Justin Bridegan

Email Marketing: What I’ve learned from writing almost 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa

August 23rd, 2013

Having written close to 1,000 emails for MarketingSherpa promoting our marketing products over the past few years, I’ve learned a couple of things I thought I would share with you, many of them from my own mistakes.

At Summits, when people recognize my name from their inbox, they ask, “What have you found that works?” What a loaded question, right?

I’ve felt much like Edison, but with a marketing spin on it. I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways on how to not write an email.

Much like you, my writing over time has evolved to include some semi-universal best practices which many of us are familiar with, but sometimes get lost in the marketing translation from company logic to customer logic. So, here is a quick refresher.


Tip #1. Write your copy with the understanding that your audience is likely not reading, but skimming

It’s been said most people are either “filers,” who create a specific file folder for each email, or “pilers,” who let the inbox pile up with no hope in sight. Either way, your message is up against an already overflowing inbox. Standing out – and quickly – is the only hope you have.

I’m not saying all email messages have to be short, but they should be readable in a skim format. Your audience should be able to understand the main message in five to 10 seconds. Subject lines should be point first or last, not middle. Intro paragraphs should also be short and lead into the body copy, usually three sentences or less. Overall, you should test your email subject lengths to know what your audience prefers to read.


Tip #2. Stop selling to your audience and offer real value

Nobody enjoys being bombarded with product offerings and specials. Don’t get me wrong, we all like a good deal, just not all of the time and not every day. Your emails should be an ongoing conversation and always offer real value. Ask yourself, “Does this pass the ‘so what’ test?” If not, then scrap what you have and start over.

Use benefit-focused language such as “Get” or “Receive” without making them think about all of the things they have to do. You need to build some trust with your audience and make sure you provide an email address so they can respond with feedback.


Tip #3. Clarity is the key

Have you ever read an email and not understood what they were trying to say? I know I have. From internal acronyms nobody outside the office understands to copy containing three or four calls-to-action, too much clutter is a conversion killer.

Focus on one key benefit, map it to their pain point and solve it. Your email tone should convey a helpful and friendly voice. Never use words that don’t convey value, like “Submit,” or “Click.” When possible, provide more clarity and quantify your message. For example, use “Get instant online access to all 32 marketing search journals” instead of “Download now.”


Tip #4. Don’t take my word for it – test

What works for one company doesn’t always work for another. The only true way to know what works in your messaging is to test. For the MarketingSherpa audience, those who have purchased from us in the past tend to like short, right to the point emails, while new sign-ups tend to like more visual and lengthy copy. It is about tailoring your messages.

We’ve gleaned these insights from A/B testing. Before you implement any of my tips, I suggest you test them with your unique audience and product to see if they also work for you.

What are your top email marketing tips? What have you learned through testing? Let us know in the comments section below, or if you’ll be at ExactTarget Connections 2013 in Indianapolis, stop by and tell us firsthand. I’ll be teaching how to craft an effective value proposition, and my MECLABS colleagues are teaching a workshop on improving and testing your email messages.


Related Resources:

The 4 Pillars of Email Marketing

Email Marketing: Your questions about personalization and length

Marketing Research Chart: What are your peers’ top email marketing goals?

Justin Bridegan

About Justin Bridegan

Justin is the senior marketing manager for MECLABS and oversees the product marketing for all conferences, events, and publications. He has over eight years of experience in marketing to the software training industry, printing industry, and marketing professionals. As one of the contributing authors of MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, he regularly speaks at our Summits and webinars. He specializes in creating, planning, and implementing new marketing techniques across the industry.

Categories: Email Marketing Tags: , , , ,

  1. cathy
    August 26th, 2013 at 11:14 | #1

    Hi Justin,

    I liked your subject line and the content of your article! Personal and useful.

  2. August 26th, 2013 at 13:11 | #2

    Very succinct. I like that you boiled it down to 4 things.

  3. August 26th, 2013 at 14:44 | #3

    Appreciate the feedback Terry. Feel free to share any tips you’ve found that have worked as well.

  4. August 26th, 2013 at 14:48 | #4

    Thanks Cathy, I’m glad you found it helpful.

  5. August 27th, 2013 at 01:03 | #5

    Email is still one of the most effective and widely used ways to reach your members and engage your audience. These tips will be helpful for Start-ups.

  6. August 28th, 2013 at 08:55 | #6

    I agree Karen. For most of us it’s the “main” tool we have.

  7. August 28th, 2013 at 15:05 | #7

    A couple more:

    1 – Vary your subject lines. Use the same approach all the time and your audience becomes immune. Do things like ask questions, use personalization, etc.

    2 – Remember your main call to action and make that the focus of each email you’re sending. What is the ONE thing you hope subscribers will do after receiving this email? Make sure that’s clear.

    3 – Remember at least half your recipients are probably getting the email on their phones, so keep the content relevant to them. (Shorter is better, buttons easy to click vs. tiny links, etc.)

  8. August 28th, 2013 at 16:06 | #8

    I love your tips Katherine! Thanks for sharing.

  9. August 31st, 2013 at 05:02 | #9

    We at email monks really find this article effective and concise. You have defined all the four points in a classy and informative way. The content of the email should not only be promotional but it should also be informative catching a common subscriber’s attention. Clarity is a really the key to success. Moreover, do not forget the 3 seconds rule. Also, the calls to action should be identifiable and separated from the common content both in terms of design and content.

  10. September 2nd, 2013 at 01:48 | #10

    Justin, thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts with us!!!

  11. September 3rd, 2013 at 07:46 | #11

    No problem Christine 🙂

  12. September 3rd, 2013 at 07:47 | #12

    Thank you Email Monks. Great additional tips as well.

  13. September 17th, 2013 at 01:10 | #13

    Awesome article.No doubt the tips are for better results in email marketing.

  14. September 17th, 2013 at 10:01 | #14

    Thank you for the feedback.

  15. November 4th, 2013 at 23:48 | #15

    Fantastic blog for email marketers.

  16. November 28th, 2013 at 13:45 | #16

    I consider myself a fail in email marketing but still I am trying your Suggest “Test” method and I am sure I will be successful one day.

  17. December 28th, 2013 at 11:30 | #17

    Great tips Justin.

    Subjects are the key to the first conversion, the open. They are used in much the same way newspaper readers scan headlines. Poorly written subject lines can also trigger spam filters and impact delivery.

    Another tip is to segment list to the degree where relevancy is high and the readers feel like you are talking directly to them. Understanding audience’s context is important to hit their needs/wants.

    Make sure to include social sharing icons/links in your emails for Google+, Facebook, Twitter and any other social networks that are relevant to your social media marketing strategy.

    Well executed campaigns will be received as valuable offers and information as opposed to unwanted clutter.

    Thanks for sharing.

  18. December 31st, 2013 at 05:38 | #18

    Justin you are absolutely right if we are user then we also don’t like if someone is selling his product or service even though we are not interested. Like wise email text also should not be promotional, it should be informative also add information that is new to user along with some visual effects. We @ sparkemaildesign is doing the same this will increase ROI and will have good testimonials 🙂

  19. May 4th, 2014 at 06:35 | #19

    These are some great info. I like the part “Tip #2. Stop selling to your audience and offer real value”, there are so many marketers who send only offers as soon as you subscribe.

    I am in process of setting up email follow up sequence for my new website, so these tips will come handy. Thank you for sharing

  20. March 19th, 2015 at 06:01 | #20

    You are very much correct it should be followed by all marketing professionals and even designer of emails or newsletters. The motive of emails always should be spreading awareness and so, message must be informative.

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