5 steps to creating marketing emails that get opened and read

Given the flood of messages people receive in the course of a day, yours requires key elements to stand out in their brimming inboxes. Try these approaches.

Email marketing success

Email marketing intimidates some small-business owners—much to their messaging detriment.

Write an individual email is scary enough if you don’t consider yourself a writer. The thought of sending an email out to an entire mailing list can be downright terrifying.

Fortunately, the perfect email is about more than just writing. Even given the written elements, once you’ve figured out the essential components, it’s easy for timid writers to excel.

Here’s how to craft the perfect email.

1. Start with a strong subject line.

The average office worker receives 121 emails per day, according to Campaign Manager. That means that you must do something from the start to catch recipients’ eyes.

Consider including the following subject line approaches:

  • Create a sense of urgency: “Sale ends TONIGHT at 9 p.m.”
  • Make an offer they won’t refuse: “Free shipping on orders of $25 or more”
  • Pique their interest: “What’s the secret to maintaining a healthy lawn?”
  • Provide value: “5 tips for hosting the perfect July 4 BBQ”

An eye-catching subject line might include an emoji, too. Of course, emoji won’t be appropriate for all businesses, but it can be a fun way to stand out in a text-heavy inbox.

2. Personalize the message.

Begin by segmenting your mailing lists, breaking your customers and prospects down into groups based on demographics (like age, location, or gender) or by behavior (past purchases, recent interaction with your brand, etc.). This way you can target population subsets of your with highly relevant messaging.

3. Write smart body copy.

This is where non-writers get intimidated. What is good copy, anyway? Really it’s about being concise, clear and helpful.

Keep sentences short, eliminate jargon and technical speak, and make it very clear what you’re offering. No one has time to sit down and read a thousand-word email. Keep it to 500 words maximum, and direct attention to the most important keywords. Try bolding relevant text or including an image that draws the viewer’s eye to your key point.

4. Incorporate non-text elements.

What better way to standing out from the crowd than by adding a stunning photo, an informative infographic or a quick video.

Set it up with a brief sentence or two, and then let the visual speak for itself. If needed, include captions on images to provide context. Videos should also include subtitles, so that viewers can watch it muted and still get your message.

5. End with a call to action.

Once you’ve dazzled your readers with relevant, personalized content and exciting visual elements, it’s time to bring it home.

If your email is about a current sale, include a “Shop the sale” button that takes readers to your e-commerce site. If your email is an offer for a free e-book, end with a “Get the book” link. Make sure the call to action flows with the rest of the content and stands out visually so readers can’t miss it.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget the Unsubscribe option.

Not only is it the law to give folks a chance to opt out of your marketing messaging, but it also helps you maintain a clean email list. A clean email list, with higher open rates and fewer people marking you as spam, ensures you are reaching engaged subscribers. When your email goes directly to spam folders week after week, it puts you at risk of being punished by ISPs.

John Jantsch is an author and CEO of Duct Tape Marketing. A version of this post first appeared on the Duct Tape Marketing blog.

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