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Everybody Hates Email—Unless You Do It Right
I love subscribing to emails but hate receiving them. When I see a subscribe box or pop-up while I’m reading content that I find compelling, I think “I don’t want to miss a thing from this site! I totally want to subscribe to their newsletter! It’ll change my life!” Three months later, as I ignore yet another email from said compelling website, I start thinking about unsubscribing.
Why do I want to unsubscribe? There are a few reasons:
- I’m getting too many emails. I’m looking at you, Democratic Committee! If I’m receiving more than one email a day from the same organization or company, let alone 5 or more, I get real annoyed real fast. I don’t need to hear from anyone that often.
- I’m not getting anything good. I unsubscribed from Groupon for a while because all they were sending me were deals for wine-and-painting events and discounted Botox sessions. Granted, I could have gone back to my account settings and updated my preferences, but at that point, I didn’t remember my login info and I was sick of them anyway.
- I’m sensing a bait-and-switch pattern. An email dangles an offer of useful content in front of me, but in order to get it, I have to sign up for a $995 e-learning course or pay for access to exclusive articles or some such nonsense. Now, I realize there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but I also don’t like being led on.
Obviously, those of us who send marketing emails don’t want the reactions described above. Luckily there are many things you can do to keep your email subscribers engaged, ready to click, and most of all, delighted to get your emails!
Seductive Subject Lines
We’ve all seen the cute ones: “Elizabeth, can you believe it?” “Nope, this isn’t one of those emails” “Go Nuts for Doughnuts”. Sure, when subject lines like these are well-written, they can be intriguing and might get your subscribers to click when they otherwise may not have. But at this point in email marketing history, they have been done; unless they’re incredibly clever, your subscribers know what you’re up to and probably aren’t clicking.
The most effective subject line strategy is encapsulated in that old chestnut “K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple, stupid.” “The best email subject lines are short, descriptive and provide the reader with a reason to explore your message further,” say the smarties at MailChimp. This doesn’t mean that your subject lines should be generic—not at all. They’ve still got to be smart and compelling, and most of all: benefit- focused and accurate about what’s inside.
Examples of effective email subject lines:
- “Ask One Simple Question to Get a Year’s Worth of Blog Ideas” – This subject line tells me that I’m going to get a big payoff in return for a small effort. And it suggests that I’m going to get a new, creative way of doing something that is usually long and labor-intensive. Click!
- “NEW! The bag you asked for…” – Hmm, I don’t remember asking for a bag from this retailer, but I wonder what they mean. Click!
- “24 Video Games You Can Say Yes to After School” – A parent who struggles with her kids’ video-game obsession sees a useful list that speaks to her wishes: one place to find a list of video games that won’t make her cringe. Click!
- “The Perfect Cover Letter Template to Show Off Your Skills” – Do you love writing cover letters? I don’t! This subject line tells me I’m going to get a useful tool that will make something I dread doing much more approachable. Click!
What do all of these subject lines have in common? They are concise, to-the-point, benefit-focused, and accurate about their content.
Ultimately, email is human-to-human communication, says Bart Thornburg, Email Marketing Manager at Wedding Wire, so make sure your emails sound like they’re coming from a human. One way to do this successfully is to engage an onboarding campaign.
Onboarding is a way to educate your new subscriber about your offerings and how to get the most out of them. In the sales department, they call this “lead nurturing.” What you want is to take your subscriber from lead to customer to true believer/raving fan.
How does onboarding work? By meeting the subscriber where they are. A new subscriber needs to know what you can do for them, what the benefits are of engaging with your company. The timeline goes something like this (but will vary depending on your products and services):
- At signup: send a welcome email. You might want to ask the subscriber what their interests or most pressing concerns are. Use multiple-choice answers tailored to your offerings.
- Post-welcome: send an email with content customized to the subscribers’ interests and needs. This tells them that you’re listening and you genuinely want to help. You’re gaining trust and engagement here.
- After an action: send an email when the subscriber takes an action on your website. Did he download a white paper or slide presentation? Thank him and send links to additional info. Did she linger on a page about home theater remodeling? Ask her what kind of home theater she’s interested in and offer her a free consultation.
- Next: send emails that continue the relationship: special offers, customized content, new product announcements and the like.
Onboarding shows subscribers that you are paying attention to them and you are genuinely interested in earning their business—you didn’t just blindly add them to your email list.
Foolproof Email Calls to Action
The call to action (CTA) in your marketing emails is critical—and easy to mess up. How do you make your CTAs stand out and get clicked? Check out these tips:
- Never make your CTA an image. A lot of subscribers have images disabled; they might miss the link.
- Give two options. Thornburg suggests including a high-commitment CTA and a low-commitment CTA. That way, you have a chance to capture leads that might be on the fence. For instance:
- o High-commitment: Schedule Your Design Consultation Today!
- o Low-commitment: Download our Luxury Pool Brochure
- Start with an action word. As in the examples above, “schedule” or “download” are more immediate and active than something like “Want more information?” or “Newsletter signup.”
Test, Tweak, Repeat
That’s our mantra here at Blue Corona, and it really applies to email marketing. Even the most well-planned and smartly executed strategies won’t work for every audience. A/B testing is critical to email marketing success. Test subject lines, CTAs, and content to see what performs best for different marketing segments.
Your next step? Read this and call the number at the bottom to get access to stellar examples of email marketing!
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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