This might be our last post for a while, as I’ve just won the U.K. lottery.  And if that wasn’t enough, a relative I didn’t even know I had (from Zimbabwe of all places) died and left me US$52 million!  Okay, not really.  But if you believe the emails you get, practically on a daily basis, you’d think this could be the case.  The point is, no one falls for this stuff – do they?  At least not serious business people.  Why not?  Because it’s not credible.  They come from someone you’ve never heard of, they make outrageous claims, and half the time – if you read them – you can barely make out what they’re trying to say because of the poor grammar, spelling, and sentence flow.

Now, of course you’re not sending this kind of junk to your email list.  You’re not out to rip anybody off or perpetrate some scam.  But you might be making some of the same mistakes as these jokers, to a lesser degree.  Your email marketing can be a fantastic tool to connect with your customers, readers, and prospects, but only if it’s done right.  With latest statistics showing that up to 65% of all email is spam, we’ve all become leery of our inboxes, so you’ve got to send value, or your message will be missed.

Where to start

Before you send a single email (or if you’re already using email marketing, before you send another email), have a plan.  Effective email marketing is about having an effective strategy.  You’ve got to know what you want to get out of it and how you’ll accomplish that objective.  Part of your plan will include your goals and how you’ll track your progress so you know if what you’re doing is working.  It should also detail how often you’ll send to your database and the form your emails will take (newsletter, blog compilations, sale copy, etc.).  Be sure to keep a close eye on your campaigns to make sure you’re on-plan.  Any good email marketing provider, like iContact, MailChimp, or Constant Contact, will give you robust analytics and other tools to help you keep track of your campaigns.  Use these resources to follow your campaigns and tweak as necessary.

Once you have a plan, and you’re ready to start marketing to your database, your next concern is what to send them.  The content of your emails will be dictated by your plan.  In other words, you want to make sure your content is helping you accomplish your goals.

Subject lines

Your first concern is your email’s subject line.  Think of this as a sales message in itself.  Its job is to get the recipient to open the email.  There’s more to it than just being interesting though.  Yes, you want it to grab your reader’s attention, but your ultimate goal is to have them click through to your site, so the subject should follow some rules to help make that happen:

  1. It must be true – your credibility depends on it.
  2. It should specify the subject of the email.  Seems like a no-brainer, but it’s often not followed.
  3. It should not contain any “spammy” words, like “FREE”, “discount”, or “you’ve won!”
  4. Don’t reveal the whole story.  Tease the reader, but give enough information to make them want to open it.

Especially when you’re first starting out, (but even if you’re seasoned) it’s a great idea to “split test” various subject lines to get a feel for the types that work best with your audience.

The guts

In your plan, you decided what types of emails you would be sending.  Regardless of the overall theme, there are some things you’ll want to keep in mind so your readers continue to open your emails, and click through to your site.  A good way to look at your marketing – any marketing – is to step back and look at it from your customer’s point of view.  In email marketing, step into your reader’s shoes, and ask these questions:

  • Who is sending this to me?
  • What do they want?
  • Why should I care? (What’s in it for me?)
  • What do I do now?

Your email body needs to clearly answer these questions.  One of the quickest ways to get people to unsubscribe is to send emails that are confusing or pointless.  Tell your readers what you want them to know, and more importantly, what you want them to do.  If you want them to click through, tell them, “Click here.”  If you’re detailing a new product, service, or blog post, let them know how they can get it.  Last, but certainly not least, follow these rules every time you send and email:

  1. Use personalization – but not too much.  Use the reader’s name rather than, “everyone” or “my list” but don’t overdo it.  You don’t want to be like one of those high-pressure, cheesy salespeople.
  2. Check your grammar, spelling, and punctuation.  Your credibility suffers when you send emails filled with errors.  If you need to have someone else edit before your emails go out, do it.
  3. Keep the tone conversational.  You’re going for a professional tone, but not too technical.  You want to strike a balance between friendly and business-like.
  4. Have some PUNCH – keep it intriguing – exciting even. Remember, your readers get a lot of email, so you have to give them a reason to keep opening yours.

Obviously a lot more could be written about email marketing.  In fact there are entire books and websites devoted to it.  This should be a good start for you though.  If you’re an email pro and you have other tips that have worked well for you, don’t be shy.  Share your experience in the comments below.  We’d love to hear your story.

March 24, 2010 From TechCrunch by Matthew