Step one: open this email

08/03/2010 Leave a comment

When your subscribers receive an email from you, there are three actions they can take: open it, delete it, or, the dreaded non-action: allow it to languish in their inboxes for near-eternity. Your goal is to encourage them to open every email you send.

There are only two opportunities to encourage subscribers to open the email: the “From” line and the “Subject” line. It’s within these two fields where you can show subscribers that the email you’re sending them is valuable.

From line: If subscribers don’t recognize who the email is coming from, their suspicions are instantly raised. Ensure instant recognition by choosing a “From” name that is simple and familiar—this could be your company name, brand, or the name of someone associated with your business and easily recognized by your customers.

Subject line: Here’s your chance to be unique, useful, urgent, and user-specific. To be user-specific your list must be segmented properly. Instead of sending the same message to everyone on your list, try dividing it up by gender, age, location, date since last purchase, or by another category that is relevant to your business. Sending messages that are customized for certain categories will make the message itself more relevant, as well as allow you to write a more targeted subject line. Doing both of these things will increase the likelihood that your subscribers will open (and read) the email you send.

Here are 6 techniques to improve your subject line:

  1. Start strong: Since space is limited, focus on the first 45-50 characters. Brevity isn’t as important as putting the most important words first.
  2. Prioritize: People scan subject lines from left to right, so put your key offering right at the start. For example “Buy a new blender and save 50%” won’t be as effective as “50% off blenders”.
  3. Recognizable name: Include brand, product or newsletter name (if not used in the “From” line).
  4. Value: State a benefit from the reader’s point of view.
  5. Spark: Intrigue the reader and stimulate curiosity. For example “Top 5 Hotel Horror Stories” can be an effective way to drive traffic to your travel website.
  6. Call-to-action: Include a time-sensitive incentive to encourage subscribers to open the email and take an action.

Test these techniques by randomly dividing your list in half and sending a different subject line to both groups. You will learn about what motivates your audience with each test and your communications will improve.

For more on this topic, here’s a recent post featuring some fun, attention-grabbing subject lines. This article compares the best and worst subject lines produced by MailChimp users.

Integrate your email and social media campaigns

07/23/2010 Leave a comment

Email marketing works best when it’s part of an overall marketing strategy. While the Direct Marketers Association currently ranks email marketing to produce the highest return on investment, social media is quickly catching up. You can increase the success of your email campaign by capitalizing on the popularity of social media.

According to the fourth annual Email Marketing Industry Census, many marketers are using social media to enhance their email campaigns. More than a third of companies (37%) are using email to encourage the sharing of content on social networks and just under a third of companies (31%) say they are planning to do this. A fifth of companies (21%) are using email to promote customer ratings and reviews, while a further 26% say they have plans to do this.

The real benefit of social media is its ability to leverage your message and amplify your content as people spread it through their social networks. GetResponse conducted a survey and found that integrating social media and e-mail produced a greater than 30% improvement in click-through rates.

Here are five ways to better integrate social media with your email marketing:

  1. Place a link to your e-newsletters on your social media pages and vice versa
  2. Deliver e-newsletters containing excerpts from your blog with links to each post
  3. Include social media share options in your e-newsletter
  4. Link to your company’s social networking profile in the sidebar of your e-newsletter
  5. Provide an option for customers to join your social media networks on your e-mail newsletter registration page

How do you use email marketing? How do you integrate email marketing with social media?

Categories: Social Media

A little design inspiration . . .

07/16/2010 Leave a comment

Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to get started. If you’re attempting to design your email campaign yourself or want to offer art direction to your designer, it may help to see what the pros are doing and what the current trends are. Email Design Gallery showcases the design work of professional email marketing designers. You can also glean some ideas about what kind of content to put in your email campaigns.

Here are some other places on the web to find design inspiration:

  • eROI’s The Email Wars blog often posts screenshots and analysis of good and bad campaign examples. See the best of email and worst of email categories.
  • The EEC’s Chad White monitors retailer emails and includes numerous screenshots and analysis as part of his Retail Email Blog.

