a business meeting having chosen your outfit in the dark. If it goes wrong, you’ll look foolish and unprofessional.
10. More testing!
Beyond testing content on different platforms, you should also experiment with different subject lines, calls to action, and body text to see what is most engaging to your audience.
Some email tools have built-in A/B testing modules that allow you to compare the results of different versions of your emails, but even if you don’t have access to these, you can run tests on your own. Try sending your emails on different days of the week or different times of the day to see when you get the best response rate.
11. Track your data
Some results may have nothing to do with platforms and content. Keep a close eye on your data, like how many email addresses were undeliverable or what time of day people opened your message. These tiny details will tell you a lot about your email’s performance.
If you’re using Google Analytics on your website, tagging your emails with custom campaign tracking can show you how they are driving traffic to your landing pages and how those visitors behave once they arrive on your site. Equipped with this powerful information, you can now really tailor your marketing message to people who will use it.
12. Don’t overwhelm your subscribers
Armed with all these tips, you might be eager to start sending out as many emails as you can. But beware of how often you send messages to your list. You don’t want to flood their inbox with marketing messages about everything you offer -- they might get annoyed and unsubscribe.
13. Above all else, provide value
Great email marketing ultimately comes down to giving your audience something that sticks with them. Something that keeps your business on their mind, whether that’s educational information about your industry, operational messages about your service, or marketing messages about the products you offer.
Otherwise, that message is just going to end up in the trash.
This is just the beginning
Like most marketing efforts, becoming successful with email marketing is a process. It’s a combination of good planning and analyzing data to make improvements to your campaigns, but the only way to learn and improve is to get out there and start emailing!
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