by Oliver Brainerd
Do you remember email chains? Those emails you’d get sometimes with six gazillion “fwd:”s in the subject line, and then the email had like, a picture of a kitten or a riddle or an inspiring story or a joke. Or the one I remember most claimed to be from some kid doing a social experiment for school. One of the questions that still keeps me up at night is what kind of scam was that? I bet those were put together by someone way ahead of the curve trying to pad their mailing list without putting in any real work.
Does that sound cynical? Perhaps that’s cynical of me. Maybe there really were kids around the country doing social experiments to see how far their emails would go.
Maybe I’ve spent too much time in marketing. It seems impossible that those email chains didn’t have an angle.
Times have changed and yet in certain ways, they’ve stayed the same. All that content from email chains has moved onto social feeds, and email inboxes have become the moral equivalent of recycling bins full of anonymous marketing content.
At some point, everyone engaged in marketing will have to face the question: is email marketing obsolete?
There’s an easy answer: Email marketing is a crazy useful tool if you use it right.
And there’s a hard answer: Email marketing is alive and well but it depends on how you do it. Implementing effective content for email marketing requires planning.
Content for Email Marketing
The Difference between Emails that People Care about and Spam
We are so used to giving away our email addresses whenever we sign up for anything. Some of us even have dummy email accounts because we don’t want to deal with all the junk flowing into our main email addresses. If you’re one of these people you might be wondering if you should involve email marketing in your strategy at all.
There’s a simple (if not easy) way to turn email marketing into something not only powerful, but also a fun and attractive part of your marketing. That simple thing is getting your brand right. If your brand is right, then people will look forward to receiving your emails.
Branding is a subject for another article. In this blog, we’re working under the assumption that you’ve got your brand figured out. With that foundation, we can talk about some of the techniques you can implement.
Email Marketing Content Ideas:
- What’s new in your industry highlight reel
- What your team is reading this month
- New product launches–and seasonal sales
- What is important to your business this month–are you celebrating International Women’s Day? Or Pi Day? Or the most recent pictures from the James Webb Telescope? What matters to your business? People on your email list care about that stuff too.
- Ask for customer feedback
- The list is endless. Anything appropriate to say in other marketing is appropriate to say in email marketing. Just briefer, and with the call to action the central point.
How to Write Email Content
You’ll find a lot of advice out there about writing the perfect email for marketing.
Some of these include:
- Make it extra professional
- Be more casual
- Follow formal guidelines
- Be chatty
So which is it? There are as many schools of thought as there are references to flowers in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Is that an obsolete reference? How about Dr. Dre references in Eminem songs. That’s more current.
There are a lot of hot takes on writing the perfect email content. The annoying thing is that most of them are right, because writing emails is as technical as any other kind of writing, and writing is a many-layered process.
A good rule of thumb for writing emails has three aspects:
- Make it focused and brief. People tend to skim emails. Sometimes it’s possible to write a longer-form blog and edit that down into a hyper-focused version for use as an email.
- Call to action is the most important feature of email marketing. You want people to act and you need to guide them into doing so. This doesn’t mean your email shouldn’t provide value. On the contrary, it should. But without any type of call to action it won’t lead to action, and most importantly the return on investment (ROI) you’re looking for.
- Stay on brand. The tone of your email should be as unique as the brand you’ve created.
Imagery and GIFs
As with any other marketing, pictures talk. Should you include imagery in your emails? It depends. They can be another effective way to communicate with your customers so they shouldn’t be overlooked, however not every type of email needs them.
Selecting imagery requires the same process as any other decision in your marketing strategy: does it fit my brand?
- Branded imagery is good. Your logo, your colors, help your audience see who’s calling at a glance. Saving time is good.
- If the picture helps tell your story, that’s good. Imagery can set the mood of your email.
If you want to use GIFs in your business emails, then you need to decide whether they complement your brand. If you use GIFs elsewhere in your marketing with success, then they might suit your email marketing as well. It just depends on your brand.
Email Sequences – Your Robot Employees
Automation is your friend. Emails can feel like single-direction communication: send an email, and the receiver has information. You used to be left wondering whether anything happened after you hit send. Not anymore. Now, an email can provide you a host of useful information, if you collect and apply it right. There’s so much data you can now see in CRM tools.
- Click-through rate–whether a recipient followed a link in the email.
- If they opened the email at all.
- How long it sat in their inbox before they opened it.
- What time of day they opened it.
- If they followed the call to action.
You get the idea.
Armed with this kind of data, you have the tools to design automation to send emails to do more than just passively hope people read your emails. Put another way, you can train your robot employees to keep in touch with your email list. More than that, you can tell your robots to be strategic in the way they do it.
When you have data about the recipients of your emails, you can set up automations to achieve particular goals. This affects your content for email marketing. You can create sequences to achieve goals like…
- Welcome people to your list. A welcome sequence sets expectations about what type of content a new subscriber will receive. It’s important to do these well and provide benefits so that people want to stay on your list and open your emails. If you do this right, your open rates will be a lot stronger in the future.
- Nurturing leads. Nurturing email sequences occur after the initial welcome sequence. Often these emails provide value and are gradually guiding people toward a sales sequence.
- Sales sequences. Sales email sequences paint pictures of a problem your customer has and how your product or service will solve that problem. They might also include time-sensitive discounts to encourage an immediate purchase.
- Abandoned carts. If you have a product-based business, and someone has abandoned their shopping cart in your online store, an abandoned cart sequence can help to convert a percentage of these abandoners to buyers.
- Reminders. Sending friendly reminders helps those customers who are on the fence or seem to be forgetful or need just that last nudge.
- Follow-ups. Following up with people showing interest who aren’t quite following through for their own reasons, can lead to more sales.
- Re-engagement. These sequences work to get people on your email list who have gone dormant or have stopped opening emails to re-engage. Cleaning up your email list is important, and this is usually the last step before removing someone from your list. The goal is to get them to re-engage first so that you don’t have to remove them, and they can continue to be a part of your email community.
These are just some of the many email sequences you can use to guide customers in specific ways.
It all sounds fairly complicated, only because it sort of is. Automation brings with it a host of headache-y questions, like…
- How do I set it up?
- Why do I set it up?
- How do I identify, then take advantage of, the right data to help me?
- Can I make it fit into my brand?
- What grade did that kid get on their email chain homework anyway?
Fortunately–slight plug here–there are professional digital marketing people who are not only fairly experienced at designing and implementing this email marketing automation, some of us (for some reason) kind of enjoy it. We’re nerds in that way. Implementing effective content for email marketing is our specialty.
ARC Creative Co. is an email marketing agency that sent over 25 million emails for one company alone last year. Book a call with an ARC representative to see how we can help you grow your business and increase ROI through email marketing. Book a call here.
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