Do you feel like the bulk emails you send your clients never get opened? Feel like they are ignored? That's something I know a lot about. It used to be the case for me all the time.
The basis for better emails? Stop thinking of your emails as something you write and start thinking about them as something you build. Writing emails is something that you do when talking about news, when you connect with a family member or friend, or when just sharing general information.
Building emails involves making sure that every email has a good foundation. Your emails have a purpose. They show that you have taken the time to look at the emails critically and made them the best they can be.
Building a house takes planning and forethought. The foundation, the footings, and floorplan for your email can be compared to these three decisions:
1. Decide who is going to get this email. You aren't looking for the exact people here. You are deciding the characteristics of the group. Who is getting the email influences all the other parts of the email. Is the email going a client or a potential client? Is it going out to a number of people? What do the recipients have in common? If there is more than one audience for this email, then break it into multiple emails. Configure the recipient lists as carefully as you would the actual email. The extra effort will pay off.
2. Decide what you want the recipients to do after they have read the email. If you don't plan what you want the reader to do after the email is read, you may as well not send it. Do you want them to go to your website and read something? Do you want them to sign up for more information? Do you want them to buy something from you? Just like the concrete for your house needs to meet certain standards, your intended result should be designed to ensure that it won't just get read, it will ensure actions.
3. Decide the tone of the email. Decide whether you want the reader to feel comfortable with what you are asking them to do or whether you want them to be moved in some way or another. Comfort comes in handy when you are reaching repeat customers and clients. Movement is for those emails where the action you need them to take is urgent (or when you want the reader to think it is urgent). Pick where on the spectrum you want this email to be and keep that in mind as you write.
Now that you have the plans for your emails, it is time to start putting it together. Building the actual email involves keeping your foundation in mind and then using the right tools and techniques to get it ready to send. This is the structure of your email - you might think of it as the walls, the floors, and the ceilings of the building.
4. Don't write your email in Outlook or Gmail. Write your email where you have tools that can help you improve it while you write it. I like to write emails in Word or OneNote. Both help me keep the foundational information in mind while I write the text and add the images.
5. Put your foundational decisions at the top of the document. You won't be sending them with the email, but you want to keep them in writing where you can see them while you write.
6. Draft your action statement before you write the rest of the email. Knowing what you want the reader to do will impact how detailed the email should be and how it should flow.
7. Make sure that your email text is written in clear, concise, complete terms. Start with the basics, then expand as needed. Keep your writing active and focused on the reader and what you want them to do.
8. Write a good subject line. Base it on your action statement and grab text that you used in the body. Reinforcement is always good. Keep it short and to the point. Keep it focused on the recipient - make it all about them.
Next up? The generation of the email recipients list. You already know what the generalities of the audience are, now it is time to pull together the exact emails to send. The recipients are the doors and windows for the structure. There is only one step here, but it is an important one:
9. Use your contact management software to pull the email addresses for the recipients. Make sure you have the right address for each recipient. Make sure no recipient is going to get more than one email.
You are now about ready to send the email. Sending the email is like showing the house to your realtor. You want to make sure that you know the impact of the email and the actions the recipients took when they got it.
10. Make sure you have an email add-in that lets you track your emails. Yes - you can gather the data by hand, but having the right tool makes it much easier. I've found that a good tool is available when you need it, hides when you don't, is easy to use, and is invisible (or nearly so) to the recipient.
No matter whether you are using Outlook or Gmail, one of the best trackers I know of is the one available from Contact Monkey, which is available on both email systems. It meets all of my criteria, and runs without problems. In fact, I haven't been able to break it yet - a big plus when you consider my life as a software tester.
11. Put all the pieces together. I like to use Word's mail merge to pull the pieces together. It just happens that Contact Monkey has a tutorial that covers using Word's Mail Merge to send the individual emails with tracking information built right into each email.
12. Don't forget to add the necessary ownership and unsubscribe information to the end of your email. It needs to be Can-Spam Act compliant. If you aren't sure if it is, check out the Wikipedia article on the act..
13. Send the emails. - this one is pretty obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of people who think that previewing the email actually sends the emails. As the Contact Monkey post says, make sure that after you preview the merge results you actually finish and send the emails.
You are all done now, right? Nope - you have the most important part left to do.
14. Just like a new building isn't finished until it is sold, your email isn't really done until you know if it was effective. This is where the second half of Contact Monkey comes in. Since you installed an add-in that lets you track emails before you sent them, you now are ready to use it to track the results.
Contact Monkey lets you see the results of any of your emails in a pane on the right side of your Outlook window. (If you are using it with Gmail, the pane is part of your Chrome windows.) This is a nice clean summary of the status of your outgoing emails:
Here you can see the basics - when it was opened, how many times it was opened, and how many times the links were clicked. Contact Monkey gives you this information for each recipient that opened the email.
If you want to see more detailed stats, click the chart icon - it will show you a graph of the opens and clicks for all your emails over time.
There you go - 14 steps to better bulk email effectiveness!
ContactMonkey brings advanced email tracking and Salesforce integration to Outlook. Use Mail Merge to track email campaigns by bringing all the tools you need to track your emails directly to your Inbox.
SaleHandy is a service you can use for mail merges, including the ability schedule follow up emails. Also supports email and document tracking, so you can see who opened the message or document. Works with Outlook and Gmail.