Take a look at the twenty most recent messages your email inbox. Not the spam folder, but the main inbox – the one that's theoretically meant to house messages you actually want to read. How many of those first twenty have you opened, and how many will go forever un-clicked? How many fall into the “I'll read it later” category, and what usually happens when “later” arrives?
More importantly, why do you choose to read one piece of email marketing, but not another? If you want your email marketing to stand out for the right reasons, these are important questions to answer.
Junk mail has been around for a long time, and people are predisposed to distrust it. Back when snail mail was the only mail, junk mail arrived on paper, and it arrived often. Now it's called spam, and it's even easier to send digitally. No matter how careful you are about sharing your email address, spammers will find you. It's a fact of digital life, and it's a burden to honest marketers everywhere.
Between the spammers and the legitimate marketers, you've got a lot of competition for a limited amount of inbox space. If numbers are your thing, a study by tech giant Intel, released in 2013, determined that 204 million emails are sent every minute. That's 12.24 billion emails an hour. So standing out takes work and creativity, but email marketing, done right, is still a very powerful tool. Let's take a closer look at how you can create email marketing campaigns that get results, no matter the size of your business.
Offer value in your email marketing
Email marketing campaigns fail when email is looked at as a short-term conversion tool instead of a way to actively engage customers with mutually beneficial ends in mind. Don't fall into that trap. Instead, offer customers something of value with your email campaigns, and let the sales pitch wait for the right time and place. It doesn't have to be monetary value, either.
One way to offer value is with great content. Use your expertise to provide clients with relevant advice that ties into your business, and do it without strings attached. People sign up for your email list because they're interested in your brand, and what you've got to say. Justify that interest by being interesting. Simple, right?
You can also offer value simply by making yourself accessible. When someone responds to your email campaign, don't wait to get back to them. If you see a common question or comment popping up around a specific message, you've just found a topic for your next round of content.
Sales and special offers are fine, too, but they work best when mixed with other types of value-adding content. Even if the deals are great, people will get turned off by too many explicitly sales-centric messages.
Try your hand at multimedia. You don't need professional equipment to record an audio or video message with high production value. Multimedia is a great way to let customers get to know you, and it allows you to mix up content types in a way that keeps your campaign fresh.
Pay attention to the details
What's the best way to stand out from the spammers? Don't send email that looks like spam! Email users have developed a keen sense for spam based on all sorts of tiny details. Ignore those details, and your message is destined for the spam folder, no matter how great the content it contains.
Pay attention to your subject lines, because they often make the difference in your message being opened or ignored. Shoddy spelling and syntax raise instant red flags, so proofread well. Be descriptive, but concise. And make it interesting!
Make opt-in and opt-out options easy to use, and readily apparent. Sure, it hurts when someone opts out, but it's better to give them the option than to keep sending unwanted emails. Making those options simple indicates to customers that you're trying to help them, not trick them.
Make your messages easy to read with sensible formatting. Use colors that contrast well, and avoid fancy fonts in favor of readable ones. Choose pictures that send the message you're looking for, without allowing those images to crowd the page. The easier you make it to read, the more people are likely to read it and share it.
In the end, it's important to look at your email campaigns from the customer's point of view. Put yourself in their shoes, and honestly evaluate whether you would open the marketing messages you're sending them. Be human, and you'll stand out from the spammers. Follow the rest of the tips above, and you'll stand out from the other marketers, too.