Want to create hard-hitting email campaigns?

It’s easy to create compelling, effective email blasts if you follow these five simple rules (and one special bonus tip). How do you do it? We’ll show you below. 

This post is reprinted from a presentation made by the author at the Mar Vista Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles, in July, 2015.

First, a quick poll: How many of you receive emails from Democratic or Republican political fundraisers? How about emails from organizations like MoveOn, Consumers Union, Americans for Prosperity or another advocacy organization?

Why? These groups all send out millions of email appeals to people just like you and me. What do you think they have in common? They choose an important topic, speak about it personally and with a sense of urgency, and compel you to take an action to do something about it. And why do they do their email the way they do? Because they know it works.

Advocacy Groups send emails that work.Even though most of you aren’t fighting to change a law or get someone elected, you CAN take that same kind of approach to send emails to YOUR clients and prospects, and get them excited enough to take an action, like visiting your web site or calling to make an appointment or buying your product.

Now, here’s the secret that most people don’t know: of all the ways you can market yourself online, such as web sites,  social media posting or search engine optimization, the one that’s the most effective is email. That’s right, email marketing will give you the biggest bang for the buck.

Why is that?

  • Email marketing doesn’t require your readers to act on their own to find you; everyone downloads their email.
  • Email marketing automatically puts you in front of prospects and clients, people that should already know you.
  • Email marketing is up to 40 times more effective than using Facebook or Twitter, because readers open and close them deliberately, instead of just scrolling through all their posts.

Email gives the best bang for your buck.

I’m going to show you how to hit your customers with email campaigns so powerful and compelling that they’ll HAVE to open them. We’ll go over how to build a mailing list, how to create a cool-looking email template, and how to craft a super-strong message for your readers.

So how do I know about email marketing? Well, let me tell you briefly why I decided to work in in this business.

I was taking art classes in high school, and yeah, it was okay, you know, it was better than French. And one semester, we completed a project that was illustrating a science idea, and so (of course), I recreated Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon.” And my art teacher said to me, “Eric, one of these days, your work is gonna be seen by millions of people.” I didn’t know at the time that those millions of people would wind up seeing my work in advertising for Toyota.

University Stereo Guy.

When I moved to California in the 1980s, I got a job at a company called University Stereo, an audio equipment store in Santa Monica. And one day, I had an idea for making a great ad for Teak tape recorders. [Anybody remember tape recorders?] So I called our Teac rep on the phone (‘cause we didn’t have email at the time), and told him about my great idea, and he said, “Sorry, Eric, we don’t buy concepts from individuals, we have an ad agency to do that.” And I figured, okay, I have to go back to school so I could work at an ad agency.

So I went through a two-year college program to learn graphic design, and another two year program for photography, and I learned how to do video production and sound editing and 3D animation (which I never became good at), and I took classes in a bunch of other interesting creative stuff.

After I got out of school, I got design jobs at places like Ogilvy & Mather and J. Walter Thompson and Saatchi & Saatchi — ad agencies! — for clients like Honda and Microsoft and IBM. I specialized in direct marketing campaigns that were copy-driven, incentive-focused and accountable. In the early ‘90s, after I taught myself to write HTML, I was hired to help build the very first car web site on the internet, for Lexus.

Mad Men.

So, was I destined to be doing what I’m doing? Well, maybe. Anyone remember Don Draper, the ad agency character from the TV show Mad Men? That was my dad! My father was an account executive who actually went on 3-hour cocktail lunches; he produced car dealership and fashion ads for Washington newspapers, so he was a creative guy, and, I guess, so am I.

So, with that kind of background, I understand that email campaigns have become the direct marketing of the 21st Century. And here’s how you ought to do it.

What do you need for a good campaign?

Okay, so what do you actually need to produce a powerful and effective email campaign? You need:

  • A qualified list of customers or prospects
  • A visually-exciting email format
  • An eyeball-grabbing subject line
  • And something to say that’s compelling

Here’s the question I get asked the most about mass-emailing: How do I get the email addresses?

