E-mail marketing is really popular nowadays and this is the way many freelancers turn ideas or products into money and collaborations. Being able to make your clients read your e-mails is something crucial. Moreover, the e-mail is a way of sharing information, keeping people informed and even interacting, although not at the same level as 15 years ago.

If you have somebody’s e-mail address – it may be a former co-worker, client or somebody from the online business – and are able to offer him information he is interested in, he will always read your e-mails. It’s like when we start to like a product. Once Apple fan, always Apple fan. Once you fell in love with a Sony Vaio, always a Sony Vaio user. Once you drove an Audi, you’ll always long for driving an Audi. It is always the same with the e-mails you send to your clients.

However, regardless of how many tips you use, no client will ever be interested in reading your e-mails if they are not relevant to him. This is a key point. Maintaining both quality of content and presentation will likely attract more people.

Let’s make something clear here. This is not only an article teaching you how to properly conduct e-mail marketing. This is relevant for all of you out there who think your clients (or former clients for that matter) do not read your e-mails. Don’t forget there might be other tens of freelancers sending them e-mails about the same product or offer. On the other hand, they might just trash your e-mails automatically. So what you need to make sure is that the client reads your e-mail, because without you being able to present the content, there is no conversion rate or possible collaboration.

Key elements

The only visible information a receiver sees when he gets an e-mail in his inbox is the sender and the subject line. He can’t see any content unless he opens the mail. Being able to make these elements stand out is one of the ways to get the attention of the recipient.

Once he opens the e-mail, he sees the header. That is the place where everybody looks first. It needs to stand out as well and make the receiver want to read it instead of just trash it.

The footer is also a key element – it says where the e-mail is from and a short “about” field. Some believe these information should be in the header, I however disagree and think it should be featured the old way, in the footer.

We will however not talk about content today. We will only talk about how to make the client open your e-mails only by knowing who the message is from. So we will focus only on the e-mail address and mostly on the subject line.

Where does the e-mail come from?

This is crucial. This is the first line people will look at when receiving an e-mail. It should say everything about you and before filling it in, you should think how you relate to your audience. It can be by personal or company name, by both of them, department name and so on. Using your own name makes a direct appeal to the people you send the e-mail to, while the company name is more formal and creates a stronger impact. If people know the initials of your business, there is no problem in using them – it all comes down to what is more likely for people to know you by.

Using both personal and company name works if you are part of a big company and represent the business yourself. People will most likely associate your name with the one of the company. Using only your first name and the business name is likely to work too; for example, you could write “Christian, Web Hosting Billboarddown”.

If you work for a department, including the name of it is likely to help as well. Like writing your business name, it creates a strong impact and makes people think the e-mail is important. You can, however, skip this if your e-mail address includes the name or initials of the department, otherwise something like “Christian, Content, Web Hosting Billboarddown” would work just fine.

If you work for a huge company represented all over the country or the world, including the location of the department you work in might be a good idea – this helps your audience not getting confused. If you work for Audi in Aachen and write an e-mail to Munich, just fill in “Klaus, Audi GmbH Aachen”. If you write to another country, replace the city with the country.

The e-mail address

Although you might not pay importance to it, the e-mail address is something people look at. If you work in a company, it is always recommended to use a company e-mail. christian.webhostingbillboard [at] gmail.com would mean much less than christian [at] webhostingreviewslist.com. When recipients see the name of a company, they are more likely to read it than when seeing an e-mail coming from a personal account.

The subject line

This is actually the element which people pay most attention to. It should say something about the content, but not everything; it should attract attention, but not be spammy; it should call-to-action, but not be too aggressive – there are so many things you should keep in mind when filling it in.

The subject line should be a direct statement about the e-mail and its content. This helps all of us to prioritize e-mails and their importance. More important, subject lines should never mislead recipients. Misleading in the subject line is actually illegal in many countries and it is a practice that will not just drive users away, but also bring you a bad reputation. The line should not be too long, because e-mail programs limit the numbers of characters displayed. Moreover, some anti spam services tend to mark your e-mails as junk if the line length is too large. I would say 35 characters is a maximum and I would recommend anything up to 25.

You need to put some effort in making the perfect subject line. If there is someone you compete with, doing some competition research can only benefit you, so go out there and subscribe to all these guys you compete with, see how they do it, observe the practices that are very useful and the ones that are not so recommended. Newspapers are also a great way of seeing how call-to-action headlines work. Sure, they usually go for longer titles, but you can see the point and then reframe the headline into a proper subject line.

The benefits of reading the e-mail is something you should include in the subject line. Things like “free trial inside” will benefit your conversion rate, because this is what people look for. If we think of it really deep, everything we do in life we do because we want to. Sure, we have to work because we need money, but no one forces us to do it. We want to work because we want money. It is the same with e-mails. We only open the ones we want to, so the subject line needs to create an immediate impact and convince people to open them.

Being able to express the fact that your e-mail is urgent is really key. Effective examples would be “get instant Windows 8 trial” or “Norton Antivirus one week offer” – you can use everything from months, weeks and days to other elements that pinpoint a level of urgency. This makes people want to read your e-mails more than if it would be a banal offer available until next year.

Other tricks might be inserting valuable key words into the subject line. We all know there are some of them who make us attentive right away. Words like “discounts” and “gifts” are motivational and “free” is something that always make people respond positively. If some kind of season is coming, like Christmas or summer, you can insert them too: “free Christmas gifts” and “hot summer fashion arrivals“. Keep in mind that all these things have to be relevant to the content you have. Never mislead people trying to make them think you give away something you don’t. It’s the last time they will read an e-mail from you.

Using spammy lines with excessive punctuation, exclamation marks and multiple question marks should be avoided. Nobody likes spam and pretty much all of us know how it works today. Don’t fool yourself thinking it will work, because it will not – moreover, it will have a bad effect on your company’s image. Before you send the e-mail do a quick spam check with your eyes. You should, however, do this some other time than just after writing the e-mail, because otherwise your eyes will be used with the content and the general image and they will not notice anything wrong.

Subject line experiment

Do not send e-mails with the same subject line all the time. This will pretty much bore your readers and will affect the rate of clients reading mails from you.

Something you could do is some kind of experiment. For example, you could try creating three different subject lines for the same e-mail and send them to three different groups. See which one of them works best, analyze the clicks and visits and see which one has the highest conversion rate. Now that you know what it works, create and use something similar for the next times you send an e-mail out.

Conclusion

The key for the clients reading your e-mails – being it e-mail marketing or just communication between co-workers – is mutual trust. If you make the other person trust you (or if your brand already does this for you), you are already halfway down the road. There is still need for some key elements which will make people prioritize the e-mails form you, but once you make them trust you, the difficult part is already figured out.

Until next time, what do you think about convincing clients to read e-mails? Is it something you find easy to do, or you find it difficult yourself? How do you deal with it?