So You Think You Can Funny? The Do’s and Don’ts of E-mail Marketing Humor

07/09/2010 Leave a comment

This week we have a guest blogger. A former colleague and friend, Julie Kraut is a professional writer and one very clever marketer. She succesfully weaves humor into her writing for a wide array of audiences. Here she offers some tips on how to effectively use humor when communicating with customers through email marketing.

A little humor goes a long way in e-mail marketing. Consistently providing a giggle in addition to the valuable content, information, and deals you e-mail out can make your brand more relatable, spur open rates, and encourage message forwarding. While in general I like to think that funny is in the belly laugh of the giggler, when it comes to e-mail marketing, there are some do’s and don’ts of humor writing. Follow them and you’ll be laughing all the way to your analytics pages.

Here we go:

  • Make funny, not fun—Anyone who’s ever been to a high school cafeteria knows that poking fun at others is a super easy way to get some laughs. After all, with fat people, dumb people, Yaris-driving people, the jokes write themselves. But remember that you’re not sending out this e-mail solely for laughs. If you offend someone into unsubscribing before you convey your message, your e-mail is a total fail. So, be funny, but not at anyone’s expense. Especially vegans. They’re super sensitive. Trust me, I know from experience.
  • Funny ain’t perfect—Humor is a lot about delivery. The funny needs to flow and feel natural. Don’t over-edit your jokes to the point where they lose all sense of normal speak. People are going to be focused on what they’re laughing at. They’re not going to care that the sentence at which they’re meant to be laughing ends in a preposition. Being funny means kicking some grammar rules to the curb. Sorry, grammar Nazis, but there’s a reason you don’t have your own show on Comedy Central.
  • Hedge your bets—Not everything that tickles you is going to translate to chuckles from your subscribers. That’s ok. There’s no such thing as a guaranteed laugh, but don’t let that intimidate you from attempting to get some. Instead, let the fact that not everything’s going to work encourage you to try a lot. If you only put one joke into your e-mail, you’re not helping your odds at giggle success. Insert tons of humor and know that even if a reader doesn’t get some of your jokes, she’ll get a few. I imagine this is the strategy of the writers of Two and Half Men. At least 75% of their jokes thunk like a pet rock in cement boots, but it’s still one of the most successful show on television. You probably don’t even have to find a way to make a convicted criminal endearing, so you’re one step ahead of those writers.
  • Know your limits—Humor can be a helpful means for communicating your message, but it’s not for every message. Think of humor like cream cheese frosting. That stuff makes almost everything taste better. Almost. It’s actually really quite disgusting on pad thai. So, you need to be thinking, is your message like rice krispie treats, toast, or asparagus—something that can be enhanced by cream cheese frosting—or is it more of a pad thai message? Your business might not lend itself to humor. That being said, you don’t need to be a zany slinky manufacturer to be funny. I’ve seen humor used by investment companies, career counselors, and non-fiction books. But there are limits. And “Putting the fun back in pet funerals” is well beyond them. Again, I know from experience.

That’s all she wrote on the Commandments of Funny. Go forth and get laughs.

Julie Kraut is a writer for hire and the co-author of Hot Mess and author of Slept Away. For more, check out JulieKraut.com.

Categories: Email content

How to leverage free image hosting for your email campaign

06/16/2010 Leave a comment

If you’re relying on your email service provider (ESP) to store the images you use in your emails, pretty soon you’ll use up all the free storage space available to you. Instead of paying your ESP for more storage, I recommend posting your photos on a free photo hosting site, such as Picasa or Flickr. Once a photo is posted on one of these sites, you can easily link to it through your email.

Picasa and Flickr are my two favorites, but there are many others. Picasa organizes your images locally on your computer’s hard drive, hosts your images online, and also offers tools to edit your images.

If you’ve never used a photo sharing site before, these instructions will show you how to post your photos on Picasa Web Albums.

Whenever you insert an image into your email, remember to title it in the “Description” field. Give it a name that will be meaningful to your readers, or perhaps an invitation to click through to your site, for example, “Learn more about the company” and link it to your “About Us” page. This will ensure that text will appear even if the image fails to load in recipients’ inboxes. It’s considered a best practice.