Tech companies are really good at coming up with innovative products or services that change the very nature of how we do business. Without Skype, Basecamp, Uber, and so on, we’d still be struggling with communication failure, data silos and project chaos. However, when it comes to selling technology or making laymen understand it, tech companies fail big time. The minute marketers try to get a word in about creativity, disruption or conversion, the wisest of tech entrepreneurs clam up.
Techies continue to find refuge in doing what everyone else is doing and sending out the same boring emails that their peers are sending. We need to break this cycle and make tech entrepreneurs understand some fundamental facts about email marketing. What we need is a cross of Richard Branson and Elon Musk to make technology and innovation more appealing to the end customer.
Writing clear and crisp content that connects with the reader has been a thorn in the side for most techies. In the war between marketers and techies, it is usually the techie that wins. And if that doesn’t happen, the result is a 50-50 chaotic mix that confuses the reader even more.
Thrice a week, I get emails from TechTarget, a site for tech pros that shares industry news and expert advice. These emails are so dull and lifeless that most of the time, I move them to trash without even opening them. The content of these articles is really good but that knowledge comes only after you open the emails. What if you are not, unlike me, duty-bound to read tech emails? Chances are, you’ll end up deleting these emails.
Now here are some ideas how this can be changed…
Look at the following email from ElegantThemes. Including simple question words like “why,” “how” and “what” in your subject line can create inquisitiveness in your reader and encourage him to click.
I love this headline – “Man Bites Dog” – from Business Applications Digest (TechTarget again). Although there is no continuance in the body of the story, the headline is good enough to get a click. Think of catchy headlines as your favorite crostini or meatballs. Do you like them mushy or soggy? Apply the same rules to your email headlines.
Using storytelling in your emails is better than click-baiting – it doesn’t just attract readers but also keeps them hooked. It encourages recall too. Everyone loves a good story; it’s in our DNA and no one can fight it.
When it comes to promotional emails, things can become sticky very quickly. Here are a few things you can learn from this email from a project management SaaS provider: soon after I signed up for Wrike, I got this email from their founder and CEO, which I think works way better than getting an email from some sales rep. It’s a perfect example of how straightforward, honest pitches should be. It doesn’t have images or color, but the content does all the talking. [comments mine]
A lot of these tips aren’t new, but what I am trying to prove here is that even boring software businesses can turn their brand around with the help of crisp and catchy content.
What I always fail to understand is why tech emails have to be so colorless. Blues and whites seem to be their only choices of colors. I love what CyberLink has tried here. It uses bold pictures and colors, and the layout is incredibly clean and user-friendly.
If however, you want to send strictly text emails and still want them to make them more aesthetically pleasing, here are some layout styles you can follow. These layouts are designed to provide enough breathing space between each section and allow you to categorize news/stories in a hierarchy of importance. This not only makes them easy on the eyes but also ensures your most important messages are not missed.
It is about time technology sites and software providers started making their emails a little more pleasing to the eye rather than those immensely cluttered and randomly thrown-together lists of links. Apart from a few forward-thinking startups, no one seems to have mastered the art of aesthetic email marketing.
That said, well-designed emails need not be expensive or resource-intensive. An uncomplicated email marketing suite such as GetResponse makes designing and optimizing emails with personalized layouts a breeze, with pre-designed email templates, free stock images, and a responsive email builder that doesn’t need coding.
We come across the “right times” and “right number of times” to send email all over the place. And every study varies from every other study in its results, industry and insights. While Rohan Ayyar wrote the seminal post on email timings over at the Search Engine People blog, he offered a nail-on-the-head sum up:
“Persistence is key, together with content quality and segmentation.”
If your website generates a lot of awesome content and a weekly or monthly roundup won’t do justice to all of it, try customizing your email lists based on the type of content and handing over the control to your subscribers by asking them to select the frequency and type of emails they wish to receive.
While you’re in the formative phase of your email marketing strategy, lock in the schedule for your drip campaigns, newsletters and promotional emails. Here’s a prototype that might help:
As they say, strike the iron while it is hot – send newsletters more frequently in the first two months after people sign up for your emails.
In the next 2 months, reduce the frequency to 2 a week or less, so as to not annoy people. If you still see people unsubscribing from your mailing lists, reduce the frequency even further.
If you provide SaaS-based or similar services with annual (or periodic) renewals, start increasing the frequency of your emails after 10 months or so, as the renewal date draws near.
The days of “spray and pray” marketing are long over. In the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, a lot of ideas on content, layout and frequency were discussed; give this case study a quick read and sign up here if you’d like video replays of the sessions delivered to your inbox..
If you don’t have time to do either, here are some quick tips:
- Create something easy to remember about your product/service.
- Infuse feelings in your messages.
- Tell great stories that can be shared.
- Give a hierarchal structure to your layout.
- The “rule of thumb” in white space is to have 40-60 pixels between elements.
Finally, segment your lists and customize and personalize your emails to keep your subscribers engaged. Retaining an existing customer (or subscriber) needs far less work than acquiring a new one. I’ll leave you with a quote from Diana Primeau, Director of Member Services at CNET:
“I work in a world where it doesn’t matter how many subscribers we have. It’s about more engagement.”