How to write email that customers will actually read

155897098BIZMOLOGY — Last week I shared a list of email marketing service providers. While their templates can help put your emails in a cool-looking format and track who clicks on what and for how long, it’s up to you and your marketing team to come up with the correct message.

Whether you own your business or work on a corporate marketing team, the message is essentially the same – inspire your customers to open and read the email, click on a link, stay aware of your business, and hopefully make a future purchase.

How do you inspire your customers to read the email? First of all, it’s important that they know who you are. Did you build the email list organically, with opportunities for customers to subscribe, or did you buy a list for a targeted promotion? Maybe a little of both?

Chances are your customer base signed up because you have something they might want – a product or service. If they didn’t sign up, and this is your first contact, well, opportunity abounds. Here are some helpful writing hints:

Keep it simple. Your initial contact is a teaser, a welcome mat for future visits, and you’re trying to attract prospects to your business. Avoid composing a long text block – many people just scan email, and if they’re not financially committed to your business, they don’t want to read a long piece. Use bullet points and bold key phrases. Be sure to direct them to your website. Maybe that four-minute welcome video is a bit too much to ask for right now. Besides, it might take too long to download on a mobile device and you’ve already lost them.

Tell them who you are in plain English. I suggest staying away from corporate-speak. Nothing turns off readers more than a run-on sentence about how your company is “a leading provider of solutions and services.” As a Hoover’s editor, you have no idea how many “About Us” web pages I’ve read that really don’t tell you what the company does. While it’s good to present communications in a professional manner, you don’t have to use a string of 10-dollar words to tell them who you are. Write in a conversational tone and keep an upbeat voice. After all, you want to inspire recipients to do business with you!

Make an offer, but don’t look desperate. Although I love a good deal, you don’t need to bombard recipients with offers of FREE this or that. (Our case study on email-marketing best practices states that using the word free, or using all capital letters, dollar signs, or exclamation points will likely get your message blocked by SPAM filters.) You should, however, offer your recipients something if they register and share their contact information, perhaps a trial offer or other promotion or a white paper or exclusive content.

Tracey Panek

Tracey Panek retired from journalism at the ripe old age of 29 to work for Hoover's, where she enjoys writing about international and publicly traded companies.

Read more articles by Tracey Panek.

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