Before you can communicate your message to your subscribers, you first need to think about your offer in the broadest sense. Put yourself in your subscribers' shoes. What are their questions, concerns and needs within your market, and how can you answer them?
To find out, you can start by creating a survey to establish what your customers want to gain from your interaction. What topics interest them most? Which types of deals do they prefer? Review conversations taking place throughout social media in which consumers are talking about you or your competitors. Use the language your audience uses when you create the subject line and body of the email.
At the beginning of your email campaign, send out emails with two different offers to two different groups within your list of subscribers. Keep track of the results to see which offer performed better—did people prefer buy one, get one free, or did they act on a 50% off coupon? This basic testing allows you to adjust your future emails based on what works and what doesn't. As you establish and fine tune your offer, keep these considerations in mind:
• Determine the type of content you want to send. It may sound obvious, but many organizations limit themselves in terms of what kind of content they push out. You might use email marketing to send out exclusive deals, product announcements and reminders, but have you considered distributing annual surveys? What about educational content?
• Establish sending frequency. Some people, for example, might enjoy a daily newsletter, but others are only interested in seasonal specials or monthly coupons. Instead of trying to find a happy-medium for your entire list, give your subscribers the option to choose how often they want to receive your emails. Additionally, pay attention to patterns in subscriber behavior when they interact with your emails: Do they only open your email once a month? More often? Less? Is it during a particular time of the month? This type of information will help you determine the correct frequency based on the preferences of your subscriber base.
• Include a clear and compelling subject line with one main idea. For instance, you might want to offer a free trial or discount percentage on an item directly in your subject line. Providing the main point of the email up front will help draw your subscribers in and keep them interested. Including more than one main idea in the subject will only confuse the reader.
• Make sure your call to action is clear. Focus on exactly what it is you want the customer to do and relay that message clearly and concisely. There must be an obvious way for customers to respond to your call-to-action, so provide a direct link or a sign-up form within your email.
• Make the links accessible. First and foremost, do not hide your opt-out link. Clearly provide subscribers with the option to change their preferences in addition to the ability to control how often they receive your emails. Somewhere down the line they might want to choose a different product—you want to allow them to have that freedom.
Before you hit "send," check with your email service provider about running the content through a spam-checker tool. It will look comprehensively at the text and let you know if there is a problem with it. You can even access a free one at SpamAssassin.
John Murphy is president of ReachMail.