There is an art to sending emails. The first step to creating said art is following the three basic golden rules, which are: don’t spam, be a friend and automate your emails. If you’re going to start implementing email marketing as part of your marketing mix, you probably also want to know all of the ins and outs about making emails – unfortunately they don’t just magically appear no matter how hard you stare at your computer screen. Let’s just say I know from experience. Here, I’ll cover techniques and guidelines — six to be exact — for crafting better emails.

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer
Katie Guinn
Katie Guinn Designer & Content Developer

5. 6 Tips for Crafting a Killer Email

There is an art to sending emails. The first step to creating said art is following the three basic golden rules, which are: don’t spam, be a friend and automate your emails.

If you’re going to start implementing email marketing as part of your marketing mix, you probably also want to know all of the ins and outs about making emails – unfortunately they don’t just magically appear no matter how hard you stare at your computer screen. Let’s just say I know from experience.

Here, I’ll cover techniques and guidelines — six to be exact — for crafting better emails. 

Transcription

  0:00  

Hello, everyone, this is Monica Pitts. 

 0:03  

This is Katie Guinn. 

  0:04  

And you are listening to marketing with purpose. After doing our last podcast on email marketing, Katie and I got to thinking about the art of sending the individual emails because -- that's to say that there is an art to doing it. And last time, we only covered the three overarching golden rules.

 0:27  

Which were: don't spam, be a friend, and automate your emails.

  0:32  

And if you're going to start implementing email marketing as part of your marketing mix, you probably also want to know all of the ins and outs about making the emails.

 0:42  

Yeah, they don't just appear. 

  0:44  

Take it from Katie. 

 0:45  

It's the darndest thing.

  0:46  

She makes a lot of them.

 0:47  

I look and I look and I look...

  0:50  

Today we'll cover techniques to crafting the individual emails to garner better results. We'll cover six to be exact, and some are techniques, while others I think we could probably more loosely label as guidelines.

 1:02  

Hmm, yeah.

  1:03  

This information that we're covering today actually came out of our CoMoGives marketing workshop. I know you don't know what CoMoGives is, let me tell you.

 1:12  

Or what a marketing workshop -- no...I can guess.

  1:17  

So CoMoGives is a month long year end giving campaign that we run in our community of Columbia, Missouri. This year 138 nonprofits will gather donations through a website that we administer. And together with the Community Foundation, we raised over $800,000 last year for local nonprofits. It's awesome. And one of the things that we realized after running this campaign for a few years is that these nonprofits were super unequipped to handle running a campaign for themselves. So we initiated a marketing workshop where, for four hours, we sit down and talk about concepts and techniques that will help them market themselves and raise money for the campaign. So we have slides from the presentation, we also have a workbook and we will link to both of those in the show notes in case you're somebody that likes to fill out a workbook because 

 2:15  

I love workbooks. 

  2:16  

Man, all the nonprofits -- the thing that they say in the surveys is "We love the workbook!"

 2:22  

You know me I'm visual. So there's just something about just putting a pen to paper that feeling and makes things stick, 

  2:28  

Checking the box.

 2:29  

Checking it.

  2:30  

So feel free to don't like to download those now before you get started. Now, the reason that I even ventured to include this information in the marketing workshop -- because I hadn't previously -- we spoke so much about social media and ads, and planning a campaign, we just -- we never really dug into emails. And two years ago, Katie and I were planning the campaign, and we really focused a lot on doing online ads that year. We were gung ho on Google Ads. We had just been to a workshop. And when I say workshop, I mean we spent like --

 3:11  

a week long --

  3:12  

Yeah, we spent a week in tears...

 3:14  

We traveled outside of the state for that bad boy 

  3:16  

We drove. 

 3:19  

Traveled as a light word.

  3:20  

Yes. Katie and I saying so much car karaoke.

 3:25  

many songs.

  3:26  

So great. Yeah. Beautiful. The harmonies.

 3:32  

That wasn't it, but you know what I mean.

  3:34  

And, and we thought, "This is definitely the way to go for this campaign. We can drive people to this website using Google Ads." And after running them for what, like a week and a half? We looked at them and said, "Wait a second here. These people aren't converting. They are not making donations. We're getting thousands of people to the website, but they're not making donations."

 3:57  

None of them. It was disconcerting. To say the least.

  4:00  

Yeah, so our hearts were kind of broken a little bit because Google did not come through for us that day.

