If you’re doing any kind of marketing on behalf of your restaurant, hotel, or venue, you know that email marketing is still a very relevant and very effective marketing tool.
And that means that you also know that your customers and prospects are not only getting emails from you. Their inbox is filled on a daily basis with information and offers from all of the businesses they like.
So what can you do to stand out in the inbox and get attention and action from your audience? We’ve put together a list of 10 email best practices that will get you results.
1. Create a compelling subject line and preview text
This is the first thing a reader will see in regards to your email. A well thought out subject line should provide enough information so the reader knows exactly what to expect when they open an email, yet make them want more so they’ll take the time to open the email. This is a lot to ask of about 50 characters.
Updating the preview text is a newer strategy, but shouldn’t be ignored. The preview text is basically an extension of the subject line, that will appear in the email inbox. If left untouched, the preview text pulls in the first line of text in the email, which is typically, “Having trouble viewing this email? Click here to view as a web page.” You don’t want to start off on a negative note; the preview text is 50-100 characters of free real estate that allows you to extend your subject line or give a short description of the email.
Here’s some tips that will help you improve your subject line and preview text:
- Send emails from a real person, with their name as the sender and the from email. If the email’s coming from Tom Jones, the email should be something like TomJones@company.com.
- Keep it short, simple and to the point. If the text is too long, it’s going to get cut off and your readers might not be motivated to open the email and learn more.
- Attract the reader’s eye by including numbers, questions, or emojis.
- Avoid using these spam trigger words: cash, quote, save, free, buy, or click.
- Use verbs to help readers picture the action you want them to take.
- Create a sense of urgency by including deadlines, or phrases like “limited time offer.”
2. Include a value proposition
This is the big “why.” Why are you sending this email to this group of people? Why do those people want to read the email? Say it in words and include a call to action, as well as a way to take that action, such as a link or a button — an example would be something like encouraging your readers to schedule an event. Use words like “Click Here to Book Now” in a text link or a button that links to your lead form.
Your value proposition should be located at the top of the email. It should be short and to the point. If the main message is unclear to the reader or too far down the email, they will stop reading and just delete it. Or even worse — hit the spam button.
3. Pay attention to visual design
How your email looks is just as important as the content, and it’s one of the first things your audience notices when they open your message because people process visual design faster than text.
Use the following elements of good email design when you create your next message.
- Brand colors: Create branded emails that use your company logo and color, and be consistent with the design. Your emails should look like they are from you, and spark an instant visual recognition from your customers.
- Images: Include visually interesting, relevant images that represent your topic and catch your reader’s eye. Your emails are being sent to people who are busy and receive a million emails a day. A good image will make them stop scrolling and start reading and clicking.
- White space: Use white space wisely. White space is a great way to separate different sections of your email, but don’t overdo it. Too much white space will make your email longer, and your readers might get tired of scrolling.
- Bullet points: Break up your information with bullet points. Sharing three to five high-level points makes the email easier to scan, and can tease the reader enough to make them want to learn more and take action.
- Personalization: Connect with your readers on a personal level when you can. Use features like a custom greeting that pulls in names from your database and addresses your email to the individual. Create lists for people interested in different topics or services and send them emails with news or offers for their interests. Consider mentioning a recent visit or download, or customize landing pages based on content offers.
4. Maintain a clean database
Before you even sit down to write that next email, your database of names needs to be clean. By clean, I mean get rid of the following types of contacts that aren’t going to open your emails and will do nothing to increase your open rates:
- Contacts with fake or false data
- Unengaged contacts — people who never open your emails
- Unsubscribed contacts — this is actually a mandate of the federal CAN-SPAM Act. Businesses must honor recipients’ wishes to unsubscribe from their email list, and must include an opt-out link in their emails.
Scrubbing these names from your email list, or even deleting these names from your database altogether will improve your overall deliverability rates, open rates, and click rates.
5. Create segmented email lists
Not only does your database need to be clean, but you also need to make sure your database has been organized into groups of like people, or segments, so that you can properly send the right message to the right people. Some basic segments can include customers, prospects, geography, different types of marketing efforts, and interests.
6. Build a content calendar
Having an up-to-date calendar that shows your email schedule and the topics that you want to cover sets you up to be proactive versus reactive. A calendar is also a great way to make sure you’re sending emails at the right frequency and planning the perfect timing to allow readers to take advantage of offers or information you share.
Creating emails that relate to upcoming holidays, seasons, popular sporting functions, or even pop culture can boost your open rates and your revenue. Use these themes to your advantage by promoting your venue’s specials or offers. And don’t forget to include it in your subject line to keep it timely. An example like “Start the Year Off Right” in January will make readers think about their plans for the new year.
7. Analyze your data
Pay attention to your email reports for every email that you send. There’s no better way of finding out what works and what doesn’t for your emails, without calling each person on your sent list and asking them directly what they thought. Does your audience prefer CTA buttons or hyperlinks? Do they like images or mostly text? Short or long text? Do emojis in the subject line work?
The data on your opens, clicks, popular links, and more will give you the answers to these questions and reveal trends and preferences. Look for peaks and valleys in your data to guide you on how to make improvements to your email marketing and create successful emails. You should spend just as much time analyzing the data of past emails as you do crafting your next one.
8. TEST, TEST, TEST!
Create tests that compare one slight difference between two different emails. Send one email to a portion of your list, and the second email to the rest, and then check your reports to see which email got the best results. This is called an A/B test. You can test colors, images, writing styles, subject lines, or email templates. The possibilities are endless. Emails that look and sound the same month after month become stale and will only be ignored and deleted. What worked last year, last month, or even yesterday may not work tomorrow. Trends evolve and change and you need to stay up to date on what your audience resonates and connects with. Test, test, test and analyze the results.
9. Do your research
Don’t do your marketing in a bubble by focusing only on your department or venue. Ask these questions: What’s going on in your organization that your contacts or future customers would care about? What are other organizations in your industry talking about, should you join that conversation? What are your competitors doing, and do you do it better? What are other industries doing that could be incorporated and tested in your emails? Inspiration is all around you.
10. Know the legal guidelines
Yes, there are rules and regulations that must be followed (and even expensive penalties) when businesses send marketing emails, and they are part of the CAN-SPAM Act we mentioned earlier. This list does not cover everything, and it is always best to consult your legal team for compliance guidelines for your specific situation, but here some basic must-dos:
- Your business’ physical address must be present in the footer of the email.
- A link to manage email preferences or to unsubscribe from your emails must be provided in the footer of the email and adhered to.
- Your business should gain consent from contacts prior to sending them an email, which means the contact knows that they will be receiving emails from your organization.
Go beyond the best practices for better results
When you’re creating and sending emails, it’s important to have fun and love what you do. If you don’t love what you are writing about and promoting, why should anyone else? Email marketing is a creative way to share and connect with other people who can benefit from and enjoy what you are sending them!
Try one of these tips at a time until you get the hang of them. As you apply these best practices to your email marketing, you’ll begin to notice what helps you boost your results and your revenue. If you keep implementing what works and stop focusing on what doesn’t, you’ll become an email pro!
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Marketing tips and tools change every day – read Tripleseat’s blog posts on marketing for the latest information on how you can promote your restaurant or venue. And check out articles, infographics, and more on our Marketing Tips for Event Professionals and Social Media Marketing for Event Professionals boards on Pinterest.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Tripleseat’s Seated magazine, 2019 Spring/Summer issue.