It’s strange to think that email is still such an important tool for marketers, and in fact business people of all types, when there is so much technology at our fingertips now. 

I’m pretty sure the only people who communicate via email outside of the commercial world are my parents, but for marketers around the world this platform is still going strong. 

After writing a list about social media tips for beginners last week and thoroughly educating myself in the process, I thought I’d do the same for email marketing this time. 

I’m going to focus on five key areas:

  • Getting started
  • Content
  • Subject line
  • Sending
  • Managing subscribers 

Getting started

Define your audience. Make sure you understand who you are sending emails to and what type of content they are likely to be receptive to. 

Split your email list into targeted segments so you can deliver content to a more specific audience. This is likely to be more effective than blanket-emailing everyone on your contacts list. 

Always get permission from people before adding them to your email list. Preferably use a double opt-in system. 

Read up on how to avoid spam filters. Your email marketing client should have some specific advice on this. Refer to it every time you send an email. 

Spam

Invite people to sign up to your email list. There are tons of ways to do this, but one approach is to ask people during the checkout process. You could use a popup, but be careful not to annoy people. 

Offer people something in return for signing up. Why should anyone care what you’ve got to say? There has to be something in it for them, such as exclusive content or offers. Or at least the promise of genuinely useful information.

Promote your email newsletter on social media by asking followers to sign up. 

Don’t buy email lists from some dodgy data company. If you want to get in front of a specific audience you’re better off asking to be included in an already established newsletter in your industry. 

Content

Tailor your content to a specific audience for the best chance of engagement. Segmenting your email list helps with this. 

Make it personal. This doesn’t mean you have to tailor your email to every individual recipient, but try to write it as if you were only sending it to one person.

Be human. People are more likely to care about what you’re saying if you use everyday language. If you talk like a soulless corporate robot they’re likely to switch off very quickly.

Terminator

Play to people’s emotions. If you can invoke an emotional reaction in people they are far more likely to engage with your content. 

At the very least, offer genuinely useful or timely information. 

Always include a call to action. Of course you want people to enjoy reading your email, but don’t forget the end game: you want them to do something as a result.

Avoid long blocks of uninterrupted text. Refer to our guide on blog page formatting for more info on how to write for an online audience.

Use imagery. This breaks up the email nicely and makes it more visually appealing. 

But remember images are turned off by default on many email platforms, so make sure all your key messages are included in text format. 

Make it easy for readers to scan the content by using plenty of subheadings and white space.

Don’t use people’s names too often. A bit of personalisation is fine, but if you overdo it it’s just a little bit creepy. 

Make sure your emails are properly branded. Or ‘on brand’ if you want to use marketing speak. Again this may seem obvious, but you want your emails to fit with the rest of your content and be immediately recognisable as coming from your business. 

Include contact details in case people want to get in touch after having their minds blown by your email. 

Include links, and double-check them. Seems like an obvious one, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Put links in your images as well as your text. 

Link to your social media accounts. If people enjoy your email content they may well be interested in what you’ve got to say elsewhere. 

Make sure the content is mobile-friendly. This is becoming increasingly important as many people (myself included) prefer to read emails on their phone. 

Ask for feedback, particularly if you’re just starting out or it’s a new campaign. It can be a great way to fine-tune your email marketing efforts based on what your customers actually want. 

Subject line

Think carefully about your wording. Always ask yourself: ‘would I open that?’ Or better yet: ‘who cares?’ (until the question no longer applies). 

Keep it short and punchy. Clarity is the aim here. In as few words as possible.

STOP CAPITALISING EVERYTHING. Why would you want to shout at your lovely customers?

Caps lock

Don’t use people’s names in the subject line. This is more of a personal gripe I suppose, but I find it a massive turn-off when brands do this. 

If you serve localised customers, personalise your subject line to the recipient’s town or city. For companies like Groupon, for example, this works really well. 

Make each subject line unique. Even if you send the same newsletter template out every week, make sure the subject line applies to the content within that specific email. 

Offer people something. Hard selling may turn people off but there’s nothing wrong with the promise of a genuinely good deal. Test out a few different offers to see what works. 

There are certain words you should never use. 45 of them are listed here

Use urgency, i.e. limited stock or availability, or a ‘today-only’ deal.  

Asking questions can be effective. But previous email subject line tests have produced mixed results for this approach. Do your own testing to see which questions work. 

Make sure your subject line is relevant to your content. If it’s nothing but click bait, people might be reluctant to open it next time.

Experiment. Test. Repeat. The only way you’re really going to know what works is by testing different subject lines and seeing what gets the most opens. Split testing is a good way to go about this. 

Don’t forget the ‘from’ line. This should clearly identify who you are as the sender so people know where the email is coming from.

Sending

Proofread every email before it goes out. This should preferably be done by someone who wasn’t involved in writing it. 

Proofread

Always send a test email first to make sure everything is working as it should be, and to catch any mistakes you might have missed. 

Send regular emails. We send out a ‘Daily Pulse’ newsletter, for example, with links to our latest blog posts. But depending on your audience you might want to update people weekly or monthly.

Be consistent. If you are going to have a weekly newsletter then make sure it really does go out every week. If people are waiting for it it’s not going to look good when it doesn’t show up.

Don’t overdo it on the frequency. How often you send an email out will depend on the audience and type of content. Just make sure people don’t feel bombarded. 

Timing is everything. Do some research to see when your audience is most receptive to emails and do your own tests to see which days and times get the best engagement. 

Managing your subscribers

Send a welcome email to every new subscriber. Thank them. It’s polite, but it also means there’s no discrepancy as to whether they’ve signed up or not.

Welcome message

Use your welcome message to tell subscribers what to expect from future emails. 

Clean your email list regularly. Check for anything returned as undeliverable or any incorrect or non-existent email addresses, and remove them.

Make it easy to unsubscribe. Unless you want to end up on a black list faster than you can say ‘spam’ and generally annoy people to the point they’ll never buy from you again.

What have I missed?

That’s a fairly big list to get you started, but no doubt I’ve missed something important. 

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve got any email marketing tips for beginners that I haven’t mentioned above.

Jack Simpson

Published 23 July, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (3)

Peter Duffy

Peter Duffy, Director for Strategic Accounts at Mercanto

Yes indeed, happily there are many opportunities to dramatically improve customer engagement/retention with email marketing. Two additional suggestions:

Merchandising emails - integrate CRM data and product attribute data in real time. Price, category, inventory level, etc. So ( for example) if somebody browses/carts a £100 pair of shoes, and the shoes are subsequently reduced to £80, that is a wonderful opportunity to re-engage that specific consumer. Setup is straightforward and these campaigns can be 100% percent automated, so it's a 'quick win'. There are lots of opportunities in merchandising emails, and the ROI on merchandising emails is terrific.

Repeat orders - some e-commerce businesses have the inbuilt advantage of repeat orders, but different SKUs have different lifespans - for example contact lenses can be dailies, fortnightly, or monthly. If someone orders (say) two 14-day lenses, use an email platform that can calculate 2X14=28, and can send an email reminder to that consumer at the appropriate time.

almost 2 years ago

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Beau Buckley, Marketing Executive at 6110

This is a great article on email marketing basics. There is a lot of abuse going on these days which is especially hurting aweber and getresponse. There is news they're moving away from the home-business niche as they're the cause of the problems.

Check out my article on email marketing basics :)
https://www.marketingandnetworkinguniversity.com/blog/email-marketing-basics/

over 1 year ago

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Steven Ransom, Business Coach at Ransom Business Coaching

A rose by any other name is still a rose.

over 1 year ago

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