Did you know that email marketing is second only to SEO as an online marketing tool? For more that three years I was the main designer of the newsletters for a major niche Internet retailer. One thing I didn’t realize back when I started was that the majority of internet retailers, at least the more advanced, were highly dependent on sending promotional emails.
If you look at the monthly page views chart of an e-tailer that relies on email marketing, you’ll see sharp increases in traffic – the day or days when most of the intended users opened the email. That increase in Internet traffic is directly proportional to sales and revenue. Success in email marketing depends on many things and with time, if you are really into it, after many trials and errors, you’ll arrive at your own unique formula tailored to your business. Here are some basic rules that I’ve learned through the years:
Design from Scratch
Note that this is based on research; it’s rather a common sense that if you use the same template in every email, your subscribers will think that you are offering the same thing over and over again and they’ll dismiss it or even move your newsletter to their spam folder.
I’m talking not only about the visual design, but also about the subject line and type of promotion. Try to make every newsletter unique and different. This means that you have to learn Photoshop, or at least hire someone with good taste who knows how to use the program to create the design, slice it into separate images, link the images to appropriate landing pages, and title the images in a way that the subscribers can see the messages embedded in them even when image blocking is turned on. Most email clients block images by default.
Use Advanced Design
Most people can tell good design from bad. If your email looks like it was made in the early 2000’s with basic colors, blurry images etc, you are showing one thing for sure: you are unprofessional – a mom and pop business that just learned how to send a newsletter.
Subscribe to Newsletters
My best ideas for email newsletter designs came from major online retailers like Target and the extinct Borders. Big retailers have budgets to hire a staff of analysts and graphic artists to help design each newsletter so it is very likely that whatever they are doing is based on research and development that I could take advantage of. I also had subscribed to the newsletters of all our direct competitors, and although they were not as professional – this allowed me to keep an eye on what they were doing and compare my designs and promotion ideas to theirs.
Pay Attention to Colors and Seasonal Designs
Certain colors sell more. I found that red with black and white accents or black with red and white accents can both be very powerful. But you should use these sparingly, only on very important occasions like Black Fridays or Cyber Mondays or when you have a big semi-annual sale.
Seasonal designs put people in mood for shopping. Fine-tuning your logo, newsletter, and website to suit seasonal occasions will help you touch on your subscribers’ emotions. The Christmas red and green, for example, can provoke the following subconscious thought: “Is it Christmas already? I have to get that perfume for her – I know she likes it. Wow, it comes with a free designer handbag too!”
Learn About Timing and Frequency
Although research shows that you should send your emails on certain days of the week, this cannot be applied on every individual case. For example, the company I worked for had more than a million subscribers and the sending of a newsletter took a little over two days. That means that some subscribers received emails on Saturday, others on Monday. The best time will depend on when your target audience is more likely to open their emails – you need to do a research on your subscribers before making a decision
As for frequency, the less often you send emails, the more effective they will be. Sending too many emails is risky – you might start annoying your subscribers and they’ll punish you by hitting the spam button.
Write a Subject Line Likely to Have a High Open Rate
If your emails have bad subject lines, you’re wasting your time with email marketing. Thus writing good subject lines should be brought down to a science. Some basic rules are: be to the point, be short, and avoid words and phrases that trigger spam filters. Mail chimp has identified several such words: free, % off, reminder, and help. Last but not least, NEVER USE CAPS.