Does email marketing feel a little like dropping a coin down into a wishing well? You might hear the splash, but the return is somewhat spurious.
How do you avoid the email equivalent of falling into the pit of Sarlacc? How do you make sure that you avoid the signals that trigger the gaping maw of the ravenous spam filter?
Perhaps you feel that email marketing is a relic of the old century?
Not at all. Email marketing, done the right way, has stood the test of time. It can be an incredibly effective method of gathering new customers, convincing, educating, instructing or sharing ideas. But, equally, the vast majority of email marketing ends up in the junk-mail trashcan of doom.
Email marketing is an art form and there are lots of great tools to help you improve your chances of a triumphant return on your time investment.
We’ll be exploring some examples of successful email marketing campaigns and analysing what made them work; as well as exploring the online tools that help us to create great email marketing campaigns.
Some great campaigns
Momentum is a pressure-group associated with the British Labour party. Over a series of focused campaigns that embraced email marketing in an innovative way, they managed to reach the voting public directly, beyond the grip of the British tabloid press.
Their recent general election campaign helped transform the diminishing prospects for the Labour Party from decidedly bleak and broken, to positively promising; using the power of the electronic word to overcome the mighty pen of the press.
A typical Momentum email used the following devices –
- A clear, urgent Call-To-Action (CTA) subject header
- Use of personal, first-name address
- Brief, accessible language
- Several CTA buttons
- Relevant images and videos (that don’t clog up the mailbox)
Essentially, what made the campaign so successful was that each email (and there was a lot of them) was brief, personalised, with clear CTAs that prompted engagement.
The objectives were clear, the engagement methods were specific and it gave the audience the feeling that they could be in control of their own destiny.
Reading the copy took seconds. Each email knew exactly what it wanted of the audience, and asked them to do it via a clear, specific CTA button, which took them to the relevant website to complete the interaction.
Zumba is the keep-fit equivalent of the Jane Fonda Workout, with the enthusiasm turned up to 21!
They hold an annual Zumba Fitness Instructor Convention, to which their 200,000+ instructors around the country are encouraged to attend.
In 2014, the email announcing the convention included a video of highlights from previous conferences and a personalised CTA, which was framed as a personal invitation to attend the event.
Personalisation works. The campaign, distributed through MailChimp, had a 50% click-to-open rate. Compare that to MailChimp’s average open rate of 23.61% for a company with more than 50 employees, and you have a pretty clear success on your hands.
What can we learn here?
These two cases demonstrate that simplicity is king. Both campaigns had the following:
- Clear, easily accessible language
- Carefully chosen visuals
- Specific and quirky CTAs
- Clear objectives
Bear in mind that unsolicited marketing email is unlikely to be welcomed. However, if your message can be grasped within a glance, displays correctly on whatever device it’s received on and looks attractive and uncluttered, then you might just capture attention for long enough to get an audience to engage.
Call To Action
A Call To Action is one of the most important engagement tools one can employ. Don’t abuse it. Overuse of the CTA has all the charm and exponentially decreasing appeal of a used-car salesman, flogging a death-trap.
A strategically placed CTA can attract interest and engagement. Optimise your CTA with SEO. Research the exact search-terms that a user is likely to use if they were to search the web for your type of service. If you use keywords that they might use themselves within your CTA, you’re likely to address their need directly.
SEO keyword research might be more associated with web-copy than email copy, but remember that keyword tools provide the exact search terms that people use when looking for specific information on the web. Addressing these direct search terms can make a CTA button more appealing.
Like skilfully placed SEO keywords, the CTA should occur naturally within your text. Although a CTA at the beginning of your email might seem like the logical place to capture an audience, it doesn’t always make sense within the context of your copy.
Sales patter is exponential. Remember APP –
Appeal to their need, promise that you have the answers, preview what the world will look like with your solution. Then hit them with a CTA.
Have clear copy
Use excellent grammar and clear English. There’s nothing more off-putting than a semi-literate sales patter – it’s an instant turn-off. And suspicious.
We’ve all received bogus emails from companies, exposed immediately by their lack of literacy: they’re, there, their; we’re, were. If you want to strip your text of credibility, use bad grammar.
Chances are, you don’t want that. So here are some tools to help.
Grammarly is free to use and is an excellent auto proofreader.
It takes your text and gives it a score out of 100. The web-application highlights problems in your copy while providing suggested solutions. It focuses on grammatical and stylistic errors and has a useful, built-in plagiarism checker.
We’d totally recommend running your copy through Grammarly before sending it out to the masses – it’s like having an extra-eye on the job and ensures that your text is credible. We all miss our own mistakes from time to time, so Grammarly is absolutely worth its weight in gold.
The Hemingway Editor is a web-based tool that helps you create clear, universal copy. In addition to Grammarly that identifies grammatical and stylistic errors, Hemingway focuses on stripping the jargon and clarifying meaning.
It takes your text and identifies the level of educational attainment required to decode it. We all get used to our own writing voice and often adopt the cultural language of the organisation we work for (or have worked for). You may aim your campaign at business CEOs, but do they have the time to decipher your coded language?
