E-Mail Marketing

Definition: Marketing via e-mail, usually through the use of sales letters or customer newsletters

When e-mail marketing first became popular, it was seen as the ultimate marketing tool--inexpensive, instantaneous and 100 percent measurable. Click-through rates were the only numbers that mattered, and people were willing to open--and read--just about every e-mail they received.

Nowadays, most of the talk is about spam, how e-mail marketing can hurt your business, and why click-through rates are a fraction of what they used to be. Yet there are still companies that, despite all the pitfalls, manage to generate high profits every year using e-mail marketing.

That's because e-mail marketing is still a very effective and efficient way to get the word out to your prospects. Mailings to opt-in lists yield higher results than direct mail--and at a lower cost. Everyone's looking for that magic formula--the perfect message that will electrify opt-in campaigns. But the proliferation of e-mail makes 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.

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