Becoming an Email Marketing Ninja

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email marketing ninja
Image courtesy of fresh lime

According the Entrepreneur, the average person gets 121 emails a day — much of it promotional email. Today’s email marketing ninja needs to break through this clutter to ensure emails get opened, read, and clicked.

Many folks, especially business executives gave up trying to empty their inbox every day and the unread emails just keep pilling up. Gmail tries to help by categorizing emails so users see what they want in their inbox while promotions and social emails end up behind tabs. So, maybe email marketing is dead?

Despite this, Entrepreneur says:

According to the Direct Marketing Association, it [email marketing] yields an estimated 4,300 percent ROI. Every dollar spent on email marketing offers a return of $44, says ExactTarget.

Email marketing works 40 times better at getting customers than Facebook and Twitter, and compared to social media, it offers 17 percent higher conversion.

These are great arguments in favor of becoming an email marketing ninja.

Becoming an email marketing ninja

Email marketing ninja status requires a series of interconnected activities:

  • List building
  • Crafting headlines/ subject lines that get opened
  • Employing CTAs (calls to action) that work
  • Designing images that draw in the reader
  • Make it mobile-friendly

We’ll cover the first 2 of these today and leave the rest for later in the week.

List building

In the old days, you’d just buy a list of individuals you thought might be in your target audience. Can-Spam did away with that tactic, but it was never a really good tactic — BTW, penalties are pretty severe so you should read through the law to ensure you’re in compliance. Buying lists was never a really good idea because folks on the list didn’t know you and had little motivation to open your emails — it was just a numbers game. Because email was costless, the numbers played out.

An email marketing ninja knows a good email list is worth its weight in gold. At the beginning of my career, I worked for a direct marketing firm and we built a list like that for AT&T. Every time we emailed that list, 30% responded. Gold!

Part of the secret to building a great list is making it easy to subscribe. Adding subscription forms in prominent places on your website, crafting a subscribe tab on Facebook, forwarding emails to friends, and other tactics make it easy for folks to join your list. Increasingly, websites use pop-ups to deliver their subscription forms. As this becomes overused, the effectiveness goes down and the annoyance factor goes up — not a great long-term strategy.

A bigger factor in email list building is offering solutions to readers. Content on the website, in emails, and in other content should educate, support, offer solutions and discounts, or otherwise offer value rather than promoting the firm. Successful email marketing ninjas use valuable gated content as the primary driver of list building. Most email marketing clients (like Constant Contact, Aweber) make it easy to restrict some content to motivate readers to become subscribers, then seamlessly deliver the promised content. Michael Stelzner from Social Media Examiner used his highly popular yearly Social Media Marketing Industry Report to build his list to over 400,000 subscribers.

Crafting headlines/ subject lines

Having a great list doesn’t mean folks will open your emails and, if they don’t open them, they can’t click on them and you lose the value of email.

The first rule of subject lines is to give users a reason to open your email. And, use your company name; don’t be coy. See the infographic below for some more examples of subject lines that can make you an email marketing ninja. According to our friends at Constant Contact, here are tips for being an email marketing ninja:

  • Be short – less than 50 characters
  • Don’t use spammy words like Free, buy now, etc.
  • Ask a question that is solved in the email
  • State a deadline – such as “Register Today”
  • Try a teaser – such as “How your Next Post Can Get The Rock Star Treatment”
  • Tell readers what to do
  • List posts — such as “7 Tips to Grow you Business”
  • Make an announcement
  • Be Unique
  • Tell a joke
  • Say something unexpected
  • Hint at multimedia in your email

A caveat here: think about your target market. Not all subject lines work with all target audiences, so be sure to match them. An email marketing ninja never uses a flip subject line that trivializes the serious content of the email message. Or promises something the content doesn’t deliver.

Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground today. I’ll cover the remaining elements that’ll make you an email marketing ninja later in the week, so be sure to stop back. In the meantime, post any questions you have and I’ll try to add the answers to the next post.

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Here’s a great infographic from my buddies over at Online Course Reports on using email marketing for outreach to bloggers and media.

Anatomy of Email Outreach