Unfortunately, the first word that pops to mind when many people mention email marketing is ‘spam.’ The junk mail of the modern era, spam is frequently held up as an abominable combination of inconvenience and social evil, with spam blockers and anti-spam petitions filling the news online and offline. Of course, this means legitimate email marketing campaigns can get lost as weary consumers indiscriminately flag all marketing material as spam just to keep their inboxes clutter free
How then can a company that has a legitimate, creative idea for an email advertisement series avoid getting caught in the spam trap? There are three key steps good copywriters and marketers can take to set themselves apart and boost their message open rates.
A Cautionary Tale
Important campaigns usually succeed or fail well before they’re ever launched – in the planning stages. Consider a recent and already infamous Intel advertisement. The advertisement had athletic sprinters lined up to race, a reasonable attempt to link the company’s processors to speedy performance. It failed because these athletes all were African American gentlemen who appeared to be bowing to a tall, smug looking Caucasian businessman. This was a clear breakdown in the planning process. No one asked the fairly obvious question ‘What could be wrong with this image?’ Intel pulled the advertisement and publicly admitted the mistake, but the image remains as a vivid reminder that cutting corners in the planning phase can bruise your brand.
1. Lay the Groundwork
The lesson here is that simple research, like enlisting a test audience, can mean the difference between hit and miss. The same holds true for email advertising campaigns – research is vital. Just because you can send out 100,000 generic emails within a few minutes of setting up a campaign idea does not in any way mean you should. Strategic planning up front not only can save you time in the long run, it also can secure your results.
2. Know the Audience
Previous articles have referred to the phenomenon of audience-influenced brands. This is particularly true now that the Web has become so extensively accessible. People’s opinions can catch public attention almost instantly, and word of mouth can spread across the entire world in a heartbeat. Whether or not you want the audience to control your brand is irrelevant; it can and will happen of its own accord, and you should be prepared for it.
Have you taken the time to really get to know your audience? There are thousands of Internet communities dedicated to every conceivable topic, hobby, interest, or fad and your product very likely falls into one of these. Visit these user forums, find out what people are saying, what needs are not being met, and what the general opinion is. Also, don’t just mine for information, but participate in the discussion. Engage and learn how people think and what they want to know about things. This isn’t a chore; this is an opportunity that businesses have rarely had in the past, a goldmine of information for any marketer to tap.
3. Kick up the Content
In many cases, businesses fail to treat email as a legitimate medium, although they’re eager to take advantage of it. Disregarding outright spam, even some well-intentioned ‘campaigns’ amount to little more than a poorly organized message presented in a jumble of mismatched colors rather than a serious attempt at focused communication.
The content of the email has to be strong. The first line has to provide a good hook, the body has to get the core, essential details out quickly and effectively, and the end has to have a call to action (be it a purchase or a website visit). Take the time to craft a message that shows you respect the reader’s intelligence, and put as much thought into the structure of the email as you would any other example of your best writing.
Once these three key elements are in place, consider a test circulation of your campaign before officially kicking it off. There is very little substitute for getting another pair of eyes to look over your hard work. They can spot unfortunate mistakes, call attention to strong points, and help you refine the process before the message is irrevocably out on the Web.