Email Marketing: How your peers create an effective email message


The MECLABS team is back from last week’s MarketingSherpa Email Summit, where our Managing Director (CEO), Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, presented a two-hour session about email optimization, complete with live optimization of audience emails.

As usual, the audience wanted more. So in our next Web clinic, Crafting an Engaging Email Message: How a properly focused email message can increase conversion by 85% (plus live optimization, ten email campaigns will be selected (double the amount we usually choose) from attendees who send us their email marketing efforts when they register.

Live optimization will allow us to give hands on advice in the practice of crafting engaging email messages. Plus, Dr. McGlaughlin will review a recent, never-released experiment conducted by our researchers using the findings from this experiment to help you optimize your own email campaigns.

But before we share some effective tactics, we asked your peers – how can marketers craft an engaging email message? (hey, we don’t know everything, we’re making new discoveries every day). Here are a few of our favorite responses…

Two critical parts to an effective email

1. Make it personal

I’ve had clients surprised at the passionate, engaged email replies they get to the emails I write for them. It’s because I write the emails to sound like it comes from a real person – not a distant business tone. I bring in stories they can related to, tidbits about their day, feelings – revealing bits about the company spokesperson that readers can relate to that pulls them into the email and its contents.

In fact, the truth is when I write more “personal” emails, they’re still going out to thousands of people. They just sound more one-to-one.

However, I certainly want to clarify that I’ve found success also in segmenting the lists I’m working with to make sure that the people who are getting these emails are the best people to get them. And larger numbers do not necessarily mean better response. People who want to hear from you do.

2. Make it focused

The most effective emails I’ve written focus on getting the reader to do one thing. Only one link is offered and I focus the email around eliciting one response.

Whenever I try to bring in another link, side action, etc. it dilutes the effectiveness. Sure, I may still provide some helpful content and that in itself isn’t bad. But if I want the reader to take an action, the more focused the email the better.

Finally, I’ve also learned that frequency really helps. I know for myself how many times I mean to do something but shuffle the email to another to-do folder or let it scroll up in my inbox screen and then only take the action when I’m reminded by a subsequent email.

Certainly you don’t want to overdo it – keep tabs on your open rates and unsubscribe rates. But most people need – no, correction, want – a little nudging about the good stuff you’re offering.

Sarah Clachar, Owner, Healthy Marketing Ideas

Here are the highlights to get you started

1.) Always split test subject lines.

2.) Regularly test email layout.

3.) Write awesome and unique content.

4.) Include videos on landing pages to boost click rate.

5.) Constantly test landing page components.

6.) Follow up messaging strategy after conversions.

Tim Roman, Business Development Manager, Fathom SEO

At its core, optimization is about achieving maximum efficiency

While some strive to create mind-blowing content, they often do so at the expense of the basics, which ensure your email arrives safely, and gets read.

Without a great subject line, your goose is cooked. Write a subject line that will pass spam filters. Don’t use the word “free.” Don’t talk about sex. Don’t shout in caps about your “MONEY-SAVING OFFER!!!” Do be personal, as if you’re writing to a friend. “Great job on your new ebook” is far more attention-getting.

Don’t forget the “From” line. Company From lines may say ‘spam’ to readers. Use a more personal ‘from’ address. And for heaven’s sake, use the BCC to avoid sharing the potentially private emails of your entire mailing list.

Use plain, non HTML text and keep it short and sweet. Your email is about your message, not fancy graphics, so get to the point! And watch those URLS. If the URL you want to share looks like the secret formula for the atom bomb, use or another URL shortener to clean it up.

Make it easy for people to take action. Include a complete signature, with your full name, company name, Web address and phone number.

If your writing skills aren’t solid, hire a professional copywriter. It’s not about how much you spend, it’s about results and increased business.

Victoria Ipri, CEO, Modello Media, Inc.

Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 One-on-One Case Study

Email Marketing: Show me the ROI

Email Marketing Summit 2011: 7 Takeaways to improve results

Maximizing Email List Growth: How the New York Public Library drove a 52.8% lift in newsletter subscriptions

photo by: coletivo mambembe
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  1. Melissa says

    Excellent advice from several folks who clearly “get it” from a practical, applied perspective — and when it comes to this topic, the words Practical, and Applied are essential. Thanks!

  2. Janet says

    I like the ideas presented here but I have one question for whomever … when you’re a 2-person department doing email programs for four companies (along with catalogs, ads, website, etc.) how do you apply this advice on a consistent basis? I find myself getting started with something like A/B Split Testing but can’t keep it going because there’s so much else to do and so little time to do it in.

    Any ideas would be appreciated!

    1. Daniel Burstein says

      I’ve learned that it all comes down to process, specifically priority and sequence.

      Once you have set up a repeatable process, you have to prioritize what knowledge you would like to gain from testing. And then, you have to set the proper sequence of how you go about gaining that knowledge. For example, you might want to test several offers, but if your email template doesn’t reflect the quality of the offers, there is no point to test offers and have a suspicious looking template undercut your testing efforts. You must first optimize that template. That’s just one, random example.

      Another thing that might help, and I hate to even mention technology until you have the process side down, is a new A/B testing tool from ExactTarget. I’m not trying to push ExactTarget, I just happened to be on a call with them today about an upcoming webinar about this tool. Other ESPs may have a similar solution, although I’m unaware of any.

      And actually, a 2-person department is perfect for split testing. One of you is A and the other is B. You could each take be the lead writer for two of the companies, and the non-lead writer could then, for example, come up with a second subject line that would work better. The fun is (which we sometimes have around here) you place a little friendly wager on which treatment performs better. I owe Associate Editor Brad Bortone an embarrassing picture from high school if he wins in our next test.

      Good luck Janet. And if you have some tests you’d like to share, please let us know.

  3. James says

    I agree with Victoria Ipri about watching your URL lengths, but would advise against using, TinyURL and other URL shorteners as they are more and more likely to be picked up by spam filters. I would try and get a shortlink created in house through either your IT dept or web site creators.

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