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In last month’s article, I shared a few tips for writing better emails and got some nice responses with more tips and also some a few email pet peeves. For example, one reader said she hates it when people don’t change the subject line in old email chains to reflect a new topic of discussion. Gotta admit, I’m guilty of that one sometimes myself!

Writing that article got me to thinking about how we all use email nowadays. Of course, email is a primary communication vehicle in both personal and business settings, although it’s slowly being replaced in the personal realm with texting and social media.

But email remains vital for business communication. In fact, I have clients I rarely speak to in person or on the phone — almost all of our communication takes place via email.

Email as a Marketing Tool

In addition to day-to-day communication, email is also widely used as a marketing tool. There are many different kinds of email marketing, but most of it takes the form of e-newsletters or so-called “e-blasts” that can take on many different forms themselves — ranging from coupons from local merchants to various other kinds of electronic promotions.

One of the biggest benefits of using email as a marketing tool is that it’s relatively cheap. Unlike a direct mail campaign or print newsletter, there’s no paper and ink and no postage. The only real cost is your creative.

This benefit, however, also leads to the biggest drawback of email marketing: We’re all suffering from email overload. And I’m not just talking about spam.

Because sending out email marketing messages is so cheap and easy, everybody does it. As a result, all of our inboxes are jammed full not only of useless spam, but also legitimate marketing emails we often just don’t have time to read and respond to — even if we want to.

Some Tips From a Pro

The challenge for any company using email marketing is to break through the logjam of email overload and get recipients to recognize, open and eventually respond to their email marketing messages. To get a few pointers on crafting effective marketing emails, I talked to my friend Greg Venezia, a veteran marketer who has created and overseen dozens of successful email marketing campaigns.

Greg says the first key in writing a great marketing email is writing a great subject line. “You need an engaging subject line to get your email opened,” he says. “For direct sales, I’ve always had the most success when the subject line illustrates a client benefit directly.”

Moving to the body of your email, this should consist of a brief message that supports your sales and brand objectives. The key here, says Greg, is to keep your message simple. “Brevity is always best. Don’t try to do too much with a single email. The biggest mistake I see is marketers trying to cram their emails with all kinds of information that their customers just can’t digest.”

Most importantly, your marketing email must offer some kind of value to your readers. Greg says this can be in the form of a special price or deal (primarily in B2C marketing) or a free value-added giveaway like an E-book or whitepaper (primarily in B2B marketing).

“If your marketing email is a thinly disguised hard sales message, not only will readers not open it, but they will probably form a negative impression of your company and your brand in their minds,” says Greg. And this can be hard to erase once it has taken root.

Think Like Your Customer

Greg recommends that you “think like your customer” when writing marketing emails. One way to do this is to imagine that you’re about to receive the marketing email you’re writing. Then ask a few questions:

• Does the subject line give you a reason to open and read the email? Or is it vague or, even worse, self-promotional?

• Is the body of the email message brief and does it get to the point quickly? Or does it drone on and on, leaving readers wondering what it is that you’re trying to tell them?

• Is there a clear customer value proposition somewhere in the marketing email? Can readers easily answer the WIIFM question: What’s In It For Me?

It should go without saying that marketing emails also must be well-written and not contain any grammatical, punctuation or other errors. But I see enough poorly written marketing emails that I feel I need to say it anyway. If you’re not confident in your or your staff’s writing abilities, hire a professional to help you.

Don’t Forget the CTA

Finally, don’t forget to include some kind of call to action (or CTA as we in the industry call it) in your marketing email.

This is one of the biggest benefits of using email as a marketing tool: You can include links in the email that readers can click on taking them directly to pages where they can respond to your offer. This makes it easy to track the activity generated by the email and measure the effectiveness of your email marketing messages.