Are you ready to give up on email marketing?
We hear you. If you’re like most of us, you probably feel like you’ve tried everything to no avail.
You’ve tried sending out email every other day. Once a week. Once a month. You’ve tried crafting content that’s humorous, informative, relatable. You’ve tried long messages, and brief ones.
Still, you’re not seeing results. In fact, you’re not sure that your subscribers are even opening your emails, never mind reading them or responding to your CTA’s.
You may be wondering if it’s really worth all the time you’re putting into it.
So what are you missing?
As with any marketing strategy, email marketing continuously evolves with the changing digital landscape. It can be challenging to stay on top of it. But there are a few time-tested tips and tricks that can help.
Here is our guide to the most effective email marketing strategies, so you can effectively reach the right audience for your next farmer’s market or craft shows.
Use A/B Testing
Every business and organization is different, and what works for someone else’s audience may not work for yours.
So the only way to be 100% certain about what works best in marketing to your target audience is to test, test, and test again.
A split test is a solidly objective way to gather data about the best email marketing strategy for your subscribers.
But don’t just do it once. Effective A/B testing is an ongoing process, which you will repeat many times as you test for different elements.
You might start by testing out different subject lines. For example, try testing subject lines of different lengths, like “Central Florida Fair” alongside “Everything You Need to Know About Being a Vendor at the Central Florida Fair,” and see which performs better.
Next, track the performance and open rate of different CTA’s. Consider the appearance of your CTA’s, the number of them, and where they appear on the page. Experiment with hyperlinked text for your CTA’s as opposed to buttons.
After that, you could run a split test on the actual message content. For example, try testing the same email with images and without them.
And don’t stop there! Keep going, testing as many different elements of your emails as you can possibly think of, until you hit on a combination of elements that work.
The trick is to remember that even small changes can have big results. So it’s critical to only test one small element at a time.
Above all, it’s important to be as objective as you can in analyzing the data. Be prepared to abandon some of your most cherished ideas and plans if you find that the data doesn’t back them up.
Make Them Curious
Think about your favorite TV series. What makes you waste an entire evening binge-watching whole seasons?
Because the end of each episode leaves you hanging.
You feel like the story is unfinished, and you just can’t go to bed until you find out what’s going to happen next.
Sometimes, this is especially effective when the episode is presented with flashbacks, so you know the beginning and the end of the story, but the middle is full of gaps and unanswered questions. How did our main character become a criminal when he started out as a good person? How did our superhero escape from the trap laid by the villain?
Guess what? You can use this same strategy in your email marketing.
This tactic is called the “curiosity gap,” and it’s been proven to be so effective that it can lead to a 927% increase in click-through rates.
So how does it work? Let’s illustrate with an example.
Let’s say you’re writing an email answering the question, “What are the best craft shows near me?”
Now think of it, not as an email message, but as a story.
Identify the beginning of the story: a subscriber who is looking for her craft show fix, who hasn’t been able to attend one in months, and wants to find unique, handmade gifts without traveling too far.
And what’s the end of the story? The discovery of the perfect gift.
Using this method, an effective subject line might be, “Have you given up finding unique gifts? We have them right here!”
Or something to that effect.
Why does this work so well? Because it creates a cognitive dissonance which the reader feels compelled to resolve.
Think of all those click-bait headlines that come up in your newsfeed all the time: the ones you complain about, but secretly love. They are effective because they pique the reader’s curiosity. We are irresistibly compelled to find out more. We almost can’t help ourselves.
Don’t Neglect Your Pre-Header
We’ve spent a lot of time discussing subject lines, and it’s true that these are super-important. But it’s all too easy to forget about the pre-header, which arguably is just as essential.
In fact, researchers have found that clever, thoughtful pre-header text results in a 7% higher open rate.
The opening text of your email shows up right next to the subject line in your recipient’s inbox. So neglecting that space is a big tactical error.
So what’s the best way to use this all-important space?
The best pre-headers are those that create a sense of urgency. For example, if your subject line touts “Music Festivals in Texas,” try teasing an amazing discount on a ticket to a popular festival. (For example, “10% off Austin City Limits tickets”)
This kind of pre-header gives your subscribers a reason to open your message. They will want to know what the tickets cost, and what they have to do to get them.
In addition, the most effective preheaders form a cohesive unit alongside your subject line. A disconnect between your subject line and preheader text makes it look spammy, while connecting them appears more intentional and thoughtful.
