According to technology market research firm Radicati, around 124.5 billion business emails were sent globally each day in 2018. People’s inboxes are already crowded and becoming more so. Yet electronic direct mail (eDM) remains a convenient and cost-effective way to promote services or products, invite clients to events, introduce new team members or announce promotions.

Convincing people to take notice of an eDM is getting increasingly tricky. First, an eDM must cut through the email clutter. But it needs to work harder than that. An effective eDM entices people to open the email, read the content and, importantly, do something – for example, visit a website or register to attend an event.

To succeed, your eDM needs an enticing subject line, strong, personalised copy that propels the reader to the end, and a clear, simple call to action. Most importantly, it’s crucial to create the eDM your customers want to receive, not the eDM you want to send.

Don’t speak unless you have something important to say

While the primary purpose of most marketing campaigns is to increase sales or the uptake of a service, it’s unlikely your customers share this desire. Think about what your customers do care about, and craft your message around this. If you’re sending the email only to push a marketing message, you should reconsider your content or whether to send the eDM at all. To be relevant, your eDM should be personalised, segmented and well-timed.

Open Sesame: the subject line’s super powers

Your eDM could be the most impressive piece you’ve ever written, but it will be wasted if your customers don’t read it. A good subject line creates excitement or interest in your eDM, succinctly conveys its purpose and reflects your brand’s personality.

A subject line should:

  • promise the reader they will gain something by reading the email
  • contain three to seven words (around 50 characters)
  • use attention-grabbing key words
  • avoid spam triggers, such as ‘win’, ‘free’, ‘discount’, ‘winner’ and ‘amazing’.
Some sure-fire ways to grab attention:
  • describe a benefit recipients will get
  • offer to solve a problem
  • arouse curiosity with an interesting fact or question
  • appeal to people’s desire for information by hinting at the email’s content
  • play on popular culture or a current event.
Consider the sender

If your eDM arrives in someone’s inbox from a sender called mail@admin.16ff_s7821.com, there’s a good chance it will go straight to spam. Ensure the ‘from’ name is your business name, as this is more transparent and trustworthy. It’s also important that each eDM you send has the same sender details, to build familiarity and trust.

Create personalised, catchy content
Copy for eDMs is different from other corporate writing. It should be more like online copy: brief, concise and easy to scan. To write copy that invites the reader in, and captivates their attention from start to finish:

1. Don’t say too much. Set a single objective for each eDM: present one message and related call to action in a strong, clear and direct manner, to avoid confusing or distracting your readers. For example, if you’re introducing a new service, you could explain how it will help the customer and then guide them to your website to find out more. You probably wouldn’t include your company history or information on other services.

2. Get personal. Make it clear why the eDM is of value to your customers. For example, focus on how your service will help the client save time or money, rather than on its specifications. And the more personalised the better: ‘Dear Gertrude’ is better than ‘Dear customer’.

3. Adopt the right style. Write short, punchy copy, with subheads and bullet points. Keep paragraphs short and the total length to no more than 300 words. You want to sound like a trusted friend rather than a pushy salesperson, so aim for a slightly educational, conversational tone. However, avoid abbreviations, slang and hyperbole: you don’t want to sound like a vendor of cheap pharmaceuticals.

4. Outsmart the smartphone. If someone views your eDM on a smartphone, the top line will often be the first or only copy they see. For this reason, put your most important message or call to action first. This is why some marketers suggest avoiding giving prominence to the line ‘If you are having trouble reading this email, click here’.

Make the call to action
Along with the subject line, the call to action is the most important functional element of your eDM. Make it clear what you want readers to do. If you are ambiguous, they won’t take time to guess.

To create a call to action your customers can’t ignore:

1. Remove reasons for hesitation. If it’s an event invitation, provide the necessary information: when and where, details about parking and food (if relevant), the agenda, and how to register. Make it clear how the event will benefit invitees to prevent them from wondering ‘Is it really for me?’ If you want readers to visit a website or call a phone number, reassure them that doing this will be quick and easy.

2. Create a sense of urgency. This will spur the reader to take action quickly. You could achieve this by suggesting that if readers don’t take action they might:

  • miss out on something important
  • not have another chance to attend this seminar/use this service/enjoy this discount
  • lose competitiveness, as other businesses are already doing it.

3. Get the logistics right. Keep the call to action above the fold, as readers might miss it if they have to scroll down. Use strong, active language, for example: ‘We can help your business halve your power costs’. Finally, don’t use ‘click here’ as your hyperlink. Links such as ‘Learn more’, ‘Find out more’ or ‘Visit our website’ are far more compelling.

An eDM can be a powerful, engaging way to reach people. But for your customers, it can be just another email to delete. To avoid the latter, write copy that is clear, concise and engaging – and most importantly, that addresses your customers’ needs.

Need help writing your next eDM? Contact us here.

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How to write a great email subject line

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