But when you get the personalization wrong, it can put off an amateur vibe or even worse, make your reader feel completely irrelevant. Here are three easy ways to make sure your emails come across as personal, sincere and polished.
Use a valid reply email.
We're human, and we all make mistakes. It is possible that one day your list merge may go awry. You just might address your customer Sara with "Dear George." And Sara may want to reply to let you know about the mistake. A noreply@ address not only feels impersonal, but it could cause you to miss out on an opportunity to learn about your mistake and lead to an unnecessary number of unsubscribes. Make sure your customers can help keep you in the know.
Make sure you have the data.
If you don't have many members' names stored in your audience, or if you're storing details that are NSFI (Not Safe For Inboxes), it's best to skip personalization altogether. You can send out a manage preferences form to collect and use that information in the future, but you don't need to start off addressing nearly every member of your audience with placeholders. It defeats the purpose.
Avoid generic placeholders.
I get it – you value me as a customer. But you don't need to address me as "Dear valued customer" in your emails; it feels generic. Placeholders are a helpful safety net, but sometimes they detract from the message you so carefully crafted in the rest of your email. My advice? Segment out the recipients who don't have a first name and nix the personal greeting altogether. They won't know it's missing, and your content will take center stage.
Bottom line: Addressing your recipients by name in the subject line or greeting of your email is a great idea. You just need to check your list more times than Santa Claus and test, test, test to make sure you've gotten the experience just right.
Want more ideas? Read tips for personalizing beyond the greeting in our resource center.
How to find the right stock images to support your marketing message
No matter how often you speak to customers through regular emails, selecting a template that succinctly conveys the message of your brand is a must.
To really entice someone to click through from their email to your website, you'll need a format and layout that not only engages customers, but makes them want to see more. Many businesses leave space for a big image either at the top or in the middle of their emails to break up text and keep people happy.
But choosing just the right image for your newsletter, depending on both the context and the content, can be difficult. Here are three tips to keep in mind the next time you're looking to add imagery to your email marketing:
1. Reinforce the message
The most important thing to remember is that everything in your emails must ultimately come back to the purpose of the email. Images that don't directly serve or illustrate that purpose will be perceived as out of place and distracting.
No matter what message you're trying to communicate – whether offering an update, promoting a deal, or doing a survey – the images you use should support it. For instance, if you're trying to get word out about a limited-time promotion, make sure that the pictures accompanying it deliver a sense of urgency.
Perform a sample test on yourself or your colleagues when picking your photo and think about the particular call to action. What are the emotions behind it, and what type of picture would push you in that direction? Then trust in yourself as a sample subscriber.
2. Keep things cool
One mistake businesses sometimes make is giving the image too much attention. Treat images as if they're in a supporting role, appealing to the more photo-oriented minds in your community, but within reason.
If you use bold colors, it says something, likely more than you intend. Keep it subtle and attractive. At times you may want to include photos of recognizable objects that draw the eye, but in other cases a pattern might do just the trick.
It's something to look at, but it doesn't pull you away from the key message at hand. You want people to walk away more informed or excited about an opportunity. If the image speaks too loudly, you won't reach the viewer where it matters most.
3. Be subtle
With so many images available, it can be difficult to select just one. The best advice when making your picks is to err of the conservative side; don't take any chances or else you might rub someone the wrong way. Give them something familiar, but also dynamic.
Suppose, for example, your company is launching a new feature and you want to invite your community to come check it out. You might want to include a general business photo to appear in the middle of the announcement.
By selecting an image that represents the opportunity for growth, progress, and success, you'll pull everything together and leave a good impression.
And to start brainstorming on the types of images you'd like to use, check out Shutterstock and Bigstock's image trend report!
Today's guest post is written by Danny Groner, manager of blogger partnerships & outreach for Shutterstock and Bigstock.
Emma customers get 5 stock images on us through March 31. Not yet a customer? Try Emma free.
This week, we're inviting the Emma community to check out our latest collection of free readymade templates, designed for creating email invitations.
They're great for inviting email subscribers to parties, speaker events, conferences and shows.
After all, invitations are powerful. They make us feel included. They make us feel special. They're personal, and they're exclusive. And the best part? You don't even need an event to send one. With a little creativity, you'll find all kinds of ways to engage your audience just by framing your message as invitation. Here are three ideas to get you started:
Invite subscribers to like you on Facebook.
Tie together your email and social efforts with a little self-promotion. Your email audience is by far your most engaged customers and fans, so why not mobilize them to boost your social profile? Studies show that asking for likes on Facebook yields three times more likes than not asking at all, and if you ask politely and in a stylish way (by using a fresh invitation template design, perhaps?), you're bound to get a good response.
Invite readers to take your survey.
Want to know what kind of products your customers would like you to carry? Or how often your readers like to hear from you? Use an invitation template to ask your subscribers to take a survey. You can create one survey right in your Emma account, or use a service like SurveyMonkey to craft your burning questions.
Invite customers to an online event.
