27 Jun 4 Best Practices for Writing Emails that Get Opened & Read
A simple roadmap for writing emails that are eagerly anticipated
#SFANLiveChat has become a unique knowledge sharing platform for business owners and professionals with over 36,000 impressions created from 6 chats this year! For June edition, we explored how people leveraging emails to deliver their messages can write emails that actually get opened and read. Our guests were Ben Anim-Antwi, Communications Director of Mefiri Ghana/Future of Ghana, and Roy Morrison, Blogger at Rise Africa Rise.
This chat comes ahead of the 5th edition of Future Executives Business Breakfast Meeting, organized on Digital Marketing Strategies for Explosive Growth. (You should take a peek at the recap).
The following are our key takeaways from the meeting:
On Avoiding Spam Filter: Don’t over commercialize your email.
Seriously, what’s the point of writing emails if they can’t be delivered?
According to Fast Company, of nearly 200 billion emails sent worldwide, 84% are considered spam. “The key thing to remember is that a spam filter is trying to remove commercial advertisements and promotions,” Ben explains. “Hence, avoid Spam Trigger Words and Phishing scam phrases. However, there is no complete list of spam trigger words; therefore, words that are common in ad emails should be avoided. If you are sending emails for commercial purposes, e.g., newsletters, etc., then you need to be as transparent as possible.”
Depending on the email service provider you’re using, Roy says, ensure that your new subscriber whitelists you. Send the instructions as part of our welcome email.
By whitelisting your address, a subscriber is saying “I’ve determined that your content is valuable enough for me to make sure I receive it in my inbox.”- Kelly Lorenz
2. On Email Subjects Lines That Get More Opens: Be clear & concise
Your subject line often determines whether your email gets opened or not. Good subject lines are often personal or descriptive and give the recipient a reason to check out your content. “Write a subject line that either state a benefit for the recipient or invokes the curiosity of some sort, and so they have reason to open your emails. Play with words and test different subject lines.” Roy says.“It can help address your target audience in the subject line directly, e.g., African Entrepreneurs or Marketers. Knowing your audience is the key — mine your data and see what subject lines work the best for you and reuse them.”
Says Ben: Funny subject lines can really stick out among other emails. However, you will need to be careful here and display tact as humor is subjective. So know your audience!
Above all, always remember we’re in the mobile age. Many people check their emails on mobile phones so pay attention to the number of characters as a long subject line will always be truncated.
3. On Creating Content People Actually Want to Read: Provide value, inspiration, answers, new insights
Most inboxes are filled to the brim with boring emails — that’s why many people don’t even bother reading past the subject line.
To write email content people really love, Roy explains, “start by highlighting key points in headers or drawing special attention to them. Also, make the email format easy to read. Many people only scan emails; few read an entire email. Email format and structure is essential, and it goes back to knowing your audience. This means knowing what they care about; if your audience is marketers, then sending an email about the benefits of meditation is unlikely to engage them. Again mine your data to see what kind of content your readers find interesting and try to reproduce it in future emails.”
Do not be vague about the message you are trying to convey; Ben highlights: “Your recipient wants to know why you’re talking to them, so tell them!”
The key is to put your audience first…think about how they’d feel when reading your email. Instead of writing as though your audience is a mass of faceless people, consider writing in a respectful, conversational tone. After all, your goal is to connect with your subscribers.
4. On Converting Your Readers Into Buyers: Focus on creating value
As a marketer, you’re not writing emails just for the fun of it, are you?
Have an end goal in mind and make every piece of content draw your reader closer to it, Ben says.
However, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to take action; don’t put unnecessary barriers in the way. Test your links before hitting the send button. Nothing hurts more than a broken or wrong link.
“Marketing automation tools like getresponse lets you send special emails depending on the behavior of the subscriber,” Roy intimates. “If somebody abandons your checkout page, you can send follow up emails as reminders or nudge them to complete the transaction. Marketing automation done right can be very powerful. Keep providing value even if your readers do not buy immediately — sometimes, it takes the time to convince buyers.”
Also, a digital marketing system can help you increase your number of customers, increase the average transaction value per customer, and increase the number of transactions per customer.
Some of the most annoying things people do in an email you must avoid.
Ben says the first is sending long emails. Emails are best used for communicating action items, facts, or hellos. So keep it as short as possible.
Another is using unprofessional email addresses. Your email address reflects you/creates an impression about you. Endeavor to keep it professional.
The third is not having a signature on emails! Create a signature line that includes appropriate contact info so recipients know who you are.
The fourth is carbon copying (CC’ing) email to mass numbers. This is annoying because if a recipient selects “reply all,” everybody gets the reply when it may not be relevant to them. To avoid this, use blind carbon copy(BCC) when sending mass emails.
Also, avoid bedazzled emails. Decorative backgrounds often cause technical challenges when replying, e.g., they freeze and take long to scroll down. The best image is a clean white background.
We understand you need to make sales but don’t just focus on sales and not on the reader, Roy says. “As in any other business discipline, it is important to provide value and solve problems.”
Bonus: We asked Ben and Roy what time and day is best for email marketing
Roy: It depends on a variety of different factors like target audience, season, etc. Most good email marketing software providers have a feature that automatically calculates the best time to send based on your past open and click-through-rate. It is different for everyone and most likely keeps changing. For our newsletter, we constantly test different times to find the best time.
Ben: There’s no perfect time, really. Everybody is different, and you need to consider international time zones if you have that reach. Of course, if you use data captured from previous email marketing, you can work out the best time for you/your company.
Email, if used effectively, is very profitable. The key is to know your audience, create content that adds value to their lives/business, and leverage data (technology) to continually improve. In tech, things change very fast, so work hard to improve your communication skills continually. Yesterday’s realities might not be today’s reality, but every skill can be perfected with careful observation and practice. Get all the help you need to build your company and launch your career here.
We’re interested to know what has worked for you. Leave your thoughts in the comments. To stay in the loop on what’s going on at SFAN, subscribe.
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder & President of SFAN (Stars From All Nations). When he’s not building SFAN and helping entrepreneurs and rising professionals create fulfilling careers, he’s telling African innovation stories or advocating for people-centered policy. Tom-Chris is a former consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana, and the author of the forthcoming book: Breaking the Limits. He is a thought leader on youth development, social entrepreneurship, technological innovation, and the future of work.