Effective Email Marketing: 6 Steps to Getting out of Your Subscribers’ Trash

Whether your company is in the B2B or B2C market, a global distribution manufacturer or the neighborhood deli, the goal of email marketing remains the same: to generate leads. Not only does a well-crafted email allow you to be top-of-mind with prospects, it also provides an opportunity to stay in front of loyal customers. A sound email list includes subscribers who have shown an interest in the products or services you offer by opting in. The key is to craft emails effectively so subscribers will go from deleting or casually skimming to taking action.

1.       KISS with your subject line.

Keep it short and sweet. Research performed by Retention Science shows that 6 – 10 word subject lines performed best with a 21% open rate, and subject lines with the recipient’s first name earned higher open rates by 2.6% compared to those that did not. Subjects that communicate benefits (e.g. “free delivery”), content (e.g. “news”) or frequency (e.g. “weekly”) earned above average open rates. Learn more about which words warrant the best metrics by industry in Adestra’s 2013 Subject Line Analysis Report.

2.       Provide value with engaging content.

What do your prospective and existing customers care about? Their time is limited so your content should be concise and relevant. How-to guides and tips are tools subscribers can utilize immediately. Highlighting a customer (with permission, of course) or featuring a recent work (e.g. new website that just went live) is an effective way to showcase your capabilities, products and/or services. A small “fun fact” section can provide subscribers a more intimate view of your company and build a connection.  For example, “Did you know that 63% of our employees own dogs? Our loyal companions keep us grounded!”

3.       Include compelling images.

Engaging content does not end with your copy. Use bright, crisp images that are relevant, consistent with your brand and support your message. Do not pull photos from an online image search. This could have legal implications and subscribers will recognize that your visuals are generic and lack-luster. If necessary, consider stock imagery which typically costs between $25 and $100 per photo (try Shutterstock or iStockphoto). You’ll own the image(s) which can make the investment worth it. Having trouble deciding which images to use? Ask yourself this, “If I could only communicate my brand and message through images, which ones would I use?”

4.       Employ a strong call-to-action.

As obvious as it sounds, even the most well-composed email will leave subscribers wondering what to do next if it lacks a call-to-action (CTA). Think of your email as a conversation starter in which you invite recipients to interact, and be clear and concise about (1) how you want your subscribers to act and (2) the benefits of acting. Aside from lead generation, what are your main objectives? If you want to build credibility and be seen as a key opinion leader, then “Download our recent whitepaper to learn the 10 Marketing Objectives Every CEO Should Ask” would be a suitable CTA. If you’re trying to build your social media presence, “Like us on Facebook to get our daily 20-minute recipes” would be effective.

5.       Use responsive design.

Whether designing an email from scratch or modifying a pre-made template, use responsive design. This means that your email will adjust and display differently according to the viewing device (desktop monitor, laptop, tablet or phone). Yesmail’s Q1 2014 email benchmark report states that over half of email opens are on a mobile device. Of these mobile opens, templates with responsive design warranted a 21% higher click-to-open rate than those without it. Looking for a free or affordably priced template that can be used with most email service providers? Check out this list from Mashable.

6.       When in doubt: test.

So you’ve narrowed it down to 2 subject lines and don’t know which will warrant a better open rate? Use both. Split testing, or A/B testing, is a controlled experiment comparing two variants. Some email service providers offer this feature. If yours isn’t one of them, perform your own A/B test by randomly splitting your subscriber list in half and scheduling two campaigns (all email components the same except for the one piece you’re testing) to deploy simultaneously (if possible so that day/time isn’t another variable). Last step: compare the metrics. Results may not be conclusive when self-testing, but you might be able to make a directional inference.