Over the last three years of Church Fuel, we’ve sent well over 3 million email messages.
Some of these were “broadcast emails” – sent to an entire permission-based marketing list. Others were part of a “campaign” – perhaps as a follow up to a free download or a launch campaign for a new product.
It’s been a lot of words to a lot of people, and I’ve been doing this in one form or another for about five years.
So I thought I would share some of the best practices I’ve learned about sending email. These aren’t hard and fast rules, rather, they are operational guidelines.
#1 – Write from a person.
Even though you’re writing to a bunch of people at one time, it’s important to remember they are receiving a message from YOU. And you’re a real person, not an organization.
People don’t connect with companies or organizations, they connect with people from companies or organizations. Never send emails from a company email address like admin, info or noreply. And make sure any replies go to a real person on the other end. After all, if we don’t want to hear from someone, why should we assume they want to hear from us.
#2 – Write to a person.
Even though you’re writing to a list of people, write like you’re writing to one person. It might be helpful to have a specific target person (sometimes called an avatar or persona) in mind.
When sending your email, personalize the recipient field with the person’s name.
#3 – Write like a normal person.
You’re a person. And you’re writing to a person. So write like a normal person.
If you wouldn’t address someone as “beloved” in person, don’t use that to start an email. Instead of saying corporate sounding things like “Fill out this form to receive your complimentary copy” just say, “Let me know where to send it.”
Unless you’re writing to the Queen of England, email does not need to be unnecessarily formal.
#4 – Write about one thing.
For the most part, emails about single subjects are more effective than emails about multiple things. People will scan more than they read, so trying to cram too much information into an email is a good way to get ignored.
If you have multiple things to communicate, you could use an email campaign and string together multiple messages spread over time. For the most part, keep emails simple and focused.
As they say, if everything is important nothing is important.
#5 – Include a Call to Action.
The call to action is one of the most important parts of an email. Ideally, you have just one clear call to action. You can reinforce that CTA several times, but make sure it’s clear. Some of my favorite calls to action are:
- Buy this now before Friday
- Click here to download the PDF
- Reserve your spot
- Put me on the waiting list
- Make an appointment
- Watch the video
In every case, make sure your call to action is as clear as it can be. Which is probably why you don’t want to use “submit.”
#6 – Check the stats.
One reason email is a great way to communicate with people is you can pretty quickly know real numbers. Unlike social media vanity stats that show you how many impressions you have, it’s easier to measure the results of email.
Two numbers to pay attention to are open rates and click rates. The open rate is how many people opened your email message. The click rate is how many people clicked on any link or button in the email.
The more engaging your subject lines and email content, the better the open rate will be. The more relevant and clear your call to action, the better your click rate will be.
#7 – The subject line is the most important thing.
Most people decide to open and read the email entirely based on the subject line. Avoid generic subjects like “Reflections Update #7.” Instead, opt for something intriguing that will cause someone to want to read the opening lines of the email.
#8 – Design might not be necessary.
This varies by the sender, but in most cases, highly designed templates see less engagement than simple, text-based messages. It’s a good reminder that what looks better doesn’t always work better.
#9 – Test everything.
How do you know whether templates or text work better?
This is sometimes called split-testing or A/B testing. Something that doesn’t work for one person may work for you. Here are some things you should test with your emails.
- Subject Line
- Call to Action
- Design vs. Plain Text
- Send Date and Time
#10 – Intentionally break these rules.
These rules are more like guidelines and you can break them carefully and when necessary.