You don't need to break out the place cards and flower arrangements to host an event. Move products faster by launching an exclusive online sale. Provide expertise and training in an online webinar. Host a focus group on Google Hangout.
Log in now to find 15 invitation designs in your account, and let us know how you're using this new collection to engage your readers.
Not yet a customer? Peruse the new invitation templates on our website, and try Emma for free.
The attention span of the average online consumer seems to be getting shorter every second. Unless you can do or say (or link to) something awesome ... and do it quickly ... you'll likely lose your readers' attention. In fact, I would bet that many folks already stopped reading this blog post. Another portion clicked on that link (above) and are now going down the rabbit hole that is YouTube.
For those who are still reading, please understand that ADOS (Attention Deficit. Oh, Shiny!*) syndrome also applies to email marketing messages. With very few exceptions (read: killer content from a very trusted source), when it comes to email marketing, shorter is better. Humans are busy. We are looking for that instant gratification -- the email that (quickly) saves us time, saves us money, makes us smarter, and/or entertains us.
If your email marketing message cannot do one (or more!) of those four things, and do it quickly, chances are your content will not get read/clicked/shared/acted upon. So, how do you design an email for this ADOS crowd? Here are four ways:
1. Create a subject line that is compelling. If an email landed in your inbox with the subject line, "Burn after reading ..." would you open it? My wife did. Check out this email from Red Envelope. Now, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that "boring" subject lines can't also work, but if you are finding that your open rates are on the decline, try something different!
2. Test various from names. Every so often, mix up your from/sender name. Do you always send using your company or brand name? Try using a person's name. Do you normally use a person's name? Try sending from the company or brand. And, if you really want to get crazy (creative), try sending from someone like Don Draper. That's exactly what MarketingProfs did last year in an email promoting its B2B Forum. Be sure to read Part II and Part III of that blog post series too.
3. Keep the content of your emails short. On January 1st of this year, a friend of mine received an email from Meetup.com. The entire email copy consisted of one sentence, six words -- "Resolutions are meant to be broken." There was a custom header that read "New Year's UNRESOLUTIONS" as well as a button that read "TRY THESE INSTEAD." That's all!
4. Provide something of value. This one is usually the easiest one to do (in theory), yet toughest to actually execute on. After all, how does one define value? In many cases, value is different for each person. In some cases, there is monetary value -- an email that saves a subscriber money (discount, free, etc). In other instances, value is defined as saving someone time (a "hack") or making them smarter (a "tip"). However, that's why email marketing is so awesome. All of this can be tested. You don't have to guess what call to action provides more value. Test it.
If you are still reading this (and not off looking at some shiny object), take a moment to leave your thoughts below in the comments. Do you agree? Do you think I'm crazy? Have you seen (or sent) an email marketing campaign recently that is perfect for the ADOS crowd? If so, we want to see it! Please share below.
Today's guest post is written by DJ Waldow, an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that creates opportunities for social engagement and community development through a fresh approach to email marketing. DJ has spent nearly 8 years in the email, social, and community-building world, advising clients on how to optimize their email marketing campaigns and--on occasion--break some of the “best practice” rules. DJ can be found on most social networks under the handle “djwaldow” or by searching “DJ Waldow.” DJ is an alumnus of the University of Michigan (Go Blue), a knowledge craver, a sponge, & a lover of beer, coffee & people.
80% of people opening your emails are scanning, not reading, which means that compelling images in your email are key to grabbing attention.
What's all that mean? It's a good time to brush up on your image smarts, which is why we've just published our Brainiac Guide to Images in Email. You'll find five practical tips for making the most of your images with visuals (of course!) that help make the point.
But wait, there's more: all month long on the blog, we'll be going into more detail about leveraging the power of images in your email newsletters. We'll share real-world examples, expert interviews and videos. Check back often or, hey, just subscribe here or follow us on Twitter for the latest.
Also during the month of March, Emma customers can get 5 stock images on us. It's to celebrate the brand-new Emma integration with Bigstock that makes about 12 million stock images searchable right from your account -- and makes it easy to always add the all-important image to your next email campaign.
Awards season is upon us: the glitz, the glamour, the open rates!
If you’re looking to take home “Best Email in an Inbox,” take note of these tips and handy Emma features that'll put you in the running.
Nominated for Best Supporting Role:
While Dorothy got her share of critical acclaim and attention from those red slipper clicks, you’re likely after a click of a different breed. Include links that give your readers a chance to visit your website or social sites – anywhere that gets them to engage further with your brand.
Calls to action
It's your email, so sit in the director's chair. But do more than yell "action!" to get your audience to respond. Craft headlines that get your point across, and give your readers clear places to click. Want people to log in, register or simply reply? Make it easy for them!
Video in email
Everyone loves a good flick. Isn't that why we bother watching award shows in the first place? Videos are an increasingly popular form of content in the digital world, and it's a great way to engage email subscribers and increase click rates.
Nominated for Best Short:
It’s the after-party for your email. All of your friends want to bring their friends (and their friends’ friends). Enable social sharing so recipients of your email can share it with their social channels and advocate on your behalf. Who doesn't love free press?
