This week we’re going to chat about the always feared and commonly dreaded: email marketing. Here at GreenBook, we send A LOT of emails. From 10 annual IIeX events, to GreenBook Marketing Services, to content like GRIT and Insights That Work, there’s never a dull moment. Sometimes I feel like I spend half my days on our email marketing campaigns. And, there’s a great reason…
The reality is, email marketing works!
Think about it. How many hours per day do you spend attending to your email? Recent studies tell us that for the average working American, it’s a solid 2.5 hours per day. So while we’re all constantly attached to handfuls of communications streams (LinkedIn, Facebook, online news sources, etc.) email really is the one to beat. And, it’s the most important channel (with the highest ROI) for B2B marketing.
But what if I don’t have time for email marketing?
Especially if you’re a small shop with a limited marketing team (or no marketing team at all), email marketing can seem daunting, time-consuming, and difficult. So whether you’re sending 5 or 500 marketing or sales emails per year, here are a few tips to help make your email marketing the best that it can be:
1. Step #1: Subject line
To be at all effective, your email first has to be opened. One of the best ways to achieve a higher open rate is to test your subject lines.
Most email marketing platforms easily make this available to you. If not, you can do this manually:
- Take about 10% of your list, and send your email to half of this list with Subject A, and the other half with Subject B.
- Check in after one to two hours to see which had the higher open rate.
- Send the email to the remaining 90% of your list with the winning subject line.
Most A/B subject testing sees less than a 5% difference—which may seem quite low. However, if you’re sending to a list of even 1,000, that’s 50 more customers that will open and see your message.
One of the easiest ways I like to brainstorm subject lines is to save eye-catching ideas that come through my own inbox. You can do this with both your business and personal email accounts. Simply create a folder named ‘Subject line ideas’, and drop an email into this folder if you were intrigued enough to open it. This will give you a pool of inspiration to pull from every time you have to write new subject lines.
2. Write like a human
Personalization is one of the easiest ways to make your email stand out in an inbox. Almost all email marketing tools (even the very basic, inexpensive ones I’ll mention later) will give you the ability to insert a merge field. If you send out a generic, bulk email without personalization, your customers will be able to tell. I recommend personalizing the following identifiers where you can:
- First name salutation: Hi, Bob!
- Company name: I hope to work with GreenBook in the future.
- Industry: I specialize in consumer packaged goods.
- Sender: Colleen Kennedy or Colleen at GreenBook
Humanizing your sender name is just as important as personalizing your reader’s information. Make sure your email is displaying a person’s name, as opposed to a reply@ or sales@ email address. There’s nothing less personal than feeling like you’re being emailed by a bot!
3. Use templates
Whether it’s a simple image header or logo inserted into your Gmail settings, or a fully designed marketing email, having a consistent email template is important for both you and your customers. After creating one (or a few) templates, you’ll save time on each email you send. Simply pull up your template, replace the copy and images with your new content, and viola!—ready-made email.
Using templates is also an important way to keep your branding consistent for your customers. While it’s okay to mix it up every once in a while or change your branding over time, your customers will benefit from recognizing a consistent layout for multiple emails in a row—especially if it’s regular communication like a newsletter or quarterly business update.
Feel as though you’re lacking the skills or time to build these email templates? Outsource the template creation to a freelance designer or online service. You pay once, and the template is yours forever.
4. Make it visual
With the amount of content we’re sent every day, it’s helpful to have a break from words and text. Include videos, images, and short sections of text to help your email grab the attention of your readers—and keep them engaged. Here are a few ways you can do so:
- Feature a video: As long as you have a webcam, anyone can do it. Film a short (1-2 minute) blurb of yourself addressing your audience—it doesn’t have to be professional. Research shows that email readers are more likely to click on a ‘DIY’ video than a professionally shot video.
- Add photos: Whether it’s a free stock photo found online that relates to an article you’re featuring, or photo of your team at a recent conference (your customers love to get the inside scoop on what’s going on behind the curtains), photos can be a great way to highlight a feature in your email.
- Don’t overload with text: white (or blank) space is key to making your email readable.
- Highlight important messaging: Your headers and bolded text when read alone should easily convey a summary of what you’re addressing in the rest of your email.
- Have a clear call to action button: Use on-brand colors that draw the eye to the action you want your reader to take.
5. Use free (and nearly free) tools
Because who doesn’t love a good freebie? Here are some of the top tools for email marketing that I swear by:
- Grammarly—a free online and desktop tool that checks your grammar. It’s a far superior version of spell check.
- YAMM (Yet Another Mail Merge)—a free or inexpensive ($24 annually) tool that lets you send batch emails to your customers using personalized merge fields straight from a Google sheet. (You must have a Gmail account to send from YAMM).
- Tiny Letter— quick and easy newsletter builder.
- Hemingway Editor—Best. App. Ever. ($19.99 one-time fee) will get you the best editor, proofreader, and readability tool out there. The ‘grade level’ accessibility reader is perfect for those of you writing with a high level of technical or academic prose.
- BEE Free or Stripo—two of the best (and easiest to use) email template creators out there.
I hope these tricks help make your email marketing strategy a little more effective and a little less tedious. To better marketing!