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Email Marketing: Why It Works and When It Doesn’t

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Guest post by: Ken Moorhead

As any digital marketer knows, Email marketing is tough to master. Some people consider it an outdated form of outreach, while other people abuse it to the point of alienating their customers. It’s no surprise that people aren’t always seeing the results they want – and much of their trouble stems from one dominant misconception.

The key to launching a powerhouse email marketing program is understanding that people scan their emails instead of fully reading them. This is the challenge then for the modern marketer: to capture the attention of people looking for information who don’t want to wait to get it.

Marketing Emails that Matter

Guest Ken Moorhead, Author of Email Marketing Why it Works and When it Doesn't
Effective emails do two things: they make it painfully obvious what the reader is supposed to do and they make that action something the reader wants to do.

Sounds simple enough, right? But if you look at a few typical emails, you’ll notice a pattern: lots of text and visuals all pulling the reader’s eye and mind in multiple directions. While the marketers think they’re providing enticing options for the reader, what they’re really doing is overwhelming the reader and shutting down engagement.

Begin with simplicity. Before you dive into creating the email, figure out what action you want the recipient to take. There should only be one and it should be crystal clear in the email, so that even a quick glance reveals it. For instance, maybe you want the recipient to click a link that takes them to the current sale on your website.

After identifying that action, you’ll want to think about an element that doesn’t get discussed enough: design. If your prospects see big blocky paragraphs of text, you’ve lost their attention. Be sure the link you’re hoping they’ll click stands out by packaging it in a bold, clear design so the request comes through loud and clear.

Just as important is the value of your message. Remember, your recipients are besieged by a blizzard of marketing emails every day. To avoid the delete key, you’ve got to offer a compelling reason to open and read your email. You must provide a magnetic reason for readers to take the next step.

How do you know if your reason is powerful enough? Put yourself in the audience‘s shoes. Why should the recipient spend valuable moments on your email? How does that email address his challenges in his day-to-day life? You have to meet prospects on their terms and speak to their interests in their language. Do that and you’ll find a welcome home in their inboxes. But if you talk mostly about your fantastic company and your wonderful product – expect your email to wind up in the trash.

Subject Line Strategies

In all of the dialogues on email marketing, there’s been considerable focus on subject lines. Every marketer wants to write the line that jumps out from a crowded inbox. Here’s one trick that conveys value and credibility: using repetitive tags at the beginning of a subject line. For instance, to indicate new products, your emails might consistently start with a tag like Hot Off The Press: and then finish with Our New Shoes for Fall or The Latest Solutions for IT Security. Tagging your subject lines lets recipients know what to expect and makes your emails stand out.

Another critical element: connecting the subject line to the customer’s pain. Consider this catchy subject line that caught my eye last week: The End of Doing Your Own Laundry. The company could have said check out this laundry service or 24/7 drop-off laundry in your area or any other bland statement conveying the same basic message: there’s a 24/7 laundry service in the area that wants my business. But that subject line cuts right to my pain points, time and hassle. This is precisely what you want to do.

Hitting the Right Frequency

This might be the question on every marketer’s mind: how often is too often? The answer depends on the quality and type of your content. The maximum limit is two to three times a week, but that’s only acceptable with exceptionally good content. A safer schedule is once every week or two. Any further apart and your emails might feel a little spotty and awkward to the recipient. A twice-monthly stream of engaging content is comfortable for most recipients and it sets an easy and realistic pace for marketers.

Ultimately, your results will rely on how well your emails entice and engage your audience. Communicate with the audience on their terms and address their pain points and goals, and you’ll see impressive results.

What other email marketing tips would you offer? Please share below.

Ken Moorhead is the director of marketing services at LeadMD. A Marketo Certified Consultant, Salesforce.com Certified Administrator and Certified Scrum Master, Ken holds an MBA from the Kelly School of Business, where he achieved Six Sigma Green Belt.

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