12 email marketing fundamentals to master
Columnist Mary Wallace provides a primer on email marketing fundamentals for newbies and veterans alike, noting that advanced technology is useless if you don't get these right.
One of the fundamental premises of marketing automation is email engagement. And as modern marketers, we are under serious pressure for our emails to perform — they must drive engagement, conversions, and most importantly, revenue.
But with the sophistication of the various tools at our fingertips and an overcrowded work desk, it’s easy to overlook the fundamentals of email performance. Below is a checklist of 12 tips and techniques to inspire new email marketers and remind seasoned professionals about the key best practices.
1. Humanize your communications
Emails sent from a person (e.g., “Mary Wallace”) engage far better than emails sent from a company (e.g. “Wallace Consulting”) — unless, of course, you are a well-known and recognized brand like Banana Republic.
2. Stay away from average-length subject lines
A key driver of email open rates, subject lines perform best when either long or short. Subject lines that are 60 to 70 characters drive neither open rates nor click-through engagements. Research shows that subject lines over 70 characters increase click-to-open rates, while those under 50 characters increase open rates.
3. Keep your subject line on topic
Great subject lines can drive opens, but if they are not relevant to the content of the email, an engagement opportunity has been lost. Even worse, an off-topic subject line could move a recipient to mark your email as spam.
4. Be concise with copy
Don’t overload your emails with endless walls of text. Given the average read time for an email is 11 seconds, you’ll lose your reader if you overload them with copy. Instead, create short, concise emails that whet the appetite of the reader and focus on one topic. Include all the details on the landing page that the reader will see after they click.
5. Focus on benefits
Features and functions don’t engage. Benefits do. Stuff your email with the amazing benefits that can be realized by using your widget instead of the boring features and functions. Craft the message so it directly impacts the prospect to encourage engagement and action.
6. Consider your call-to-action placement
Call-to-action buttons belong above the fold — not hanging out all alone at the bottom. Don’t be afraid to have multiple call-to-action buttons, but ensure that at least one is above the fold.
Should all call-to-action buttons go to one destination, or should the reader have choices? Not too long ago, I would have said one location. But with the increased sophistication of today’s email reader, I’ve seen communications using various target locations outperform a single target location.
7. Front-load links
Link the first few words of the first sentence of the first paragraph. That’s where the eye lands when the email is opened initially. Having that as a hot link increases email clicks.
8. Make your call-to-action copy interesting
Use resonating benefit-based content in your call-to-action buttons. Generic words like “Download,” “Submit” and “Click here” are less likely to generate any meaningful lift. Instead, use copy like “Join the Fun” or “Enjoy the Benefits Now.”
9. Accuracy trumps personalization
Personalization is great, but starting your emails with “Dear [Recipient Name]” can backfire if your email subscriber database isn’t accurate. Consider just using “Hi” and skipping the contact’s name unless you’re 100 percent certain that your contact names are accurate and formatted correctly. There’s no bigger turnoff than an email that starts with a mistyped name like “Dear wallacemaryl.”
10. Create a responsive, easy-to-read layout
Design your emails so that they are easy to read in any environment: mobile, desktop or tablet. Use large fonts in a one-column layout to increase legibility. Litmus goes as far as to recommend limiting email width to 550px.
11. Use color wisely
Color helps draw the eye where you want it, but that doesn’t mean you should use five different competing colors throughout your email to highlight the various sections. Nor does it mean that a specific color will increase conversions if added to a call-to-action button. Instead, use a single bright color that is part of the email’s color palette to make the call-to-action “pop.”
12. Utilize high-quality images
Images engage email readers. Use clear, appropriately-sized images that support the email copy. Faces of engaged and happy customers (or even the sales person) also work well — eye-tracking studies show that people are drawn to facial features when looking at images.