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The email inbox might not seem sexy, but it works. Email is still one of the most effective methods of reaching out to your audience and building trust. Emails helps you drive sales, spread awareness, and nurture customer relationships. Email is cheap, easy to manage and scalable.
BUT, email is also incredibly easy to mess up. Businesses around the world send thousands of ineffective and bland emails every day, or worse; damage their reputation by sending emails that permanently turn people off.
We’ve all been there – desperately trying to unsubscribe or gleefully reporting an email as spam (hey, if you’re going to send emails that bad, that’s what you get).
Here’s a great video of some good emails and bad emails. Follow these tips to nail your next campaign.
Offer value and build up to the sale
Just ask yourself if your emails are valuable even if your potential customer never buys.
An overzealous, pushy sales email is a big turnoff, especially if it is the first a subscriber receives from you after joining your mailing list. But even a seasoned email relationship can be ruined by a badly timed cold sales email. It can make things…awkward.
Build trust by primarily offering value, building up to sales carefully. In the first few emails that people receive after signing up, try to give as much as possible, and don’t sell. If you are sending out offers – do it right.
- Share useful industry insights with your readers – and not just in the blog post you link out to – include valuable insights within your email body too. Ask questions, share quotations, be curious – show that you care. Some of my favourite emails come from people who are sharing their genuine, hopes and fears about what they do. Inspiring emails like the ones Gary Vaynerchuck sends make you want to go out and get stuff done yourself, and you definitely don’t feel ‘sold to’.
- By all means offer exclusive discounts by email, but don’t ram them down people’s throats. An email offer is more compelling if it’s well-framed and is relevant to the individual’s purchase journey. Something like “hey, I saw you were interested in X, so I decided to give you a discount on X”, is so much more interesting than a generic “10% off your next order”. Show that you understand your customers’ motivators and their purchase journey.
- Get your audience involved in your company’s future direction by running competitions or polls where subscribers can vote on a new product line or idea. (Polls are also great for social media).
Personalize & segment to up your relevancy
Relevancy, dear Watson.
People are busy: it’s important to realise that being in their inbox is a privilege. Your promotional email becomes spam the minute it stops being relevant to your reader.
- Relevancy starts with knowing and owning your list data. You have to learn how to segment your email lists and personalize your emails – without segmentation & personalization you won’t be able to provide much value to users (your number one job as an email marketer). Not sure where to start? Start with market segmentation and implement a similar strategy for your email data – separate out similar buyers into core email personas. Not sure segmentation is worth it? In a recent study, MailChimp found that segmented campaigns had almost 15% higher open rates and 85.74% higher click-through rates.
- Always test emails that you’ve personalized – no one likes an embarrassing “FNAME” email. And no, just using someone’s first name and then launching into a sales pitch doesn’t count as personalization. What time are people opening their emails? What parts of your service offering are they actually interested in? Here are six personalization strategies you should consider.
- Personalization also relates to how you represent yourself – always make your emails look like they come from a real person, not an email bot.
- Remember that you can ask people to self-select; don’t underestimate the power of asking a good question when people sign up for your emails (BuzzFeed gives you loads of options so you know what to expect).
Triggered emails are conversion magnets
Appeal to people who are already engaged to up your chance of closing a sale and building a relationship.
- Follow up actions on your website (downloads, clicks, dwell time, sign ups, enrolments etc.) with an email series to get the most out of that interaction. You can use humor if you like, but often a question like “why haven’t you opened your free ebook yet?” works just as well. These subscribers are engaged – just busy. Try to nudge them along: open with some context, be clear about the purpose of the email, and keep the subject line short and sweet. Again, be helpful, not pushy. Always include a clear call to action that points the reader in the right direction so that they can make their next move (contact support/make a call etc).
- Shopping cart abandonment is a very common experience for most ecommerce stores. It can happen even to the best ecommerce sites out there, and it often has more to do with purchase habits than store UX. An abandonment email campaign is a great way of regaining lost opportunities – the best ones make their purpose clear and keep the purchase front-and-center of the email. This isn’t the time to start talking about your upcoming Spring collection. You can up the appeal by offering customers an exclusive discount too (but a discount that is too low might actually lower conversions).
Use narrative sequencing
Design your emails to be sent out in sequences that simulate narratives. If readers can follow a clear narrative arc they will find your emails more engaging. You want your readers to feel like they are being told a story, not a lie.
- Give your emails an internal logic that make sense – plan out email campaigns that get progressively more urgent, or simulate the ebb and flow of natural human conversation with questions and diversions. Make sure your emails are coherent and there is always a clear purpose or direction – don’t forget the all-important call to action.
- Marketers who regularly send out ‘filler’ material to try and hit a certain frequency of emails will quickly bore their readers. Plan out a detailed email calendar in advance to ensure that you are taking advantage of all seasonal opportunities.
Write & design compelling emails
Your emails need to sound and look good.
- Loosen up your writing style in your emails. Why not write like you’re talking to your best friend? Be upbeat, friendly, helpful and generous. Include names – theirs and yours – rather than just ‘dear reader’ (but don’t go overboard – use their first name too many times and you will start to sound creepy). Make sure that you aren’t veering too far off your brand guidelines though.
- Think about the email design too; it’s not all about the words (check out these design hacks if you want to know what works). Be clear on how emails will actually look in people’s inboxes (not just in your fancy email marketing software). Complex designs might overload people’s inboxes. Pay special attention to how the email will look in preview – this will massively impact your email open rates.
- Try using A/B split testing to get an idea of which emails do best with readers, testing different elements like subject line, imagery and content. Push the boat out every now and then – wacky works.
Be smart with spam (and BS) filters
When you’re sending emails out en masse, the risk of inadvertently being marked as spam becomes higher. You also run the risk of creating emails that looks so obviously ‘salesy’, no one is going to read them.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, comb your campaign for the following:
- A cluttered layout, flashing animations, gimmicky graphics, clashing colors, and dated typefaces are off-putting; and make you look outdated.
- Poor coding is a really common way to trigger spam filters. This can be easily avoided if you work with a professional designer/developer or use an existing email template created by your email client. Bad coding can also scramble your email in people’s inboxes – not a good look.
- Know the legal requirements for email campaigns and avoid using any spammy subject lines and words like “free” and “winner”.
- Don’t become too ‘hyped up’ or salesy – be relaxed in your emails. People can smell desperation a mile off.
Selling to email subscribers can be challenging and rewarding. The key is to remember that online audiences are discerning – you need to offer them real value. Think about what sort of sales emails you find interesting – and which ones you avoid. That’s always a good place to start. Share your email marketing nightmares with us on social media!
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