 4:06  

Yeah, we were trying, 

  4:07  

But we're not emotionally attached to our marketing plans, as no marketer should ever be emotionally attached to any piece of creative that they produce or any marketing plan that they put out there. Because you just don't know. It's a gigantic social science experiment. 

 4:22  

Well said. 

  4:23  

And this social science experiment failed. And so our backup plan was to send emails to all the past donors at CoMoGives. So we took four years worth of donor data, and we sent out emails, and we turned off the online ads. And what we found was that the conversion rate on these emails was so much higher than ads. It was ridiculous.

 4:50  

Well, at first it seemed to exist. You know, just having some statistic there was a, was a big thing. But then seeing the actual number compared to the other ways people were giving was pretty awesome.

  5:02  

It really was. And I'm looking at last year's conversion rates. And so email accounted for only 7% of the total donations that came in through the campaign. So that was $55,376. And the conversion rate on those was 16%, which is great. The only thing that converted higher was our direct visitors, which was --

 5:26  

Which is hard to beat, isn't that?

  5:28  

Yeah, and they were only 17%.

 5:29  

I mean, those people knew what they were doing when they got there, versus an email someone else opened. I love those numbers.

  5:35  

Social media converted at 5.6%, referral traffic 10%, and organic search traffic converted at 9.7%. So I was like, "Wow, these people are killing it with their emails, right?" And so I dug further into the analytics, and I wanted to see who was sending these emails that was getting all these donations. I realized that 66% of that email revenue came from the emails that Katie sent.

 6:07  

And there were only three. Three emails that year. 

  6:09  

And the year before in 2017, 68% came in from Katie's emails. And I'm telling you, I dug in and I went through all the different channels to make sure that something didn't get misaligned, because sometimes that happens. Google Analytics, you know, you think you're looking at referral traffic, when in actuality it did come from emails. So that got me thinking like, what is going on here? Are they just not sending the emails or the emails not getting into people's inboxes? Are the emails

 6:38  

just really bad? One of those three things.

  6:42  

So I felt like I could take something that they already understood and make it even more clear to them what they needed to do to make these emails better. And I'm hoping that that like pushes us into like $900,000 this year.

 6:56  

I mean I would hate to say "a cool mil" right away, but oooh, that'd be great.

  6:59  

Oh, goodness. That makes my tummy hurt. That's a huge goal.

 7:02  

I know, I know I like to aim high.

  7:04  

Maybe shooting for that, you know, in 2021.

 7:08  

I won't hold my breath.

  7:09  

So let's talk about the six things that we dug into in that workshop that make a successful email. So number one is that the email arrives in your inbox.

 7:21  

Step one, get the email.

  7:23  

It sounds rudimentary, but you physically have to send the email for it to arrive in someone's inbox. So if you're just not sending the email, and if you're not sure why you want to send emails, go back over to the previous podcast. And listen to why you should be doing email marketing. Also, you need an accurate email. You can't send to an empty room. No, it has to have somebody there. Here's one of the things that concerns me though. If you use Gmail, then you know that it offers auto sorting inboxes and that creates a roadblock for email marketers

 8:00  

Will you define for me the auto sorting in boxes? What are those?

  8:05  

It means that when your messages come in, they are divided into categories. And you can assist Google by defining what categories you want them to be in. There's Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums, by default. 

 8:22  

Yes. 

  8:23  

And usually if you're not careful with it, your mass email marketing is going to show up in Promotions, and when I'm asking people for donations, and they have to be done within a one month period, I sort of need them to be in Primary, especially if I'm asking them over the holidays when people are spamming the crap out of other people with all of their crazy offerings, right? So you can avoid the auto sorting inbox and spam filters by being normal. Straight up. And follow steps two through five.

 8:57  

Which we're getting into right now. I'm so excited. 

  9:00  

Don't hold your breath -- it's here, number two: you need to make sure the reason for the email is clear and relevant people have to open the email to read it and that means that you have to establish the need to open said email. And that's part of your subject line. You see people creating urgency -- "Don't miss!", "Last Chance!" And there's also things that you don't want to do in the subject line of your email 

 9:25  

Like all caps, and multiple exclamation points like -- aside from the fact that multiple exclamation points just looks like you're spamming someone, it reminds me of my mother and the way she texts, so just don't do it. And then actually you'd think -- for a while emojis were a big question mark, but there are supportive studies showing that they are not bad things to include, you just don't want to overdo it.

