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Writing Your First E-Mail Promotion

Your current newsletter subscribers are a captive audience for your e-mail promotions--so plan them well and follow these writing tips.

Let's say you're a business owner who usually only sends monthly newsletters, but you're thinking about e-mailing standalone product promotions to your subscribers. Do you think you'll seem too pushy? Is this really a good idea?

Yes, it's a good idea, and, no, it won't seem too pushy! Need proof? A recent DoubleClick report found that 78 percent of people surveyed said they wanted to receive e-mail from their favorite online merchants. And eMarketer found that 67 percent of U.S. consumers liked companies who, in their opinion, did a good job with permission e-mail marketing. So you don't need to worry about offending your customers with your promotion--provided you follow a few simple guidelines.

First things first: If you want your e-mail promotion to succeed, you need to make sure it looks professional, and this means proofreading your e-mail at least three times before sending it to your subscribers. Have a friend or co-worker check it out as well. If you send an e-mail full of spelling mistakes, it will cost you sales and could permanently damage your credibility.

Next, send a test version of the message to yourself. You should sign up for a free e-mail account with Yahoo! and Hotmail, and include these accounts in your test mailing. If you have a friend or family member with an AOL account, send them a copy, too. The point here is to catch any formatting errors that might show up in the different e-mail programs. Believe me, you'll be surprised how often you find them!

And now for the most important part. Before you send out any promotion, ask yourself, "How relevant is this offer to my subscribers?" If your promotion doesn't answer this question immediately, you have some work to do.

Don't assume that your subscribers will automatically see why your e-mail promotion is relevant to them--you need to spell it out. Explain in detail how your product can help them and why now is the time to buy. Two of the most effective ways to highlight the relevance of your offer are to:

  1. Put a strong emphasis on benefits. Let's say you sell skin-care products. You need to highlight the benefit to the customer (it gives them younger-looking skin) rather than the features (it contains 12 different moisturizers). Can you see how the benefit-centered statement is much easier to identify with than the feature-centered one?
  2. Make your offer exclusive. Tailor your promotion so that it's exclusive to the people who receive it, then give them a strong reason to act immediately. You should let your subscribers know that this offer is only being made available to them and that it will only be available for a limited time.

Since this is your first e-mail promotion, you will definitely want to feature one of your most popular products. This is no time to try to unload old inventory or blow out last year's models. If you write an e-mail that gives people a good reason to buy one of your best-selling products, you can guarantee yourself a fantastic response!

8 Writing Tips for Your Promotional E-Mail

The proliferation of e-mail marketing can make it tough to stand out. Here are eight tips for writing e-mails that produce top results.

  1. Choose a great subject line. Steer clear of misleading or mysterious subject lines. Nothing screams spam louder than "How are you?" An effective subject line includes a benefit and relates directly to your offer, such as "Save 60 percent on tape stock."
  2. Have a solid hook. The first few sentences contain your hook and are the most critical part of your e-mail. The hook is the central message of your mailing. It should be clear and intriguing. Be sure it focuses on what they'll get, not on what you offer.
  3. Tell them what to do. Your e-mail should have two or three paragraphs-no more. Total length should be less than 250 words. The body should support your hook using benefits, then close with a call to action. Tell readers what you want them to do and include hyperlinks such as "Click here to register."
  4. Use clear, direct language. A well-written message uses the active voice and has short, concise sentences. This is crucial because as many as half of your recipients will read just the first few sentences before deciding to continue. If writing isn't your strong suit, consider hiring an e-mail copywriter.
  5. Focus on your offer. Your e-mail should have one subject and one subject only. Resist the temptation to make multiple offers, which may confuse your recipients and dilute your message.
  6. Don't drop the ball. Some e-mail marketing messages fall short because they fail to include all the information customers need. Be sure to include vital data, such as pricing and deadlines. It's unreasonable to expect customers to visit your site to get the information they need to evaluate your e-mail offer.
  7. Include a P.S. While a postscript isn't mandatory, it grabs attention. Often, recipients will read the subject line and the hook, scan key elements and go directly to the P.S. It should restate your hook and highlight your offer. After the P.S., give recipients a way to unsubscribe from your list. This is generally the last link at the bottom of the e-mail.
  8. Make it readable. Even the best copy can't sell if your e-mail looks too dense. Keep paragraphs to three or four lines and double-spaced. Use bullets or stars to emphasize key points, but avoid text in all caps or multiple exclamation points. Set text width at 68 characters or less per line so it displays correctly in e-mail applications. Also, avoid breaking or wrapping URLs into two lines--it may cause technical problems. By eliminating these barriers, it'll be easy for customers to take advantage of your offer and dramatically boost your results.

Sources: Tips for Your First E-Mail Promotion and No Fail E-Mail

- Best Businesses to Start in 2005

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