Email marketing is dead. Long live email marketing.
So sayeth many in the marketing industry over the years who have abandoned a former mainstay in digital marketing for newer, hipper, better-dressed, slightly-more-attractive options like content marketing, and PPC, and a slew of other options.
“No one reads email,” they say.
“Everything is just spam anyway,” they chortle.
“Open rates are down and so are clicks,” they feign.
Well, I for one have news for the nay-sayers: email marketing most certainly isn’t dead. And while email clients have gotten a lot better at shooting down spam, like aliens in Independence Day (Millennials, it’s a movie about an alien invasion and Will Smith and – nevermind), email is still one of the most effective, direct ways to get a new customer.
You just have to know how to use it, baby.
What Email Is Really, Really Good At
Email marketing is still extremely useful.
Remember back in elementary school? You remember passing notes back and forth with that cute girl (or guy) who you thought maybe liked you but probably had cooties but you were ready to chance it anyway because you didn’t listen to Jenny McCarthy and got your cooties shot?
Your heart fluttered every time you opened that note. You read it, and absorbed it, and took action based off it – even if said action was pushing said guy/girl off the jungle bars in an odd expression of love.
The same (almost) applies to email marketing.
Chances are, the people you have on your list actually want to be on your list. They’ve signed up via your website, or from a social media post or ad, and they actually – get this – like you.
That’s one thing email marketing is really, really good at: communicating with people who like your brand and want to know more about you, what you do, what you have to offer, and the like.
All of this anti-spam hoopla that inspired double opt-ins and unsubscribe links and allegedly slayed email marketing like a character in Macbeth (Millennials, it’s a play from Shakespeare about betrayal and – nevermind) actually did us a solid: it made it so that if you actually have an email address from a customer, they’ve agreed on several occasions to let you send them stuff.
It’s like that little girl (or guy) said, “Please send me a note before recess”, and you did, and you two fell in love and eventually got married and had children who push each other off jungle bars.
Email does that. It connects you with your customer in a direct and intimate way. Few other marketing channels and methods can do that. Social media can, but it’s impersonal since social is targeted towards the masses as a whole. PPC can’t do it. A blog can’t do it. Display ads certainly can’t do it.
Email can, though. So when you’re thinking about reaching out to your customer base to get them to do something valuable – like buy more stuff, or refer a friend to you – consider email to do it.
How You Can Tame the Wild Beast
Email marketing isn’t a cute little kitten, though.
Oh no. It’s a savage, feral beast on the prowl that distrusts humans. You have to be extra careful and skilled with email marketing. Make no sudden movements. Don’t make eye contact. Obey the rules and live. Disobey – and die.
I apologize, that was a very melodramatic way of both butchering a metaphor and saying that email marketing isn’t something that you can just decide to “do” and have it succeed for you. There are many rules and best practices you have to follow in order to get results.
Otherwise, your emails will go unopened and ignored. And even if they’re opened, they’ll be deleted so fast your head will literally spin. (Not figuratively. Literally. It’s gross.)
We’ll start in an ideal place for any email, where the road to success begins (and hopefully doesn’t end): the subject line.
The Subject Line
No part of your email is as important as the subject line. It is the Alpha and the Omega of email marketing. If you have a crummy subject line, you won’t get opens. If your subject line doesn’t inspire interest and catch their eye, it’ll be worthless. It’s like passing a note in school to that cute girl (or guy) that said, “FISH STICKS”. No way they’re going to open that. They’d just look at you like you’re a weirdo and let some other guy (or girl) push them off the jungle bars.
The fact that subject lines are usually awful is one reason why people think email marketing is dead. For example, here are just a few sample subject lines in my Gmail’s Promotions tab:
- “Your complimentary subscription is waiting” (My subscription to what, exactly? I don’t care. Get it away from me.)
- “Jimmy, 30% off = 100% awesome!” (From CVS. My name isn’t Jimmy, by the way.)
- “2 Steps to Solving Global Inventory Challenges” (I fell asleep three times while reading that.)
- “News from [the name of this Birmingham landmark has been removed to protect it from embarrassment]” (An always popular format. Who cares about news? Where’s the reason to open this email?)
- “Home for the Holidays” (This was probably created by an overworked intern at 3am.)
Subject lines have to accomplish a few things in a very short amount of time. They have to:
- Catch your eye
- Deliver a promise
- Leave you wanting more
None of those headlines from above do any of that. They don’t excite me. They don’t pique my interest. They don’t promise anything – any benefit that I could get.
Want to get that guy (or girl) sitting across from you to notice your note and open it? (Everyone reading this is nodding yes and saying, “Please, please, please, she (or he) is so cute.”) The trick is to write a headline that begs to be opened.
If I’m selling a product – say, I’m selling a super awesome widget that saves businesses thousands of dollars a year by doing something magical – maybe I write something like, “[First name], Could You Save $10,000 a Year With WidgetMagic Like This Business?” That’s worth a click. Or maybe, “True story: This business owner cut costs by 30% with one, mind-blowing trick”. That’s worth a click, too.
It catches your eye, leaves you wanting more, and promises a benefit. You will get something by opening this email. What you receive will be worth your time.
More people don’t realize this, though, because writing bad subject lines is easy. A lot of people don’t put thought into them anymore. They just assume that your followers will open anything you send. That’s not the case, though – and it’s certainly not the case if you’re sending a blind, cold email to someone you’ve never met or talked to before. (Which, hopefully you’re not doing. That’s another story for another day, folks.)
Every email, in order to be successful, has to have an offer.
When you passed those notes, you probably said something like, “Will you be my girlfriend?” (Or boyfriend, naturally.) That’s the offer – that’s what the person stands to gain by reading your email.
