Eight Tips for a Clickable E-Mail Marketing Campaign

Creating a winning e-mail pitch can be done without huge time and money investments — if you know how. We provide expert advice for increasing click-through rates on your e-mail marketing.
E-mail marketing has become so easy and relatively inexpensive that anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can create a campaign. But not all e-mail campaigns are created equal — or are equally successful.

To be successful, said Suzanne Norman, the director of community relations at Emma, the Web-based email marketing and communications service that helps users create customized email marketing campaigns, you need "to create a one-on-one conversation that engages readers and builds trust." Your e-mail needs to be relevant, which means knowing what your subscribers are interested in, and it has to strike the right balance between content and image, and not overwhelm readers — or their e-mail servers.

To help you employ this strategy yourself, here are Emma and Norman's Eight Top Tips for Creating a Successful E-mail Marketing Campaign.
  1. Decide what it is you want your e-mail campaign to accomplish. Do you want people to buy a product or service, or do you just want them to go to your Web site and opt into an e-mail list? "It's all about setting that goal up front, and then letting the design and the message flow from that," explained Norman.

  2. Make sure your e-mail marketing campaign is consistent with your brand and message. That means "making sure that your brand and your message and your goals extend all the way through from your e-mail to the signup page to whatever special landing page you've created for the event [or product] you're trying to promote through your e-mail," said Norman. Also, make sure the design and tone of your e-mail reflects the design and tone of your Web site, so there is an instant connection. And don't forget to brand the "from" line of your email with the name of your business and include your logo in the body.

  3. Engage readers right away with an intriguing subject line. Per Emma, the subject line is "the most important sentence of your entire e-mail campaign." People are busy, so your subject line needs to intrigue your readers and draw them in. For example instead of using the bland subject line "February Newsletter," spice it up by having it read "Initech's February Newsletter: How Good Is Your HR Team? Take Our Quiz and Find Out…"

  4. Don't bury your message or call to action. Because many readers preview their e-mails, you need to continue to engage readers (beyond your subject line) by putting your key message or call to action — the reason for your e-mail — and logo or identifying design at or near the top of your e-mail, within the first four inches, advised Emma. And make sure to include links to key landing pages.

  5. Make it personal. "A bit of personalization really does boost response rates," reported Emma. "But don't stop at a personal greeting. Think about other personal details you might be able to drop into the email. Try segmenting your list so you can personalize the content based on the audience group to which you're sending. And then make sure the e-mail feels personal."

    As marketer ProspectDB explained in its "10 Keys to Successful Email Campaigns," "The more the e-mail looks [and reads] like one that the recipient would receive from a co-worker, colleague or fellow professional/executive [or friend], the more likely they are to open it. Open with the person's name, end with a signature line [and] have the email actually come from a person instead of a generic e-mail [address]."

  6. Don't go overboard with images — and avoid audio, video and Flash. How many times have you received an e-mail that takes forever to load or won't display, or won't display properly without your permission? Your e-mail recipients are no different. While images can definitely make an email look more attractive, you need to keep them manageable, and make sure (as much as possible) that they will display properly in Outlook, Yahoo, Hotmail/Windows Live, Gmail and AOL.

    You also need to keep in mind that Internet connections can be slow, and that many e-mail programs don't automatically display graphics. Similarly, Norman strongly cautions against including audio or video or Flash in e-mails as they can seriously slow down or prevent transmittal (and may not work at all, in the case of Flash). If you want recipients to check out a video or audio clip, just provide a link to it or to a landing page instead of embedding a file.

  7. Follow up in a timely way — without flooding recipients' in boxes. If or when someone signs up for your newsletter or a service, or buys your product, especially if it's the result of an email you sent, send that customer a personalized thank-you note or, even better, a personalized thank-you note with a coupon toward a future purchase.

    Similarly, don't be afraid to send follow-up e-mails to customers or prospective customers once a month, or when you have something new to say or sell that you think might be of interest to the recipient. Just be sure not to bombard recipients' in boxes with dozens of emails a day or even a week. And make sure that when you do send out an email it contains information the recipient either requested or would be interested in. Otherwise your e-mail(s) may get flagged as junk or bulk mail or spam.

  8. Test to find out what works — and what doesn't. One of the wonderful things about e-mail campaigns is that you can measure the results. Got two different ideas or approaches? Go ahead and test them out and track which one does better.

    "Use… tracking to learn what your audience likes, and doesn't, and mix it up from time to time to see how small tweaks affect those response numbers," suggested Emma. "Try two different subject lines; try flipping stories one and two in the body copy; try sending to half of your list on Tuesday morning and the other half on Thursday. In the end, the only way to really find out which subject lines work best, or whether longer or shorter content is the right approach, or which day really is the best for sending is… to try it."

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to Ecommerce-Guide.com and writes a blog for and about small businesses.

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