I am quite a beginner in the Email marketing domain. My first experiment with email marketing took place about three years back and I had failed miserably then but not without learning my lessons. At that time, I had taken a totally wrong route (solo ads etc) in order to get the job done. After month-long desperate and frequent attempts, I stopped everything and even closed my aWeber subscription – needless to say, they weren’t really the culprits.
A few months ago, having unlearned and relearned a few things; I reentered the arena to give it another shot. Well, I must say that I am seeing better results this time and I am loving my MailChimp account that holds my lists and campaigns now. This post is purely based on my recent experiences on what kind of email marketing letters are effective in bringing the audience back to your content and improve conversions.
An Email is a Funny thing!
Email marketing is a very powerful tool for retaining loyalty, sustaining your business and improving sales but it has so many hurdles before achieving the desired results. One wrong email – in terms of content, tone or look and feel – can cause irreparable damage at times. So even before designing the best email newsletter or marketing piece, you have to keep the following things in mind:
- Emails sometimes never reach people thanks to spam protection software, custom rules, soft-hard bounces etc
- Emails can be deleted even before it is opened
- Even if a mail is opened, people cannot be expected take any action
- Some emails sit there permanently in the recipients’ mailbox without being opened, read or deleted
The good thing is that some of the above issues can be tackled with properly designed and configured emails that we will discuss in a moment. However, even with all that done, please note that the final open rates we are talking about would be around 25% (varies depending on the niche) or so and CTR would be something like 5% to 6%. Now, these numbers are not all that bad, right? Even if 50 out of 1000 recipients take some desired action, there is not much room for complaints.
Coming back to today’s topic.
The anatomy and making of a good (marketing) email
Our first intent should be beating anti-spam logic and then luring the recipient to open the email. Let me explain what can be done about it using the following sub-sections.
1. A ‘From’ name that people recognize
The from name ideally should be the name of a person, brand name or website name that the email recipients can immediately relate to. There is no hard and fast rule on what should take the precedence, but the following would be my view on that.
- If your online work is known after you, then use your name (e.g. Neil Patel’s newsletter uses his name in the ‘From’ field)
- On the other hand, if your brand has more visibility than your name OR if yours is a venture run by multiple people, use your brand name (e.g. Daily Blog Tips)
- If your website or online content doesn’t use a brand keyword OR if it wants to give emphasis on the domain root name/TLD, you may use the domain name itself in the from field (e.g. IndiBlogger.in)
You can see all these three examples in the following screenshot.
2. A great tempting Subject line
There are a couple of aspects about the subject line that we need to care about.
First, it should be as personalized as possible. For example, in the above picture, you can see that the subject line itself addresses the recipient which would have been even better if the first name alone was used. This is a very smart approach to improve mail opening rates drastically – it’s smart because whatever (addressing) has to go inside the mail content is now in the subject itself.
Secondly, the subject line should be something that’s really interesting and making people click-open the mail. It shouldn’t be a very passive sentence but asking-a-question type subject lines do work great. It should have a couple of keywords that give a hint of what’s inside the mail. At the same time, it shouldn’t have popular spammy keywords that could get caught by anti-spam addons.
Thirdly, the length of the subject line should be perfect in a way that it looks great and complete on most clients. In my opinion, 60 to 70 character long subject lines would be just perfect and it avoids the ellipsis (…) that mail clients might add to the shortened versions of long titles.
3. A fitting Teaser or Preheader
Preheaders or Teasers are those little excerpts that follow the title and the email recipient gets to see this even before the mail is opened. This is something like the short ‘preview’ that most email clients would display.
Teasers are a great way to boost the urge to open mails and hence something that definitely increases open rates. You can see an example of a teaser in the screenshot of an opened email newsletter below (marked ‘3’ there in).
4. Alternate reading options
Now, assuming that the mail was opened but what if they don’t see anything in a readable manner? That’s why alternate newsletter reading links are very important. This link must be present (‘4’ in the screenshot above)
Ill-formed or scrambled email content can be caused due to a number of reasons including opted v/s delivered format differences, clients or anti-phishing/virus programs blocking certain scripts or even just due to certain browser settings. Whatever be the case, instead of making the reader frustrated, you need to provide him/her an alternate option at the earliest before the mail goes to the trash folder. That’s why they need to be right on top.
