Three steps to better email campaigns

Banksy mural, Cheltenham, UK

Banksy mural, Cheltenham, UK

‘Quality means doing it right when no one is looking,’ said Henry Ford, and that’s what savvy email marketers have been doing for years. Instead of investing huge sums in viral videos or social influencers that produced minimal results, they’ve been plugging away at low-cost, high-return emails.

And the results of email marketing speak for themselves. In 2016, research from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that:

ROI for email marketing is a phenomenal £30.01 for every £1 spent. That trounces all of the competition, from Google Ads to social media.

But while that's clearly great news, the DMA also discovered an alarming trend: the percentage of consumers who find emails interesting is shrinking - down to a paltry 16% - which could see this ROI diminish. And if they don’t find your email interesting, they aren’t going to take action on its content, and won't engage with your brand.

What if you could increase that 16% to 20%? Or even 25%? Think how much that phenomenal ROI would increase.

These simple tips should help improve open rates and engagement from your marketing emails.

The tease

When it comes to email subject lines, don’t be too clever – but don’t be too dull. It's an ethos successful editors have followed for years when writing magazine coverlines.

Writing something hilariously punny only works if your target demographic gets it at a glance. Nobody is going to spend five minutes mulling what a confusing magazine coverline or email subject line means. On the other hand, boring or opaque ones are no better.

‘Hotel room gets new coat of paint’ might seem brilliant to you because anyone who opens the email will discover that the hotel-room ‘paint’ is a new artwork by celebrated British graffiti artist Banksy. But nobody is ever going to discover your genius wordplay because you’d have to enjoy watching paint dry to click on that email.

Picture your target reader, downloading their emails on the sofa. What is going to make them want to open your message, among the several dozen they’ve received that day?

What about: ‘Sleep with a Banksy for less than £100’ or ‘Exclusive: Banksy reveals how you can make your own thought-provoking masterpiece.’

Surprisingly, subject line length doesn't make a significant difference to open rates, according to email management company Mailchimp, with one exception – when reading on mobile. And with more than a third of people regularly reading emails on mobiles, you need to ensure the first few words of your subject line are catchy enough to make them want to click.

The hook

When they open the email, keep the contents punchy and brief. That's how consumers told the DMA they prefer their emails - short and sweet. Instead of a long email, they want pithy descriptions with links. Think of the email itself as the contents page of a magazine. You're telling the reader which page to flip - or click - to if they would like to find out more.

65% of consumers will click email links – but only if they find the content interesting.

This 2016 statistic is the highest percentage the DMA has recorded, which is remarkable considering the proliferation of rivals to emails, from Facebook to Snapchat.

Yet the report also found that the number of people who ‘find marketing emails interesting’ has halved in the last five years – so with the right skills, you should be able to rise above your competition.

The follow-through

Banksy mural, Los Angeles, California

Banksy mural, Los Angeles, California

OK, so you got them to click a link to your website. Now what?

Half of marketers say that content is the leading driver of the effectiveness of an email campaign, according to the DMA. And yet, the association also says that this is where email marketing is seriously failing, with lack of quality content a major problem.

Unless the page you take them to grabs them, they’re going to leave disappointed, eroding trust in your brand and making it less likely they’ll ever purchase from you.

Instead of just posting a link to the hotel’s booking page, get someone who knows how to interview people – not an easy skill, as Michael Parkinson would tell you – to speak to Banksy and tease out insider tips or exclusive insights into his working method.

Not possible because he’s gone to ground since the paint job? You could interview an art expert instead. Or write a step-by-step guide, with illustrations showing how Banksy created the artwork, from initial sketches to adding the final dashes of colour.

People originally clicked that email link because they’re interested in Banksy. But now they’re thinking, ‘Hey, this hotel speaks to me. It’s clear it’s not just using this artwork as a one-off gimmick. It’s sharing knowledge about an artist I’m interested in. It's inspired me. I’m going to remember it next time I need a hotel in that destination.’

Or maybe even, ‘Wow, I love the ethos of this hotel. Next time I get a weekend off, I’m going to book a special trip to stay there and see that room.’

But if all you did was provide a link to a booking page, then they would simply think, ‘Um, I’m not looking to book anything right now. I really wanted to find out more about Banksy’s art and how it ended up in that hotel room, but you didn’t tell me. So I’m annoyed I wasted my time. Bye!’

The only thing worse than an ineffective email campaign? One that sours your relationship with a potential client. In that case, it would have been better to send no email at all. But given the high ROI of email campaigns, the message is clear - the investment is worth it, if you paint your walls right.

If you’d like help with your email content strategy, or with creating engaging content on your website, get in touch or +44 (0)20 3532 4121.