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4 Things My Inbox Taught Me About the Type of Email Content That Gets Your Attention

Compelling email content can help your business stay top-of-mind among your customers, but make sure your emails aren't getting quickly sent to the junk folder.

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We've all heard that content is king. While the saying may be trite, it's true that valuable content can help you attract customers and nurture your relationships with them. By content, I mean blogs, newsletters, videos, podcasts, white papers, infographics and other digital media that helps you get your message across.

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Related: This Is Why Email Marketing Still Outperforms Social Media

While it may be often overshadowed by the reach of social media, email is still one of the most cost-effective and powerful digital platforms for sharing your content with customers. With the large volume of emails in our inboxes every day, however, we're forced to filter the email content we receive. If you're like me, you've had this conversation with your inbox as you scroll through the dozens of messages you receive: "Hmm, that's interesting," "save this, you may need it later," "delete," "nice try," "delete," "funny," and, well, "delete." When email content is done right, it piques your curiosity. When it's done wrong, it winds up in the trash.

To figure out what makes an email successful, I took a look in my own inbox. I looked at emails I've recently received from businesses to try to understand what works and why. The emails that earned my attention and didn't get quickly sent to my junk folder fell into the following categories.

In with the new

Installing hardwood floors is something most homeowners only do once. Yet, the company that installed my hardwood floors sends me tips throughout the year on all things related to hardwood floors, and more. They do a great job of showing before and after photos of projects they've worked on. Who doesn't like a little home decor inspiration? Over the years, this company has grown its business and expanded its service offerings. While I haven't used any of the new services, I'm aware of them, and I've referred my friends to the company. Even though this company offers a one-time purchase, it continuously offers valuable advice on topics related to home improvement and maintenance. Most importantly, when it mentions something "new," I give the company my attention because it's earned it.

Related: Don't Underestimate the Power of a Good Newsletter to Drive Business

It's that time of year again.

Is there a seasonal aspect to your business? If you're a florist, I'm going to expect a message from you just before Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. (And if I don't get one from you, you can bet I'll get one from your competitor.) If you're really on top of things, I'll also get one just before my anniversary and my wife's birthday if I've bought from you previously for those occasions. In that vein, the company I buy my prescription glasses from sends me an email every year to remind me that my prescription is about to expire. A landscaper might offer tips on hurricane preparedness in advance of hurricane season. If you're not taking advantage of the seasons of your business, you're missing out on an opportunity to connect with your customers when they need your services.

A special offer that's truly special

If you have a "special offer" email going out every week, after a month or two, that offer won't feel very special anymore. Your prospects and customers won't buy your message or your product, and they'll start tuning you out. But, if your customers rarely receive a "special offer" email from your business, they're more likely to pay special attention when they do. In my inbox, I found a couple of emails from small businesses that have annual, can't miss sales events. They build an entire marketing campaign around an annual sales event that builds excitement and drives customers to their store or website.

Related: 10 Tips for Writing Emails That Will Get You Tangible Results

The personal touch

Large corporations spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns designed to bring their brands to life and show the human side of their businesses. Small businesses have the upper hand here in many ways because their business is personal. All you need to do is show it. Whenever I get an email from a business that's communicating something about their mission or purpose, I'm always interested in learning more. If your business is sponsoring a 5K charity race to support the fight against cancer and your employees are running in it, let your customers know. If the Little League team you sponsor won the championship -- or even if they didn't -- send an email to your list with a team photo. If you're celebrating a milestone, like 15 years in business, send a message out to let people know. You've been in business 15 years! That's something you should be proud of and something all of your customers should know.

Each of the email messages you send should point your customers to content that will resonate most with them. Remember, if you get customers to your website, they're that much closer to being able to make a purchase.

In sports, it's often said, the only thing harder than making it to the top is staying at the top. That's also true in business. Retaining customers is critical, and your content marketing strategy is a great way to stay in touch with your customers, build your brand, and add value. Be a source of valuable information and insight. Demonstrate your commitment to your community. Promote special offers and timely deals that your customers will be interested in. Your content-rich email messages may not immediately result in the swipe of a credit card, but it will show your customers that you care and keep them engaged.

So take a look in your own inbox with a bit of professional curiosity. You may be surprised by the ideas and inspiration you come away with and what you can learn about how you could be better communicating with your customers.

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