Companies and organizations often struggle over what to "do" with their email marketing. What should they say in their emails? What should they talk about? What information or promotions should they include?
The three approaches to email content creation
If you study the marketing emails you receive from other companies, they probably fall within one of three categories.
You know the kind of emails I am talking about. They are the email equivalent of flyers or coupons. You get a short email telling you about a great product or service, often with a special offer included.
These may be welcome if you are a serial-buyer of those kinds of products or services. However, the straight sales approach to email marketing is basically "interruption marketing". You interrupt someone with your sales pitch in the hope that a small percentage will be persuaded to buy.
These interruptions are no more welcome than TV ads. You'll get some results, but you're limiting your opportunity.
Informative and Promotional
These emails come from companies that seek to do a little more. They deliver useful, timely and interesting information to their subscribers.
The information and tips they provide are, of course, associated with the products and services they provide.
As an easy example, let's look at Constant Contact. A while back I signed up for a trial account, and started to receive emails from them. These emails didn't simply seek to sell me a paid-for account or upsell me in some way.
Each email delivered useful information for anyone involved in email and newsletter marketing.
The result? Emails from Constant Contact get opened. I open them because I know I might learn something useful and new.
Do they also pitch their services? Sure they do. But that's OK. The pitch has become contextual. It's not a traditional sales pitch, it's the offering of a service that can help me improve my email marketing results - and they take the trouble to tell me how.
You'll see the same approach in traditional direct mail. You get the junk mail that simply pressures you to buy, and sells "at" you. And then you'll get those longer direct mail packages that include tons of useful and new information on a particular topic. The latter approach is the one that builds you a real business with a growing subscriber list.
Informative email campaigns built loyalty and interest. And they build trust.
Become a trusted provider of useful information and you also gain the status of a trusted vendor.
Entertaining and Promotional
This approach isn't so common, but can work very well.
As an example, let's look at Lands' End. They used to send out simple, promotional emails, pitching various clothing items.
Then someone there had an unusual idea. Now those emails start by telling a story. These are human interest stories, always well-written and always worth reading.
In each email, after the story, they feature the clothes they want to sell.
The result of this change in approach? Their subscriber list grew from 20,000 to 500,000 in two years.
Why? Because their emails became interesting and engaging. People opened them and forwarded them to their friends.
That's what happens when your emails are worth reading.
If you want to know how to improve your email campaigns, it's not so hard to do. It takes some effort. It takes some resources.
I have outlined a couple of separate approaches here, both of which are proven to increase open rates and responses. But keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules you have to stick to.
You can combine approaches...including elements that are promotional, informational and entertaining all within one email.
Just make sure it all feels "true" to your company or organization's brand and voice online. At the end of the day, being entertaining and informational has to be a genuine part of that voice, and recognizable to your audience.
Also, make sure you deliver what people signed up for. Make sure you meet their expectations. If your subscribers signed up from a page that promised emails filled with useful information, don't send them emails that are purely promotional.
Decide what you are going to do. Let people know what to expect when they sign up. And deliver on your promises.
The more interesting, useful and valuable your emails become, the more they will be opened, shared and responded to.
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