  9:45  

Said by the professional. 

 9:47  

Oh my that's me. Got you fooled.

  9:51  

Number three, someone you know sent it. Are you more likely to answer the phone from an unknown caller or someone you really know? 

 9:59  

I never -- I'm over here just shaking my head on the unknown number thing. No.

  10:03  

It's funny, my grandma, my grandma was blind. And she would ask me a question. And she'd be like, "Monica, I can't hear the rocks rattling around in your head, you're gonna have to answer it out loud."

One of the things that we do it MayeCreate when we send an email to our clients that we really, really need them to read is we send it from the person that emails them the most, or from the person that they're most likely to open the email from. So Google weighs several factors to judge whether your email deserves a reply. It looks at the frequency of previous interactions between a sender and recipient. And when applicable, it reminds people they haven't replied yet and prompts them to consider doing so, and I do get those emails in my inbox -- they're like, "Hey, do you care about this person?" 

 11:02  

I love that. I love that.

  11:04  

So the two reasons why they need to know the person who sent it are one because you want to have a conversation with someone that you know, and then, two, you are more likely to get it into the primary inbox if it is with someone they have had frequent conversations with before. For example, if your sales person is the person that has all the conversations with everyone, when you send out all of your sales correspondence in emails, you would send it from that salesperson instead of sending it from a general inbox.

 11:35  

Yeah, like info or

  11:37  

Exactly. Number four: the emails greet you by name. Using different techniques on each of the email marketing softwares, you can include a recipient's first name into email content, you can put it in the subject line of the email, you can also put it in the body of the email. So when you are gathering emails and organizing them digitally, please do that digitally.

 12:03  

Let me reiterate that.

  12:04  

You're going to want two columns, one column for first name, one column for last name, and a column for email address that is three columns. Not two. I just meant two columns for names. Okay? Because when was the last time that you were like, "Hey, Katie Guinn, how are you doing?" When you really know Katie?

 12:25  

Unless they have a really fun last name. I don't ever do that.

  12:27  

You totally look at yourself in the mirror every morning and you say, "Hey, Katie Guinn."

 12:33  

I mean, maybe I'll do that using the ways my co workers phone pronounces it which is Katie again, but that's just because it's funny. 

  12:40  

It is. 

 12:41  

That's all.

  12:41  

You have third person conversations with yourself

 12:43  

I do, "Hello Katie Ginn."

  12:46  

Such a great gal. So one year we had a tailgate, and it was fun. We had smoked meats compliments of my awesome meat making husband, and we invited all of our clients to go to this tailgate. I sent multiple emails, three to be exact. The first two, nobody looked at.

 13:05  

Nobody?

  13:06  

I know because I look at things

 13:09  

I cared.

  13:10  

The marketing data..

 13:11  

The tracking of the thing.

  13:13  

We used Emma to send them, and with Emma, you can see who opens your emails. So I could see all the people that I sent it to and all the people who opened it, and no one was opening it. So I sent a third email as a last ditch effort to get people to come to my event. And I said, "Hey, Katie, we're having a tailgate, do you want to come?" and people opened the email.

 13:39  

Imagine that.

  13:41  

I'm here to tell you that when you do it, it actually does work. Use people's names. So number five, is your email is pretty and it's free of errors. I wish -- I think we should say it's not ugly.

 13:53  

Yeah, cause pretty -- I'm thinking of swirlies and turquoise, and you know?

  13:57  

Because you can't have it be too fancy -- If you have lots of HTML, which is what's going to make your email be pretty -- even if you're using a template, or call it a template, whatever you want to call that word, depending upon whether you're in the Midwest or not, I digress -- When you choose a pretty template, that email is built through HTML. And heavy HTML is an indicator to Google it is a promotional email and that it should be put in the promotional tab. Because when was the last time you just emailed somebody a normal correspondence, and you put everything in tables and put a gigantic teal background and reversed out the text in white letters and included buttons and photos in it?

 14:42  

I don't, I don't have... I don't have a recollection of that.

  14:45  

I do sometimes bold things and make them red though.

 14:47  

That's okay. That's just because you got to make information, a piece of information stand out. That's one thing.

  14:51  

Here's a question for you listeners: when we bold information and put it in red, is that passive aggressive or aggressive aggressive?

 15:00  

Yeah, I mean, if you think of it as like, we're going to shut your electricity off kind of a thing. It'd be aggressive aggressive. But it could also be like, "Don't forget -- " you know, "This piece of information is very important."