5. Appropriate addressing
Well, a part of it has already been taken care of in the subject section. However, the real addressing should happen in an appropriate and personalized fashion to set things right from the beginning of the content. Based on your niche, you may decide to choose between ‘Hi, Hello, Dear, Hey, Sir/Ma’m or other salutations’ followed by your ‘First name, whole name or nothing’. Obviously, how you would address someone while giving relationship advice would be quite different from the addressing style of an Internet marketing email piece.
6. Quick and short Introduction
This is VERY important and you have to do it every single time you send out a mail or auto responder – no matter how many times you have done it before. Why? Because, subscribers keep joining and leaving and you have to give the heads up on what they are receiving and why in the beginning of the content itself.
Points (5) and (6) can be seen in the Daily Blog Tips’ newsletter screenshot below.
7. Branding & RICH content formats
No-brainer this one! Every communication – marketing or otherwise – from you should reflect your branding and this is true about emails or newsletters as well. Having the logo, color combination and fonts are very important and probably the easiest thing to do is to copy the blog/site header banner, style colors and fonts rather than designing something altogether new.
8. Richer with Meaningful images
It’s good to give subscribers an option to choose either text or HTML newsletter but I would say stick to HTML alone. The number of people opting for text newsletters is very minimal with even the worst mobile browser supporting latest stylesheet specifications (and I even recently disabled it on all lists). HTML also provides you an opportunity to place neat images which could double up as links without being too obtrusive.
Just be aware that overuse of images can result in a mangled newsletter especially when the ‘Show Images’ option has to be manually specified by the recipients. But in most cases, pictures do wonders!
9. Getting to the point really quickly
If a webpage visitor has 3 seconds before taking the drastic decision of leaving the site (by hitting the back button), the email recipient of a marketing newsletter is probably even faster. Hence it’s very important to put your point forward in the second sentence itself – after the introduction, that is.
Further, this small para should be really very small and should have the call for action intent set right there. It can even have one of the action links or buttons right there although it can be different in certain cases.
Neil Patel’s regular ‘blog post update’ newsletters are pretty good in terms of setting a crisp and positive intent as well as the right Call-for-Action links which we would discuss in the next section.
10. Call for Action – More than once, that is!
We already intended it and now it’s all about being ‘softly pushy’ to take things forward. In the next sentence or paragraph (i.e. typically the third one after introduction and second short para), you should be focusing on what the recipient will miss out if they didn’t take an action right now. Instead of doing everything there in one paragraph, you could even use a couple of short sentences along with links. In either case, it should be an unambiguous plain language that should be intuitive and presented with the call-for-action links.
Most of the actions happen in this paragraph – at least that’s what I have seen in my click reports.
Finally, a word about the link density – While one might think that having one dedicated call for action link may be ideal, what I have seen is that having two or three links in each email works better so that CTR is improved due to better visibility. Moreover, it is better that the links use traditional underlined styling or buttons than plain non-underlined anchor links with hover styling. The fact is that, no one might actually hover and discover stuff in the case of emails.
11. Conclude positively with reassurance
This is one of the crucial places whereby someone who wanted to unsubscribe from your newsletter might suddenly think otherwise. A positive, reassuring closure statement can actually improve the connectivity with your audience and Daniel’s newsletter example above has a really good conclusion statement.
12. Footer – Address, Unsubscribe links
Needless to say, every email marketing template should end with a subscriber management option such as ‘Unsubscribe’, ‘Report spam’ etc along with the business’ complete address. These are mandatory legal requirements no one can escape from it. If you think that, by not providing an ‘Unsubscribe’ link, you can retain your list subscription numbers, you are absolutely wrong! It can have a very adverse impact on your long term goals in Internet marketing.
(In this context, I would like to touch upon another related topic in the footer section which is the social media share buttons. If there’s a foolproof mechanism of providing social share links, you can include them in the footer section as well)
What you just read are some email marketing newsletter tips purely based on my recent experiences. It might sound like an overflow of information in the beginning but when they are laid out well in a compact email template, it will actually look neat, useful on a recurring basis and yield desired results.
I shall be back with more aspects (autoresponders, squeeze pages, forms etc) of email marketing in the future. Until, then please feel free to share this post within your circle and let me know your opinion as well.