Learning From the Best (and Worst) Email Marketers

Following best practices is one of the quickest ways to get a high quality marketing program started and to improve one that is in place. The things that consistently motivate people to act in one channel or industry will work in others. Watching what competitors and non-competitors alike do provides insight and inspiration for connecting with your customers

Following best practices is one of the quickest ways to get a high quality marketing program started and to improve one that is in place. The things that consistently motivate people to act in one channel or industry will work in others. Watching what competitors and non-competitors alike do provides insight and inspiration for connecting with your customers.

Email marketing is one of the easiest channels for gathering information on what people are doing to inspire their customers and prospects to act. Subscriptions to most email programs are free, so the out-of-pocket cost is minimal. The downside of subscribing to a magnitude of newsletters and promotional emails is a full inbox that has to be filtered to find the best ideas. Subscribing to an email archive provider is an alternative that will save you time while providing access to a multitude of ideas. [Editor’s Note: The Who’s Mailing What Email Campaign Archive is one such service, offered by one of our sister publications in the Target Marketing Group, that provides research and data for The Integrated Email.]

Whether you compile your own or use a provider, look at what is being done to capture the recipient’s attention. You have a few characters and nanoseconds to make recipients decide they want to open your email. Everything has to fit together to make it work. Your customers use a variety of devices and tools to view their emails. You want your return address, subject line, and opening blurb to scream “open me now” at first glance regardless of the device or tool.

Looking at how others use copy and graphics to motivate people to act can help you find new ways to inspire and tactics to avoid. When you have historical data at your fingertips, you can start identifying the things that work best. Repetition of the subject line or special offer typically means that it worked well and the company wants to replicate the success. The exception is when the same subject line or offer is barely changed email after email. This usually indicates that the email program is in auto mode with little testing to see what has the best success.

In addition to seeing what works, reviewing archived emails also shows opportunities. A review of your competitors’ program and content will show where they are leaving holes in the information provided to customers and prospects. Fill those holes and your business will attract market share.

Every component of an email has one simple purpose: To keep the recipients moving forward step-by-step until they reach the end. The final action you want them to take is the objective of the email. It may be purchasing an item, completing a survey, or any other activity you choose. The perfect email is the one that makes the most people fulfill its purpose.

The components of an email include:

Subject Line
The subject line needs to lead strong and provide a reason for people to open the email. The best subject lines capture attention with the first words because some devices or tools only show a few characters.

Return Information
Use the return information to let people know who the email is from and why they should care. Your loyal customers will be more likely to open the email even if the subject line is unappealing when they know it is you.

Opening
The opening line is often shown when people skim through their emails. Apparently email marketers pay little attention to this because I routinely receive emails that appear on my mobile device leading off with “if you have trouble viewing this email click here” or “view in iOS out|view as web page.”

Graphics
Emails that are primarily graphics open in most email client inboxes with red Xs in place of those graphics. Use a good combination of text and graphics in your emails so there is something for people to read when the graphics aren’t visible. Use alternate text for your images to provide information that will motivate people to download the images.

Copy
The words you use make all the difference in an effective email. Invest in a good copywriter that knows how to speak to your customers in the language they understand with words that motivate them to act. It is money well spent because it always delivers a higher return on investment.

Call to Action
What do you want people to do next? If you don’t tell them, they’re less likely to do it. People have been trained from an early age to follow instructions well. Use that training to get them to take the next step.

Follow-up
Give people an opportunity to respond directly to your email if they have additional questions. Provide a call to action for questions that includes a link, an email address, and a telephone number. This allows them to choose the method of communication that fits them best.