First, make sure your web site visitors can subscribe to your mailings! Get your web guy to add a pop-up or signup form on all your web pages. Many savvy marketers offer readers a discount code, a free introductory offer or another online enticement in exchange for volunteering their email addresses.

Second, ask for an email address from any contact that you make through meetings, phone calls, etc. You’re going to talk to these folks anyway, and it only takes a second to get their email address.

Finally, ask for referrals from contacts you already know. As you probably know, a warm lead is a much easier sell than a cold one!

Remember, your contacts have to either ask to get on your mailing list or be bona-fide business contacts for you to legally send them messages. Your email provider can cancel your service if they think you’re spamming people, so don’t just email anyone you can!

Emails can look amazing.

Next, you need to use a beautiful template to gain attention.

Your email service will probably have dozens, if not hundreds, of beautiful pre-designed templates to choose from. Many have even been created for your specific industry. Pick one that appeals to you and that you can insert appropriate photos and text into, or hire a designer to help you create a custom look all your own. Nice-looking designs do get more opens and responses, so you should make that a priority.

You're the expert.

But, I know you’re saying to yourself, how do I come up with a topic?

It may seem strange, but believe it or not, you’re the expert. Whatever it is you do, you know more about your business than almost any of your customers. No one is going to be more excited about your topic than you are. You’ll use that depth of knowledge in your emails.

In every mailing, talk about what you know. If you’re a builder, talk about how to hire the best contractor. If you’re a nutritionist, talk about why it’s healthy to make your favorite smoothie recipe. If you’re providing childrens’ services, you’ll talk about a parent problem and a solution. I usually send emails with five or six ideas on an aspect of marketing, like how to optimize a web site for search engines, or how to write compelling social media posts.

You should begin by asking a question or point out a common problem; write as if you know the reader has just that sort of problem. Then give them your solution. Say that it’s easy to do, but you’re available to help if they need it. Finally, ask for a concrete action: suggest a consultation, offer a reduced price, give them a free e-book on the subject if they act now. If you think about it, a good email campaign should be a lot like my post today!

Don't write a newsletter when you're marketing.

One more thing. Most people like to talk about lots of things in emails. Don’t fall into that trap! You’re shouldn’t be writing a newsletter, you want to be writing an email designed specifically to get someone to buy from you. So choose ONLY ONE topic at a time. Talking about more than one topic is confusing. Think about it; the best advertising only covers one topic, whether it’s how to retire comfortably, which car is best for your lifestyle, or which beer will help you get the pretty girls.

Use intriguing Subject Lines.

Finally, if you don’t grab your readers’ attention while they’re looking at their list of messages, you’ve lost the sale! That’s why you need a clever subject line for your email. The subject is the teaser that gets people to open up your email and actually read the message. It can be funny, it can be suspenseful, but it has to make them WANT to read more. If you have a boring or ordinary subject line, people won’t even open your mail, it’ll just go in the trash. Go online and do some research on how to write a great subject line, or contact me  for more details.

Okay, I’m not supposed to talk about this, but here’s one final trick you really need to do for your email marketing: You need a special, secret page on your web site that you link to in your emails. It’s called a Landing Page, and it’s where you go into even more detail about your email topic and give readers even more calls to action.

Landing pages turbo-charge your mailings.

Landing pages are fantastic because they boost your conversion rates even further than your emails can do alone. So budget time to build a landing page for your web site when you plan your email campaigns. You can read more about landing pages here.

Well, that’s it. If you start thinking about short, compelling messages you can deliver to current and prospective buyers, with an attractive email template and a small investment in time to plan ahead, you can market your business a lot more effectively, and make more money!

I’d love to help you with your next email campaign. Send me an email  so I can get in touch with you, and we can talk about your emailing goals, and how I can help you reach them.

I’d like to give you one last piece of advice: if you, or someone you know, has a web site that’s ten years old, and they think it sucks, they’re right. It does. Please, have them call me. Or somebody. Anybody. Really.

Eric Oxenberg is the principal of Coincident Ideas, LLC, a virtual communications factory that melds the practical needs of business with the freewheeling instincts of Los Angeles’ creative community.

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