Email tips for pros

Church in a field

Are you a church or a charity?

Do you really send “newsletters”? Is that what your audience is expecting from you?

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when creating your next email campaign


On this page, we’ll talk about the format of an email head, including the sender name, subject line and email address.

We’ll then look at a few simple tips for the content of an email.

Let’s get started!


Who are you?

Think of all the information your audience can see before they decide to open your email?

This includes:

  • The name of the sender

  • The email address of the sender

  • The subject line of the email

  • The preheader

Look at these examples to see how various senders use the different elements.

Email inbox

The Malta email at the top does use these elements (except the preheader), but they’ve basically written the same information into each section (“Malta Direkt”).

I suggest you play with all four elements to create a balance.


Sender name

In the first column, you see the sender name. This can be anything you like, and it can be different every time. Balance the advantage of regularity (I always receive emails from “The Guardian”) with the element of surprise.

newsletter is a very bad sender name, as the reader doesn’t gain any information from it.

Blendle and Cognito Forms are truncated, so keep your name relatively short. Gmail shortens names that are longer than 20 characters.

Be careful with “Kasper from <company>”. Sure, it’s cool, but it’s getting a bit tired. Maybe you can use your organization name, for reliability, but every now and then send an email with your own name.


Email address

This may sound silly, but you can use the email address itself to your benefit.

Wearedevelopers send from the address “thelatest@wearedevelopers.com”.

Morning Brew uses “crew@morningbrew.com”.

They’re both making a statement with this information.

Blendle, which I’ve subscribed to in German, uses the Dutch “nieuwsbrief@m.blendle.com” which I find unnecessarily alienating and confusing.

And then there’s the good old “newsletter@ecmrecords.com”, which is a wasted opportunity.

I hope it goes without saying that you should never, ever, use “noreply” in your name or email address.

There is simply no single reason to do it. If you do insist on sending messages from an account that cannot receive incoming messages, make sure you set up an autoresponder to reply to any messages and include a real email address for people to use.

Don't delegate your IT department's problems to your audience!


Subject line

Sure, this is no surprise. This is your pitch. Remember, that even if they don’t open your email, your audience has read this line!

The single most important piece of advice for this line is Don’t waste it! I’ve seen so many subject lines like “Your September newsletter” or “The latest from XYZ”.

Don’t include your name in the Subject. Don’t include the date. I already have that. Tell me something I don’t already know!

One of the best sources for ideas for your subject line is How to Be an Email Subject Line Superhero by Campaign Monitor. I use it regularly to test out new ideas.

My tip: make yourself write 1 subject line for each of the formats in the Campaign Monitor list. It’s hard work, but then pick the best one. I guarantee it will make you become more creative.


The Preheader

This is just a fancy word for a small piece of text that is displayed after or below the subject line in most email clients.

Email headers in Apple Mail

In the Malta example above you can see that the first grey text is “View this email in your browser”. Another wasted opportunity.

All the four examples above have long texts that are truncated by Apple Mail in the standard view.

Yolanda Gampp

Yolanda Gampp (How to Cake it) absolutely nails it with this short excerpt. She’s even used a little trick to keep the rest of the line empty after the teaser.

The basic rule is this: write something that is not already in the subject line.

And please don’t write “View this email in your browser”!

Almost every email client these days can show images, unless you actively turn them off. The only time they won’t be shown is if the user is offline, and if they’re offline, they won’t be able to view the email online!

My suggestion is this:

  1. If your email isn’t easy to read on a mobile device, it should be (more than 50% of emails are opened on a mobile device!). Fix it. Don’t delegate the problem to the user by adding a link (after all, if the email is not formatted for mobile, why is the website?).

  2. If you really want, add a “view online” link, but please don’t make it the first thing the reader sees.

  3. If you do have a link, track how often it’s clicked. Then decide what you need to fix, or remove the link. Please!


Talk to me

Every single interaction with your audience is a chance to impress them and move them to an action. Even if it’s an invoice or a confirmation email.

 
Wasted email
 

My mobile phone company sends me an invoice every month.

The subject line is “Your invoice”.

The email address is “invoice”. They don’t use a name.

They write “Dear customer” although they obviously know my name.

Please don’t be like them!


Call to Action

You’ve already heard this many times, but I think you should be a bit creative.

The MailChimp templates are good, but they can be a bit repetitive – Image, text block, button, repeat.

Your whole email campaign is an invitation to your audience to do something, either read something, buy something, donate, share, download etc.

Here’s a tip: use a call to action that the reader can’t ignore. Once again, Yolanda Gampp uses this very well, asking “Can you Guess”?

How+to+cake+it

This works on a couple of levels.

Firstly, there’s the “sure I can” response, so readers are curious to know if their guess is right.

Secondly there’s no wrong answer, so the reader has nothing to lose.

Thirdly, there’s no passive choice. Whatever the reader clicks, they’ve interacted, and they land on the website. That’s pure retention!


Another tip is to use so-called speaking links, with verbs and personalised words, instead of generic text. Here are a few examples:

Bad

Learn more

Read blog

Download

Go to website

Good

Download my copy

Discover new recipes

See the solution

Find your next book


For further reading, it’s always good to check out the resources at Campaign Monitor, Litmus and Email Monday.

And remember to contact us at hello@zoi.agency with any questions, problems or ideas.

Happy emailing!