One of the many perks of spending time on crafting pre-header text is that it creates a visible ad campaign in your recipients’ inboxes, even if they never open it. Over time, as they keep seeing strong headlines and preheaders in their inboxes, they build a powerful association with your organization. Eventually, this can result in some solid conversions.
Another point to keep in mind about preheaders: remember to keep testing them. Per our earlier point, you really don’t know what kind of preheaders are most effective with your audience until you’ve tried out several.
Keep It Short
How much written information do you process on any given day?
If you stop and add up all the text messages, social media posts, news and weather reports, and email that you encounter, you can see that it quickly becomes overwhelming.
And if you’re inundated with written text, just imagine how your subscribers feel.
The popular myth about the human attention span gradually dwindling to less than that of a goldfish has largely been debunked. However, it can’t be denied that we are hit with a barrage of information throughout the day.
In response, most of us have become experts at weeding out information that is irrelevant. We do it so quickly and instinctively, that we’re almost unaware of what we’re doing.
So it could fairly be said that we have an eight-second attention span (or less) for information that we have filtered out as unimportant.
This constant filtering process, of course, presents a challenge to email marketers. It means you need to cut right to the heart of what you want to say, and express it in as few words as possible.
Keep your subject line and message content brief but impactful. Don’t waste time or space on fluff.
If you need a firm guideline, try to keep your subject line between 28 and 50 characters.
And, while there is still much disagreement about the optimum length for email copy, the most reliable data seems to indicate that 20 lines of text is the magic number.
That gives you just enough space to communicate the most essential elements of your message without anything extra.
Craft CTA’s With Care
It’s fair to say that you’re not spending time writing and sending emails just for fun. You have a clear objective to accomplish in the process.
That objective might be to increase sales. Or to get subscribers to visit your website or read your article about “Craft Fairs Near Me” (and by extension, to visit some of those craft fairs, too!)
When it comes to this objective, your CTAs are really where the rubber meets the road. So you want to make them as enticing as possible.
How do you do this?
First of all, use a strong verb. (“Buy It Now!” “Find It Here!” “Book It Today!”) These verbs tell your reader exactly what you want them to do. Besides that, clear actions are much more exciting to your readers, so they’ll feel more compelled to buy the tickets or book the tour.
Again, brevity here is important. Don’t load your CTA down with all kinds of unnecessary verbiage. Keep it tightly focused on the action you want your readers to do. Your action verb alongside the word “Now” for a sense of immediacy will work just fine.
Of course, the placement of your CTA on the page makes a big difference too. However, there’s no hard and fast rule here. It’s best to experiment with different placements as part of your A/B testing to find out what works best for you.
Last but not least, don’t forget to articulate a clear benefit to clicking on your CTA. What exactly will your readers get when they click on it? A discounted price on your newest recording? A good price on your specialty handmade earrings? Make sure the text around your CTA clearly and explicitly shows what the reward is for clicking.
Make Your Email Copy Visually Clean
As mentioned earlier, your subscribers are barraged with written information on a daily basis. So once you’ve managed to reel them in with a strong subject line and preheader, you want to keep their attention. And the best way to do that? Making your email copy as easy to read as possible.
Why are these considerations so important?
The data shows that readers, on average, only allot about 51 seconds to reading a newsletter once they’ve opened it.
And in all, they only fully read about 19% of electronic newsletters.
What this means is that your readers are actually not “reading” at all. They are actually just scanning or “skimming” your content, focusing only on what jumps out at them as important.
So it’s crucial that you structure your email copy in such a way that your readers can quickly absorb your main points with a quick scan.
This means breaking up dense, chunky paragraphs of text in favor of briefer paragraphs with plenty of white space in between.
Use bullet points to sum up main points.
When it comes to images, use them with great care. A good image will make your email easier to read and understand by providing a visual representation of your message. But an image that doesn’t fit your message perfectly will be more of a distraction than it’s worth.
You also might consider experimenting with text color, making key points stand out by changing the font color to red or blue.
Pay Attention to Frequency
Raise your hand if you enjoy being nagged.
It’s true; when we hear the same demands from the same person over and over, we tend to tune them out. It just gets annoying after a while.
It’s the same with email marketing, too.
Obviously, you want your subscribers to hear from you frequently enough that they don’t forget about you. But if you’re not careful, you could end up on their “list”...and not the good kind. A 2015 study found that the top reason subscribers mark email as spam is excessive frequency.
