How to create emails your clients actually want to read
Appealing marketing emails are a powerful tool for generating new leads and strengthening existing relationships. Use this this handy top-to-bottom email guide to learn some industry tricks that can supercharge the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.
(IMPORTANT: Before you send anything, review the FTC’s CAN-SPAM guidelines to be sure you’re in compliance with its guidelines for email marketing.)
The subject line
First impressions matter. The subject line is the first thing recipients will see, so take your time and give it some thought.
Keep it short
Include enough content to entice readers to open the email, but don’t try to jam your entire message into the subject line.
Use your email service’s wildcard functionality to give your emails more of a personal touch. The difference between a subject line of “Here’s our latest blog post” and “Hey, Amy! Here’s our latest blog post” may seem insignificant, but that small change can boost your open rate by up 20 percent.
Nothing piques a reader’s interest quite like asking a question. A question like “Having trouble with your Q3 finances?” addresses a possible pain point for recipients, while also positioning your services as a solution for that pain.
A/B test subject lines
Come up with two viable subject lines and see which one performs better. The results can give you valuable insight about what drives the behavior of customers and potential clients.
Use preview text
Preview text is the light gray copy that follows the subject line, and lots of companies forget about it. Use it to give a further explanation of the contents of your email. If you don’t, your mail service will fill it with whatever it wants — and it rarely looks good.
Use spam words
Certain words or strings like “Ad,” “Sale” or “$$$” are very likely to get flagged as spam by your recipient’s mail client. Check out this article for a comprehensive list of spam words to avoid.
Write in all caps
THIS IS NOT A VERY EFFECTIVE WAY TO WRITE A SUBJECT LINE. Aside from it reading like you’re shouting, a line written in all-caps type is significantly more likely to be flagged as spam.
Mix your punctuation
Imagine getting an email with the following subject line: “Hey! Let’s chat; soon. Got questions? (Reach out, I’ll answer [quickly])” Would you click on that email?
Your email’s header contains vital information about your business and is the first thing readers see when they open the email.
Make it branded
At a minimum, include your company’s logo and a splash of color that matches your firm’s brand.
Add a headshot
If you’re a self-employed accounting pro or part of a small operation, adding a photo of yourself can give your emails a personal touch that big companies just can’t match.
Overdo the header
If you make the header too tall (i.e., force readers to scroll to see the content) or too busy, you can end up turning a lot of frustrated customers away.
The body content
This is the primary message of your email.
Keep it short
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about length for emails, because a lot of factors determine the ideal length for any given email. In general, the “sweet spot” for email length is somewhere between 50 and 125 words.
No one likes reading plain-text emails. Whether you include a chart, a picture of yourself or even a stock photo, adding anything to break up monotony of text can make a huge impact.
Pick a web-safe font
Not all fonts load on all browsers and mail clients. Stick to universal fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, Verdana and Times New Roman.
Remember alt text
Alt text are the few words your browser shows if the image doesn’t load correctly, and it’s also used by accessibility services. Many companies ignore or forget about alt text for their images, which is why you often see placeholder information. So instead, take a moment to write a brief description for each image that communicates what the image is.
Don’t copy-paste your web content into an email. The point of an email is to drive readers toward your website, and they have no reason to do that if they’ve learned everything in the email. Give them enough reason in the email to click, and leave a lot of the heavy lifting to your website.
Ignore design best practices
You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to know that yellow text on a white background is a bad idea. Take a look at emails you like for inspiration and don’t deviate too far from what works. Check out this template for ideas and inspiration.
Use atypical fonts
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but there are some fonts that make your emails really hard to read. So as much as you may love fonts like Papyrus, Curlz or Comic Sans, it’s best that you leave them out of your emails.
The call to action
The call to action (CTA) is what you want your readers to do in response to your email. It can be a button or a text link, but it should drive traffic toward some ultimate destination.
Drive primary action with buttons
Hyperlinks are useful tools for secondary links, but use a button element to drive readers toward your email’s main call to action. If the best possible outcome from the email is that a reader signs up for your newsletter, assign only that link to the button and let everything else remain a text link.
Write specific button labels
Readers won’t click a button if they aren’t sure what will happen if they do. The button’s label should start with an active verb and let people know where the link will lead.
Make it obvious
Whether you use a button, a text link or an image link, readers shouldn’t have to search to find your CTA. Use design tricks like contrasting colors, bigger point sizes and bold/italic emphasis to make it clear to readers what you want them to do.
Use more than one CTA button
Too many buttons can be incredibly overwhelming to readers. You’ll have more opportunities to send links in emails, so don’t try to jam every link you can think of into one message.
Choose boring or Redundant labels
For buttons, a “Click Here” label doesn’t communicate any new information. Pick a label that tells readers what to expect after they click. And for in-text links, readability should always come first. Your linked text and the address attached to it shouldn’t be the same.
The footer is where a recipient can see who sent the email, learn where you’re located and unsubscribe if they wish.
Include a footer
It may seem like a small detail, but forgetting a footer could get you fined up to $16,000 per email. So be sure to include all of the following information in your email’s footer:
- Your company name
- Your business address or P.O. box
- Copyright information
- A link to update preferences
- A link to unsubscribe
Tell them why you’re emailing
Having a brief explanation at the bottom for why a reader received the email can dramatically reduce the likelihood of your email getting reported as spam. It can be as simple as “You received this email because you signed up for our newsletter.”
Link to your business
Aside from a link to your website in the footer, also consider including other relevant links for your business (your LinkedIn profile, your business Facebook page, your Find-a-ProAdvisor Directory profile, etc.).
Forget a footer
It’s important enough to mention twice. Don’t forget the footer.
The timing and execution of your email can be just as important as what you put in it. To maximize your opportunity, give those details the time and attention they deserve.
Test send times
There is no definitively best day or time to send an email, so you’ll need to play around with days and times to find what works best for your business. Studies have shown better results for midweek (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) emails sent at 6:00 AM, 10:00 AM. or 2:00 PM, so start there.
Schedule the send
Take advantage of your email client’s built-in email scheduling functionality. Being able to plan the campaign ahead of time helps take a lot of the stress and uncertainty out of sending the email.
Select a designated emailer
Having one person manage emails and replies will help you stay organized, maintain voice consistency and increase the amount of insight of potential customers you’re able to gather from your email efforts.
Flood readers with messages
Be respectful of your readers’ inboxes. Plan out a send calendar that follows a predefined cadence. Studies have shown that the ideal cadence varies by the kind of email you’re sending:
- Promotional: send weekly (4–8 days apart)
- Educational: send every other week (12–18 days apart)
- Newsletters: send monthly (27–32 days apart)