By Tom Wozniak, Head of Marketing
While email marketing has been a powerhouse marketing channel for decades, it took on even more importance over the last two years (along with virtually all digital channels) as businesses were forced to shift many of their real-world budgets online. Email remains a top-performing marketing channel for a huge number of companies, but getting the most out of your email marketing strategy involves developing an effective email optimization strategy. While there are many aspects of an email program that can and should be optimized (deliverability, list growth, etc.) the actual content of the email should always be a central focus in any email marketing strategy. Even within the area of email content, there are plenty of specific aspects to consider. Having run email marketing campaigns for over 2 decades, here is a list of 9 areas revolving around email creative and content that should make up the foundation of your optimization strategy.
1 – Focus on your Subject Line
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the subject line in the eventual success of any email marketing campaign. The subject line is your first opportunity to capture the attention of your email recipients. As anyone with an email inbox knows (and there are over 4 billion of us worldwide), marketers send out a LOT of email messages. So, your email has a lot of competition for the attention of your recipients. Having a meh subject line is a great way to miss out on the opportunity to get people to open the email and engage with your content. A great subject line not only grabs attention but also makes a promise about the value of the content in the email. While you want to get people to open your email, it’s vital to avoid using deceptive language in your subject line, which is a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.
2 – Dial in your Preview Text
Right after the subject line, the next part of your email that recipients may see is the preview text that is visible in many email inboxes. If you don’t set up preview text in your email design, the first line of the email content may show up in the preview box. The opening content in your email probably isn’t the best choice for preview text, as it could actually be part of the email structure (instructions on how to read an email in a browser, etc.). Instead, write preview text that works in conjunction with your subject line to draw interest and pique curiosity.
3 – Write for a Mobile Device
Today, the majority of consumers access their inboxes on mobile devices (predominantly mobile phones), so it’s important to keep that user experience in mind when developing your email creative. This means everything from the text to the graphics. What if an image renders larger than a typical mobile phone can even show on the screen? This leads to a poor user experience, and many people will simply close the email and move on. So, make sure you preview your email on a mobile device (a feature provided by many email marketing platforms) to ensure it renders in a way that makes it easy for recipients to read/view the email and interact with it, if you include a call-to-action. (Which you should! See #6 below.)
4 – Create Targeted Content
One of the biggest advantages of email marketing is that you can typically create highly targeted content for various audience segments (or even truly 1-to-1 dynamic content with some platforms). While you can still create old-school‘ spray and pray’ content, if you want to fully optimize your engagement, response, and performance, you should be identifying key audience segments and creating content designed for each one. It is almost guaranteed to drive stronger performance when executed correctly.
5 – Use Personalization Wisely
As a part of targeting content, leveraging actual personalization in your email content is a good best practice to incorporate. However, it’s also important to use personalization in moderation. Yes, most people appreciate a level of personalized content in an email (a personal salutation is a basic component and personalized product recommendations can deliver a big lift to performance), but too much personalization can cross a line into the creepy zone. Consumers love that companies know a lot about them and their interests, but they don’t necessarily want to have the extent of that knowledge front and center in an email. So, consider how you or your mom might feel about a particular bit of personalized content before deciding to include it in an email campaign.
6 – Have a Compelling Call-to-Action
Sometimes marketers send out an email without really wanting recipients to respond, click, or buy something. But, more likely you will at least want people to take some action after reading your email (visit a landing page, call for an appointment, etc.). So, make certain that you include a clear and compelling call-to-action in your email that explains what you want them to do. Forgetting to include a good call-to-action is a common mistake in many email campaigns. Don’t fall prey to this simple error.
7 – Leverage Psychology and Motivation
While your content should be focused on your audience’s needs and wants, you can use a variety of tactics from psychology and motivation to best communicate your value proposition or sales pitch. There is a long history of using psychology in marketing, so familiarize yourself with some of the best practices in using language and imagery to connect with your recipients on a deeper level.
8 – Define your Goals
Who doesn’t have goals when they send an email campaign? You want people to open and read your email and then interact with the content. Isn’t that enough? Nope. It’s important to focus on the real goals of your email campaign so you can accurately assess how it measures up, when looking at your key performance indicators. If the end goal is driving sales, that should be your primary KPI when assessing performance. So, set a measurable goal and then make sure this is what you use to evaluate the campaign and drive optimization strategy going forward.
9 – Test, Test, and Test Again
An effective and successful email program involves constant optimization, as you adjust various aspects of your email creative, list, etc. to drive the best possible performance against your KPIs. To do that, you need to be constantly testing various adaptations to your campaigns, learn from the results and test again.
Tom Wozniak heads up Marketing and Communications for OPTIZMO Technologies.