Email dates back more than four decades, but it’s still got a lot to offer for businesses that want to connect authentically and powerfully with a target audience.
If you think the email list is dead (or even dying) as a marketing tactic, think again. It’s alive and well, even among younger generations. According to a study commissioned by PowerInbox, more than half of all adults age 18 and up subscribe to at least one email newsletter. And those same subscribers do engage with advertising and offers in the emails; in fact, two-thirds say they’ll click special offers in an email if it’s interesting and relevant.
With so much to sort through online, consumers naturally spend more time and effort on the brands that do the work to reach them. That means you can’t rely on a tried-and-true automated email campaign or newsletter format to keep hitting it out of the ballpark, and if you’re seeing email engagement slide, it might be a good idea to try some new approaches (or possibly hire a talented newsletter writer).
But you don’t have to go far to scout out effective email campaigns: We’ve put together some tips and tricks garnered from real-life examples of effective lead-nurturing emails for you to check out.
1. Create Simple Messages from Individuals
Larry Kim of Mobile Monkey often shares great advice on Facebook Messenger marketing and specifics about his own marketing campaigns, and he’s scored some winning open and click-through rates with email marketing. It’s not surprising, because he knows how to put together an effective email that resonates with the reader and catches their attention.
But the unicorn marketer doesn’t make it flashy: he keeps it simple and direct. Check out the screenshot below for an example of one his marketing emails. The subject line, “check your phone” is simple but attention grabbing. In a list of emails in your inbox, this will stand out on a scan through because your immediate thought may be “Wait, did someone text me?”
Once you open the email, it’s addressed to you, poses an immediate question and starts to convey the message — all in a way that seems like Larry is talking directly to you. It’s a tactic that makes it more likely someone will click on the call to action or links provided later in the message. He also often links to his social media and blog posts, linking one piece of content with his entire channel.
You can create email newsletters like this that get great open and engagement rates by:
- Sending specific messages instead of automated digests
- Positioning emails from a specific person at your company instead of the brand
- Writing for an audience of one instead of a group (even though the emails go to a group)
- Treating email as part of an omnichannel marketing approach rather than a single channel
2. Give Real Value for Free
Words like free, gift, freebie and give-away still resonate with individuals and drive crazy open rates. And that’s true whether you’re engaged in B2C or B2B marketing.
That said, used improperly or too frequently in your subject lines, these words can set off spam filters. Be sure to use them carefully, and make sure your subject lines don’t come across as spammy.
More than just promising value in your subject line, figure out what you can offer your subscribers that’s easy to deliver and not costly to you but will be valuable to readers.
Check out Digital Marketer’s early January promotional email below. Like the example from Larry Kim, it’s simple, personalized and comes from an individual in the company. But it also comes bearing free gifts, a fact which is stated in bold right in the first sentence. Talk about a hook.
3. Keep Mobile Users in Mind
Mobile bypassed desktop computing as the preferred platform for accessing internet content in general sometime between 2015 and 2016, and it didn’t take long for access to email to follow suit. According to ReturnPath, users were choosing mobile access to email over webmail at a rate of two to one as of 2017. (Webmail refers to online mail providers such as Gmail). Use of desktop email programs such as Outlook to receive and send emails was low on the preference list, and desktop email programs such as Outlook to receive and send emails was even further down.
Given those numbers, it’s critical to design your newsletters with mobile devices in mind. Keeping it simple does this, because a text-only email with basic links is going to display well on most screens. Just keep the length of paragraphs and list elements in mind. Shorter may be better, because mobile users could get tired of scrolling before they get to the goods if you’re long-winded.
But mobile doesn’t completely preclude longer content. Check out the screen shots below from part of a digest-style email from The Hustle. While this email had a single header graphic (that would have scaled on a mobile device), the rest is fairly simple and features small content chunks broken up by headers and white space.
4. Design and Write for Your Audience
When a sports scout is looking for a new pitcher for a baseball team, they aren’t just looking for someone who ticks all the boxes when it comes to curveballs and game stats. A good scout also looks for a player who will work well with and complement the existing team.
Your job in creating email marketing materials is similar: No matter what is performing for everyone else, you do what performs for your audience.
Check out the screen shot below of an email from Sarah Foil, who provides editing and other services to authors. You’ll note that the bulk of the email actually looks a lot like an Instagram post. That’s followed up with a very direct and conversational CTA that asks for the reader to take specific actions.
This works for Foil specifically because she knows exactly who her audience is: they’re also the audience for Bookstagram, a subset of Instagram that posts pictures and content about creating and reading books and general bookish lifestyle. It’s likely this image is going to naturally resonate with her audience.
To follow Foil’s example, figure out what your audience is interested in and what type of content they are likely to engage with online. Then, convert that into something that works for email.
Expert Advice, but No Easy Answers
If you’re here looking for a magic formula for email newsletters that succeed in 2019, we’re sorry to disappoint. The truth is, there aren’t typically easy answers in marketing. Instead, there’s a lot of expert advice, such as the breakdown above about types of email newsletters that work.
But the coach (or advice giver) can’t make the play for you. You might use a pinch hitter to create quality content for your newsletter or tweak your subject lines with an expert’s eye, but no one understands your brand like you do.
Whether you’re working with an agency to create your email marketing campaigns or doing the work in-house, take some time to really understand your audience and your message so you can hit it out of the ballpark with email marketing.