Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of email you receive? Much of it is probably marketing email, and the chances are you delete a lot of that pretty swiftly. If you’re in the business of email marketing, how can you ensure your emails will generate interest and inspire action?
Of course, it’s important to make your emails look good, but that’s just one part of the readers’ overall user experience, and will only be discovered if the email is opened.
It pays to consider your daily encounters with your own inbox(es). Send yourself an email you’re working on, at a time when you already have several new and unread emails, and imagine you’re someone in your email’s target audience when you visit your inbox. Ask yourself these three questions:
1. Why Would I Want to Open This Email?
OK, your inbox has various unread messages seeking your attention. You’re busy and you want to get through these messages ASAP. So, you quickly glance through the senders and subject lines of those new messages, looking for items that you can safely delete without even opening them.
You’ll probably delete anything that looks like spam, along with anything from companies you trust if the subject lines of their emails offer nothing of interest. You might also delete anything from trusted companies who send you too much email, because you’re losing patience with them.
Now, be honest—would your email survive this quick cull of unwanted messages? If so, congratulations. If not, why not?
- Are you sending to people with whom you have a weak or non-existent relationship?
- Does your organization send your audience a lot of email? (Perhaps not all of it from your team—also consider their contact with other parts of the organization and any automatically generated emails they might receive.)
- If you have a good relationship with the email recipients, is your subject line too similar to other emails you’ve sent them or just not engaging enough?
If the relationship (or lack of) is the problem, you’ll need a subject line that might build or strengthen the relationship, perhaps with a very strong offer. If you’re not prepared to make that offer to everyone you’re sending the email to, split the audience and send different messages to each segment.
If your organization is sending too much email, that’s really an internal issue that demands attention. If your business is perceived as bothersome, that’s bad for your brand. Are all those emails truly necessary? Is there a smarter way to deliver certain communications?
Similarly, repeatedly sending messages with unoriginal or dull subject lines and content will also hurt your brand. Even continually sending discount coupons can eventually diminish interest in your emails. I personally receive about 10 ‘limited time only’ email coupons each month from one store, and I usually delete them because they’ve effectively trained me to expect another offer in a few days. I’m now immune to their attempts to create urgency with ‘limited time’ offers; their messages have ceased to be special.
2. Will I Open This Email Right Now?
Of course, even if your email isn’t immediately deleted, that doesn’t mean it’ll be read right away. Maybe it’ll be left until next time (possibly flagged for follow-up, possibly not) because there just isn’t time for it at the moment. And maybe that’s OK—at least your email wasn’t deleted, yet.
If you want your email to be read, you need a great subject line. It might directly state an amazing offer, hint tantalizingly at something special, or just leave the reader sufficiently curious to open the email.
Subject lines are most effective when they’re fully visible, but readers on smartphones may not see the entire subject line if their email client can only show part of it, due to the narrow window width. If you can’t directly state an amazing offer in about 50 characters, or if you just don’t have an amazing offer, try to find a reasonably short phrase that’s likely to encourage readers to open the email.
By the way, avoid using terms like “special offer” and “free” or monetary amounts in your subject line. Language like this will often result in your email being unceremoniously diverted into a spam folder. Perform a search for “spam filter words” to get an idea of which phrases you should avoid.
3. OK, What’s in This Email?
Once your email is opened, don’t kill the momentum by changing the topic. Your reader opened the email because of the subject line, so begin your message by quickly reaffirming and expanding upon that subject.
Next, consider the length of your message. More than 100 words? Hmm, maybe you could reduce that word count. More than 200? You absolutely can reduce that word count. I guarantee your busy readers have better things to do than read 200+ words, and the higher the word count, the more likely it is that they’ll skim it too quickly—or just delete it without reading more than a few words.
Just as you need to keep web text short, promotional emails should be easy to read quickly. Don’t bore readers with the kind of marketing language suited to glossy brochures. Just clearly convey these three things:
- Why you’re contacting the reader
- What you’d like them to do
- The action they should take next, if they’re interested
If your message attempts to do more than this, its chances of success are reduced. You may only have the reader’s attention for a few seconds, so it’s important that you keep them engaged after they’ve opened your email. The best way to do this is to get them to visit a web page to learn more. Not only does this visit offer a way for you to track their interest, it also keeps them on the road to conversion.
Therefore, you needn’t go into a lot of detail in your email. If a few sentences in your email can persuade readers to visit your web page, you can then give them additional detail there on your website. They might never click if your call to action is lost in a long message that no-one has time to read. But when the reader clicks, they’re indicating they’re prepared to listen to what you have to say, and you’ve bought yourself more time to expand upon your message.
And wherever possible, just give readers one web page to visit, so they don’t have to spend valuable time deciding which link they should click. Get the reader to your web page and let them decide their next course of action there.
Making the Most of ‘The Click’
The final piece of the puzzle is an effective landing page. Ideally, this page will be a natural extension of your overall message, continuing from where the email left off. If you just link to a page that was created without your email campaign in mind, it may not be a great fit, even if you like to think it’s ‘good enough.’ A page created for another purpose probably won’t be as effective as a page custom-built for your email campaign.
If you’re unable to create custom landing pages for each email, at least set up a generic page that will work well for multiple similar email campaigns, and compose each email with that generic destination in mind. But wherever possible, strive to tie the landing page closely to the email.
Ask yourself what your readers would want to see after clicking a link in the email. What would really ‘seal the deal’ for them? That’s what your landing page should offer. Reverse-engineer your email to work with the landing page.
A Gentle Reminder?
Finally, if you can track which email recipients didn’t convert, try re-sending them your email a few days later, perhaps at a different time of day. Maybe your first email arrived during a busy time and some readers intended to take action, but never got around to it.
Don’t re-send every email you ever create—just the most important ones. And consider adjusting the message so it reads as a reminder—that may make the second contact slightly less annoying for some readers. Many readers won’t mind and the reminder may pay off, especially if you have a particularly good offer. After all, it often takes more than one impression to get the results you want, and a reminder might be a very easy way to dramatically increase your conversions.