How to Write a Successful Marketing Email

By Tatyana LevinJune 16, 2015

A good marketing email is a work of art. It is a delicate balance between entertainment and salesmanship. You’ve got to entice your audience without appearing too eager. Fortunately, for those who are not artistically inclined, there’s a formula that you can follow to help your emails be the best that they could be.

If you break down each element of the email, you could make it a science. The first thing you should know about email marketing is that the emails you send should have value to your recipients. Otherwise, even if they get opened, the call to action will be ignored and your email might get categorized as spam. After that, you can start thinking about each individual part of the email.

To:
You’ve probably got a list that you’re planning to send emails to. But before you send one email to everyone, think about splitting your email list into different segments. You can divide by source, demographics, industry, etc. That way you can make your emails more personal and relevant. And be sure to use each recipient’s name in emails you send to them.

From:
You might not think that you have many options in the “from” section, but this is one of the first decisions you will make and it is extremely relevant to your open rate. Don’t try to trick your recipients by making it unclear who the email is from, and think about whether you’d have better luck sending from yourself or from your company.

Subject Line
Subject lines can be tricky. You want to be enticing but brief. You want to be informative but still a little mysterious. You want people to open your email instead of getting all the information they need from the subject lines and deleting the email.

Well, here are a few subject guidelines:

  • Certain words in a subject line will categorize your email as spam. The list is long, so be sure to consult it every time you’re constructing a subject line. There are also tools you can use to see if your subject line will pass through spam filters.
  • Length is a contentious issue. There is no definitive “ideal length,” but MailChimp suggests using no more than 50 characters.
  • Let your subject line reflect some of the value contained in your email, although it may be hard without using one of the trigger words.
  • Avoid puns. Although they can be fun for the writer, they are usually confusing for the reader.
  • Express a feeling of urgency and action. You want the subject line to make your recipients feel like they will be missing out on something important if they don’t open the email.

First Line/Body
It’s pretty rare for someone to read through an entire email. If you are lucky enough for a recipient to open your email, you have to catch his or her attention right away. But recipients will actually see at least part of your first sentence in the preview pane.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your email copy matches your subject line. Otherwise, you’re chipping away at the reader’s trust. Make your email copy reader-centric. The recipient wants to know about how whatever you’re selling can affect them. They don’t care about your company, just about how you could help them. And be sure to keep it conversational. Don’t go for the sale in the first sentence. Build up to your big pitch; the first sentence should be interesting, not aggressive.

Think about presenting a fact or offer that you know your readers would be interested in, and from there you can eventually lead to your call to action. And perhaps you already have some information about what the recipients on your email list are interested in. Make sure you talk about the benefits of your product as opposed to the features. People want to know how your product will help them, but they don’t want to take the time to put two and two together. Make your emails short and easy to skim.

Call to Action/Special Deal
Make it clear what you want your recipients to do, and use active words to explain what steps they should take. Verbs like click, submit, go, etc., should get the job done. Explain the benefit of taking the action that you recommend. There needs to be a clear benefit for this process to progress. For example, create many links to the page you want your recipients to end up on–that ups the chances of them getting where you want them to go.If you are offering a special deal, you might consider giving it an expiration date so that the recipients don’t put your offer on the back burner, but act quickly. This way they feel more motivated to click on your link immediately rather than risk forgetting about it.

Keep Design in Mind
Design your email to be easy to scan. No one has time to read through an entire email, so your key points should be easy to pick out. And remember that people are mostly checking their emails on mobile phones, so make sure your emails look good and are easy to read on smart phones before you send them out. Design your emails to match your site, and keep the design simple. And remember that not all types of pictures show up on emails.

The most important piece of advice you can follow is to test everything. Test the email before it’s sent to make sure there are no glitches. And once you have sent your email, make sure that you’re tracking your open rate and your click rate to see who’s reading and who’s clicking on your links. And if you’ve got a big enough email list, definitely try your hand at A/B testing some of the more questionable elements.

What have you found to be successful in email marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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