DM News' Essential Guide to E-mail Marketing: How to Craft Effective E-Mail

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E-mail marketing can be a powerful tool to build strong, lasting relationships with consumers if you do it right. Here are some best-practice guidelines that can help delight consumers, build a brand and generate response:

Be true to the brand. Rules No. 1, 2 and 3: E-mail copy should be consistent with the company's brand. Consider it part of an ongoing conversation. The precise tone may vary depending on the audience, but the message needs to come from the same "person." A clear connection to a respected brand tells the consumer that this e-mail is legitimate.

Consider your audience. Before you put fingers to keyboard, think about the target audience. What kind of messaging would resonate with them? What tone would they respond to? No matter whom you are talking to, nobody likes jargon, acronyms, slang or clichés. So avoid them.

Subject lines make or break you. Subject lines can be tricky. You want to grab the reader's attention, so avoid anything that might cause your e-mail to be relegated to the trash or a "bulk" folder.

Here's what you should do:

· Keep the subject line short and direct.

· Try to get the message across in the first 35 characters. Some e-mail providers truncate subject lines.

· Use benefit-oriented language without being overly promotional.

· Here's what you shouldn't do:

· Use marketing words and phrases like "free," "best-selling," "cash," "guaranteed," "make money" and so on.

· Write in ALL CAPITALS (which can be perceived as SHOUTING).

· Use exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!

Body copy that works. Outline the benefits or incentives clearly and ensure the messaging is as relevant to your particular audience as possible. Otherwise, it may get deleted.

Also remember that users scan, rather than read, content online. Keep the copy brief and to the point. Use short blocks of text and bullets to make it easy to scan. Consumers receive lots of e-mail every day (consider your own inbox) and may simply delete communications that are too wordy and difficult to scan.

How to get action. The call to action is key. Make it clear, both visibly and verbally. If possible, include the call to action at both the top and bottom of an e-mail. This ensures that users who look only at the beginning of an e-mail or skip to the end get the message.

Steer clear of "Click here" copy. Instead, use a specific call to action, like "Enroll now." Many uses of "Click here" can cause an e-mail to be filtered as spam.

Musts for footers. To comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, all e-mails need to include the company's physical address and a way for users to opt out of future communications.

What about the design? Let's go back to rules 1, 2 and 3. As well as sounding like the brand, the e-mail has to look like the brand. This provides instant recognition and gets the sales message across much faster.

One way to ensure consistency is to create a template that establishes key design elements. Variations can be created for different types of e-mails, be it a promotional e-mail with a single offer or an online newsletter.

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