  15:10  

We'll call it assertive aggressive.

 15:12  

There you go. I like that

  15:12  

Because that's what I want to be -- assertive. So you want to feature some message characteristics that aren't purely promotional. You want to clearly communicate with people. You want to keep your content short. Nobody's going to read a wall of text, which is why we make things red and bold sometimes and keep things in bulleted lists. Try not to have a bajillion links and images, because that also is a signal to Google that it's probably not a regular correspondence email.

 15:43  

But when you say one link, do you mean like separate URLs or just like one link used throughout several times?

  15:51  

The way that it's defined here and by Google was more than one link to me that means that there is more than one link formatted in the email. 

 16:02  

Gotcha. 

  16:02  

So if there were five links to the same page, it's five links. 

 16:07  

Gotcha. Okay.

  16:08  

I took this straight from the mouth of the horse and

 16:10  

I'm okay with that. 

  16:11  

Google being the horse.

 16:13  

Google is the the mamma jama of horses.

  16:16  

It's our favorite pony. So try to send your emails with just one link. I read a test about someone who did take a simple email -- the unstyled one that you can send by MailChimp -- and then they added all kinds of things. And as soon as they added price, that's when it ended up in Promotions. So definitely test this out. There are testing tools out online. One that I found was litmus.com. Now they have a free trial for 30 days and after that, it's like $100 a month. You can you try it out for free and learn what you need to learn about how you want to format your your emails and then you move on from there. Yeah. And then the last way to make sure that it's pretty and free of errors is you need to make sure that it works on mobile, 

 17:10  

Mmmmm, that's a big part of my job just doing web design. So I'm going to chime in here and say that it's definitely possible -- in my mind, required -- to do this for your emails. A lot of people open their emails on their phones. So some of these tools, namely MailChimp, have a feature where you can preview an email and then at the top, you can select whether or not you want to view it on a tablet view or mobile view. So that's really cool. Another way to do it, again, depending on your software, is you could just send yourself a test email and then open it in your browser. And I use something in Chrome, Google Chrome called Inspect, and he could just right click on your screen, select Inspect, and then there's a little button in the top left of the pop up window that lets you look on different device sizes -- and that might be a little bit advanced, but for anyone who knows what Inspect is, use it.

  17:58  

Because when you compose Is your normal email, I find that the biggest thing that you're probably going to need to change is the size of your text. It will, by default, either be way too big or way too small when you get it on the mobile, and you really want to allow people to have a good viewing experience with your emails.

 18:18  

Yeah, agreed.

  18:20  

So number six is the ability to track your emails. Like I said, the reason that I knew my tailgate emails didn't work is because I sent them in a way that I could track them. The reason that Katie and I know that our CoMoGives emails are working is because we have the tracking capabilities on both the emails and on the website. You can't -- you can't win at marketing if you're not tracking because you won't know.

 18:48  

I just don't think doing anything worthwhile when you're trying to hash out any kind of process is worth it If you're not going to track the success of your progress.

  18:57  

How are you going to know when you need to reward yourself?

 18:59  

You have no idea what to improve or or remove -- hey, that rhymes -- if you don't know what's working and what isn't. So that's where tracking comes in.

  19:08  

A few methods for sending your emails: method number one, especially if you're a super newbie, would be just emailing them from your inbox. This allows you to get super personal and it will yield great results with those super personal emails. One really neat thing that I've seen especially nonprofits do are Thank You videos in personal email. So someone makes a big donation, and [the nonprofits] just do a quick almost like selfie video of themselves, but the ones that I've seen are actually like someone sitting at their laptop or at their desk, and then they just say, "Hey, Katie, thank you so much for your donation to CoMoGives. It helped 138 local nonprofits be able to spread good throughout the community." Those videos are really cool. So consider that with really big donations. If you're going to track your emails in Gmail out of your Personal inbox, try and MailTrack. That's what I have on mine. It tells me whether people have opened an email or not. Also, HubSpot Sales lets you do that. And Boomerang is another app that you can use. They all have limited usage for free, and if you're using them for everything, then you might have to get a paid account. If you use Outlook, you could try HubSpot Sales. I haven't tried any of the other Outlook examples. I've only used HubSpot Sales, so that's the only one I can really recommend to you. Now, here's the deal, though, if you're not sending your emails out one at a time to people, if you do batch send, you need to send in very small batches if you're sending from Outlook or Gmail. Make sure that you include a way to unsubscribe if you do this, and it would -- it can be very rudimentary. It can be just, "Reply 'Canceled' to this email to unsubscribe." This method is great for very small groups. I do not think that you should be doing this all the time for your regular email marketing, if that's what you're going after.