How to avoid this? Frequency capping is an effective but underused feature that automatically limits the amount of email messages that your subscribers receive from you within a set timeframe. You can set the values of your frequency cap to whatever you want. And you can go back in and edit these values later if you need to (or even completely disable frequency capping if you no longer need it).
Here’s an example. Let’s say you are emailing subscribers with content relating to the Scarborough Fair (Texas). You can adjust your frequency cap to be lower in the summer and fall when people are not really thinking about this event. Then you can raise it again during the late winter and spring when people begin making their plans for the Renaissance festival.
Another effective practice is allowing your subscribers to control the amount of email they receive from you. When they first opt in, you can offer them a choice as to how many emails is too many. Not only does this prevent your messages getting flagged as spam, it also provides valuable insight into the email frequency that works best with your audience.
Actively Build Your Subscriber List
The best way to ensure that your email marketing campaign reaches its desired target is through intentionally and thoughtfully building your subscriber list.
There are several creative and effective approaches you can take towards this process.
One strategy is by offering your subscribers gated content upgrades. How-to tutorials, free music and design templates are examples of the kind of content you could lock behind a gated opt-in form.
When done right, this is a proven tactic for collecting subscribers who have a genuine interest in what you have to offer.
How about a free guide to the best vendors at the Big Bear Oktoberfest? Or an article recognizing the best vendors at the Central Florida Fair?
If an email subscription is the only way users can unlock this content, you may quickly find your numbers growing.
Another trick to growing your subscriber list: stick a CTA on your website or blog. A highly visible and compelling “Subscribe Now” button is a quick and easy way to funnel website visitors onto your email list.
In addition to a CTA, don’t be afraid to add some social proof to your website by mentioning how many people have already subscribed, once that number is impressive enough.
Here are some other great strategies that are worth a try:
- Offer subscribers a compelling discount or special offer.
- Encourage your subscribers to share your content and offers by forwarding to their own email list or posting on social media.
- Craft a thoughtful welcome letter, thanking users for subscribing.
- Pitch your content on your own social media page.
- Make pop-up forms easy to use.
- Add a link to sign up at the end of your personal emails.
- Run a fun contest for all new subscribers.
Any of these tactics (or at best, a combination of them) should bring you some real results in the form of engaged and valuable subscri
Make It Personal
No one likes to get an automated mass mailing. But everyone loves to receive a special message crafted just for them.
How can you provide this experience for each and every one of your subscribers?
It’s not as hard as you might think.
Play around with your email features to see if it will let you enter a shortcode that can be automatically replaced with the recipient’s first name.
There is something about hearing or seeing our own first name that immediately makes a message seem more exciting and interesting. (“Wow! They must know me.”)
In the same vein, make sure that your own name is displayed in the sender box. That way your email feels like a personal message from a friend to a friend, instead of just another mass email from some big company.
Then, take it one step further by setting up an immediate reply to anyone who responds to the message. It could be as simple as, “Thanks for subscribing, Bob!”
Want to sharpen up this step even more? Target your replies based on different segments of your group of recipients. For example, try one reply message for aspiring artists, and another for potential art buyers who may be searching for “art shows near me.”
Of course, to really maximize this strategy, you will need to gather some information about your subscribers when they opt in. One simple question, with two or three multiple choice responses, will allow you to personalize effectively.
If you want them to subscribe to your emails about the Big Bear Oktoberfest, for example, you might try asking, “What are your plans for the Big Bear Oktoberfest?” Then subscribers simply choose from two responses: “I am a vendor” or “I am a visitor.”
Develop Your Voice
With the overwhelming number of email messages that each of your subscribers gets every day, it’s critical that yours stands out from the masses.
One of the best ways to do this is through developing your own unique voice throughout your content.
The idea of brand voice may seem vague, warm and fuzzy. But actually, there are objective ways to define your voice.
Think about your brand personality. What makes you stand out from others?
Are you quirky? Passionate? Authentic?
Do you like to use unexpected examples to catch your audience’s attention? Or are you more of a warm, vibrant, cheerleader type?
The qualities of your particular brand voice will drive things like word choice, examples, and overall tone in your email copy.
If you are sending out information to potential visitors about the North Georgia State Fair, you’ll want to have a tone of excitement. Choose strong verbs and adopt a warm, passionate tone.
On the other hand, if you are simply responding to the questions, “Where are the best fairs near me?”, you’ll want a voice that’s direct and informative.
If you’re still unsure about your unique voice, try experimenting a bit. Craft three sample emails, each in a different voice. Read them out loud. Which one sounds most like you? Which best reflects your values and personality? That’s the voice you want to go with.
