7 Keys to Killer Emails

Most marketing emails are irritating or invisible. Here's how to ensure that your company's messages are noticed, welcome and effective

Written by Wayne S. Roberts

Plenty of us hate email marketing, and even more of us ignore it. So using it to build your own business is a bad idea, right? Not if, unlike so many email marketers, you’re smart about it.

If you have a current database of email addresses from customers and contacts, reaching out to those folks via email—and, critically, doing it well—will build leads, sales and your brand community. Here are the essential things you need to do in order to avoid being annoying or irrelevant, and to use email as an effective tool for connecting with prospects and customers.

1. Get a User-Friendly Platform that Offers Essential Features

If you’re ambitious, and can work with online templates, you may choose to do email marketing in-house. MailChimp is one of the most popular and user friendly. But there are many others, which you can find by Googling “email newsletter services.” The learning curve will be steep, but the cost savings may be worth it.

Make sure that, whatever application or service provider you use, you get a full range of pre-deployment testing options, post-deployment measurement tools, list-segmentation options and design flexibility to create email templates for newsletters or for loading HTML-designed emails into it. All these features are vital to creating, managing and optimizing your email marketing efforts.

2. Respect People’s Time and Respect Your Brand

Design your email so the essential message that will appear in people’s browser inbox is readable without the need for them to download pictures. Certainly, you should use compelling graphics, but, as per the next point, the text must hold its own while fulfilling the promise of the subject line.

Offer easy directions and clues as to where and how your recipients can respond. And craft any follow-up confirmation emails with respect for your brand imagery. The auto-reply should look like it comes from your company—and not some generic message that could have come from anybody.

3. Set the Right Tone in Your Subject Line

You should craft your opening line to avoid spam filters, so steer clear of vague come-ons that sound like an infomercial. Shun spam-triggering phrases such as “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” “free, no risk offer” and “Nigerian prince has your $10 million cheque.”

But this vital salutation must also be a relevant lead-in to the essential offer, call to action or important content that follows. Effective approaches include “Save 15% on your next order,” “Important information on product savings/upgrades” or “Learn how to use email effectively.” Just sayin’.

4. Send Email to People Who’ve Told You—Twice—That They Want It

What’s called the double-opt-in approach allows recipients to give you permission once, when they consent to receive your mail, and again when they receive a confirming message from you with a link they click on. This approach also ensures that recipients gave you accurate email info in the first place.

Sure, this may reduce the number of people on your mailing list. But it increases the quality of your list overall, resulting in fewer bounced messages and spam complaints.

5. Get it Right Before You Get it Out

Most email marketing platforms offer an option to send out test emails. Use it every time. It prevents embarrassing typos or errors, and gives you a chance to ensure that all your links are working.

Set up a list of trusted friends or colleagues to receive the test emails, and ask them to run through the links. Check your design in a variety of email applications on both the PC and Mac platforms, various browsers and various mobile devices.

6. Pick the Best Time To Reach Out to Your Brand Community

For a B2B audience, Tuesday through Thursday just after the traditional start to the workday is an ideal window—say, 9:30 a.m.—or just after lunch.  For a B2C audience, 5:00 to 8:00 pm on the same days, or early Friday evening through Sunday afternoon typically work well.

Your email service provider or platform will offer scheduling options, so use these to group your list appropriately. And don’t forget about time-zone differences. Your time zone isn’t the only one on earth.

7. Send. Measure. Optimize. Redeploy

No, these words don’t add up to some cute acronym. But they are the rules of the road. Every email you send is a litmus test of the relevance of your content, the accuracy of your list and the value of your offer. Examine the data for what it is. Look at open rates, bounce rates, click-through rates and unsubscribing rates.

And don’t take any of the results personally. OK, so your mom unsubscribed. Maybe she just thought your subject was rude. Suck it up and strive to do better.

Remember: if your content is relevant, your offer is valuable and your approach is respectful, fewer people will want to punch your face in. And more and more will sign up to receive your future emails.

Wayne S. Roberts is president and chief creative officer of Blade Creative Branding, a firm specializing in strategic branding, creative advertising and innovative online solutions.

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