Monday, 19 November 2007

20 email marketing tips

Over the past couple of years I've been told loads of things to get the 'perfect' email. I came across a list of the most obvious marketing tips via Peter Stringfellow lookalike Andy Owen who I saw at an internet conference. (his original list, PDF, 308KB)

However since then some things have changed (the popularity of Blackberries (-ys?!) for one), so below is my plagiarised, borrowed, chopped, cut and changed, top 20 tips.

Vital assumption before sending email: "Nobody is interested in your company, your brand or your product".

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare – think before you write.

  2. Address the following four reasons why the customer wants to delete your email:
    - I don't believe you
    - I don't need it
    - I don't have enough time
    - I don't have enough money.

  3. Subject line – must be less than 50 characters, less than 40 is even better if you can get the point across clearly.
    - Have a BENEFIT laden headline ie. 'Speak to architects at our building exhibition' / 'Coca-Cola is more refreshing than Pepsi AND cheaper'.
    - The subject line is probably the most important part of the email, and there's lots more to think about too. Read 15 more rules JUST about subject lines!

  4. Use system fonts - use arial, verdana, times new roman - any font you can be sure appears on your recipient's computer/blackberry.

  5. Connect with your customer in 3.7 seconds – establish trust. I've no idea why it's 3.7 seconds, probably a fake statistic but it seems as good a figure as any. The important point is to connect QUICKLY!

  6. Formulaic – don't try to be too clever, stick to standard information – prices, ISBNs, ways to contact you, dates.

  7. First paragraph – this has the UTMOST importance. Get this wrong, they stop reading. Consider this next time you read a boring email.

  8. Use simple words – people don't like reading off screens, especially if you start using complicated, convoluted, labyrinthine and problematical words. ; )

  9. Describe BENEFITS (what it does) rather than FEATURES (what it is) - this is one of the golden rules of marketing i learnt on my Marketing degree and it applies just as strongly to email copy.

  10. The copy must believe in itself – if you think it's rubbish, it is.

  11. Good layout – make it look good by;
    - keeping short sentences - have you ever been on the BBC website, there's a reason why they only have one sentence per paragraph, it's easier to read off screen
    - spacing things out - learn to love white space
    - using pictures

  12. Good copy;
    - Good spelling and grammar - Get it proofed by someone who can spell, not the office boy who can't distinguish between your and you're - remember that Friends episode?
    - Use magical words - If you can get an exciting word in there, use it! Think of your text in terms of style and panache, if your email is fun to read then it can only add to its effectiveness. For example:
    'Buy our books they're the best'
    'Buy our fantastic books, not only are they leather bound but we've also got Harry Potter.'

  13. Be specific – 71.8% of customers said this, not 70% of customers said this. (which do you think looks better?)

  14. Testimonials – if you can find one use it. There's nothing better than getting someone else's opinion.

  15. Guarantees – if you can think of any, reassure people.

  16. A unique offer - If there's no unique offer there will be no sale. What's the selling point? People don't want simple news or being told something they already know.

  17. Call to action - Tell them what to do;
    - click here for more information
    - buy online now
    - ring Jane Smith immediately etc.
    If there is no call to action / no reason to click through / no phone number to call you then you won't get a response, funnily enough.

  18. Test it – send it to yourself and 5 other people. Send it to someone not within your company. Send it to Hotmail / Gmail.

  19. Plain text - Make sure your email is sent in HTML and plain text. Then make sure that the plain text looks as good as you can make it - a large percentage of your customers (those on Lotus Notes, Blackberries e.t.c) can probably only receive plain text so don't ignore them.

    You can make plain text look better with spacing, ----hyphens----, ***stars***, good copy and more.

  20. 'From:' address - Have something meaningful, a name is best. Then when your email lands in someone's inbox they will see
    'From: Simon Templar' 'Subject: I speak lots of rubbish'
    as opposed to
    'From:' 'Subject: I speak lots of rubbish'

There are hundreds of blog and web articles like this one, just search for yourself (Comprehensive best practice resource from EmailLabs). However don't get bogged down reading every rule as you'll never actually send the damn thing. Commit yourself to just checking 3 of 4 new hints/tips/rules in each email you send. Within a very short period of time you'll start creating your own rules, or redo mine!

Related sites
Email standards project - providing standards for HTML email design. Make sure your email template designer has read this!

Related posts
Check the readability of your copy (Mar 2009)

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