With email marketing, you have only a few seconds to grab readers’ attention. Here’s how to make every second count so you can get readers to open, read and click on your email marketing campaigns.
1. Use a short but informative subject line. “Subject lines, more than anything else, drive views,” stated Dean Levitt, the head of customer relations and marketing at Mad Mimi, a Brooklyn, New York-based email marketing company. “It doesn’t matter if you send the email at 3 a.m. or 3 p.m., it’s only going to be opened if the subject line draws the reader in.” It also needs to tell the reader what is contained in the email, in an intriguing but clear way, and be concise — no more than 10 words, said Levitt, so it will appear in inbox previews. So, for example, if, say, you sell photography equipment and supplies, instead of titling your April Newsletter email just “April Newsletter,” try something like “Phototech’s April Newsletter: 5 Tips for Better Floral Photos” or “Phototech’s April Newsletter, Featuring Our Spring Photography Contest.”
2. Make sure your email is mobile device friendly. More and more, your target audience is likely to be reading your email on a mobile device. So make sure the email marketing service or tool you are using will make your email look good — and legible — on a PDA or smart phone. In particular, said Levitt, make sure your email is not too wide (as it’s hard to scroll left to right on many mobile devices), minimize your use of graphics/images, and do not use Flash or include videos.
3. Keep the design of your email simple. “Write a letter, not a Web page,” stated Levitt, who, like many of Mad Mimi’s customers, gets overwhelmed by emails with multiple columns, multiple colors and multiple fonts. His advice: “Don’t use multiple columns. Don’t use multiple fonts, especially within the same sentence or paragraph. And don’t use multiple colors,” though a couple, say to indicate a heading or a subheading, are okay. “If you continually send customers emails that are visually distracting, you will wind up lowering the response rate and risk people unsubscribing to your emails.” Instead, “use a uniform style and a uniform font throughout your email,” similar to a magazine or newspaper article, which the brain is wired to easily read.
4. Include pictures (if appropriate), but skip audio, videos and Flash. Levitt, like many email marketing experts, thinks it’s fine to include images in an email, as long as the image complements the text (i.e., is relevant ), is appropriately sized (so that the email isn’t rejected by the customer’s ISP and/or doesn’t take forever to download/open) and doesn’t break up the train of thought (i.e., distracts from the message you are trying to convey). Similarly, do not include audio or video or Flash in emails. Not only can email with audio or video or Flash take seemingly forever to download or display, chances are your customers will never even receive or be able to open them as many of the major email services (including Gmail, Yahoo and AOL) don’t allow them.
5. Make sure you have something to say. Don’t just send an email for the sake of sending an email. While it’s important to stay in touch with customers on a regular basis, only write to them when you feel you have something of value – advice, tips, a special promotion, sale or offer – to provide them. Customers are busy. Don’t waste their time with what appears to be or sounds like spam.
6. Get to the point quickly. Got something important to say? Don’t bury it in the third paragraph of your email or save it for the end. State it up front or near the top of your email – and then provide a link where they can get more information or purchase whatever it is you are promoting.
7. Provide value, not a sales pitch. Similarly, said Levitt, don’t hit customers over the head with a hard sell, that is, immediately try to sell them something with phrases like “Act now!” or “Buy now!” or “Hurry, limited time offer!” Instead, take a softer approach, setting yourself (or whomever is sending the email) up as an expert in the industry – someone who knows what she or he is talking about, who is providing customers with helpful, useful advice.
8. Include links, not a novel. Readers have short attention spans, so instead of sending them an essay or novella, if you have a lot to say just include a summary or short paragraph (or two) about each subject or product or service. Then provide a link for readers to click at the end of each paragraph or section where they can go to learn more (or buy whatever it is that’s on offer). “That way you are not overwhelming your readers,” said Levitt, and stand a much better chance of getting them to read the whole email or at least click on a link that takes them to your website.
9. Be consistent. Try to establish a schedule for sending out emails, whether it’s once a month, once a week, or right before holidays – whatever makes sense for your business. If once a month or once a week, try to send your email on the same day each month or week, so customers anticipate and look forward to receiving your emails, much like a regular monthly dinner date with a good friend.
10. Proofread your email before sending it to customers. Before you send any email to your opt-in list, send it to yourself (and maybe an objective friend or colleague or two) first. If you or your friends (or colleagues) don’t find it interesting enough to open or read — or can’t open or read it properly, you have just saved yourself a whole lot of embarrassment. Similarly, make sure to carefully proofread every email before you send it out, for spelling and other errors, which can reflect badly on your business.
Great article Jennifer, thanks. Wendy Lowe at Campaigner (the email marketing service for small businesses) also suggests designing emails for the preview pane, because many people review the preview pane before deciding to open the email. if you have clunky graphics in the upper left, the preview pane will not give readers a very good idea of your message. If you don’t mind me offering more resources, there’s a free eBook available with more tips here; http://www.campaigner.com/ebook/index.aspx