In today’s digital age, an email marketing campaign is necessary to every business model, equivalent to — if not more important than — a social media strategy and your company website’s mobile compatibility. It’s an evolved version of direct mailing and cold calling, but despite the many email marketing management options available, the concept still remains an unsuccessful mystery to many small business owners.
But some entrepreneurs figured out the formula. Their emails collect clicks, replies and forwards, and spark action among potential customers and loyal clients. And they aren’t adding any kind of external expert to their payroll in order to do so.
We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out what their secrets are regarding email marketing:
“How can business owners create a distinctive email marketing campaign that doesn’t get lost in the inbox clutter?”
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:
1. Timing Is Everything!
“We recently rebranded our email newsletter as a nightly “Study Break” for our female college student audience, timing it to hit inboxes when the need for a fun distraction is at an all-time high. This, along with our strategy of sticking to a specific theme for each day of the week, allows us to establish our emails as a consistent part of our readers’ daily routine.” ~ Annie Wang, Her Campus Media
2. Provide Additional Value
“Too many businesses fill their newsletters with nothing but regurgitated blog content and entreaties to buy. Ask yourself how you can use your email campaign to provide added value to your clients, at no extra cost. When they’re shown you have something of value to share, they’ll be more willing to pay for even more.” ~ Steph Auteri, Word Nerd Pro
3. Keep It Short
“One huge mistake that businesses make is sending long emails full of news that doesn’t interest subscribers. To keep subscribers hooked, it’s crucial to send short emails that only contain interesting content.” ~ Ben Lang, EpicLaunch
4. Ditch the Bells and Whistles
“Consider sending plain text emails to your list — the kind you would type to a friend, free of graphics and other distractions. Simple text emails are surprisingly effective, as recipients feel you’re writing directly to them rather than blindly firing off a fancy newsletter in their direction. If you personalize the message with a “Hi, ____” at the beginning, you’ll get even more engagement.” ~ Amanda Aitken, The Girl’s Guide to Web Design
5. Equip With a Strong Headline
“I know it’s simple advice that you probably hear all of the time, but it is really that important. My email campaigns that have strong headlines (i.e. witty, intriguing, straight to the point, or features a celebrity name) have much better end conversion rates.” ~ Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers
6. Is It Mobile-Friendly?
“We’ve found that many of our customers read emails on their smartphones, so fancy images and layouts made the emails unreadable. When we switched to a text-based, mobile-friendly format, we nearly doubled our click-through rate.” ~ Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh, Inc.
7. Be Positive, Practical and Personal
“Focus on being positive, practical and personal. This approach makes your email marketing into something that recipients really value receiving. By taking this approach, I have subscribers regularly sending me thank you emails and even thank you cards for my email marketing.” ~ Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®
8. Match the Marketing
“The great thing about email is that you can track nearly every action, and that should tell you what kind of messages to send to your clients and prospects. If someone responds to a certain type of message, segment your list so they get more of those messages. Make sure you segment your prospects from buyers so they get different messaging. It’s all about market-to-message match!” ~ Greg Rollett, The ProductPros
9. Two-Way Street
“Too many newsletters are only updates about your business and the focus is only on you. Share something with them and get personal. Share a cool app you came across that they might benefit from. If you have a blog, then do a post where they can contribute to it and give their input. The more you involve your audience, the more they will want to read every newsletter you send — and it’s more fun.” ~ Ashley Bodi, Business Beware
10. Write Infrequently!
“Asking a customer to read an email is a more personal ask, and thus has a higher barrier. Also, very few companies have enough interesting news to send a weekly email. For daily and weekly communication, use Facebook and Twitter. If you reserve your newsletter for only big news and send it monthly, you will have more useful things to say and your customer will be more interested in reading.” ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
11. Tag Your Subject Line
“One of the easiest ways is to ‘tag’ your subject line so your readers will start looking out for your message. For example, [underground] [maverick] are ones we use for different lists. Of course, you still have to include some reason for people to read and click, but they have to recognize you first.” ~ Yanik Silver, Maverick1000.com
12. Share Your Story
“Don’t create just another marketing newsletter; your customers already get 3,203 of those. Instead, share your real story with your customers. Write in a personable voice, as if you’re just writing to a really good friend of yours. Be honest and don’t try to sound formal. Make it a narrative that draws your readers in.” ~ Tim Jahn, Entrepreneurs Unpluggd
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