Executive Summary: Be generous to your audience.
The number one question to keep in mind when writing email marketing content is this: what VALUE can you provide?
Value comes in many forms. The first is picking a topic that you know is interesting to your audience, which is why we my team always brainstorms until we get 100 of them.
Once you have the topic and some general content, what can you add? Can you find a local expert to interview on this topic and include that content? Can you find an excellent video that does a great job in explaining this content — or better yet, make your own? What research can you do to save your audience member time or money? You don’t have to create original content for every email if you do a great job at curating content that already exists (and be sure to give credit where it’s due).
Another way to add value, and to save people’s time, is to link directly to the content you are describing. If there’s an interesting article on a website, don’t just link to the home page of the website and force everyone of your users to find the article themselves — link directly to the article. Then be sure to test that link with someone else in case it only works for you.
A third idea on adding value is to literally give something away. This is especially cost effective when you have a large list. If giving away a nice gift now and then (keep it random) can raise your open rates by 10%, that’s huge bang for the marketing buck. And remember — it doesn’t have to be something that you sell. Think back to those magazines your customers read: what’s the hot item in there that would get everyone on your list excited to win and that complements your brand? One of our clients has an audience of professional writers. They give away a free Moleskine notebook every month — perfect! [Don’t miss our free gift below.]
Another way of being generous is to edit. Shorter is often better, and if you have a bunch of great content, then link to your blog so the reader can continue reading there. This reduces the risk that someone will see your email, note how long it is, and “save it for later” (which actually means “never”). If you’re reading this post after getting our email where we teased you with only the first couple of paragraphs, you just saw this in action.
In conclusion, remember that your audience has this tattooed on their forehead WIIFM: “what’s in it for me?” If you can’t answer that question, then you’re losing your audience. And if you think that offering yet another sale on your products is the “value” they are looking for, think again. Of course you’ll be doing that occasionally, but it will work MUCH better if your audience is already engaged and a large percentage are opening your email.
So build value first, then make the sale.