A sales patter in the form of a cold-call email campaign should be a swift read – literally a glance. If the language is dense and beats around the bush, your email gets deleted. Or worse, it gets flagged as spam so that future campaigns don’t even make it to the Inbox.
Hemingway helps you to create simple copy that’s easy to understand with a skim read.
Some of the most popular email marketing tools
You send an email which looks great on the screen. You send it out and you discover that the text formatting is all over the place and the images don’t load.
Litmus, like the name suggests, is a testing tool that allows you to check the compatibility of your content with over 70 client platforms, including iPhone Mail, Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, and check how they display via the iOS and Android platforms.
You can test the elements critical to the impact of your emails; such as identifying broken links; the transferability and placement of image and video files; and text placement.
Litmus provides salient tracking data, as well as testing campaign load time, ensuring that you’re not going to clog up business servers.
Litmus provides usage data across platform clients, customers and departments, offering insight into the email platforms that are popular with your audience so that you can focus on those for A/B testing.
Essentially, Litmus identifies potential issues with your content that may prevent your email from reaching the inbox.
Litmus has a free 7-day trial, but there are no free packages. There are 3 versions – Basic, Plus and Pro. Basic starts at $79 per month, with the Pro service costing $399 per month. So Litmus might not be the service for you if you’re short on budget.
MailChimp is quite possibly one of the internet’s most well-known email clients, with plenty of features to suit marketers at all levels – from the small business start-up to major marketing campaigns.
MailChimp is a feature-rich platform, offering templates for newsletters, extensive marketing campaigns, surveys and engagement reports.
The platform is simple to use and intuitive, with an excellent usage-data reporting mechanism that provides live stats regarding the engagement efficiency of your campaign.
You can send a campaign to a full mailing list or you can choose to target a segment of a list, which they claim could have produced better responses.
The tracking facility provides information regarding who opened your email (and where they were when they opened it), allowing you to resend your campaign to those who are yet to respond.
There’s an enhanced tracking option which links to your website through Google Analytics or Salesforce. You can also integrate your social channels to post updates on Facebook and Twitter.
MailChimp is particularly affordable, especially for the small-business user, providing a free subscription for up to 2000 subscribers, sending 12,000 emails per month. If your campaigns are likely to exceed these limits, an unlimited account starts at just $10 a month.
ReachMail is a powerful platform that offers free email marketing for life, boasting a feature-rich service that’s cheaper than much of the competition.
They provide free email and phone support, as well as a free 30-minute webinar to get you familiar with the many features of the ReachMail service.
So, for support, ReachMail really is up there with the best, right from the start.
They help you to create, schedule and send out mass email marketing campaigns, providing a wide range of templates and reporting data that can be used to gauge the efficacy of your campaigns.
There are integration capabilities for social media sharing, auto-responders, message testing, even surveys and API options for advanced users.
There are plenty of features offered in the free service, but for paid accounts, there’s an additional tier of features, including a specific custom template created for your company by their designers.
ReachMail’s detailed reporting provides a rich tapestry of data regarding clicks, opens and bounces, and they claim that their deliverability is 99%, ensured with daily testing with major ISPs.
They have an SMTP function that allows you to link your account to a mail server, such as Apple Mail or Outlook, which is quite a unique function for this type of service.
ReachMail features a built-in survey builder that helps you create, distribute and collate data from survey campaigns – all from the central, cloud-based platform.
It has to be said that their website is a little on the “last century” side in terms of layout and aesthetic, but the service ReachMail provides is really top-notch, receiving consistently good reviews.
The service is free to send campaigns for up to 5000 contacts, with 15,000 sends. The $10 monthly subscription service provides user support for 7,500 contacts and 30,000 sends. If your requirements stretch beyond those limits, custom plans are available.
The free support, regardless of service plan, makes ReachMail a terrific prospect for your business, especially for start-ups.
Constant Contact is one of the highest rated email marketing tools, according to Top10EmailMarketingServices.co.uk. It provides a mobile-friendly platform with drag-and-drop editors that make creating aesthetically pleasing marketing campaigns simple.
There’s a variety of support services as well as options for creating surveys, donation campaigns and coupon and event support.
Constant Contact is recommended for small to medium-sized companies, including non-profits and start-ups, and perfect for the email marketing novice, as well as those with expert knowledge.
The user interface is simple to navigate, offering a variety of well-designed templates that display correctly on mobile devices, as well as on desktops. They provide free, live support, as well as automation capabilities that make your marketing campaigns responsive to end-user engagement.
The service is subscription only – there’s no free option. They do, however, offer a 60-day free trial, which is ample to ascertain whether the service is right for your needs.
They offer a discount to non-profit organisations.
Their pricing is structured around email list size. The minimum monthly charge is $45, once the free trial has expired.
Setting up an effective email marketing campaign is a balance between creating the right copy that gets to the heart of the matter, a transferrable format and a Call To Action that inspires engagement.
Your budget will determine the services that are right for you, but hopefully we’ve provided some insight into the tools that can help you to get things right – the first time.