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4 Key Elements in Planning and Creating Engaging E-Mail Marketing Content

Ian Blair

E-mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience and build awareness of what your brand offers. To achieve this you need to have a good idea of what they want and how you’re going to provide it. For this reason, a well thought-out e-mail marketing strategy is a must. Sending out an e-mail for every new blog post or offer is one thing, but having a clear strategy with goals and targets in mind, is the ultimate way to maximise your e-mail marketing success.

So where do you start? What should you focus on? Here are a few tips on e-mail marketing planning to get you moving on the path towards success for your business.

Strategic Priorities

The first thing you need to do is define what you’re planning to use your e-mail marketing for. What does your audience want from you and what do they expect? The best way to look at this is to consider things from your customers’ perspective. What would make you more likely to open an e-mail?

There are various ways to ascertain what information your audience wants. One way is to note down the most commonly asked questions your business receives and use each with structured content  around addressing each one in your content calendar. This way each of your e-mails answers a specific question. Another method is to utilize social media to find commonly asked questions in your industry or niche. Using Twitter’s advanced search page you can tick the box for questions when searching. This will return all the tweets which contain questions related to your terms.

However you go about it, working out what you plan to use your e-mail marketing outreach for is a crucial first step and will often define your content calendar and strategy. Alerting subscribers to sales and new content is one thing, but building an engaging e-mail marketing plan calls for more structure than blast sends alone.

Message Relevance

So, you know what you want to say, now you need to focus on how you’re going to say it. Start by determining the language and then the delivery of your message. Remember, there’s no definitive guidelines on the best language style to use for your business – that’s largely dependent on your specific target audience but there is data on subject lines and ways in which to maximise e-mail open rates through line length.

In a study by Adestra, tracking more than 900 million e-mails, researchers found that subject lines with more than 70 characters provided the highest levels of engagement regarding click-throughs. Subject lines with fewer than 50 characters still had a positive effect on open rates and mid-length subject lines (50-60 characters) should be avoided as they add no improvement to open rates.

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One other element to consider in message relevance is the value of personalisation. I don’t just mean auto-inserting a recipients’ name into the opening of the e-mail – getting a message that says ‘Hey [insert name]’. That’s neither personal nor engaging. Instead, consider personalisation as how you frame the content around the interests of that individual user. Amazon does this well with their ‘Recommended for you…’ suggestions; personalisation without trying to be your best friend, but by utilising your history and data to focus the content more directly to you. Such an approach is significantly boosted by audience segmentation, which is a big part of the next element; building engagement.

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Building Engagement

The key aim of any e-mail marketing plan is to build engagement, to get subscribers in for the long haul by delivering content that remains continually relevant to them. In this sense, it’s important to understand, segment and categorise your audience to ensure you’re delivering the most relevant messaging to each group. For example, a prospective car buyer is going to be far more interested in what you have on sale this week than an established customer, who’s more likely to respond to special deals on servicing and future trade-ins. Segmentation is a powerful element of e-mail list building and can significantly boost open rates by delivering more relevant and focussed messages.

You can create groupings within your e-mail lists based on a number of different data points – location, gender, past purchases, etc. The goal is to provide each group with deals and updates most likely to resonate with them – the better you can do this, the more likely you’ll maximise your e-mail marketing success. Ensure you use segmentation and update the data regularly in order to keep the right recipients in the right categories.

Content Balance

The thing about engaging content is it can’t be all ‘sell, sell, sell’. Of course, as a business your goal is to sell as much as you can, but constantly pitching is not a foundation on which relationships are built. That’s what your e-mail marketing program is. It’s a relationship between you and your customers. When thinking of it in those terms, you can see the need to balance your information and ensure you’re offering value, not just through your great deals, but also through the content you’re providing in your e-mail send.

Hubspot suggests keeping newsletter content 90% educational and 10% promotional. Yes, that relates specifically to newsletters and not e-mail marketing as a whole, but it’s a good yardstick for what’s likely to keep readers engaged in regular brand communication. The thinking on this is that by only sending out your deals and looking for the next sale, your e-mails become too pushy and people will eventually scan over them as a result. By trying to provide insight and fresh angles, you’re working to build more than just a sales relationship, but a real bond with your target audience.

Another popular example approach along the same lines is the ‘2:1:1 Rule’, or the ‘4:1:1 Rule’, depending on who tells you. The rule is that for every one hard promotional message you send, you should also include one soft promotion and two/four educational or entertaining messages. It’s similar in approach to the 90/10 approach, though obviously balanced more generously to better fit with regular e-mail sends as opposed to newsletters. The same principle still applies – you can’t just flood people with sales messages, you need to balance them out with engaging content, in order to avoid being tuned-out.

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However you approach content balance, it’s important to consider what value your e-mail content provides to your subscribers – what do you offer that will ensure they open your emails and keep you front of mind in all related purchase decisions? E-mail marketing aims to maintain a combination of sales, loyalty and awareness. Focussing on any one in isolation, won’t deliver the best results.

Ian Blair

BuildFire Co-Founder. I'm a digital marketer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. I'm here to help businesses go mobile and build apps more efficiently than before.

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