I’m like most people. Each time I check my email (which is several times a day), I make a quick initial scan to identify the “junk”.
My brain digests the subject line of each new email and determines whether or not it’s a keeper. This takes seconds. Then, my limber thumb swipes and deletes everything that hasn’t earned its place in my inbox.
After the purge and setting aside messages that require a response, what I’m left with are emails I value. Conversely, any message I kick into the trash has no value to me – at least none that I can perceive in the moment.
Value. That’s an important word when it comes to email marketing.
Right People + Right Message
But first, a word of warning: marketing emails almost never work when they’re:
- sent to a group of random email addresses; and
- written like a blatant sales pitch.
Why? Simple. When you send to a list of targeted individuals, you’re maximizing your chances of success. And as for sales-y emails – they turn off most people.
Examples: Marketing Emails I Love to Get
I receive frequent marketing emails from the women’s clothing company eShakti because I’m a customer. I’m not just any email address – I’m a smart target. I’m much more likely to respond than, say, a male nudist, or even a non-nudist female who’s never heard of eShakti before.
eShakti’s emails alert me to sales, introduce new items, and request my feedback on designs they’re considering via surveys. All of these emails bring me value.
How? Sales alerts help me get the clothes I want for less. Introducing me to new items helps me jump on stock that may become popular and sell out quickly. Asking for my feedback makes me feel like I’ll get more of what I want in the future because they’re letting me tell them what that is.
Emails about sales and new products are as close to a sales pitch as you want to get, and I can forgive them from eShakti and they know that. How? Because they’re watching their stats and analyzing their recipients’ behavior. They know that I often make a purchase shortly after receiving an email about a sale or new product. I respond to this stuff, so they don’t hold back from sending it.
However, if you’re emailing someone who hasn’t purchased from you yet, you’d be wise to take a subtler approach.
For example, I once filled out a form to learn more about a series of video sewing classes. I haven’t enrolled yet, but I get an email from the organization about once every six weeks. And no, I don’t automatically trash these emails, because they’ve proven to be valuable to me time and again. Once in a while they’ll mention a sale or a new product, but most of the time, they just include an article, a tip, or a two-minute video demonstration – all on sewing. Eventually, when I’m ready to apply myself to a formal course, I’ll probably give my money to this organization.
- Familiarity. They’ll be the first company to come to mind, because I see their name in my inbox on a regular basis;
- I’ve seen that these people know what they’re talking about. Their free email content has already made me a better stitcher; and
- Reciprocity. They’re totally on my good side. They’ve given me so much already, I feel compelled to reward them with my business.
I have no time for junk email. I delete a good 90% of the email I get in a day. But these two companies are winning with me. Even if they’re not getting the sale now, they’ll probably get it later, and they’ll definitely get my word-of-mouth recommendations.
If you’re choosing a DIY approach to writing marketing emails, but you’re wondering if you’re “getting it right”, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Who wants to hear from me? It’s smart to collect email addresses from customers and potential customers (people who’ve expressed an interest but haven’t yet pulled the trigger). These are the people who most want to hear from you. They’re already into you, at least a little. If you have an opportunity to email people who are strangers to your brand, find people who are likely to like you. If you sell cold weather head gear, for example, get to the winter sports enthusiasts, the folks who work outdoors year-round, etc.
What do they value? What’s important to the people you’re emailing? What do they care about? What interests them? What are their problems? What would make their lives easier or more exciting? Get to know them, then find ways to serve them.
Are they ready to buy? One way to find this out is to watch how they respond to your emails, and tread softly from the start. If they request more information, don’t bombard them with emails about your product. Send the info they’re asking for, then make sure the next few follow-up emails have nothing to do with your product. Then, slip in a product-related email and see how they respond. Nothing yet? Pull back for a little while. However, if they buy, you can feel comfortable sending product-related emails more often – just be sure to send at least as many emails that make no sales pitch whatsoever.
Giving ‘Em What They Want
What kind of non-product-related content can you deliver in your emails? It can be text content (an article, a bulleted list of tips, a touching story about an extraordinary customer or employee); visual content (like a how-to video, or a photo collage from your company’s “Bring Your Pet to Work Day”); even audio content (a podcast episode, a recording of your staff’s zany proposed jingles for the company).
Two avenues to consider when brainstorming email content:
- What would your target customer find USEFUL?
- News that impacts their industry or interest
- Advice to help them achieve their goals
- Skills that align with their interests/goals
- Helpful info organized in an easy-to-reference way
- A flowchart to help them accomplish a task quickly and easily
- What would your target customer find ENTERTAINING?
- A parody from popular culture/the media
- “Insider” jokes
- Amazing feats, extraordinary examples
- Personal anecdotes
The Mighty Subject Line
It’s certainly not last in importance, but I’m wrapping up with the topic of the subject line because it’s the last thing you should write after creating your email.
When I described my lightning-fast inbox assessment process, one of the first things I mentioned was the subject line. Most emails that I instantly delete don’t get opened. I make my decision based on the subject line alone. This is true of most people, and it should signal to you the importance of the subject line.
Even professional writers admit that crafting a subject line that “works” is more challenging than writing the guts of the email. That’s why a good email copywriter is worth their weight in gold.
But that doesn’t mean DIYers can’t write effective subject lines. In fact, if the content of your email is valuable enough to your recipient, all you really have to do is tell them what’s inside in clean, concise language.
However, there are other techniques you can use to improve your efforts. Here are a few:
- Short n’ sweet. The longer the subject line, the more likely it is to be visually cut off in the recipient’s device window. Plus, shorter messages align better with today’s shorter attention spans.
- Ask a question. Questions heighten our natural curiosity. They also speak to the part of us that likes attention. Even if we understand that there’s not necessarily a real individual behind that question waiting with baited breath for our answer, psychologically, questions feel good. “Have you seen this wild video yet?” “Will this make your renovation more affordable?” “Why are the stars flocking here?” “Which one of these guitars sounds better?” Use this technique in some but not all of your emails.
- Avoid all caps. WRITING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IS CONSIDERED YELLING.
- Use relevant keywords. What does your recipient love? Name those things in your subject line (as early as possible) or use phrases that evoke their passions. For example, if your target customer is a winter sports enthusiast, you might use winter sports, snow, ski, skiing, snowboarding, powder, mountain, lodge, catching an edge, slopes, whiteout, Use this technique in some but not all of your emails.
- Say their name. As humans, we can’t resist hearing the sound of our own name being spoken. That goes for reading it, too. It warms us up instantly and makes us more receptive to what comes next. Once in a while, use your recipient’s name in the subject line of an email. “Mitch, this is right up your alley.”
- Don’t mislead. If your subject line promises something, the content of the email should live up to it. For example, if you’re using the subject line, “Have you seen this wild video yet?”, make sure your email leads to a video of something highly unusual. Otherwise, your recipient will feel burned and you’ll lose his trust forever.
Yes, your marketing email can survive an express inbox purge – that is, if you send it to the right person and deliver real value. That means you can keep your emails about football, bungee jumping and liver recipes out of my inbox. But I’ll be wishing you good luck in connecting with your tribe and winning their business for life.