In a recent white paper, I wrote extensively on optimizing email content. Read on below for an excerpt, beginning with a “Top 10″ list of tips to get your email program moving.
KEVIN’S TOP 10 FOR EMAIL CONTENT:
1) Integrate email into your overall content strategy. Use email as a testing ground for types of content and tone. A good email program will be the single largest driver to your content.
2) Put a learning program in place, so ideas are tested, learnings are captured, each email gets better and the learnings are shared with the larger content program.
3) Define a voice for your email. Is it the witty neighbor, the helpful expert, the loquacious socialite?
4) Are the subject lines intriguing and descriptive? They should compel the recipient to want to see more.
5) Determine the focus of each send. Have a theme and a clear hierarchy. Make it clear which CTA is the most important.
6) Use seasonal themes, pop culture references, topical issues to help be relevant to the audience.
7) Mix your content types. Include videos, lists, best-ofs, etc. Headlines that include a number often perform 10-20% better than other content.
8) Develop content that spans issues and motivates the reader to open the mail issue after issue. Some popular features include poll results, top articles from the previous month and unique stats.
9) Build your sharing tools around content, not the email itself. No one wants to share a marketing email; they want to share a story.
10) Incorporate some basic marketing automation and list segmentation. Develop a strategy to reengage non-openers, integrate content into transactional emails, and optimize call-to-actions based on segments.
VOICE AND STYLE
Having a consistent and unique voice is critical to building a long-term relationship. By defining the attributes of the voice, you help set the tone for the entire newsletter.
RETOUCH & ACTIVATE
You’ve gone to the trouble to collect email addresses, so it doesn’t hurt to put some effort into trying to retain those people who might not be opening your email anymore. Put together a program to track opens by individual and consider applying some of the below tactics:
- Periodically resend your best newsletters to people who didn’t open them the first time. Be sure to wait at least a week before resending, and change the subject line. You don’t want to do this for every newsletter, just the ones you think will help keep your audience engaged.
- Consider special offers or incentives to reengage consistent non-openers.
- Create a list of people who haven’t opened the last three issues, and see if there are any patterns in behavior from this group over the last 12 months.
Only two things matter when people receive your email: the recipients’ relationship with your brand and your subject line. If you test nothing else, test your subject lines. If they don’t open your email, they’ll never see the great content.
Subject line rules:
- Be brief: 30-35 characters
- Be descriptive
- Promote the content, not the newsletter
- Be intriguing. Everyone loves a little mystery.
- Amplify your voice. Take the voice you’ve established for the newsletter and use the subject line as a caricature of that voice.
Each issue should have a theme that is relevant to the audience. The theme can be based on the subject matter, a culturally relevant issue or even a time of year. Use an editorial calendar to manage the themes and the content. Map these themes to other touch points like social media.
CHOOSING THE CONTENT
Come up with a list of key attributes for content and a filter to determine what goes into the newsletter and what doesn’t. About the content, ask yourself:
- Is it relevant?
- Does it drive usage, sales, adoption, etc.?
- Does it provide traffic to a priority campaign?
- Is it likely to be shared?
- Can we learn from it?
Establish a content mix that contains the ideal ration of CTAs and content types. As part of the learning program, test and establish standards for the mix. What’s your content attempting to accomplish: engagement, relevance, performance? Identify content areas and track first four sends to determine highest engagement, as well as look to incorporate cross-program and cross-promotional content with other marketing programs
Most content consists of text and an image in a traditional article format. However, this is often not the best performing type of content. Supplement articles with video and images with video icons on them. These types of posts are clicked 40% more than all other content on average. Lists, slideshows, and reoccurring features also perform quite well.