Advice on successful email campaigns from Emma’s Creative Director
Direct email campaigns remain a vital part of marketing communications, even in the rapidly shifting landscape of social media and mobile technology. It might not have the best reputation, but everyone uses it, and it needs to be used well to draw audience in rather than push them away. Emma is an email marketing firm that works with many non-profits (you may notice they provide the ADC’s email system) and companies of all sizes. The Nashville-based company takes a creative approach, offering plenty of advice and resources to their users. Because they’re so user-friendly and have worked with the ADC to make the most of our campaigns, we asked Chris Korbey, Emma’s Creative Director, to share some of his insights into the best (and worst) strategies for successful email marketing. Chris has been on both sides of the business; before joining Emma, he founded Dallas-based design consultancy, Meat+Bones where he led all projects for clients like Stetson, Southwest Airlines, GOOD Magazine, Runner’s World and Scion. Prior to M+B, Chris worked with design studios in Boston, New York and San Francisco on accounts including T-Mobile, PayPal, Mohawk Paper, AIGA and the Vanity Fair Corporation.
1. Email marketing is a vital part of our industry, but there are right ways and wrong ways to use it. What are some of the key things to avoid if you want people to open your email?
Before becoming the creative director of Emma, I worked with design studios in Boston, New York and San Francisco before founding a studio called Meat+Bones. Like a surprising number of Emma employees, I was an avid Emma user before joining the company – both for myself and the agencies I worked with. Here are some thoughts from my experiences on both side of the inbox.
A few thoughts on using email well:
- Communicate when you have something relevant to say. It’s better to send less frequently than to annoy people with irrelevant content.
- Target and segment your audiences/messages. At M+B, we sent our top 20 prospects individually-tailored emails every month. Those emails landed us work with some of our favorite clients – Scion, Runner’s World and GOOD Magazine.
- Grow your social followings and post your email campaigns to your networks. It’s free, immediate and likely to get new eyes on your messages monthly.
- Give people the opportunity to opt out and respect their wishes. It’s the law and the right thing to do.
A few things to avoid:
- Don’t be impulsive. Test your email before sending – it costs nothing to test a few alternate subject lines and lead images before pressing send on a large-scale emailing. Keep track of what works and increase the open/click rate with each campaign
- Don’t send one-offs. Think of emails as components of a larger campaign. Intersperse content-rich monthly newsletters with simple, image-driven announcements or sales. The best campaigns deliver the right messages at the right time to the right people. You can get even more personal with a minimally-branded email design for candid letters to your audiences.
- Don’t restrict yourself to typical email campaigns. At M+B we tested all print/motion campaign creative with short-run, targeted emails. It’s much less expensive to dial in your message by email that through ad buys and printed mailings.
2. What are the most important elements in a successful email campaign? Are there specific creative solutions that will get the kind of open rates everyone wants when they send something to their audience?
- Communicate your desired action – opening and clicking is fine, let people know the real reason your sending – whether it’s to open an account, sell a product or invite people to an opening.
- Include your brand in the subject line. Try it, it works.
- For content-heavy emails, let people get to the relevant content with a table of contents/navigation and jumplinks.
- Great photography is a must. Assume your customers are one of the 50 million instagram users. They’re used to dialing in images of their kids, they’ll expect no less from your email.
- Kill your darlings! This is Les Segal’s mantra (my former boss, founder of Addison New York and author of some seminar information design books in the 70’s). Be disciplined with your design. You want your emails to reflect your brand without becoming a dumping ground for unnecessary design elements.
3. The online landscape continues to change with expanding social media outlets, the exploding popularity of handheld devices, etc.. How will direct email marketing continue to stay relevant, as a way to connect with
- Optimize your email design for mobile devices and tablets. You’d be surprised how many of your competitor’s emails break on mobile devices.
- Rich media within email is getting there. Outside of Mac Mail, email clients are spotty with video playback, animated gifs and HTML tricks. Stay current with what’s possible and use rich media where appropriately.
- The future of marketing and advertising is limitless segmentation and targeting. Remember that Email is the most segmental campaign tactic on the planet – with no extra charge! Tailor your content to individual groups and watch your response rate soar. Pardon the cliché, but the movie Minority Report seems much more futuristic in 2002 than in 2012.
My parting message – have fun! Take the time to dial in your email campaigns. Need help? Call Emma. I’ve been with Emma for four months now and start each day listening to the support team answer any and all questions about email. Why go it alone when there are dozens of Emma evangelists just dying to chat you up about successful subject lines and driving response data. Catch them after the annual talent night and you might get a few bonus stories as well!