Now craft your email copy using that same voice. You’ll be sure to attract the right audience.
One key consideration: keep your voice consistent. That consistency will make your brand more recognizable to your subscribers, ensuring that you stand out from the crowd of emails already in their inbox.
Avoid the Spam Filters
Being flagged as spam is the equivalent of a death sentence to any email marketing campaign. So how can you prevent this disaster from happening to you?
The most important thing to keep in mind here are the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act. Violations of this law can result in huge penalties. Here are some common violations:
- Lack of an unsubscribe button
- An unsubscribe link that stops working after a while
- Deceptive names, addresses, or subject lines
- No physical mailing address
This is yet another good reason for ensuring that a real person’s name (preferably yours) appears in the “from” field. And always use the same address, because frequent address changes can be a giant red flag.
Also, be aware of the type of formatting and punctuation that can trigger those spam filters. Writing in all caps is a huge no-no when it comes to that. Also avoid excessive punctuation, especially exclamation marks. (In other words, find a better way than 10 exclamation points in your subject line to convey your excitement.)
Any language that sounds over-the-top should be avoided, too. (i.e., “Your only chance!, “Act now, before it’s too late!,” “A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!”) The filters are designed to automatically reject this kind of hyperbole.
Another red flag is poorly formatted HTML. So it’s definitely worth taking the time to figure out how to format it better, or hiring a professional to do so for you.
Finally, choose a good, reputable Email Service Provider. The best ESPs, like Yahoo Mail and Gmail, automatically block IP addresses that come from an unknown or disreputable ESP.
So, before you send out that carefully crafted “What Are the Best Festivals Near Me?” message, spend some time making sure that it adheres to legal requirements and that it’s unlikely to get sent to spam.
Make It Easy to Unsubscribe
Ever hear the expression, “When you love something, set it free?”
Well, that holds true when it comes to your subscribers.
While simplifying the unsubscribing process might seem counter-intuitive, it shows a fundamental respect for your readers.
They will appreciate their relationship with you more if they know they have the freedom to walk away whenever they want.
Consider providing a link at the bottom of your emails which says, “Don’t want to get anymore promotional emails about the Shipshewana Flea Market? Unsubscribe here.”
Otherwise, you may be effectively holding your subscribers captive against their will. And who wants that?
In fact, the impossibility of unsubscribing can leave your readers with such a bad taste in their mouths, that they might choose a competitor over you.
And that is a relationship gone sour if ever there was one.
Ironically, most email marketers find that the easier it is to unsubscribe, the fewer the people who actually do so.
Even if your readers do unsubscribe from your emails, you have managed to preserve a positive relationship which may bring rewards further on down the line.
The trick here is to make it easy to unsubscribe, but NOT too easy. You want to get their reason for unsubscribing before they go. A brief, one-question exit survey will do just fine. Bogging down the request with lengthy lists of questions or demands for account information can create resentment. You don’t need that kind of negativity, especially if you want to preserve a positive relationship with unsubscribers.
Above all, make sure you honor those requests to unsubscribe. If a user clicks it but isn’t given an exit within 10 days, you might find yourself subject to a fine for violating anti-spam laws.
Optimize For Mobile
Did you know that 51% of emails are now opened on mobile devices?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, this should hardly surprise you.
For that reason, it’s super important to make sure your emails can be easily opened and read via mobile.
A brief (less than 60 character) subject line and eye-catching preheader can go a long way towards making your email stand out on a mobile device, as can brief, skimmable copy. But there are other strategies too.
Avoid loading your email down with images; an “image-heavy” email takes much longer to load. And consider placing your CTA near the top left of the page so mobile users can find it quickly. Make these buttons, as well as any other clickable links, large enough to be “touch-friendly” on small mobile screens.
When it comes to images, only add those that directly support your copy by showing instead of telling. For example, if you’re sending out an email about the Orlando Fair, don’t bother with that attractive photo of cute children on the carousel. Instead, add an image that provides valuable information: a map of the fairgrounds or a chart with the pricing structure, for example.
Use a one-column page design in your website template, if possible. If you must use two columns, put key information in the left column.
And whatever else you do, don’t neglect white space on the page. Having plenty of space between clickable areas makes your email easier to navigate on the small screens of most mobile devices.
With these tips in mind, there’s no need to give up your email marketing campaign. Instead, go ahead and transform your email subscribers into your biggest fans.