eMail: 7 Steps to Building Your Business

Screen capture of an email in Outlook before and after allowing images to be displayed.
All-graphics emails can be visually stunning, but if Outlook recipients don’t right-click to download images they may never get the message. Hedge your bets by including text of key points along with images.

Social media is coming on strong, but email still remains the best way to “reach out and touch” current and prospective customers and pull them back to your website. Here are seven steps and tips.

  1. Build the list. Collect and store in a spreadsheet every email you can collect — from tradeshow card drops to leads your sales force generates to inbound technical inquiries to trade association membership lists. Even then your list may be a little on the short side, however, so you might consider one-time use of a publication list. Pick your shots carefully, though, and plan ahead. At an average of $300-$400 per thousand names you probably won’t be renting a list every week. Therefore:
  2. Be ready for email collection. This simply means having a web form ready that makes it easy and beneficial for recipients to leave their email addresses. Promise to send notices of upcoming discounts; enter all respondents’ names into a sweepstakes; offer a premium like a PDF version of a catalog or exclusive market intel. In short, think of a paid email send as a fishing expedition: Come prepared with as big of a net as possible during that one time you’re out on the water.
  3. Have a call-to-action. List in hand, have a compelling reason for the send. For most recipients a promotion is not in itself reason enough to open unless there’s the novelty of a new company, product or service — and even then a call to action like “read more” is both customer-oriented and action-driven. If you have content that is of informational value but could ultimately help lead to a sale, send that too — action phrases like “discover how” and “learn more” can be irresistible.
  4. Take care with subject lines and spam filters. Crafting email subject lines is a science unto itself: use action words, and keep it short (no more than 45 characters, including spaces) so that the full message isn’t truncated in the inbox. And avoid words like “free” and other commonly terms used in the financial and real estate industries — these really tend to send spam filter bells ringing.
  5. Get as much content as possible “above the fold.” It’s estimated that about 90% of recipients look at email through their preview pane: the top 2-4 inches (or 400-500 vertical pixels) that is “above the fold.” Key content like logos, headlines and the first words of your body copy should be in this area to ensure maximum visibility.
  6. Get to the point quickly. Make sure your first two paragraphs contain the most important information, and know that most recipients actually will read more of the first paragraph than the second. And don’t forget that all-important call to action!
  7. Use both text and images for Outlook recipients. An image-only message can arrive looking like a big white box with (see top graphic) because Outlook 07 and later defaults to suppressing images. Only by electing to “right click to download the pictures” will the recipient see the message (bottom graphic). So add some text to reiterate the nub of your message; this helps to ensure everybody gets the message no matter what email platform they’re on.

Need help with email marketing? Meister Interactive offers custom design and emedia consultation services.