Thursday, August 9th, 2012

What's the point of sending emails out to your customer database if they don't generate a response?   Cathy Allington, CEO of youGROW, a company that serves thousands of customers nationally from its base in the South-East of South Australia, says too many businesses are wasting their time sending emails to customers that will never work.  

Cathy's guide to writing effective emails will give you some valuable pointers on how to make a significant change to your email success rate.

"One of our clients used these rules to create a very simple email which they sent to 429 of their customers and achieved a 100% response rate – it’s all about relevance and following the rules," Cathy says.

Firstly, there are two types of emails you can send to your customer base in bulk mailings:

1. Email newsletters with fancy graphics. These services have their uses – but the key thing to remember is that people know they have been generated by software. They will open and read “when they have time”. By contrast, if they think you have sent the email just to them, they will look at it immediately.

2. Personalised, simple, one-on-one emails. These are the type that will generate by far your best response, and what this article will focus on. They give you the best response, because people think you have sent the message just to them. It is personalised, and reads and looks just like an email you would send just to one person.

Here are The Rules for writing emails that generate your best response:

1. Target your message to the right people. If you have an email to send about an event in say Sydney next weekend, don’t send it to people who live in WA! If you have a new product which is relevant to one segment of your database, don’t send it to those who would never have a need for it.

2. Your email Subject Line should be simple, to the point, and give the reader a summary of the benefit to them by reading your email. Don’t use words like free, or special, or other words which sound like spam. Write the subject line the same way as you would write if you were sending to one person. Try to keep it to 50 characters or less.

3. Personally address your emails. Use whatever salutation you normally use to write your emails – eg, Hi, Dear, or Hello. It does not matter which you use, as long as it is what you would normally use. (Using “Hi”, with a comma, will make it easier if you have customer records without a first name.)

4. Use the same font
and format as you use in your regular emails. You don’t include fancy fonts and graphics when you send an email just to one of your customers. Make it look exactly the same – even if you are sending out thousands.

5. Make the key message of the email easily understandable in the first sentence or paragraph. Your customers are busy with emails just like you – if the message isn’t clear in the opening sentence, they probably won’t bother reading through the rest of the email. (Many people have message preview on in Outlook, where they may just see the first paragraph or so of your email without opening it. If it doesn’t grab their attention in this space, you will lose them.)

6. Think of your favourite customer or client that you like dealing with, and write the email as you would write it just to them. Don’t use long, convoluted words to try and make it sound impressive – it doesn’t. The simpler the better.

7. Turn on and use your Flesch-Kincaid
readability tool right in Microsoft Office! This is an amazingly powerful tool which checks the “reading ease” of any document you write in Microsoft Word or Outlook! (The link shows the details for Word 2007, but also works with Word 2003 and 2010.) You should keep your documents around the 70 ease level. Any lower, and you run the risk of your customers not absorbing what you are saying. Your message has to be easy for them to understand.

8. Have one clear objective.
What do you want your customer to do, or feel, as a result of your email? Don’t confuse your customers with too many messages. Your results will be much better if you just focus on one objective, and you can keep your email shorter too!

9. Highlight what the benefits are.
Make it easy for your customer to understand why what it is you are offering, is of value to them.

10. If you want your customers
to do something as a result of your email, tell them what you want them to do and how to do it. Have a call to action. I’ve seen too many potentially good messages achieve poor responses, simply by making it too confusing for the customer to know what to do.

11. Don’t just send emails promoting products or services. Send some which are purely educational and informative. Don’t build the expectation with your customers that every time you contact them, it’s because you want them to spend money! Deliver over and above with educational information, which is of value to them, and helps to build and foster your business relationship.

12. Always test! Just because it costs very little, or nothing, to send an email, does not mean we should not take the same care as with any other marketing literature. Test by sending to yourself first. Always check, and have others in your organisation check.

13. You can take your testing further and test different types of emails. If you are unclear about which email works best, use your “Merge to Email” to select a small number of your database – eg the first 100, send one email to them and see what response you get, then test with records 101 – 200. It’s very easy to test your emails.

14. Explore the tools you already have. Even if you don’t have a CRM programme which talks to your existing client base in MYOB, RetailManager, or QuickBooks, you can still export a list and run a mail merge to email or letter – using Microsoft Office.

15. There’s a place for letters
too! I recently received an invitation from the Lord Mayor to attend a cocktail function. The envelope was thick, creamy and expensive. I knew it wasn’t a bill! The invitation was gold embossed, and looked special. It was the first letter I opened, and I rang and RSVP’d immediately! It really made an impact on me.

Writing emails that generate a response takes some understanding of the rules, but once you’ve mastered these, your response rates will keep getting better!

And to see a brilliant example of how changing the words can gain a better response, see this powerful YouTube video:

Contact Profile


youGROW provides simple, easy to use CRM software for businesses using MYOB, QuickBooks, Retail Manager, EzyWine or Ostendo. youGROW provides an interface between your existing customer information - both contact and sales detail - and Microsoft Outlook. Businesses youGROW to easily communicate with relevant customers and leads to build their relationships and increase their sales.
Cathy Allington
P: 08 8733 1885
M: 0416203966


email marketing, QuickBooks, MYOB, Outlook, Retail Manager, Ostendo, EzyWine



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