It’s easy to understand the allure of email marketing. It’s cost-effective (but not free), it’s easy to plan and execute in advance, and most people access their email every single day, so in theory the audience is engaged with the medium.

So why do so many efforts fall flat? I think we almost take it for granted. We think just firing off an email without thinking through the steps will still be effective. But the reality is, there are many elements that can make or break an email campaign at each stage of the effort.


Deliverability

Just because you click “send” doesn’t mean it actually gets into the recipient’s inbox. Here are some of the critical things to be mindful of as you develop your email.

• List quality: You can absolutely go out and buy a big batch of email addresses. But the best email list is going to come from actually building your own list by offering something of value that someone is willing to trade their email list for.

• CAN-SPAM compliance: If you break the rules, your emails will end up going nowhere. You need to be very familiar with the boundaries and requirements of this regulation.

 
Opens

Getting it into their mailbox is the first step; now you need to get them to actually read it.

• Subject line: Like the headline of an ad, your subject line is the most important element of your email. You only have a few seconds to grab the recipients’ attention.

• Time sent: The e-marketing company Mail Chimp did a study and found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays had the highest open rates. It also found that 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time worked best.


Clicks

While it’s great to get people to open the email, what you really want them to do is click on something – to learn more, to buy something or to ask you to contact them.

• Relevance: If your list or your content isn’t pretty targeted, your content may be off target. You need to know your audience well and write about things they will definitely care about.

• Design/layout: I don’t care how exciting your offer is. If I can’t find it or can’t understand what I need to do to get to the next step, I can’t move forward. Make sure your email design is clean, easy to read and the calls to action are very clear.

• Offer/call to action: If the offer isn’t compelling, time sensitive and a great value, it’s not likely you’re going to get a lot of takers. This is one of the most common mistake business owners make: They don’t sweeten the pot enough.


Revenue

Ultimately, you are sending out these emails to make money. Short of that, it was a valiant effort but it didn’t achieve the objective.

• Landing page content/design: When people are interested enough to click on a link, you sure want them to land on a page that only heightens their interest. Great photos, testimonials, video demos and very clean design with clear calls to action are what drive sales.

• Checkout experience: If you actually sell something from your website, you want to avoid cart abandonment at all costs. Make sure the checkout experience is simple, fast and doesn’t ask the buyer to duplicate efforts or invest too much time.

Email marketing needs to be a well-orchestrated machine if it’s going to pay off. So take the time to think it through, invest in good tools and test, test, test!