Email Communications: Five Things To Consider

John McEvoy

June 19, 2014

Email Communications

Despite the rise in the number of channels for marketing communications, email marketing remains one of the most successful tools to help businesses connect and grow. Email marketing isn’t only for those larger companies that have production teams building HTML emails.  It should be used by every business  - large or small - to connect with customers, prospects, and other stakeholders. When using email for marketing and communications here are five things you should consider:

1.     Your communications should not always be about “the ask”

Business owners are busy people and have to focus on growing their business. Helping to drive sales is the ultimate goal. But, email communication is a long term investment with regards to time and effort put into it.

If every communication you send to your base is about ‘buy our product’ the recipient will view your subsequent communications as ‘Just another sales email’. Instead, add value to your customers by occasionally including some type of engagement communication that helps to educate and inform the reader. 

Newsletters can be a great solution, but do require quite a bit of work to put together. An alternative to this is to occasionally share a single news articles that you think may be relevant to a target audience. Not only are you educating your customers about your industry, but you are establishing yourself as a thought leader, and showing that you are thinking of them.

2.     Target/ segment your mailings

When sales are below target for the month, or you have a new update to share, the temptation is to blast your whole database and hope something sticks. The problem here is that if you are sending everyone, every communication, twice a week, you will soon exhaust your audience. Instead, try to break your audience up by different types of customers – largest and smallest customers, last purchase date or frequency of purchase, products purchased, customers versus prospects, those who opened a certain mailing against those who did not, etc.

The point is to try and identify those individuals for whom the message is actually relevant, or those most likely to take the action that you want them to take. That way you are not bombarding everyone, and when you do communicate to them, the message is more likely to be relevant to their needs.

3.     The subject line

Keep it simple. Don’t try and get too creative with the subject line, or try and trick the reader into opening your email with a misleading subject line. You’ll either just confuse the reader about the message you want to convey, or worse, they’ll feel duped. Just say what it is, and keep it as short as possible.

4.     Time to send your mailing

There are a lot of thoughts floating around about that one optimal time to send your email. “Monday’s are bad, so let’s send on Tuesday” … “Sending at 8am is much better than sending at 6pm” … “and just forget about sending on Saturday’s”, etc.

These rules were somewhat true before smartphones and tablets. You had to catch people when they were in front of their computers. Now people are always connected, electronic communication is totally portable. So the landscape of there being a best time to send does not hold as much water as it used to.

On another note, with so many people staying away from sending on Monday’s, there is a huge number of people who opt to send Tuesday, which means you are competing for eyeballs with every other message going out on a Tuesday. Give consideration to finding a space where there is not so much competition in the inbox for customer’s attention. Sending on a Saturday morning for example has been very successful for many businesses. Test around it and see what works for you.

5.     Keep the message short

If the recipient opens an email and is faced with a wall of text, they immediately shut down. The investment of their time to decipher a large amount of information can be too much, especially if they are busy with work, deadlines, and family. If you can communicate your message in no more than a couple hundred words, once the reader has opened the email at very least they will skim your content, if not be infinitely more likely to read every word. You’ve now got their attention – how much more likely is that person to convert?

Email can be a very successful tool when done effectively. One golden rule persists in email marketing – testing is paramount. The more you test things out, the more you’ll see what works for your audience.

John McEvoy is currently the Email Marketing Manager at Merchant Warehouse. He has worked as a practitioner and a consultant in email marketing for 7 years for numerous companies in the automotive, non-profit, small business enterprise and financial service industries.