Tips on writing effective marketing emails

Promotional emails are a tricky subject – you don’t want to waste time and effort crafting and sending out a big marketing email if it’s going to fall on deaf ears. You not only need to make sure you compose the email correctly, but also ensure you’re targeting the right people in the first place.

The best way to get an audience for your promotional emails or newsletter is to build a list of relevant and interested folks. Include a form on your website where people can sign up for your newsletter. You can also collect the email addresses of people who download white papers from your site or register a new purchase. Enter contact information from people you meet at trade shows and events.

Also, be clear and make sure that people understand they're signing up to be on your list. If you can, include a short privacy statement – even a simple "We never share your information with anyone." (If you do share information, then have a prominent check box that allows people to opt out of receiving email from anyone else).

You also need to offer a choice – always let customers opt out of future emails. This will help you to focus your list even further, and also help you avoid spamming. Speaking of spamming, don’t cast your net too wide. Resist the temptation to buy an email list from an offer that you receive as spam. These lists are not targeted for your potential customers and are out of date before you pay for them. Quality is more important than quantity in generating leads.

Right, with those points discussed, let’s move on to the actual tips. Here’s what you should bear in mind to compose an effective promotional email:

Don't go crazy with design. Large images take a long time to load (not a good thing when you are trying to grab someone's attention), and many people don't view images or HTML formatting in their email for security reasons. If you do use images, use tags so that people who don't load graphics can still get some information.

DON'T USE ALL CAPS! (See, you don't like being yelled at, either).

Don’t use too many exclamation points, either!!!!!!!!!! One is usually too many. Remember: Your credibility is inversely proportional to the number of exclamation points used in your email.

Customise every email to give it the personal touch. "Dear Matt" goes further than "Attention."

Don't include attachments. People shouldn't open attachments from a sender they don't know, so you shouldn't include one.

Use an individual account with a person's name, not an address that sounds automated. Would you open an email from campaign001@somewhere.com?

Write a subject line that is short and to the point, and that engages the reader. If you can work a feature and a benefit in there, even better. Consider a teaser like "Is your network secure?" if you're in the network security business.

Begin with a question that illustrates the value of your product or service to that customer. It's a natural way to begin a conversation and pique the customer's interest.

Make your point clearly and concisely. Focus the reader's attention on your product or service and how you or it can help them. Don't waste the reader's time.

Show your customers what you can do for them. Include a sentence or two about how you've helped other customers. Be as specific as possible.

End with a call to action (think "act now"). Ask the reader to follow a link to your website for more information.