Your subject line frames up what your email is about, and split testing can help you hone in on that encapsulating tagline, a la these cinematic masterpieces: A lively comedy about a guy who isn't. One dream. Four Jamaicans. Twenty below zero. Her life was in their hands. Now her toe is in the mail.
Sometimes, we have to throw everything good we’ve learned out the window.
Examples: When there’s a “Real Housewives” marathon on TV but the house is a wreck or when there’s a spinach salad on the menu beneath a 10-cheese lasagna special.
Since Emma’s subject line split-testing feature launched last month, we’ve gleaned a lot from our own internal tests and those our customers have shared.
Below are four case studies that find laying out your cards isn’t always the best policy, a thoughtful subject line is worth the time spent on it and limiting your appeal can yield a yawn of a response.
Testing the level of detail revealed
Case Study 1: The appeal for help
One of our early split tests last fall was an email announcing Emma 25, a program that invites nonprofits to apply for free email service.
The variations – three of 'em – ranged from the less detailed "Help us find this year's Emma 25 honorees" to the more informative "Emma 25 is here: help a small nonprofit win email for life."
The winner? A third variation, which landed somewhere in the middle of succinct and detailed: "It's Emma 25 time: We're giving away free email service!"
This version boasted a 15% lift and, in the end, gained us 2,700 more opens.
Case Study 2: The sale announcement
Our client BOCA sent a split test in mid-December letting Sanctuary Medical Center customers know about holiday discounts, and they found that a little mystery about sale details entices the recipient.
The subject line “Limited-Time Pricing on Select Services” squeaked by with nine more opens than “FREE Clarisonic Offer + 15% Off Fractional Resurfacing & Great Gift Ideas.”
That narrow margin isn't nothing. When you play it out, sending the winning variation meant 193 more opens, a 13% lift.
They set their test to be autosend, as well, for a hands-off way to finish the test rather than manually sending the winning subject line to the remaining recipients.
There’s an increasing competition for your audience’s attention in their inbox. Looking beyond simply growing your audience list can help to achieve more positive brand engagement and interaction.
Testing the subject matter itself
Case Study 3: The monthly newsletter
There was an obvious winner in Belron US’s test: “Vehicle Maintenance Advice from Safelite AutoGlass” flounced the run-of-the-mill “Safelite AutoGlass Car Care Newsletter” subject line in an email about New Year’s resolutions for safe driving.
And it paid off: The winning subject line yielded 4,883 more opens, an 18% lift.
This is just a good, old-fashioned reminder that something, nearly anything, is better than using “newsletter” in the subject line.
A formula that works is being used here: “Vehicle Maintenance” could easily be replaced with “Interior Car Care” or “Roadtrip Checklist” in future emails, making the subject lines familiar enough to recipients, who are creatures of habit: I’ve been receiving and opening emails from One King’s Lane for months, but I’ve yet to purchase one product.
If we open one email and find something likeable, we’ll likely open the next.
For testing purposes, make your two subject lines distinct yet similar enough that you can glean useful information from the success of one and lesser-success of another. (In other words, don’t change capitalization and punctuation and branding and the offer.)
Case Study 4: The year-end email
“Brand new sets at our studio!” was the winning subject line over “25% Off Select Packages today and tomorrow only!” for Courtney Dellafiora Photography.
If your recipients don’t have the time, money or desire to purchase your product right now, you limit yourself by crafting a subject line that only reaches those in the market in the next day or so.
Keep in mind your goal and what you want to achieve in your email when thinking up your subject lines for split testing. Do you want an increased open rate? More clicks? To grow your list?
The more split tests you perform, you won’t just think you know the best one; you will know the best one, and come to better understand your audience’s habits in the process.
There’s no need to rely on your gut when it comes to first impressions, and don’t gamble with your profitability: test, test, test.
Happy testing, and keep us posted with what you learn: @emmaemail.
And even though we eagerly watched the opens and clicks tally with each send-off, I saw an opportunity to start the new year off with a look at all the emails in one place.
There's nothing complicated or high tech about this exercise, unless you count not being certain about which office printer I sent my files to. It just takes wall space, Post-its, and a few brains to make sense of it all.
I made a timeline of emails sent over the last six months, adjusted each one's height on the wall according to the open rate, wrote out each subject line, labeled key metrics and trends, and – here's the important part – pulled together a small group of Emma staffers to soak it all in and make some insights.
We took note of what jumped out to us:
In general, emails that feature new template collections get the most opens and clicks, so we'll be making more of those.
But our simplest (and kindest) subject line, "Thank you," yielded our highest open rate – 43%! (Psst...read more about how saying thanks yields more opens.)
Big, bold login buttons get the job done and drive customers to check out what's new.
A text link that appears just below a compelling image often gets more clicks the image itself (we link them both to the same place).
And then we let that shape our conversation about the kinds of emails we want to send in the coming months.
Did you do an email retrospective? What did you learn, and how many Post-its did you use?
Have you subscribed to our emails? Sign up to get expert advice and product news on our website.