We live in a messaging-rich society. You sign up for a couple of services – or buy a few bits and bobs online – and before you know it, your in box is chockablock with marketing email from printer companies, accountancy updates and information about new software releases.
And because we’re busy people, we do what most people do: Delete, delete, delete. And if we’re particularly bothered, we may even unsubscribe.
Conversion rates for email marketing can be extremely low. The general wisdom is that anything from 1-5% can be considered a success. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Our own email conversion rate hovers around 40% - and this is how we do it.
Spam is annoying, impersonal and often illegal. It’s like throwing paper advertisements onto your potential customers’ front gardens. When we started our e-newsletter, we contacted everyone on the database and said, “Will it be ok if we send you updates about Wordtree?” Not everyone wanted them, and that was fine.
Also, make it easy to unsubscribe. Our emails have a great big, unmissable, unsubscribe here message. It may sound counter-intuitive, but we believe it helps to build trust, because we’re less likely to share information with people who don’t want it.
Keep it interesting and relevant
Our target audience is particularly interested in words and brand. So while we do use email marketing to raise awareness of our own services, we also use it to keep our readers up to date with interesting snippets from both of these worlds. If you know what your target market is interested in, talk to them about it.
Don’t shout and don’t be afraid to be yourself
Something strange happens to some perfectly normal, nice-to-talk-to people when they write e-communications. All of a sudden THEY THINK IT’S NECESSARY TO USE BLOCK CAPS!! AND EXCLAMATION MARKS!!! It’s like clubbing your readers over the head and shouting, LISTEN TO ME!! Capital letters, excessive bolding and exclamation marks make your communication more difficult to read – and more likely to get binned. So ban them.
Consumer and brand trends consistently show that what people really value is the human touch. So just write clearly and simply using the kinds of words you’d use if you were speaking.
Don’t write too much
Very few people read every word they see in digital communications. Instead, they scan. And if they don’t see something that interests them within split seconds, they move on.
So limit yourself to a handful of short paragraphs with short subheadings.
Make the message title work
This is the bit of the email that you can see when it’s just sitting in your inbox. Make sure it’s short, interesting and relevant.
These message titles give the reader a good idea of what the email contains, they’re short and they’re not hard sell. All of which makes them more likely to be opened.
- Have you remembered Father’s Day?
- Coffee time treats that won’t break the bank
- Providing staff pensions for the first time
These are less likely to be opened, because they’re either shouting or trying to be too clever for their own good:
- Have yourself a Jubileetastic weekend on us!
- SALE! SALE! SALE! UP TO 50% OFF!!!
- It’s the No.1 treatment used by No.1 CELEBRITIES!
Don’t trigger spam filters
Most email services automatically filter incoming mail, looking for clues that it might be spam. So even if your customer has agreed to receive emails from you, their email system may put your marketing straight in the bin if it contains spammy language.
Every server has different rules. But generally, anything that sounds too salesy or too promotional is likely to be trashed. If you’re not sure if you’re crossing the line, read what you’ve written out loud. If it sounds like you’re selling snake oil, delete and start again.
Decide a time
The holy grail of e-communications is when your customers look forward to receiving information from you at regular intervals. They might look forward to your e-newsletter landing in their inbox at 11am every morning when they’ve dropped the kids off at school, done the shopping and are having the first break of the day.
Or if they’re office workers, they might love getting your e-update when the big hand moves past four on a Friday afternoon and the weekend is about to begin.
Timing is important. You can have the most insightful, relevant and interesting e-communication in the world – but if you send it to an office worker at 9am on a Monday morning, they are unlikely to have time to read it.
Liz Doig is a director at Wordtree, the brand language specialists, which runs 'tone of voice' residential courses for SMEs.