Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.
People check their emails.
That's why email marketing works. Gaining access to someone's Inbox is as close to being invited for dinner as you can get in the digital space.
Although some people do use "throw away" accounts, most are extremely judicious when giving away their addresses—only signing up for email newsletters from companies they're truly interested in hearing from. Which is why inbound marketers are always advising business owners to "Start a list!"
A 2014 study by GigaOM Media found professional marketers depend on email marketing more than any other practice. While social media is great for attracting new prospects, it's less effective for developing long-term relationships. The reason? Too much competition. The average shelf life of a social link is 3 hours. On Twitter it's even worse—just 18 minutes of exposure time.
But your business can cut through the noise by creating relevant email marketing campaigns for your target audiences. For the remainder of this article, we'll discuss the best practices for crafting compelling emails prospects look forward to reading.
1. Write to a Real Person, Not a List
When sitting down to write your marketing emails, it can be easy to forget you're communicating with real people. And real people don't like to be treated like numbers. That means, speak as you normally would in conversation and avoid excessive industry jargon, gimmicky sales pitches, and fake personas. While many marketers recommend writing with a specific Buyer Persona in mind, I find that too singular.
The reality is you're not just writing to one person—you're writing to several unique individuals. They may share similar wants, needs, and questions, but each will have their own unique perspective. Keep this in mind as you make it a habit of closing your emails with specific questions that welcome interaction:
Got a question? Just hit reply. Despite the rumors, we don't have bots answer our emails!
What's your biggest concern about the latest industry updates?
What's the biggest frustration you have right now in regards to ______?
Additionally, be upfront when discussing issues that might not concern everyone. You may also want to segment your campaigns to hit on specific details with the right people. According to Campaign Monitor, the marketers in their study saw a 760 percent increase in email revenue from segmenting alone.
And a final Pro Tip: Personalize subject lines with first names when you can. Emails with personalized subject lines are 26 percent more likely to be opened, according to the aforementioned study.
2. Automate The Journey
What happens when someone signs up for your email newsletter? Do they have to wait to hear from you until your next blast? Do they immediately receive a welcome email?
Generally speaking, people have short attention spans online. Waiting too long before re-engaging with prospects is never a good idea. By creating an automated sequence of educational emails, you can nurture those prospects into warm leads in an organic way. Here are some best practices for structuring a new subscriber campaign.
- Tell prospects exactly what to expect (i.e. how often will they hear from you, what you will be discussing, what the benefits of being on the list are). Bonus points for including team member photos that give your welcome email a personalized touch.
- Follow-up by delivering what you promised in the first email 2-3 days later.
- Give away your best stuff. That could mean categorized links to resources on the company blog, industry white papers, and other free resources that will make their work easier etc.
- Lead up to delivering a case study that demonstrates how another client is benefiting from your products and services.
- Finally, direct subscribers to a landing page or link to "take the next steps" toward working with you.
3. Don't Bury The Lead
There's a famous saying among journalists—Don't bury the lead —which basically means "Get to the point already!" The same applies to email marketing.
While "teasing" customers with a curiosity-invoking subject line can be effective, postponing your reason for writing is a mistake. Once an email is opened you have about 3 seconds to communicate its relevance. Prevent your emails from getting prematurely deleted by crafting compelling introductions.
We understand writing introductions that are simultaneously entertaining, informative, and brief can seem like a tall order. Balancing storytelling with a sense of urgency is an art-form. Which is why we wrote this article on email openers. Check it out for some quick tips and templates.
4. Time Your Emails
Once you've nailed down your content journey, your subject lines, and your writing style, you can begin playing with more minute factors. One of those is... timing. When would your customers rather receive emails from you, when they're sitting down with their morning coffee or when they're winding down before bed? The answer will depend on your industry and Buyer Persona.
However, if you're looking for a general rule of thumb, open rates are statistically highest in the early morning. One study found users open approximately 53 percent of emails that arrived in Inboxes at 6am. The same study found users also respond well to emails that arrive after work between 7and 10pm. The key takeaway? Don't email people during the middle of the workday! Also, avoid Mondays since most people don't seem to like them too much.
5. Optimize For Mobile
About 53 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, according to Campaign Monitor. That's a lot. It means you're losing half your audience by not considering mobile viewing —69 percent of those users will delete emails that aren't optimized for their phones.
The good news is most email marketing programs have a variety of templates preinstalled with both mobile and desktop optimization. Here are some other tips for optimizing for mobile.
- Reduce Image Sizes: Mobile download speeds are increasingly ramping up, but they're still not perfect. Hefty images will slow down loading times, causing impatient downloaders to click away. Services such as FastStone Photo Resizer and JPEGmini can reduce file size by as much as 80 percent without reducing image quality.
- Resize Images by Proportion: Alter the style portion of code in your email's HTML editor so image size is defined by screen proportion, not pixels.
- Increase Link Size: According to a recent MIT study, the average size of an adult index finger is 1.6-2 cm, which translates to 45-57 pixels on a mobile device. Make your links nice and big for an easier user experience.
6. Make Them Easy to Share
Adding social share buttons to your emails is an easy way to encourage the sharing of useful content, and ultimately, increase your subscriber base. Unfortunately, simply plopping share buttons at the bottom of an email won't generate much action.
Try offering a promo code or special giveaway to encourage new subscribers to share your emails. Additionally, have your graphic designer customize share buttons that draw attention. And finally, verbally ask for the share! You'd be surprised how willing people are to "do you a solid" when they like and trust you.
7. Consider A/B Testing
Finally—only after you've done everything on this list—consider A/B testing. Modern email marketing providers make it easy to split test everything from headlines to send times to CTAs and so on. Professional marketers can get kinda crazy with A/B testing, but that's only because it's so fascinating.
Once you begin identifying patterns, you can begin tweaking your campaigns for maximum results. While those gains may seem small, procuring one extra click through can be the difference between thousands of dollars in many B2B industries.
As you can see, email marketing is a wonderful tool for developing relationships with prospects and turning those prospects into sales. Implement these 7 tips in your campaign development process and track your results.
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