With all of the marketing options available via social media these days – everything from sponsored posts to autoplay video ads – you might think that good old email marketing is obsolete or at least on its way out. But that’s not true at all.
People still do communicate by email, both personally and professionally, and email still has its place in your marketing strategy. It remains an excellent way to get your message across, in a more thoughtful way than a tweet or a throwaway Facebook post, to a targeted audience who has opted-in to your regular messaging. Whether it’s a no-frills email with engaging copy, or a newsletter with a few bells and whistles, a well-orchestrated email campaign can be one of a brand’s best friends. But it can only be your friend if you center all of your email campaigns – and indeed, all of your marketing efforts – around user experience. You have to look at everything you do from the perspective of your target audience. If your emails are boring or annoying to them you have not only compromised your brand, but you also aren’t serving your customers well at all.
The one point that some marketers fail to remember is this: people are busier than ever, and most will not bother to read emails that don’t engage them in some way; they simply do not have the time. They don’t like long, boring content, or content that is hard to read (particularly on their smartphones), and they don’t like being annoyed by emails that come in too frequently and clutter up their in box.
Here are five ways you can improve your email marketing strategy and avoid being an automatic trigger for the “Delete” key or, worse, the “Unsubscribe” option.
1. Make your subject lines compelling and appropriate
The subject line has been called the most important element of any email, and to a very large extent that’s true. If the subject line is too long, too generic, or just too boring, most people won’t bother reading any further. Remember that people are busy. You have to give them a reason not to skip over your email in favor of something juicier. The catch is that this compelling subject line must be relevant to the content of the email and not just a sensationalist piece of fluff; otherwise you risk annoying your readers. Think of it this way: You don’t like being fooled into reading something that is really of no interest to you, right? Well, your readers don’t like it either. Remember: user experience.
2. Make sure every email provides real value to your readers
If you had them at the subject line, there’s still a chance you can lose them in the body. First off, get to the point. You’re writing a 20-teens email, not a 1980s direct-mail piece. Remember that it’s all about user experience! Use punchy copy and short paragraphs (people have short attention spans these days anyway, and on-screen reading just exacerbates this phenomenon). If there’s a call to action, post a link at several points in the email, rather than waiting till the end of the copy – but don’t make those links too frequent or too intrusive.
Beyond that, you should make your emails “meaty” by offering information that customers won’t necessarily find on your Facebook page, blog posts, or web site. However, since you want to link all of your online promotional efforts, it’s certainly appropriate for your emails to give readers a heads-up about what’s happening on your social media sites and your blog. You can write capsule summaries and then provide links they can follow at their leisure. And of course it’s always appropriate to share news, whether it’s a new product or service announcement, pricing change, favorable media mention of your brand, an award that your company won, or news about legislation or other issues affecting your industry.
Whatever you do, don’t just email ads; too many brands do this, and more often than not their messages are deleted without being read. That’s not to say you shouldn’t promote new products, services or upcoming events, and it’s certainly appropriate to include a discount coupon or some compelling offer with your email. But millions of readers are fed up with online ads, particularly in their email in boxes, so make sure you give them something they’ll actually want to read.
3. Make your emails visually attractive, but don’t go overboard.
These days, minimalism is the key to attractiveness, whether we’re talking about web pages, blog posts, or emails. Reading your content should be a pleasant experience for your readers. Most people are less wowed by stunning, artful design than they are by how quickly the content loads, and, increasingly, how easy it is to read on their smartphones (see next item). That said, you do need to have brand consistency across platforms, so even if they’re ultra-minimalist your emails should be visually congruent with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest presence, as well as your web site and blog. Make sure your template, if you use one, is updated and elegantly minimalist, and of course make sure your brand logo is on the email somewhere.
4. Optimize for mobile – particularly smartphones
Here’s where you really have to focus on user experience and play to the “mobile majority.” While other mobile devices such as tablets are very popular, smartphones are the device of choice for millions of users who take their phones everywhere, and do most of their web surfing, social media engagement, and, yes, email checking on those tiny little screens. According to a study by the email marketing firm Blue Hornet, more than 80 percent of customers will delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their mobile devices. There’s also a positive reason for optimizing for mobile: that same study found that 63% of those consumers said they would be willing to make a purchase as a result of an email on their mobile device. Making your emails smartphone-friendly will make shopping a pleasure for your customers. It’s is worth the effort.
5. Don’t wear out your welcome
You probably don’t like to be annoyed by a flood of emails, and your customers don’t either. You might think that once someone has signed up for your email list, you have carte blanche to fill up that person’s in box. But that’s not the case. They’re still calling the shots, and if you annoy them with too-frequent emails you may lose them. If you want to stand out from all the competition, and if you want your readers to continue to welcome your emails into their in boxes, you have to do two things: create compelling content, and avoid overexposure. According to a March 2013 study by Blue Hornet, overly frequent emailing is the leading reason people unsubscribe from email lists. You want to send out regular emails, of course, but sometimes less is more.
There are as many pitfalls as there are advantages to email marketing, but it’s still a worthy part of your arsenal, and if properly used it can really boost your brand. It’s all about knowing your audience, finding out what they want or need, and delivering it in the way that creates the most positive and pleasurable user experience. Focus on users, and your marketing practically takes care of itself.
(Lead image source: Esparta Palma)