Some may question why anyone would wish to receive regular emails from brands, but the same question could be posed as to why people follow brands on social platforms like Twitter or Instagram. Yet Topshop has 9.8 million Instagram followers, McDonalds has 3.4 million, and even niche skincare brand Frank Body has 700,000.
People are willing to engage with brands if they are creating compelling and engaging content that doesn't feel too much like a marketing play. In the internet age, personality has become the new frontier, and in some ways cultivating a recognisable brand identity is the more important job of communications than activities traditionally closer to marketing and sales.
Email marketing has a surprisingly high ROI of 28.5 percent according to Chief Marketer, compared to 7 percent for direct mail, and in fact 59 percent of marketers say that email offers their biggest ROI. This means if you master it, email marketing can become one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal.
Decide what your aims are
Take a measured approach - and take your time - to consider what the aims of your email marketing campaign are and how best to achieve these.
Whether you are an events based, consumer goods, or b2b firm, these approaches will massively vary. However, a universal goal is attracting people to your website so make sure the links to your site are plentiful and prominent throughout.
What to write
Deciding what to write in your email communications will reflect the aim of the overall campaign - is it primarily a tool to communicate deals and offers, or is it part of a wider and more pervasive marketing push?
If the former, you can keep text exceptionally sparse. However, if you intend it as a brand-building tool then you could consider including slightly more text. But remember, brevity is key - this is the internet, folks.
How to write it
Patently, words act as the prime amphitheatre in which to act out the colourful and drama-laden pantomime of your brand. Make sure your tone and style fits with the aims of your image and identity. There is leeway for every brand to experiment a little, and consumer-facing brands especially have the scope to play with a funny and irreverent persona. Of course, for some brands and organisations, it's important to adopt a slightly more serious or professional tone.
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Broad principles would dictate keeping the tone personable, friendly and light (unless your brand is all about plumbing the dark and twisted depths of the human psyche, in which case, props).
Despite the importance of tone, it's advisable to keep the copy short and engaging. Most people haven't got the time or inclination to read a block of dense text in a branded email.
On this topic, a subject line that is designed to be attention grabbing is a very good idea. The open rate for marketing emails is generally risible. To nudge people towards clicking, you need to lead with the most notable feature of the email. For consumer goods, this could be an announcement of a new product or range, for a store it could be the announcement of a sale.
If you are a news or content site, you should be highlighting the most interesting or amusing thing in your email. Buzzfeed, for example, chooses a line from an article featured in the newsletter as a subject line.
Design and imagery
For many brands, leading with images and a light smattering of text is the best option. This is especially true for brands - food, clothing, beauty - that lend themselves to an image-heavy approach.
When devising a design, it's always advisable to go high-impact. Your email is just one tiny toenail clipping in the frothing soup of digital ephemera known as 'content'. To snatch even a second from those weaving, Twitter-intoxicated eyeballs and be even fleetingly transmitted into those meme-addled brains, you must make a bold statement.
Make sure the most important information you want to transmit is placed front and centre: some estimates put the average attention span today at a sliver of eight seconds.