Marketing is one of the most effective tools at a business’s disposal, but it’s also incredibly easy to abuse. Successful email marketing requires both finely calibrated content and timing. It’s about offering the recipient a direct benefit – and not annoying them.
When to Send an Email?
The first component of getting email marketing right is figuring out when to send an email. Ideally emails should be timed so that the customer gets the most benefit.
This is easy for seasonal businesses, which should send emails at the beginning of the busy season – a tax company sending emails out at the beginning of tax season – or before an important deadline or date – a flower company sending an email before Mother’s Day.
Businesses that aren’t seasonal should still make an effort at making their emails timely. A special sale or important changes in the industry are both great reasons to send an email because they provide timely benefit to the recipient.
If there’s no better reason for sending an email than keeping the business in people’s minds, it might be best to reconsider the email. That’s because emails sent too frequently can actually backfire.
The number one reason people unsubscribe from emails is because they come too frequently. And it’s no wonder – an inbox clogged with spam is not going to make anyone a happy camper. Bombarding people with emails will only anger them and damage the brand.
Besides, these days people who want to remain in constant contact with a brand can use social media. Even sending out a regular newsletter is a pretty antiquated form of communication.
Exactly how many emails to send will be different for each individual business and depends on the nature of that business and its customers. Obviously customers of a fun brand like Urban Outfitters are going to tolerate more emails about cool new products and sales than are customers of businesses in more boring industries.
Every company should experiment with the frequency of its emails, but decisions need to be tied to data, specifically the unsubscribe rate. If unsubscribes start going up, it could be because recipients feel harassed by too many emails.
Once again, the most important consideration is the benefit offered to the customer. If the customer receives no benefit, don’t send an email.
What Content to Include in an Email?
The most important rule in email marketing is that the content has to offer the recipient some sort of benefit – there needs to be a reason for sending the email besides shameless self-promotion.
The most important piece of content might actually be the subject line of the email. This single line decides whether the recipient reads the email or consigns it to the spam folder. If it includes too many spammy keywords – such as “free” or “money” – in all caps accompanied by lots of exclamation points their email provider might mark it as spam right off the bat so that they never actually see it.
As with the body of the email, the subject needs to promise the reader some benefit of clicking on the email. A special sale or an approaching deadline are likely to get people’s attention. A general newsletter is not.
A big part of crafting effective content for emails is targeting a narrow audience for each particular email. Targeting goes hand in hand with offering the recipient a tangible benefit and ensures that the content is as relevant as possible.
It’s pretty obvious that a prospective customer or someone who’s just created an account requires different content from someone who’s been a customer for five years. And depending on the business, a 21 year old college student in New York may require different content from a 45 year old stay-at-home mother in Oklahoma.
On one final note about content, it should go without saying in this day and age that the content of an email needs to look just as good and function just as well on a mobile phone as it does on a desktop.
Despite all the caveats, email marketing can be one of the most effective marketing channels there is. That in itself is important to keep in mind – email is just one channel. It shouldn’t be treated separately, but integrated into the brand’s overall marketing strategy, with every channel working together to provide a consistent message and the greatest benefit possible to the customer.