Today’s Community Contributor is Evan Stoskopf, Director of Client Services at an NYC-based marketing agency. Evan is a marketing professional with experience in sales, analyst relations, consulting, and project management for client services. He has contributed reviews and ratings for a wide variety of products, including ERP software, project management tools, email marketing tools, and accounting software.
In this digital age, businesses are sending thousands of emails to clients and customers every day. But only a small percentage of these emails actually get read and digested, the vast majority of companies are not sending the right type of emails. How do you rise above your competitors to amplify your message and avoid getting drowned out by all the noise? Check out these 8 tips below to see if you are following current email best practices:
1. Planning campaigns is critical
Taking the time to plan the details of your email campaign will pay off in the long run. As you get started, ask yourself a few questions:
- Why does this need to be sent?
- Why should people care?
- What am I providing to my audience?
- Is this a vehicle to drive people to a secondary source information rather than the direct source of information?
Understanding who you target audience is and why they should care about the emails your sending will help you craft better and more relevant messages.
2. Determining the right audience with lists
You can have the best content in the world, but it won’t matter if the right people don’t receive it. Your audience list is key to your email’s success. Here are some suggestions for how to generate a high quality email list:
- Avoid purchasing lists and build your own instead.
- Review the sources of your current audience lists and make sure they’re up to date.
- Add a double opt-in options so you can develop a high quality list full of readers who care about your content.
- Reward subscribers for signing up with an item. This could be a simple digital PDF, or if marketing budgets allow, a physical item.
- Segment your audience list based on relevant characteristics, such as their interests, demographic information, and geographic information so you can serve up content that is meaningful to that group.
3. Make a good first impression
Given that individuals receive literally hundreds of emails from businesses trying to sell to them every day, first impressions matter. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and prove to potential customers that you’re worth their time and attention. Here’s a few tips for how to make your first email impression count:
- Customize your sender name and email address so that it is clear where the email is coming from.
- Develop subject lines that are attention-grabbing without being spammy. Avoid all caps, lots of exclamation points, and I shouldn’t have to say this, but nEvEr WrItE lIkE tHiS.
- Take advantage of your pre-header text by giving your audience a nice preview of the email
- Pick one of the following elements to A/B test: calls to action, subject lines, templates, colors. A/B testing your emails will help make sure you’re message is as refined, polished, and targeted as possible – and yielding the maximum number of responses.
4. Personalization is expected
Customizing your email messages to make sure you’re speaking TO your audience and not AT them can go a long way in terms of catching someone’s attention. Nowadays, customers and clients expect a given level of personalization for all the interactions they have with a vendor or agency. Here are a few things to include in your emails to cover your bases in terms of sending personalized messages:
- Use the audience member’s first name, last name, or both in your email copy.
- If an audience member’s email doesn’t have their name attached in your list database, test to make sure your platform doesn’t replace the empty space with the word “Null”.
- Tailor your content to the individual rather than the general population.
5. Copy & content matter
When it comes to increasing the likelihood that your email will be opened and read, quality of content matters. If readers put in the work of reading through your emails only to be met with generic, non-relevant content, they probably won’t be inclined to open your next email. Emails are like red meat; your readers would much rather have the Filet Mignon of emails instead of basic ground beef. Here are some tips for how to up your content quality game:
- Create brand and messaging consistency across the board to ensure your content is polished.
- Write copy that is easily understood, but doesn’t treat your audience as if they are dumb.
- Pictures speak louder than words. Cutting down on the amount of text in your messages, especially if they include graphics, will make them easier to read.
- Write a single call to action (CTA) to keep your message focused and give your readers only one task to complete.
- Encourage sharing without saying it by using social media and email logos rather than writing out the words.
- Add alt-text to images so the audience can still understand the content even if the photo doesn’t load due to firewalls/security settings.
- Make your unsubscribe link clear and available so your lists remain clean. This also ensures that you’re only targeting individuals that want to hear what you have to say, and are therefore higher quality contacts.
6. Design: looks matter
Email aesthetics are just as important as content quality. Emails that look more appealing and are cognitively easier to digest will help draw your readers in. Combine style with readability to produce a stunning product. Here are a few ways to enhance your email design:
- Design for mobile (first and always) with emails being responsive, or having widths of 550-600 pixels.
- Have one or two standard templates that you can further customize if needed.
- Keep the number of typefaces under three, this helps maintain design simplicity.
- Button sizes should be a minimum of 44 by 44 pixels.
- Your prime real estate is the top half of your email, so place your most important content in that space.
- Be kind to the color blind by using textures and shapes in your email, rather than relying on colors and shades to make your points.
7. Deployment sends emails without a hitch
Rather than sending your emails individually or in one large blast, look into investing in an email marketing tool that can help you set up and schedule cadences and track email engagement within one platform. Here are some ways to make sure your emails debut without a hitch:
- Using an email marketing platform like Mailchimp will make your life dramatically easier because deployments can be scheduled, audiences can be identified, and data can be tracked in one place.
- Develop a regular cadence so readers know when to expect your next contact.
- Send your emails at specific times that fit your audience’s reading habits. You can find the most optimal time to send through trial-and-error, or you can get a head start by looking up email deployment stats in your specific industry on Google.
- Test. Review. Test again. Review again. Send. A/B testing your emails is a great way to make sure each aspect of your email is performing as it should.
8. Was your campaign effective? Check the metrics
Tracking your email performance is a critical part of developing successful email campaigns. Understanding how your audience is engaging with your emails will help enhance future emails and campaigns. Here’s a list of important email metrics to start tracking, if you’re not already:
- Open Rate
- Clickthrough Rate
- Bounce Rate
If possible, try to tie your sales or customer responses back to a specific email rather than a series of emails. In terms of setting expectations and goals for email open rates, first gather data on 4 or more email deployments to establish a general baseline. The expectations you set should reflect this baseline, and your goals should be a little bit above.
These are just a few important tips for getting the most out of your emails. If you’d like to hear more about what you can do to increase your readership, have questions on your current or upcoming campaigns, or just want to reach out with comments, please feel free to contact me via email or through my LinkedIn profile. You can find me on LinkedIn or reach me at EvanStoskopf@Gmail.com.
There are a number of marketing tools that can help you accomplish all of this, whether your a small marketing agency or large organization with millions of subscribers. Curious to see what fellow marketing professionals use to perfect their emails? Check out reviews of of email marketing tools and marketing automation software on TrustRadius to see what they have to say.