5 Tips to Improve Your Email Marketing

Sometimes when listening to client revisions or ideas about their eblasts, I imagine how they believe their customers receive the message—a captive audience, sitting in a quiet room at home, focused on taking in every word and letting it all simmer. When you are the one creating the marketing message, it’s hard to see anything but this image of a captive, passionate fan of your hard work.

But the actual recipient, in the flesh—the one who exists outside of your imagination and is hearing the familiar ding of your incoming message is much different. He is packing his kids’ lunches before rushing out the door to beat traffic. She is at her work computer, talking on the phone to a client while entering information into a spreadsheet. He is skimming, sifting, saving time in whatever ways he can because email is one of the places where we can be quick so we can move on to the next thing. Even my retired mom, a grandmother of four with seemingly hours stretching in front of her each day—even she is too busy for email, with grandkids to watch, ebay items to list, Breaking Bad reruns to watch…

If you don’t believe me, consider a survey recently completed by Kentico Software—the majority of respondents (36%) said they read about a quarter of the emails they receive. A quarter of an email is what I call a skim. Only 26% read half of it, and 10% read all of it. But this only applies to other companies, right? Companies who send emails to people who don’t want it? In fact, no. This survey response is from people who have willfully signed up to receive these emails—your subscribers. Your devoted fans. 1 in 10 claim to read your entire email.

I am not anti-eblast. In fact, I am the opposite. I believe that regardless of industry, one of the best, easiest ways to reach your customers is via email. So here are a few ways you can improve your email marketing to get through to your customers during their busy, email checking frenzies:

1. Email less often. The Kentico survey mentioned earlier asked an interesting question: why do you mark email from legitimate companies as spam? The top response—even higher than the fact that an email is unsolicited (34%), was that the company emailed them too much (38%). Do not let your eblasts become “just another email” from you. Find your sweet spot by testing frequency and how it affects opens and clicks in your stats. Our typical recommendation is a surprisingly infrequent 1 eNewsletter per month (with a possible one more for a special interest item as promotions or events occur). But this frequency is good news—it is less work for you, and it allows you to keep your email content interesting (see #2).

2. Be interesting (or risk the label of death—”spam”). I have always been baffled by spam reports on clients who take great care with only subscribing people who willfully sign up for the eList. But even the best emails sent out to these subscribers occasionally will get a few spam reports. The third most popular response to the “what makes people call it spam” question mentioned above explains things—26% of respondents will mark email as spam if it doesn’t contain anything of interest. 1 in 4 people marking emails as spam are just saying, “This bores me!” While this is slightly infuriating—don’t they know this label can get you kicked off of email clients?—it also is a push and a reminder to find things to talk about that interest your clients. Check stats after sending eblasts, and continue with the topics your readers care about.

3. Speak to your audience—and no one else. This tip is an extension of the above. A lot of marketing people feel pressure to bend messages to people who aren’t the target audience—C-Suite executives, board members, related businesses. And while this sort of messaging may get clicks (from the very people the messages pander to), this is no way to grow your email marketing and make it interesting to the majority of your audience. Carefully consider your customer, and speak to his or her heart.

4. Be brief. I am a word person. I love to read. But when I get an eNewsletter that is packed with words, I feel overwhelmed. We’ve already established that the majority of your subscribers are only going to read 1/4 of your email. And while you likely can’t change that amount, you can make your email easy to skim, including only 4-6 articles with titles that are easy to spot and clearly state what information will be found in the article. Offer a few intro sentences, and a link to read more. Remember, your readers’ time is limited—make it easy for them to take in the messages you want to send.

5. Consider each email from the busy consumer’s perspective. Start, in general, by looking at your email format—preferably do this check during a meeting or while distracted by a few other things. What do you notice? What stands out as the most important message? Can you find the call to action? Is it what you intended? Then, once you have refined the format of your overall messages, continue to review each email this way before you send it out. Read the headlines fast. Find the call to action. Do these reviews, not from the perspective of the marketing person, but imagining yourself as the person who hears the familiar ding of an email dropping in your box. For both the overall format, and individual emails you send, consider having a friend who is unrelated to your business but may be in your target audience give the email a skim. Be specific and use the word skim, and request that they do not read it in depth. (If you want, you can even talk to him or her about something unrelated as it is reviewed.) Have him or her report back what he gets as the main message. You may be surprised what someone else notices (or doesn’t notice).

Follow the above tips, and you may be able to retain a few more subscribers, get through to a few more people, grow your list (and hopefully be labeled as spam less often). For more marketing tips, join our elist by entering your email in the white box at the top right corner of this page. We promise to attempt to mind our own tips!

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