Folks, your offer is the most important part of the email. Forget what I said about subject lines. Actually, don’t. That stuff is still important. But if you don’t have an enticing offer, people won’t respond well to your email.
People are greedy. We’re selfish by nature. We all paid attention to Gordon Gecko in Wall Street when he said, “Greed is good”. (Millennials, Wall Street is a movie about – you know what, you have Netflix. Go watch it.) We aren’t interested in a solicitation from a brand unless we can gain something from it.
Sometimes, it’s just entertainment. Sometimes, it’s saving money. Sometimes, it’s a product that brings something valuable into our life. At Uptick, our offer is simple: we help you make more money. Who doesn’t want to make more money? No one, that’s who. (Even people who have a ton of money want to make more. Like I said, people are greedy.)
Your offer has to be something that they recognize as being beneficial to them. It has to be something that allows them to gain something. This something is usually psychological. Money is valuable because it offers security. Losing weight is valuable because it offers better self-esteem. Something that helps you succeed at your job is valuable because it offers respect, recognition, achievement.
I remember when I sent those notes out in elementary school. I was a stud. Every girl wanted to be my girlfriend. That was my offer. (NOTE: EVERYTHING I JUST WROTE IS A COMPLETE LIE.)
The offer inspires us to want to click through and do whatever it is the person sending the email wants us to do. And it has to be worth it. It has to be worth the time it takes to read and respond to an email – otherwise, the Delete button rears its head and devours the email.
The Call to Action
Finally, we get to the good part: the Call to Action (conveniently abbreviated here as CTA, because I don’t feel like typing out Call to Action a million times.)
Remember those notes? They had CTAs in them. Remember when you asked your guy (or girl) to check yes or no? If not, just refer back to this George Strait song. (Millennials, George Strait is a country singer from a time in which country was actually good. Don’t confuse that time with now.)
The CTA pulls the entire email together. It’s important because it’s what you want your reader to do. If they don’t do anything as a result of your email, then your email was terrible and should feel bad and go sit in the corner.
Take that widget email we sent out earlier. The CTA could be anything. It could be to:
- Download a white paper
- Watch a video
- Read a blog post
- Fill out a contact form
- Get a free quote
- Purchase the widget
- Click on a testimonial
- Download an ebook
- Give a sales rep a call
- Request more information in a reply
Note that only one of them asked the person to purchase the product. A CTA can be a million different things – as long as those things have value for your business.
But, it’s not enough to just put a CTA in there. It has to be done the right way. Think about “Check yes or no”. It’s very clear. It’s unmistakably clear. You can’t go wrong with it. Either check yes (Yay!), or check no (GET OUT OF MY LIFE FOREVER).
CTAs have to be very clear. They have to also be concise. Don’t spend a million words asking people to do something – just say it, in as few words as possible.
CTAs also have to be assertive. One big mistake a lot of businesses make is trying to sneak something by their customers by pretending they don’t really want their money, they just want to be friends. Newsflash: you’re a business. You’re here to make money. I know it, you know it, and your readers know it. Don’t run from it; embrace it.
Come right out and say, in clear language, what you’d like for them to do. If you’ve written good copy that explains the benefits of what you’re proposing, and you’ve kept their attention, you’re more likely to get people to convert – i.e. do what you want them to do.
A clear, convincing CTA will go a long way toward making your email a success.
The Other Stuff
Email marketing is pretty complex at times. It’s not just a matter of what we’ve talked about; it also involves a lot of other things, big and small, that you can do to improve your chances of success.
But before you fine-tune an email, you have to get the basics down, and the above basics are really important. Once you do, you can do things like A/B test your subject line, A/B test your copy, set up drip campaigns, segment your list, personalize your emails, and the like.
Pay attention to the words you write and the images you create. Images are very important to an email in today’s world. The most successful emails have images in them in some way. They’re also well designed, preferably by a professional graphic designer. The writing is crisp, clear, convincing, and built on firm psychological principles by an accomplished copywriter.
The strategy also matters. Is this a standalone email, or a part of a series? If it’s a part of a series, what are the follow-up emails about? What points are you making in them, and how do they lead a prospect toward the final goal of doing business with you? Is this a drip campaign, where you drip hot wax on their heads until they buy from you give them pieces of information over time based on what actions they take in response to your emails?
Getting the strategy down is incredibly important, but it’s just one of the many things involved with a successful campaign.
Why Email Marketing May Be For You (Yes, You!)
A lot goes into a successful email marketing campaign. It’s not easy, which is why people largely think it’s not worth the time and effort. (People are lazy these days, yo.) But it’s worth it because it actually works.
Don’t believe me? Well, did you know that for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25? It’s true – it is even on a pretty infographic.
Beyond ROI, email marketing is pervasive because emails are everywhere. People check their email more than they check on their own kids. (Not to say they don’t love their kids. They just love email more.)
If you want to reach a target audience in a direct, personal way while reaching out to potentially hundreds or thousands of people all at the same time, and want a proven way to strategically give your prospects key information they need to make a buying decision, email marketing is the way to go.
If you want to just waste money, go do something else. Like buy radio ads.
But, you have to do it the right way. It’s just like in school. You have to put effort into getting that guy or girl to notice you. It won’t just happen. You have to use your skills and resources to reach your target in the right way.
Email marketing isn’t dead. Not by a long shot. It’s still one of the most effective ways to reach a target audience and get them to take action and do business with you. Every strategy should at least consider email marketing. If you don’t, shame on you. Shame. Shaaaaame.
Email Marketing with Uptick Marketing
Of course, I work with Uptick and we’re a business. We are here to make money by helping you make money, and email marketing is one of the tools we use to do that.
If you want to potentially make more money as a result of our services, and think email marketing isn’t dead like all those other people have said, contact us. We’d love to help.
Oh, and check yes, please.