September 17, 2015

4 Best Practices for Writing and Sending Emails

4 Best Practices for Writing and Sending Emails

It can be disappointing, after designing, coding, and sending a bulk email, to see a dismal open rate. According to MailChimp, even the biggest and best companies rarely break a 20% open rate in their email blasts.

We all know the drill because we do it ourselves with email we receive: Most of us trash marketing emails without a second thought. So how do you make your email stand out from the crowd? Check out these four best practices for sending bulk emails. 

1. Start with a compelling subject line.

Well, first, you have to catch your audience’s eye in the inbox; you're competing with every other email they’ve gotten that day.

As a general rule, your subject line shouldn’t exceed 50 characters. More than 50, and your open rates could suffer up to 12.5%, according to a ReturnPath study. However, line length is secondary to the main goal of your subject line: appealing to your audience. Your subject should carry a tone and language that's familiar and engaging to them.

To do this, take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. If your audience is twenty-something tech junkies, a little tongue-in-cheek nerd humor might be well placed. But if you’re trying to sell to parents of small children, for example, you’ll need a completely different tone and language.

Lastly, avoid sounding too “marketing-y.” Nothing screams spam quite like the word “FREE!!”

2. Make your email visually appealing — no matter how it’s viewed.

One of the biggest mistakes made by email marketers is failing to take into account the various platforms that their audience uses to access email. Obviously, this means mobile. Adding mobile and tablet responsiveness to your email blasts will dramatically increase your open rates.

However, compatibility doesn’t stop there. As it turns out, even different email services interpret HTML code differently. This means your design can and probably will show up differently on Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook — even though the code is identical.

This discrepancy happens because some services ignore the styling (CSS) elements of your code when they live in the head of the HTML. To solve this problem, use in-line CSS styling instead, as in the example below:

<p style=“font: Times New Roman; font-size: 24pt; color: blue; font-weight: bold;”>Hello, World!</p>

Hello, World!

In-line CSS styling forces the email service to read all of your styling and keeps the design consistent across platforms. Yay!

A last thing to note: Text-based email readers are rarely used, but it still happens. Make sure these viewers get the full experience of your email blasts by including descriptive alt-tags for each of your images. Even a simple description, like “This is a picture of a dog,” will do.

3. Test until you can’t test no more.

Inevitably, your email blast will have issues at first, even if it just needs minor tweaks. But you have to make sure your blast is the bomb before sending it out, and that’s where testing comes in.

You’ll want to view the email in your inbox. Is the subject line catchy enough? Is the “from” label descriptive? Will your audience want to click on your email?

Then, view it in the browser. Still look good? Does the text stand out? Is the styling appearing correctly?

Finally, go crazy. View it on your phone, on your tablet, on your desktop. View it in Gmail, in Yahoo mail, in Outlook. View it with images and without them. Glance over the source code. Click the links. Reply to yourself. Do it again.

Once you’ve exhausted all possible testing options and decided that your blast is up to snuff, you’re ready to go — almost.

4. Send to a good list, not just a big one.

Before you send, hit pause and ask yourself: Is your list strong? It feels good to see that 600 people opened your email, but when you’re sending to a list of 5,000, that’s only a 12% open rate. If we’re shooting for 20% or higher, we need to be sending to 5,000 of the best people for our offer.

What’s more, getting this wrong is bad. Having too many invalid or bounced emails on your list can count against you and may even earn you the shameful badge of “Spammer.” If this happens, email services will automatically reject your emails, guaranteeing that you won’t get the numbers you need.

The solution? Clean your lists. Delete invalid emails. Add information where you can. Target your emails to segments of your list wherever possible. You’ll see the benefits later as you watch your open rates, click rates, and conversion rates jump up and up.

Now you’ve got a compelling subject line, a well-designed message and a solid list. Looks like you’re ready to send! Generally, the best times to send are midday and mid-week — when people aren’t prepared to do a mass dump of emails from their inbox. And once you’ve sent, be patient. These days, it’s not unusual for someone to wait up to five days before opening a non-urgent message. 

Go ahead and click ‘Send.’ Then sit back, relax and wait for that open rate to soar.Need help increasing brand awareness, generating more leads, and converting prospects? madison/miles media can help.

Ariel Bailey

Ariel Bailey started as an intern at madison/miles and has since been promoted to creative specialist. Now she mostly builds apps and websites while pursuing a couple of degrees at the University of North Texas.