Top 10 Email Marketing Tips

By Pete Meacham, Director of Marketing

Email marketing is generally considered a standard tactic for building and managing relationships with prospects and audiences.

But as many organizations and individuals begin losing the email address on theirContact page in favor of Linkedin profiles, Twitter handles, and Facebook pages, many marketers have begun to ask the question: is email an effective marketing tool?

While it may be tempting to answer “maybe” and point out that it may depend on what you’re trying to accomplish, we like being decisive when giving advice to our clients. And when it comes to deciding whether or not it’s worth it to use email these days, we unequivocally say “yes!”

When it comes to integrated marketing, we believe that anything that gives you more opportunities to engage with your customers and prospects is good… provided that your approach is appropriate for the channel and you aren’t spreading your resources too thin. If you want to engage customers and prospects in order to form lasting relationships, think social media. If you want to appeal to your audience’s emotions, nothing beats traditional channels like TV and high quality print. If you’re trying to insert yourself into the buying decision process, search is where it’s at. You get the idea: the best channel is one that uses the unique advantages inherent in that channel.

When it comes to using email effectively it’s helpful to think of it as one of the more “business-like” communications channels. It’s almost like a planned meeting: you have a clear purpose for being there, there is some level of interest from your prospect, there’s an expectation of clear next steps. Of course, getting that level of buy-in prior to sending an e-mail isn’t always feasible, but even so, for a lot of busy people, an inbox is still a to-do list. And nobody likes surprise additions to their to-do list.

But theory is one thing… real-life marketing situations are often a lot messier. And as much as we’d all like there to be “one crazy secret” that’d guarantee email marketing success, the reality is that successful email campaigns must rely on balancing a number of principles:

  1. Know your prospect – It doesn’t matter how great your offer is, if it doesn’t speak directly to the immediate needs of the person you’re writing to it’s going to find itself on a one way trip to the trash can. If you’re hoping to get an opt-in for future communications, be sure you customize your emails and landing pages based on the audience segment you’re writing to.
  2. Subject lines – If the subject line doesn’t grab your prospect, you probably shouldn’t have written the rest of the email. Subject lines should be concise and direct. Don’t make the mistake of trying to be cute and definitely don’t try any “tricks” to fool someone into opening your email. As wacky and counterintuitive as it may seem, people actually appreciate someone respecting their time and intelligence. Considering the state of most of the commercial email we run across, respect in and of itself can be a major differentiator.
  3. KISASS – Keep it short and simple, stupid. From the subject line to the body copy, recognize that your email is adding another item to your recipient’s to-do list. You’re asking for a small share of their dwindling supply of attention and time. Don’t squander either one. Be brief, to the point, and respectful of their time. Lead with how what you’re offering is going to benefit them and quickly let them know what they need to do to receive that benefit.
  4. Be a person – Nobody likes talking to a machine (just ask anyone who’s recently spent some quality time with a voice-activated phone system!) and if your email sounds like it was machine generated it’s as good as deleted. Even if you are using a list, you should take the time to make each email as personalized as possible.
  5. Don’t be a spammer – You may know that you aren’t one of those obnoxious spammers. But email filters don’t. The best way to stay out of the spam filter is to avoid content that sounds even remotely spammy. Look through your own spam folder and identify common words and phrases that likely got caught, such as “free” or “special offer” or “click here!” Spam filters also don’t like large images, excessive exclamation points, or the word “test” in the subject line. 
  6. Pace yourself – Sometimes it isn’t the filter that misinterprets your intentions. If you inundate your prospects with emails they’re likely to regard you with the same contempt they might a spammer. No matter how much value you have to offer, a constant stream of emails creates a bad impression. Even if they’ve opted-in, a flood of emails will result in a flood of “unsubscribes.” A good general rule is no more than one email per week unless you’ve already set expectations for more frequent emails (eg. “daily deal,” breaking news, weather, or traffic reports).
  7. Give them a treat – Because you never know what’s going to show up in your inbox, email appeals to humans’ evolutionary desire for novelty. It’s why direct marketing works. We love to be surprised. Don’t make the mistake of letting down your recipients. Offer something of value in your email—even if it’s just a small tip or a reference to a helpful resource—can appeal directly to that “Hey! Cool!” section of their brains and can keep them wanting more.
  8. Call them to action – Even though you’re only sending an occasional email, you still want to grab their attention and generate a response. But responses (at least good ones) don’t often happen uninvited: you’ve got to encourage some follow through on their part. Clearly identify next steps early on. Give them a chance to get off your list if they’re absolutely not interested. If they are interested, make sure that they have a sense of urgency in continuing the conversation with you. If you send them to a landing page, make sure that it too is set up to elicit a response.
  9. Be mobile friendly – Today it’s more likely that someone will read your email on their mobile device rather than their desktop machine or laptop. Keep that in mind because most of the above rules are doubly important for mobile. Be sure that you test your emails on multiple devices/screen resolutions. Don’t bury calls to action or links. Be as clear and concise as possible. Put the important stuff (offer, response mechanism, etc.) at the top of your email. Imagine your reader glancing at a phone, while crossing a busy street with a hot coffee in the other hand.
  10. A Note is Not a Strategy –Unless you plan on sending out only one email to your customers and prospects, remember that any one particular email is just one communication among many in an ongoing relationship with your customers and prospects. Always be cognizant of what they’ve received before (and what they’ll receive later) and make sure that your messaging recognizes the ongoing conversation. Sending every email as if it’s the first one that anyone on your list has ever received from you (unless, of course, it is!) makes it seem like their relationship with your organization isn’t all that important to you.

Above all remember this: your email efforts have to be part of a larger strategy and an ongoing effort. As the old saying goes, you can’t expect you’ll catch a whale by throwing a single net, no matter how far and wide you toss it.