Email marketing 101: Are you just talking to yourself?

Hello, marketing brainiacs. Today’s Email Marketing 101 session is all about crafting your message to your audience. Let’s get started …

It’s always the simplest details that fall through the cracks. Email campaigns have a long list of important moving parts that all call out for our attention. We need to:

  • Prepare the list
  • Map links to text and images
  • Keep track of looming deadlines
  • Segment target audiences
  • Avoid SPAM triggers
  • Reduce file size

Not to mention, ensure the template renders properly across all browsers and don’t forget to test everything. Then test it again.

But did you remember to ask yourself, does this message make sense to my reader? Do they understand what I’m asking them to do?

No matter how good your technology may be, if the answer is “no” or “maybe,” you’ve just given yourself a much steeper hill to climb.

As marketers, we all tend to be focused on the result. Get a lift in CTR. Drive traffic. Measure engagement. And it’s easy, even common, to lose focus on what your reader needs.

Comprehension and action

Humans are creatures built on stories. It’s how we are designed to take in information. As a result, the most effective emails, like the most effective content of any kind, follow a storytelling format. Now, that doesn’t need to be a “once upon a time” to “happily ever after” format. It just means your communications need to have a beginning, middle and end. It’s what makes them understandable, compelling and actionable.

The beginning is the headline and subhead drawing them into your story. The middle is the body copy describing your promotion, news, offer, etc. The end is a simple, clear, CTA.

It’s not broadcast, it’s personal

Email is without doubt the most personal of all marketing channels. It’s addressed to one single person. It’s opened and read by one single person. That person is usually alone when they read it and beyond the immediate influence of anyone else when they make their decision to act or not.

We gather so much data and conduct so much analysis in an effort to understand who our customers are. We create composite personae that we study with great care. What we sometimes forget is that our customers are first and foremost real people.

They respond to a conversational tone, a respectful and professional voice and consistency in what they’re asked to do.

When you read your campaigns, don’t ask “is this speaking to my customer?” in the abstract, ask instead “does this email speak to me as an individual? If it doesn’t, you need to rethink what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. Don’t assume each of your readers care about the same things you do. Don’t assume they have the same vocabulary you do. Your challenge is to understand what they care about and write to that.

Also, resist the urge to slot in one more benefit or secondary or tertiary offer.

After all, at the reader level, it’s just a message to a person and if it feels like you are addressing a list or a persona, that’s what will come through. Avoid industry lingo, excessive use of acronyms or bolding every other word. Make it easy to read, understand and act.

Define success

There is only one real goal in a successful email campaign. That is to get your reader to act. Click through to do something else. Once an email does that, it’s job is over.

Ask a few, simple questions to optimize your message:

Is it clear? Pretend you’re someone who knows nothing about your business and then answer the question.

Is it too long? There is no ideal number of words. See the previous question and you’ll know when it is too long.

Are there more than 4 bullets? If so, you have too many. Cut it to 3 if you can.

Do you have a CTA? Great!

Does your CTA agree? What are you asking them to do? Don’t give them an “sign up” or “get started” when you’re sending them to “learn more.”

There are several reasons email remains the most effective digital marketing strategy when it comes to ROI. After the number one reason — the low overall cost to implement a program —the second is tied intimately to that opportunity for a personal touch you have through your reader’s in box. You are sending a message to an individual who will read then decide to act or not. You are either beginning or continuing a conversation.

They say business is all about relationships. So is email. When you remember to speak directly to your reader in actionable terms they understand and care about, you hold up your end of that conversation. You give them a chance to do what you’re asking them to do. Make a review of each message for this kind of clarity a standard part of your process and you’ll never get lulled into just talking to yourself again.