 20:59  

Especially, if you're like a bigger -- if you're not a nonprofit, and you're a bigger business, you know, and that's kind of what I was thinking with that video suggestion is I love that idea. And I was wondering how you could apply that to a non nonprofit -- to a regular business. And that wouldn't be really attainable with a large amount of people. But you could have like a generalized message recorded, you know, like, "Thanks for downloading this content! Check back often" or --

  21:23  

Yeah, watch Katie celebrate because you just downloaded an e-book.

 21:26  

"Katie's doing a happy dance in the background!" You know? That'd be cool.

  21:28  

Yeah. So method number two, if you are still not on board with signing up for an actual email marketing service, would be doing a mail merge approach. I call it mail merge, because that's what Microsoft Word calls it. So you can use a Google Sheet and your Gmail to mail merge and email complete with customized attachments, messages, salutations, everything. I will include the link to the instruction video to do this. I didn't shoot this video -- I should say I did not film it because I'm not shooting anyone -- I did not film this instruction video, but I have used it and so have other people in my office to create these types of emails. There is not any tracking, unfortunately. If you do batch send, once again, you need to do it in very small batches, and make sure that you include a way to unsubscribe. The times when we do this in our office are if we have an address change, if we have a billing change, we use it very selectively. We don't do it all the time. It's just for those reasons.

 21:30  

So can I ask really quickly, you've said it twice now about batching, why very small batches?

  22:42  

Because otherwise you'll get labeled as a spammer.

 22:44  

Ah, there's the connection.

  22:46  

Yeah, you can literally get blacklisted.

 22:49  

Ooh, that sounds awful.

  22:51  

Mmhmm. Internet Service Providers watch what sending and where it's being sent from and if they notice a lot of emails coming out from a specific domain. That they're not super

Unknown Speaker  23:01  

super familiar with kind of the thing?

  23:03  

Yeah, so be careful. Ultimately, the best plan is to choose a mass email service provider. We like using MailChimp. We also like Emma, and I have worked in Constant Contact. Those are three big ones. There's so much tracking in them, lots of AB testing, you can automate your emails via RSS feed, 

 23:26  

You can let the software decide when the best time to send an email is for you. If you're just sick or just shutting down at these kinds of decisions. You can let you know, namely MailChimp, will do that. 

  23:37  

And it's easier to build your emails, really, using them because they have all kinds of very nice features that allow you to make things attractive and

 23:46  

Yeah, drag and drop editing, you know, in MailChimp. I love it.

  23:49  

Testing for mobile devices, all the stuff, it's all in there. MailChimp is free up to 2000 subscribers. So that's awesome. 

 23:58  

Except you did mention I think in the last podcast that you cannot automate on the free -- Either way, it's worth it just to sleep at night in terms of not being blacklisted.

  24:08  

You can schedule, but you can only schedule for one email.

 24:11  

Yes, that makes sense.

  24:12  

Yeah. So they're, they're awesome. 

 24:16  

Clearly we love them, we love them. And I think their branding is also

  24:19  

There's so much functionality in it, really, even with the free program. And we use all the Automation features and everything and I think we might pay $35 a month, maybe --

 24:31  

For I think about 3500 subscribers, which is pretty good. 

  24:35  

It's not like it's out of control or anything. Hopefully, when you combine this with those lovely nuggets from our last podcast about general rules that you would use when approaching email marketing -- don't spam, be a friend, and automate. You can implement these six rules, techniques, guidelines -- whatever you want to call them -- to create emails that actually land and people inboxes just a reminder we do have the slides from this presentation and also a workbook that you can download and we have other email marketing resources out at mayecreate.com/resources, including two ebooks just about email marketing that are free to download, and more stuff in our blog. Really quick recap of the six things: Number one, it has to arrive in their inbox; two, the reason for the email is clear and relevant; three, someone you know sent it; four it greets you by name; five, it's not ugly and free of errors; and six, you can track it. Now. This is Monica Pitts 

 25:45  

and Katie Guinn.

  25:46  

Go forth and market with purpose.

EPISODE GOODIE BAG

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