Marketing emails that work for your business

Posted on: 14 January 2014


Marketing emails satisfy one objective: to increase sales. But when only 20% of the emails sitting in inboxes are ever opened, how do you make yours stand out?

If only 5% of links within marketing campaign emails are clicked on, what’s the best way to encourage action from your email recipients?

Here’s a six-point checklist to help any business send out better emails.

1. The subject line

This is what people will see first, so don't let yourself down by writing a lousy one!

Keep it specific and make it interesting. Not to you, but to the person you're addressing. If you can, personalise it. This may not always be possible and will depend on the product you sell, the content of the email and the circumstances in which you're sending it. But if you can write 'John - about your recent camera purchase', for example, your opening rate is likely to shoot up. Of course, the introduction to the email must then actually be about the camera purchase - a reminder to fill in the warranty card, for example.

Keep your subject lines short. Not all email browsers are equal, particularly when viewed on a smartphone. Some will display considerably less of a subject line than others and there's nothing worse than seeing a subject line cut off in its prime - it looks ugly and makes no sense. The message will end up deleted before it has a chance.

2. Timing

When you send an email is often as important as what you send.

You can spend time analysing opening rates at different times of day and on different days of the week. Or - often just as effective - you can apply some common sense.

For example, if you know you're emailing mainly to work addresses, don't email them on a Friday at 5pm! Similarly, don't email first thing on Monday morning. Many people face a small mountain of emails they need to go through at this time and unless yours looks really urgent, it's likely to be overlooked. And if it's not opened immediately, it's unlikely anyone will come back to it later.

Also consider whether you are making a time sensitive offer – there’s no use promoting a weekend sale on a Sunday afternoon.

3. Make sure your content sings!

Content is king. But there is simply no magic, easy-to-learn formula for getting it perfect. But there are some good guidelines you can deploy.

There are three main kinds of content:

  • stuff your viewer/reader can act upon and use now
  • information they might not put into immediate use but they think is worth knowing and understanding
  • 'The Hey Doris' - in other words, something they find interesting and might even want to pass on or recommend to someone else. i.e. something that’s retweetable.

Ask yourself if your content measures up to any of these three measures. If it doesn't, then it probably won't engage your audience.

If your content passes the test, then the next thing is to check its style. Is it appropriate for your audience? For nearly all small businesses, it's best to go for a clear, straightforward style with no jargon, no woolly corporate speak and no long words when short ones will do. Use concrete examples if you can. Have something to say and say it clearly so everyone can understand.

4. Keep it simple!

This is often overlooked. Decide what the purpose of the email is and focus only on that. This means, usually, only one or two aims. If you lose a sharp focus, the email will be confusing, disjointed and ineffective.

If you want to present an offer, just do that. If you want to present a newsletter with information that's relevant to your audience, make that your number one focus.

5. Include a call to action

The buzzword is 'engagement'. Any communication you have with your audience should be designed to elicit a response. This does not mean the call to action has to be a sale, or even a prompt to find out more about buying a product (although it may well be either of these). Instead, it may be something more subtle, like an invitation to ask questions, send in pictures or share tips… about gardening, making bread, plumbing, electrical or legal problems, or whatever is relevant to your business. It may even be an invitation to express a view.

Whatever else, make sure you have a call to action to engage with your audience and to get them involved.

6. Maximise publicity

Your marketing emails don’t need to be restricted to inboxes. Post it on your website, and if you’re using Facebook or Twitter for your business, attract your friends and followers to your newsletter through these channels too. You could also consider printing copies for display in your business premises if appropriate.


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