Beyond Email Marketing Tools: Content Matters

As email marketing consultants, we try to keep up with industry news, but occasionally the emails, blogs and newsletters pile up. Then we tend tackle that pile all at once rather than one article or post at a time. We don’t mind it, really, because it sometimes allows us to spot trends where we otherwise wouldn’t.

And today’s trend that emerged as we tackled the pileup of email marketing news and insights? Content matters.

Between reading one pundit’s prediction that information-rich email newsletters are coming back, finding more statistics about the importance of From and Subject lines to overcome Spam, and stumbling across an ebook encouraging B2B marketers to use storytelling, today’s most noticeable trend is most definitely that content matters.

Design and imagery have their place
With all the sophisticated email marketing tools we have now, it’s easy to get caught up in email design…and it’s pretty easy to have an email design fail, what with the variety of email clients and mobile devices, not to mention the prevalence of marketers still using image-only emails.

It’s easy to get caught up in imagery too, especially given the popularity of Pinterest and the plethora of pictures that are shared on Facebook. As consumers, we find B2C emails in our inboxes often don’t make sense unless we enable images.

Pictures have their place in email marketing to be sure. But after watching email designs go so far from text to imagery, perhaps we’re seeing the pendulum swing back the other way, towards content.

The four kinds of content in your email
When we say content matters, we are talking about more than what your email marketing messages say. There’s more content than that in your emails, and this isn’t the kind of content you can “fix” with email marketing tools. These take time and testing to get right.

To consider the place (and value) of content in email marketing, let’s break this down into the kinds of content that make up an email:

  • The From line
  • The Subject line
  • The preview pane
  • The body text

The From line
Yes, the From line. We are considering that content because it is. If you think the From line really doesn’t matter, consider this email marketing stat: 43% of people that receive email will report messages as spam based solely on the From line.

Our take on that? You might want to give the From line some thought, or a lot of thought, and definitely test to see which From line works the best for you.

The Subject line
And now for the next little snippet you might not think of as content: the Subject line.

As with the From line, research shows the Subject line is a critical piece of content, both for keeping you from the Spam folder and for getting those emails opened. Check out these two statistics for proof:

  1. 69% of email recipients report email as Spam based solely on the Subject line
  2. 35% of email recipients open email based only on the Subject line

And remember, when it comes to Subject line best practices, you only truly know what works when you test to find out what works for you. You’ll find all kinds of tried-and-true Subject line advice out there, but it won’t necessarily apply to your business, your email marketing program or your audience. So test to be sure.

(See three more reasons why Subject lines matter.)

The Preview Pane“Again with the snippets,” you’re probably thinking. You might even be wondering how this too is content. Ah, but it is. It’s words that have to keep your recipient moving in the direction of actually opening your email. You started with your From line, then got them to your Subject line and now they’re at your Preview Pane. Will that content entice them to open your email?

Greg Zakowizc of Bronto argues we should consider doing away with headers in emails so we can get recipients to the content faster. When you remove the header (usually a graphic or image), you can get straight to the message (a.k.a. content). See his before and after photos here. And see if you don’t agree that the “after” versions with the content front and center are much more effective.

The body text
OK, finally then we get to the heart of the email, but only if we’ve won people over with the first three snippets of content: the From line, Subject line and Preview Pane.

Going into details about how to write compelling email marketing copy are beyond the space limitations of this post. And that’s not our message anyway. Our message is: Content matters, so pay attention to it. Even if you’re doing B2B email marketing, your email content should be engaging and interesting.

In fact, in the ebook The B2B Marketer’s Ultimate Guide to Storytelling, you’ll find this convincing quote about the importance of interesting content:

In his book “Tell to Win”, Peter Guber argues that humans simply aren’t moved to action by “data dumps” and wordy PowerPoint slides, rather by emotion, hence we need to tell stories.

How’s your email marketing content? Is it engaging and enjoyable to read? Does your content reflect real effort on your part? Does it read like content matters?

How do your four types of content stack up?
Are you seeing what we’re seeing? The return of content as significant in email marketing? If so, are you reviewing what your team is doing with that content, moving beyond relying on email marketing tools and really trying and testing to find the best content? Take a look at the four content pieces described above and make sure each piece is working its hardest for you and your ROI.

Because content matters…and so does your bottom line.