Read the related post on anatomy of an email marketing campaign to find how it all works technically
First The Harsh Facts
In the pre-digital age it was called direct marketing or DM – leaflets on the door mat – now its electronic direct marketing or eDM and it’s messages in your in box. Either way the games’s the same and the old rules apply. Time after time clients say to me that they hate direct marketing and just bin it. The fact is that 995 out of 1000 recipients feel the same. But that leaves the golden half a percent – the five in a thousand that buy something.
The art of direct marketing – whether through the letter box or the in box – is turning half a percent into one percent and working as hard as you can to keep the other 99% on board for the next shot. The ten tips below are the result of over twenty years’ experience of direct marketing; following them could just change your business life!
Have you ever noticed how much advertising contains the first person singular? What would YOU do? What’s YOURS called? YOUR M&S. As we go through our day to day lives we sub-consciously grade everything we see in order of perceived relevance to us. Frankly if we didn’t we’d go stark, staring bonkers – imagine the experience of EVERYTHING in your field of vision being of equal importance. Marketers use this fact to their advantage – the use of the first person singular is an attention grabber ‘Hey reader … this is about YOU’. So the first rule of direct marketing is to make your message as relevant to your target audience as you can possibly make it.
With email marketing personalisation has never been easier. Using the merge tags in programmes like mailchimp it’s possible to address the recipient by their first name both in the subject line and at the top of your message. Don’t listen to the ne’er sayers who will tell you that using first names in a mailing is old hat, there’s always someone who believes that all change is progress. Receiving an email that say “Sarah, isn’t it time you upgraded?” is ALWAYS going to be more attractive than the impersonal.
Creating the ultimate ‘must open’ headline is all about a pay off between good copy and spam. The aims of the spammer are no different from the aims of the legitimate email marketer, i.e. to get as many opens and clicks as they can. As a consequence spammers have ‘hijacked’ all the really good words, of which ‘free’, ‘percentage off’ and ‘reminder’ are currently top of mailchimp’s spam hit list. However, the purpose of this article is not to suggest headlines (a quick google will return at least twenty results on how to do this), it’s simply to point out that you need one. Don’t be afraid to use a good copywriter; I recently showed a client’s email broadcast to a potential client who was not having much success with email marketing. He instantly pointed at the headline and said he thought it was excellent – that was because it had been written by a professional who knew what she was doing.
Here’s where the Tennis Ball rule applies. Throw someone three tennis balls and they’ll drop all three, throw two and they might catch one, throw them one and they’ll catch it. It’s tempting when trying to tick the ‘relevance’ box to pack your email with as many messages as possible in the hope that one of them will be relevant to the recipient. The actual result is that it will just dazzle them and no one will read anything. Keep your message and your copy as simple as you dare.
Reason’s Why advertising traces it’s origins back almost to the earliest days of what is now a world-wide multi-billion dollar industry. The phrase was coined by the Lord & Thomas Advertising agency in 1904 and it’s still the bedrock of any decent marketing campaign. Whatever claim you make in your advertising it’s so much chaff in the wind without substantial reasons why your claim is reasonable. Whether you say you’re the best, or the fastest, or the cheapest make sure you tell your reader just exactly why that is.
We all know the numbers – at least half of the recipients of your email will get their first look on the screen of their mobile phone. Make sure when having your email campaign built that you include a template for smartphones and tablets – you don’t want to lose potential buyers because they can’t read your message on a 320px x 568px screen.
So you’ve done all the hard work – you’ve got you’re mail opened, you’ve sustained their interest, you’ve persuaded them and they want to buy – don’t waste all this by not giving them as many ways to respond as you can. In short, make it really easy to buy. Include a live email link, preferably with a pre-populated subject and message, include links to the relevant pages on your website, encourage people who are so desperate that they just want to call you and, wherever possible, include a form. Don’t force them to respond your way – let them do it their way.
Time was when we web designers though of little other than where the mystical ‘fold’ was. And if we thought about it client’s were absolutely obsessed by it. The ‘fold’ was the point on your website where the site disappeared below the bottom of the screen. Now a days, thankfully, it’s accepted that most people have a scroll wheel on their mouse, or an index finger to swipe at a screen with. However, for emails with images the ‘fold’ is still an important issue. If the top third of your message is an image, there’s a high chance that it will arrive in the recipients in-box as a large blank as the default setting for most email programmes is not to automatically download images. A blank is not a good message so think carefully about your layout and make sure there’s always a visible message near the top.
There’s no silver bullet with marketing – all the research in the world combined with the finest copy-writing, the most enticing layout and the most alluring offers are always going to end being a bit of a shot in the dark. Because of this it’s a good idea to do a bit of testing. Any email service provider (ESP) worthy of their name, such as mailchimp, will allow you do what’s known as A/B testing. It’s the simple technique of segmenting your list and sending one message to one group and one to another. By assessing the results you will have a better idea of which of the headlines (or whatever you’re testing) is the most potent offer.
As you will be sending out your emails via an ESP (see ‘broadcasting your email’ in our ‘Anatomy of an Email’ post) then you will be able to check the reports on how your email has performed. Paid accounts get more but even free accounts on mailchimp will learn how many people opened the email, how many clicked on links, which links were the most popular and who clicked the most times. This is solid gold when it comes to following up your campaign and assessing how effective it has been. Not looking at these reports will leave always firing off into the dark.
Carrdale have been helping clients get the most from their email marketing for over ten years and with print based direct marketing for over twenty years. If you would like any help making your campaigns more effective please call us on
020 8117 8543.