Of all of the marketing strategies for small business, email marketing can provide one of the best returns on investment. But that’s only if you can get your email subscribers to open, read, and respond to your emails.

As a marketer, I’ve written hundreds of marketing emails.  Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way that can help even a so-so writer boost open rates and increase click-throughs for your emails:

1. Spend the Most Time on the Subject Line

A subject line that falls flat can sabotage an entire email.  No matter how good your email copy is, no one will want to read it unless they want to open the email and learn more.  So how do you write a great subject line?

  • Consult your own inbox: Consider the emails that you receive in your inbox each day. Which ones do you open, and which ones do you skip over?
  • Keep it personal: Research suggests that personal and localized subject lines, rather than overly promotional subject lines, get more clicks.
  • Call out a name: There’s no sweeter sound than the sound of your own name.  If your email software allows it, you can test including the recipient’s name in the subject line.
  • Be Brief:  Longer subject lines get cut off in the inbox, so get to the point quickly. According to Marketing Sherpa, subject lines of 61 to 70 characters have a 17% average read rate — the highest of any length.
  • Set and meet expectations: No one likes to be tricked into reading an email.  Peak their curiosity, yes, but don’t make an outrageous claim in the subject line just to get some one to open your sales pitch – that will land you right in the spam folder.

For more subject line best practices, I highly recommend reading this subject line article from our Hatchbuck Consultant, Katie.

2. Add Value

For B2B businesses with a longer sales cycle, email marketing is all about building a relationships with your audience. You can’t rely on email campaigns that only advertise special promotions or good deals. Luckily, getting your emails read is as easy as consistently offering solutions to a pain-point for your audience.

For instance, at Hatchbuck, we know that small business owners struggle with sales and marketing.  We address this painpoint by sending helpful articles and small business resources our contacts.  Our content gets read and our email links get clicked because our audience consistently finds value in our communication.

You don’t need a masters in communication to write an effective email.  Focus on adding value and your emails will get read whether you write funny, boring, serious or friendly emails.

3.  Get to the Point

If I open an email and it’s several paragraphs long, chances are I’m not going to read it.  Even if it’s from someone super important, like my sister.  Even if it’s about something super important, like a high-priority project at work.  There are just too many distractions in the inbox to be able to focus on a long email. I’d rather get the bulk of the information in person, over the phone or in a meeting, for instance.

Most people receive hundreds of emails, text messages, and phone calls each week. If they open your communications, they probably only have patience for a couple of short paragraphs – even just a few sentences can be effective.  In fact, our Hatchbuck Consultant, Lindsey, suggests taking a page from Twitter and keeping your emails to 140 characters.

Keeping your message short and sweet is tough, I know.  So, here are a few ways to cut down the length of your correspondence:

  • Take another page from Twitter and get to the heart of the matter in your email, then use a link to direct recipients to a landing page on your website where they can learn more.
  • Avoid word bloat.  I like to go through each sentence in my emails and make sure every word counts. I ruthlessly cut out any unnecessary words or phrases. It’s actually kind of fun, and always helps my emails make a greater impact.
  • Break one email up into multiple emails.  If you’re struggling to get your message across quickly, you may be tackling too many topics in one email.  Consider breaking up a long email into a short email campaign.

4. Practice, Test and Learn from the Best

Let those emails fly and then test out of few different strategies to see which ones work well for your targeted audience. Even if you have a solid open rate and click-through rate, that’s not to say it can’t be better.  Continued testing of your emails gives you an overall lift in engagement, helping you generate better ROI from your email marketing efforts.

What are some things to test?  Here are a few ideas:

  • Subject line
  • Using a contact’s name in the subject line
  • Content in your email body
  • Images in your email
  • HTML vs. all-text
  • The link text in your call-to-action
  • Your signature block
  • Which person the email is sent from

Finally, you can’t learn everything about email marketing from one blog post, so I recommend subscribing to our monthly newsletter for more email marketing tips.

You don’t have to be an outstanding writer to craft engaging marketing emails. It’s really as simple as sharing your expertise with your audience in bite-sized chunks.