Email Marketing Strategies - How to Write a Business Email
In my previous article, Email Marketing Tips for Small Business, I focused on the basic strategies for success, such as list compiling, smart timing and expanding your customer base. Today I'm going to discuss the heart of the issue; the email itself. Although the virtual reality of the internet does not carry heft and solemnity the same way thick sheets of letter paper and elegant envelopes do, it doesn't mean we should treat business emails lightly. True, the internet has "a unique flavor" that invites creativity rather than formality, but that's no excuse to ignore etiquette rules and proper guidelines of business communication. To succeed in email marketing, you need to know how to write a business email that captures people's attention quickly, does not appear like spam, turns readers into customers, brings in more checks and traffic, as well as gives you an edge in the business world.
Email Writing Tip # 1 - Seductive Subject Line
Unlike snail mail that people often throw on a coffee table for later consideration, uninteresting emails usually get deleted right away. Most internet users don't like cluttering their inbox. Even when they don't delete unwanted emails, it's very unlikely that they will scroll back down their mailbox the next day and open them. That's why the subject line is the most important part of your business email. Each internet user usually spends less than 5 seconds to decide whether to open or delete an email. Your subject line has to capture their attention immediately and compel them to read your message.
Good subject lines are the ones that concisely describe the most important selling point of the message. Take a look at the following examples:
Good Subject Lines
50% Off All Clothing Products
Don't Miss This!
Complimentary Fitness Pass - Limited Time Only
Just for You
Exclusive Discount Offer for NYU Alumni
Other Things to Remember
- Don't use the same subject line over and over. A catchy phrase that has once worked wonder might not yield the same result the second time around. Even if your new marketing campaign is very similar to a previous one, try to come up with something different and creative.
- If a free service or product is part of your email marketing campaign, try not to use the word "free" because many filters tend to block it and send your message to junkmail. Instead, write "complimentary", "comp" or "no cost."
- Don't use a misleading subject line to get people to open your email. That is not how you gain customers' trust.
Email Writing Tip # 2 - Customer-Oriented Message
Build your message around the needs and interests of your target customers. Consider their ages and backgrounds, then ask yourself what would appeal to them the most. For instance, if you are trying to sell a kitchen stove to housewives, they might want to hear about its performance and beautiful design. If your prospects are restaurant owners, on the other hand, they would probably be more concerned about its cost and durability. If you want to advertise your cellphone gadgets to young people, it might be okay to throw in slang and informal phrases here and there. But if your target group is older and more educated, it might be better not to use colloquial terms at all.
Keep in mind that email marketing works best when you can address your customers by their names and make your message more personal. Also, you should try to be cognizant of international styles and etiquette when communicating with customers in other countries. For example, when you write 03/02/2001, Americans will know that you mean the second of March. However, in some Asian countries, people write the day before the month, therefore they would assume you mean the third of February.
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Email Writing Tip # 3 - Well-Crafted Prose
It's great if you can keep your writing clear and concise without making your message come across as too generic and boring. And it's wonderful if you can be playful with your words as long as you don't overuse jargon, unnecessarily flowery language, and watered-down prose. These are what you should do when proofreading your business email:
- Shun wordy sentences. For example, write "as" instead of "in the form of." Use "can" or "is capable of" rather than "exhibits the ability to." Some people think longer phrases will make them sound more professional and intelligent. That's not always true. Think about this famous quote by John F. Kennedy: "A child miseducated is a child lost." It is a short sentence with simple wording, but the message it carries is very insightful. Plus, it appeals to emotion without sounding overly dramatic. He didn't say: "A child who is unproperly educated by under-qualified teachers and inadequately funded school might sadly turn out to be an unproductive member of our society."
- Double-check your spelling. Don't assume your computer's spell-checker is the most reliable program on the planet. For example, if you type "too" when it is supposed to be "to", your spell-checker might not detect that. And don't use internet acronyms, such as BTW (by the way) or IMO (in my opinion), in your business email. Save those for only personal email messages.
- Examine your use of punctuation marks. Again don't rely solely on your computer's grammar checker. It will never be half as efficient as your English teacher or a good grammar book. It's also wise to avoid overusing exclamation marks. I have noticed that some email marketers try to create a sense of zeal and excitement in their message by adding an exclamation mark to the end of almost every sentence or highlighting their big sales promotion with a long row of red exclamation marks. Well, don't follow their footsteps; it would only make you look desperate and amateur.
- Rewrite empty sentences. Those are sentences that don't say much about your products, services or any interesting details. For example, instead of saying "You will be sorry to miss this," write "The offer ends in four days. Register by midnight, March 10." Instead of "our awesome and unique iPad cases", your email marketing campaign might be better off with "our waterproof and customizable iPad cases."
Email Writing Tip # 4 - Skimmer-Friendly Format
A lot of internet users are skimmers, not readers. So try to organize your business email in a way that will be easy for them to understand all the key points without having to read every single word. Break your message into short paragraphs of about 6 - 8 lines of text. Use bold, italic, or underlined fonts to highlight the focal information. Numbers and bullets also come in handy when you want to organize your information in list form.
Never use all capital letters. That is hard to read and downright annoying. Also, don't tag your business emails as "urgent" or "high priority" when they're not. Didn't you learn anything from "The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf"? Reserve this email feature for only messages that involve critical matters, such as a sudden change of policies or last-day deadlines.
Email Writing Tip # 5 - Compelling Call to Action
The highest goal of email marketing is to generate more income. You don't want people to just read your business email and give it an approving nod. You want them to take further action. And here is how you can encourage them to do so:
- Make your call to action noticeable in your email. Tell people what to do next, where to sign up, whom to contact, what link to click on, etc. You can put it in the headline, at the end of your message in bold font, or anywhere in your email as long as it can easily catch the reader's eye.
- Create a sense of urgency by mentioning the deadline or early bird specials, such as "Free Shipping if order by June 30," or "40% discount for the first 100 customers."
- Assure the reader it is a win-win offer for them. For example, "Money back guaranteed if you're not happy with the product," or "Try our service for 30 days before deciding to register."