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How to write a winning marketing e-mail

The purpose of a marketing e-mail is to have a conversation with a subscriber which supports a profitable long term relationship. The best e-mails are those which get the recipient to take some action – clicking, downloading, responding, or purchasing. Think of a phone conversation. What kind of a conversation would it be if you did all the talking and the person on the other end never said a single word? Too many e-mails today are like that. In this article we will explain how to avoid that kind of an e-mail.

Before you write your e-mail, think to yourself: “What is the purpose of this message? What do we want the recipients to do when they open it? Will they say, after reading it, ‘Wow! I am glad that I read that e-mail!'” That is a lofty goal but if that is not your goal, you should not be in the e-mail marketing business in the first place.

To achieve that goal, you have to have a plan for what the recipients will do when they open the e-mail. If you compose an e-mail thinking, “This is our mid-week e-mail” you clearly do not have a good plan. For your e-mail to work, here are some rules:

1) Make it one to one. “The tone of a good direct mail letter is as direct and personal as the writer’s skill can make it. Even though it may go to millions of people, it never orates to a crowd but rather murmurs into a single ear. It’s a message from one letter writer to one letter reader.” Harry B. Walsh

2) Make it from someone. Who are you – this letter writer? Give yourself a name, an e-mail and a phone number – even a photo if possible. Let the reader see you and think of you as she reads your e-mail. Make it easy for her to respond: to call up or send an e-mail if she wants to. If you are sending one million e-mails, you can’t take all the calls yourself, so whoever answers your phone number should be prepared to say, “Sarah Bradfield is not here right now, but I work with her. Can I help you?”

3) Aim for a Call to action. From the very beginning, you should be working towards a specific thing that you want the reader to do. You may lead up to it, but whatever you say should be steps towards the purpose of the e-mail. A phone call, for example, could start with “How’re you doing?” but if it does not get to the point of the call pretty soon, the recipient will start looking at her watch.

4) Personalization. Use the subscriber’s name in the body of the message — not in the subject line. Increase personalization by featuring products in the e-mail that the subscriber has already expressed an interest in — by clicking on a website or a previous e-mail, or by making a purchase.

5) Localization. If possible, you should include a reference to where the subscriber lives. There are many ways to learn this – one is by getting her to enter her zip code to see a list of local stores. She lives in Bloomfield. Find a friendly way to slip Bloomfield into the conversation. “You know, Susan, we have three stores in Bloomfield”. Or “Several families in Bloomfield have recently bought a long term care policy from us.”

6) Make your offer very specific. It should be clear to the reader exactly what the offer is, how it is to their advantage, and how to get it. “Visit our website to learn more” is none of these things.

7) Choice kills response. You may have a dozen different policies, or products which might be of interest to Susan, but in this e-mail, feature only one. As soon as you present Susan with a choice of A or B or C, she will think, “Well I had better think about that”. And that will be the end of the e-mail as far as Susan is concerned. In this e-mail, tell her only about one thing. You will find that the chance of her responding will be double what would happen if you gave her a bunch of choices. “Only $69 for a family vacation weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Chose any of the following six weekends, and the vacation is yours.” or “We have only one available family weekend for $69 left in Fort Lauderdale, Florida: March 12-14. Call right away.” The approach second always gets twice the response of the first message.

8) Add a note of urgency. Why should Susan read your e-mail? Because it is timely. Timely for whom? For Susan. On June 15 the prices may go up, or the offer may expire, or something will happen. The urgency has two purposes: a) it is much more likely to produce action b) it makes Susan realize that she did not waste her time reading your e-mail.

9) Make it obviously easy to respond. Put buttons (links) all over the e-mail with words on them: “Click here to learn more”, or “Add to your shopping cart” or “Checkout”, “Place Order Now”. Don’t make her hunt somewhere else for the button (like the top or bottom of the page – where there are also buttons) but right at the point in your text where you call for an action.

10) Thank her right away. As soon as she has done what you want her to do, thank her in two ways: A box on her screen says, “Thank you, Susan, for your order. We are processing it now.” While that is happening an e-mail is going out saying approximately the same thing.

If you can do these ten things in every single e-mail you send out, you will soon become a master e-mail marketer – making your subscribers and your management equally happy.

Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president of The Database Marketing Institute, has presented 28 seminars on database and email marketing.  Arthur has also authored several books includingStrategic Database Marketing 4th Edition (McGraw-Hill 2012). He and Andrew Kordek, chief strategist and co-founder of Trendline Interactive, are hosting a two-day Email Strategy Study Group in Fort Lauderdale  March 26-27, 2013, featuring group competition for email marketers responsible for subscriber acquisition, lifetime value, ratings and reviews, boosting their email budget, and doubling their ROI.  To learn how to attend the Study Group,click here.

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About Arthur

Arthur Middleton Hughes has published over 200 articles on Database and E-mail Marketing. Click Here to read them.

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