Channel Your Inner Child; Become a Better Email Marketer

Email is a part of our everyday lives, and email marketing is a craft that organizations simply cannot ignore when communicating with their customers. It's probably safe to say that there aren't many actual children running email marketing campaigns. But thinking like a child – that mostly good kid before those trying tween and teen years – can help ground, inspire and energize your email marketing efforts.

1. Ask people to be on your team. Understand that it's ok that everyone won't join. Be a good sport anyway.

It's the first and most essential step. We know it, but it's worth repeating because it goes beyond just the apparent: Ask for permission to email people. In addition to the obvious of never using purchased or rented lists, there are less readily apparent dimensions of being a true permission email marketer. For example, instead of automatically adding people to your subscriber database from a hardcopy signup, for example at an event, send them an invitation that reminds them that they expressed interest at the event and makes it easy to join your list. Only email people who have given their explicit, prior permission for that specific content through double opt-in. And despite your best efforts, naturally, some of your subscribers will want to unsubscribe at some point. Is there a super-easy avenue in every email for people to unsubscribe? For the ones who choose to jump ship, a one-question survey asking them why they left and how you could have done better can give you some good insights. But don't chase people.

2. Get people's attention and stand out in a good way.

People are bombarded with email, so be completely clear and certain about what you're trying to achieve with a given campaign. There's power in that sense of purpose. It will infuse a more dynamic vibe into your messages from the start. Then, put as much effort into your subject line as you do into your main message content. Think of your subject line as the high gate and your message content as the playground that lies behind it, barely in view. If people see the gate and turn back, they'll never be able to discover and much less enjoy the benefits of the playground. If they feel positive emotions or believe they will derive a benefit from what they see and hear at the gate, it will entice them to walk through it by opening your email. Whether you're sending a special offer, an event announcement, an email newsletter, the latest product catalog, or a new white paper or podcast, keep your subject line short and snappy. And where possible, customize subject lines according to your subscribers' preferences and your analytics on their past interactions with your messages. Building on your subject line, craft the body of your message with audience-tailored words, images as you see fit, a clear and easy value proposition and a tone that invokes happy emotions and inspires action.

3. Keep your word and do your A+ best (pinky promise).

Avoid sending email more frequently than you promised; ditto for sending email outside the content areas that people specified when they subscribed. Make it your true aim to help your subscribers in some way through relevant and valuable information and interaction opportunities in every message. Although it's tempting to want to weigh in on every trend, forge your own territory with quality content based on your internal expertise. No one wants to feel that they're reading the same basic information about the latest this or that, rehashed by three different organizations. And no one wants to waste their time. And why wouldn't a person who thinks they'll be receiving a message twice a month with heart-healthy recipes for seniors unsubscribe when they start receiving weekly messages about fun food ideas for school lunchboxes?

4. Be that helpful kid who makes things easier for people.

Use subscriber data and campaign metrics to truly segment and target your mailings. Create value propositions that specifically address subscriber preferences and previous behavior – things that help you understand what they want from your messages and what they're trying to achieve – through carefully chosen words and images. Rather than approaching it as, "How can I get this person to click to my website, buy my product and love my company so that I meet my benchmarks," try a new mantra when crafting campaigns for each of your subscriber segments: "What can I do to help these subscribers? How can I best keep them happily subscribed and increasingly engaged?" You'll tap into your creativity and break any bad habits that may be impeding your results. This mindset puts you on track for a group of subscribers who feel validated in their decision to subscribe and good about your organization and brand. That's what will lead them to click, engage and purchase.

5. Share cool pictures and awesome stories with people.

While it's tempting to think that all of our subscribers enjoy reading our messages, a look at the rate of opens in any given campaign tells us that, while they may see some benefit, they're not exactly clinging to our every word. Deflating? Yes. Surprising? No. How can our email messages compete with the sheer volume of other email, IMs, Tweets, Facebook notifications, texts and phone calls that are also vying for our subscribers' time and attention? First, it's essential to shift the focus of our messages to our subscribers. To put it bluntly, we need to stop talking about ourselves so much. Have an organization that just got a special award? Great! Be sure to talk about how instrumental your customers and subscribers were in that achievement – tell some great stories, give some examples and photos to make those stories come alive to the people reading your messages. And ask how you can do even better. Let other people's words toot your horn for you. After all, we're all human, and having "real people" sharing authentic stories strikes an emotional chord and may well be what's needed to push an almost-there subscriber to take action and get more engaged.

6. Be bold enough to try different things and make mistakes. That's called learning.

It's critical to respect the boundaries of people's specific subscription preferences for frequency and content. It's also smart to use analytics to guide you to the optimal send times for your specific audiences. That said, don't be afraid to try, test and fine-tune. For example, how about using A/B-split testing to try out a new layout one month for your regular newsletter? Have you thought about introducing new content features or subscriber interaction opportunities? Give it a shot! And administering periodic surveys on how well your messages are resonating and what can be improved can be helpful and show that you care about your subscribers.

7. Say "please" and "thank you" and use good manners, even when people are grumpy.

Yes, it's basic courtesy, yet in today's "textspeak" shorthand, it can become a casualty. The actual words "please" and "thank you" have no substitutes – not even "we appreciate your business," "thanks" or "#gratitude." This applies to email marketing content as well as email interactions that may arise with subscribers (usually disgruntled ones). The fact that people have entrusted you with access to their inboxes is worth a big thank you. That some of these people click onto your website, respond to your survey, read one of your newsletter articles or listen to your podcast merits even bigger and more personalized ones, maybe even some special appreciation items. And how about the people who say "no thank you" and unsubscribe but are far from polite about it? And subscribers who get angry and start yelling at you after getting an email they don't think they should have (but had given explicit prior permission)? Listen respectfully. Respond politely. Please. Thank you. Even if they still choose to leave your list or stay angry, they'll do so with a much better impression than they would have if you had responded in kind.

This article was originally published in L-Soft's customer newsletter.

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