E-mail Applied: Effective E-mails That Sell
E-mail is an important part of any marketing program worth its salt. But most aren’t taking full advantage, by overlooking important advancements that can make a huge difference — not only to the program, but to your bottom line.
Here are some ideas to help you make the most of your e-mail program. It boils down to four simple rules.
I’ve chosen some examples that demonstrate how to fine-tune your e-mail program and sell effectively.
1. Grab recipients’ attention — and get them to open your e-mail.
Consumers’ prior experience with you and their affinity to your brand certainly are factors in motivating them to open your e-mail. But it’s likely that your e-mail list is receiving many e-mails from other marketers in the course of any given day.
Inboxes are crowded. So, you guessed it, your subject line is your first line of defense. Your “From” line is the No. 1 factor that drives open rates, and your subject line is second in importance.
* Intriguing, Engaging Subject Lines
Here’s a look at subject lines that capture and stimulate interest. Sales, free shipping and coupons certainly do grab attention, but several of these examples simply were intriguing or engaging enough to open.
2. Say it with style.
Most of your e-mails feature the product or group of products you decide to showcase. Create a template so your e-mails have a distinctive look and feel. It needs to be flexible enough to serve your needs. Develop variations such as:
• a one-product feature,
• a one-anchor product feature followed by additional merchandise, and
• a two-column design.
For example, Sephora’s e-mails (below) include a link to an HTML version in the event that images are blocked. And above the design area, it also suggests that recipients add its e-mail address to their address books.
Every e-mail has Sephora’s brand name in the upper-left corner followed by a major department listing that links to its most important site areas. Sephora uses a mix of hand-drawn images and product shots to create a distinctive look. It also uses variations of a multicolumn design.
Notice that there is a good amount of text in the e-mail. If readers experience image blocking, some of the product information still will be displayed.
The subhead for Sephora’s e-mail program is “Expert Tips and Tricks.” This is a smart move, because women generally want information on how to use make-up products. As long as Sephora delivers on this promise, its audience is likely to open its e-mails.
Directly above is a different implementation of Sephora’s distinctive look.
What you can’t see: Sephora wisely uses ALT tags to name each image. If recipients position their mouse over a product, the name of the product is displayed. Also, ALT tags may still be visible, even if there are display problems with pictures. Each product shot is linked directly to the appropriate page on the site.
3. Mix it up.
You’ll probably run special offers, such as sales or free shipping. Use these offers strategically and sparingly. Special offers represent the perfect time to depart from your regular template and employ a “postcard” style format.
Of course, your subject line is your first line of defense, but your e-mail can use a different approach.
Here are some examples.
This Coldwater Creek e-mail (below) is a typical example of promotional e-mail. The offer dominates the e-mail; it includes branding and links to Coldwater’s most important shopping categories, so shoppers immediately can navigate to their area of interest.
This e-mail is all one image, but Coldwater didn’t use ALT tags. So, if there’s a display problem due to image blocking, recipients only will see the dreaded red X and an empty e-mail.
* Keep Images Visible
In the fine print in red below the body of the e-mail, Coldwater Creek includes a coupon code recipients can use during checkout on the site. Brooks Brothers has tested various iterations of sale e-mails.
Based on the e-mails I receive from the company (below), it appears to have settled on an HTML-lite version that includes its header with links to major departments. With image blocking, the e-mail’s content clearly is visible.
4. Experiment with animation.
Many marketers try this technique. One small but defined area of the e-mail contains animation, which is an excellent way to capture attention and engage readers. Usability studies have shown that the eye naturally is attracted to movement.
In the Coldwater Creek example, it might animate the word “everything” below “50% off” and intersperse it with “until Thursday.”
Staples was promoting calendars and planners and pictured a month-at-a-glance appointment book in its e-mail. The pages of the planner were animated so that several months cycled through. It was subtle but eye-catching.
Lake Champlain Chocolates has tested animation on one of several products featured in its e-mails. A promotion for its hot chocolate mix, for example, might show the drink being poured into a cup. Marketing Sherpa reported that Lake Champlain’s sales increased 49 percent from this. It also tested a static image vs. the animated image and saw clickthroughs increase by more than 200 percent with animation.
I’ve only scratched the surface on ways to increase the effectiveness of your e-mail campaigns. E-mail service provider Silver-pop offers a whitepaper titled “Email Creative That Works.” In it, Silverpop collected and analyzed more than 600 e-mails from more than 400 companies, and reports on aggregate results for a variety of different creative approaches.
The free report is available on Silverpop’s Web site under Best Practices/Industry Studies (www.silverpop.com/practices/ studies/email_creative/index.html).
It’s worth your time to register for it, since you’ll come away with additional, actionable ideas you can include in your own programs.
Regina Brady is president of Reggie Brady Marketing Solutions, a direct and e-mail marketing consultancy in Norwalk, Conn. You can reach her at (203) 838-8138 or firstname.lastname@example.org.