March 28, 2015

How Marketers Should Create Email Marketing Messages: Part 2

Earlier this week, we covered some of the basics of how marketers should create effective email marketing messages to generate leads and compel desired actions.

Email marketing messages

To finish this two-part series, here are some more helpful pointers from experts regarding the crucial elements of all marketing emails.

Clear call-to-action
While marketers may want to stuff as much as they can into a single email, they should rein themselves back a bit and remember that they have to make it obvious to the recipient what they should be doing once they open an email.

“’We have one touch point with the customer — and so much to offer them!’ This isn’t useful to the customer,” says Paige Tintle, marketing manager at TheLadders. “Make it clear what you’re asking the customer to do. Keep focused. Pick one thing. This makes the decision-making process easier for the customer. You may think that putting more offers into an email gives the customer more choice, but in email — which is a quick-hit medium – people don’t want choice. They want to make a quick decision and move on.”

Links and buttons
Speaking of call-to-actions, Tintle suggests that marketers include buttons in their emails, which “provide a clear target area for your call-to-action.”

However, marketers should have a backup plan in case the button image doesn’t render properly, especially since most email clients don’t automatically download images for the protection of their users. “Be sure to provide a link — generally at the top or in the first paragraph — that your customer can see and click on if the button image doesn’t get activated,” Tintle says. “This also gets your call-to-action up higher in the communication and helps with the customer decision-making process.”

Preference centers
Preference centers are where email recipients have the opportunity to fine-tune the specifics of their subscription to a particular list. This can include preferred categories or topics of interest, preferred day of the week to receive emails, and whether or not the emails should be sent in HTML or text format, among other options. While most subscribers may not use them, preference centers remain an important component of email marketing campaigns.

“While preference centers are known for not being utilized by subscribers at very high rate, they are important to make it easy for subscribers to do things such as change their email address,” says Loren McDonald, vice president of industry relations at Silverpop. She adds that preference centers can also help marketers retain a subscriber who might choose to pause their subscription or opt out of a certain newsletter, for example, instead of unsubscribing completely.

According to a recent report from StrongMail, 51.9 percent of business leaders said they plan to integrate mobile with their email marketing next year, a priority of email integration second only to social media marketing.

Meanwhile, a recent study from Return Path focusing on email on mobile devices in the U.S. and Canada found that open rates for emails on mobile devices remains higher than those for desktop and webmail access. Also, in the U.S., 38 percent of consumers read their emails on mobile devices, while 31 percent read their emails via webmail and 31 percent read them on desktop computers.

There are many other studies highlighting the importance of mobile for email marketing, which means marketers need to ask themselves some important questions. “Has your email design, layout and code been optimized so that your emails render well regardless of the device being used by the recipient?” asks McDonald.

Landing pages
Marketers whose focus is solely on what happens in the inbox are missing a big piece of the email marketing puzzle: landing pages.

“An all-too common occurrence is that the email experience is not designed to be a continuous and consistent flow off of the email and onto the landing page, website or mobile app,” McDonald says. “No matter how great the email is designed, if the experience on the website or landing page is less than stellar, you’ll lose significant portion of those conversions that the email has teed up.”

Email marketing messages should, of course, be personalized as much as possible. This dovetails with the segmentation of email lists, which helps marketers better determine which subscribers to reach with which emails.

McDonald tells marketers to leverage and integrate third-party data — from sources like e-commerce systems, product review and recommendation software, etc. –  to send “highly dynamic, personalized emails.”

A big part of the personalization process happens in the subject line, according to Daryl Colwell, vice president of business development at MediaWhiz. He says marketers should “always personalize the message where you can in order to capture the consumer’s attention.”

While it’s not exactly a goal of email marketing, marketers should consider how easy it is for recipients to unsubscribe. In fact, a case can be made that marketers should actually make it as easy as possible for people to unsubscribe from their email lists. A recipient who has trouble getting off a marketer’s list can damage the company’s reputation. Of course, marketers shouldn’t stop there – they should also seek to understand why recipients are unsubscribing from their email messages and work to shore up those areas.

Tracking and analysis
“Sending an effective email isn’t determined before clicking ‘send’ on your final draft — it’s only determined through tracking and analysis afterward,” Tintle says. “How did each segment perform? Were there any holes in deliverability to certain ISPs? A commitment to tracking, although more time-intensive on the front end of a campaign, will make analysis and iteration that much faster once the clicks start rolling into your site.”

“Most email marketers and CRM buffs know that subject-line testing is a must, and your variable open rates are the proof of that,” Tintle says. “Beyond just subject lines, think about your call-to-action language, images versus plain text, copy options, and the hold-back groups that won’t be valid for testing — your control. Depending on the size of your deliverable list, you can figure out your perfect email within a few hours and send that to your database at large.”

McDonald adds that colors, layout, style, the tone of the copy and overall personality of emails should be continuously tested, in addition to subject lines.

Read the first part of this series on email marketing here.

By Jason Hahn

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