How to Create Strong Email Marketing Messages

by Tim Parker

3 min read

Remember when marketing was a high-dollar venture? You purchased advertising space in newspapers or, if you had a bigger budget, on TV or the radio. Times have changed. Now small-business owners can reach tens of thousands of people through social media, blogs, and email at virtually no cost.

However, this “free advertising” comes at a price: With everybody using the same tactics, it’s harder to stand out. That’s especially true with email. A report by the Radicati Group [PDF] estimates that the average worker now receives 78 emails per day, of which only 65 are legitimate. If you’re using email to market your small business to potential customers, you need to make sure your messages get noticed — and don’t end up in recipients’ spam folders.

Here are six tips for creating strong marketing emails:

1. Make your correspondence personal. If you hit the Delete button whenever you receive email from a company instead of an individual, you can bet your customers will, too. Bret Fredrickson, director of social media for, says: “So many times I receive emails from companies with the same tired subject line and a ‘From’ line with the marketing department of some brand name. Change your ‘From’ line to the name of someone in your company. It personalizes the email and makes it seem less robotic. Also test your subject lines using A/B testing.”

2. Avoid the hard sell. Don’t try to close a sale in your first message. Start by building relationships. Your initial email should contain only a few sentences. Address the reader by name. Briefly introduce yourself. Include a soft call to action, such as calling you for more information, joining a list, or signing up for a free event.

3. Give people something for free. Offering something of value at no cost is a great way to break the ice. Sponsor a free event and use the first email to invite people. Alternatively, if you have more of a global reach, a free webinar works as well. Or provide valuable information. Fredrickson says, “Take your brand to the next level by pushing content that people look forward to receiving. If you can teach, inform, or inspire in an email, you won’t need to pitch your product.” Even the smallest positive gift is enough to put people in a good mood. What can you offer for free that might have the same effect?

4. Optimize your messages for mobile devices. According to Fredrickson, “42 percent of emails are now opened with mobile devices. If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, chances are you’re missing a good chunk of opportunity. [Think] links, links, links. Include plenty of links that clearly indicate where you want your readers to go to learn more about you.” Also: Don’t rely on an image to tell the story. Images are sometimes blocked by browsers, take a long time to load, and are hard to read on mobile devices.

5. Avoid the appearance of spam. Do you recall the last annoying spam email that got through your junk filter? If your marketing email looks anything like it, recipients will delete it instantly — if they even get the chance. Don’t use sales language that sounds like the transcript of an infomercial or could trigger a spam filter.

6. Target specific customers. If your company operates in more than one market segment, do not send general emails. Target each demographic with customized messages. “Develop campaigns that speak to different groups of people.” Fredrickson advises. “Selling tornado insurance to folks in California doesn’t make much sense, but selling earthquake insurance does. Put yourself in the shoes of your reader and ask, ‘What would make me open, read, and click this email?’ Chances are, if it’s relevant you’ll have success.”

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