Posted by Luke Murray
21 November, 2016

Email marketing can be really effective – if you do it right. Do it wrong and it might drive away subscribers or end up hidden in a heap of spam.

There are lots of things to think about, from content through design to development, but your main consideration should always be the reader. Here are our top ten tips on how to create a successful email marketing campaign.

1. Make it easy

Your subscribe button should be easy to find and easy to use – don’t make your customers have to hunt for it. Also, make sure you’re only asking for the information you need. Do you really need to know their favourite colour, shoe size and eating habits? The golden rule here is: If you’re not going to use the information, don’t include it on the form. The more a user has to fill out, the less likely they are to do so.

2. Schedule it

Make an email marketing schedule and stick to it. This ensures consistent, optimal output. If you overdo it, you risk your customer hitting that dreaded unsubscribe button; if you go months without a send, your recipient will likely forget you and may even consider you spam. There’s no given sweet spot for frequency, but sticking to your schedule is an effective way to avoid over- and under-mailing.

3. Let the user know what to expect

You have a schedule, so tell the user how often you’re going to contact them and what sort of value they’re going to get. If they know what’s coming into their inbox they’re more likely to respond positively. This is particularly important if your email sends are two or less per month. It’s also a good way of ensuring your list contains only those who really want to hear from you.

4. Send a welcome email

This sets the tone for the entire email relationship. It introduces the customer to the look and feel of your emails and gives you a chance to reinforce the above. Make sure you tell them again what they’re going to get and how often they’re going to get it. It’s also very important to ask them to whitelist you. You can write the best emails in the world but if the spam folder is the first thing they see, it's likely to be the only thing they see.

5. Snappy subject lines

I’m your customer and guess what, I’m busy. I want subject lines that get to the point, focusing on me and how I will benefit. If I can save time on my commute then tell me (‘You don’t have to spend two hours getting to work every day...'). Likewise, if my membership is about to expire, lead with that (‘Uh-oh, your subscription is about to run out!’). This benefit might be something as little as an interesting piece of information or even just a good giggle. Whatever it is, announce it early and loudly. And don’t be afraid to inject some personality into your subject. If it sounds like an algorithm wrote your copy, you’re on the express line to Spamsville.

6. It's just you and me, baby

If you’re talking to someone, you wouldn’t refer to them in the third person. An email is no different. Don’t talk about your customers, subscribers or readers – talk directly to the person reading the email. As far as they’re concerned, it’s a one-on-one conversation. Remind them that this is an eblast and you’ve lost that relationship.

Mobile phone user

7. Go mobile

If you’re an average email sender, it’s likely that 50% of your emails are being opened on a smaller device, so make sure they are responsive. A responsive email means that the experience on a mobile phone will be just as satisfying as it is on a computer. Text will be bigger and easier to read, calls to action go full width with larger, stand-out buttons, and design flourishes that become distracting on smaller screens can be removed. This all translates to ease of use, meaning your emails are more likely to be read rather than ignored or, heaven forbid, deleted.

8. Get to the point

This is especially important in your opening paragraph. Forget what your teacher told you about setting the scene or painting a picture. This isn’t the time for, ‘Are you sitting comfortably?’ The opening two lines should let the reader know exactly what the email is about and why they should carry on reading. In case they don’t carry on reading, this opening should be a rich reduction of the email’s key points. This way, even those customers with the shortest of attention spans will take something away from your email.

9. Release your inner nerd

Getting better at email marketing is all about testing and improving. You’re an email scientist! Make sure you’re tracking your open rates, which buttons were clicked and which ones weren’t, and use data like this to make your next campaign better than the last. You can even throw in some A/B testing for good measure: send one version of your campaign to one half of your users and a modified version to the other, then see which works best. To get you started, why not try altering the layout, tweaking the copy or trying a different subject line? Just remember to focus on one thing at a time so you know what caused the difference in success.

10. Provide value

This is the most important tip of all. Did you ever send an email where you boasted about how your sales had gone up last quarter by 25%? Or where you waxed lyrical about your shiny new product without actually telling the customer how it would improve their life? Your customers should be rewarded for giving you their time (and that doesn’t necessarily mean knocking things off the price). Useful information and entertainment are often the two most valuable rewards you can give. If you’re seeing hardly any opens in your campaigns and even fewer clicks, get some friends (or better still, actual subscribers) to critique your emails. Ask them to be brutal and take their feedback on board!

The main things to remember are consistency, quality and customer experience. If you’re regularly sending out well-written, responsive emails that focus on how your customers are going to benefit then you’re going to engage your audience. Consider what they want and then think about how to present this in a way that’s easy to understand and quick to digest. Keep track of your results and ask for feedback so you can figure out what’s working and what’s not. Finally, make it fun.

Follow these ten tips and your emails will never swim in the spam sea again.