8 Essential Elements for Small Business Email

Posted May 28, 2014

By Janine Popick

Every small business email you send is an opportunity to connect with your customers and subscribers, stay top-of-mind, and maybe even boost your sales. Include these eight simple-but-essential elements in each email you send, and you should see positive results.

What Every Small Business Marketing Email Needs

1. Legitimate "From" Label

The "from" label is the first thing subscribers see when they scan their inboxes. Since this is such an important piece of inbox real estate, you want to make sure that the "from" label matches your company name, or whoever your recipient signed up to hear from when they subscribed to your list. This helps easily identify an email's source and helps your subscribers determine if they want to open the email.

2. Compelling Subject Line

When an email lands in your inbox, you decide whether or not you're going to open it in a matter of seconds, right? One of the things you base your decision on is the subject line. Your subscribers do the same. This is why subject lines are so important. Subject lines should give a brief summary of what's inside the email, but do it in a compelling way.

Tips to create compelling subject lines:

  • Keep it short. Stick to 40-50 characters
  • Tell your subscribers what's in it for them, like "Get 50% Off Today Only," "Last Chance" or "Save Time Now"
  • Be creative, and don't be afraid to have some fun
  • Don't overuse punctuation (i.e., !!!) or symbols
  • Don't use ALL CAPS.
  • Don't repeat the "from" label

3. Complementary Pre-header

The pre-header is like a subject line's wingman. It's the first line of text in your email. Some email programs, like Gmail, or mobile phones give their users the option to show the pre-header right after the subject line in the inbox, so that they receive information before opening the email. Take advantage of this second opportunity to grab attention.

Whether it's displayed next to the subject line or not, that first sentence in your email is crucial. You want subscribers to keep reading. Try to write something that complements the subject line and gives readers more context.

4. Relevant Content

Any email you send should provide value to your subscriber. Show them how to use your product, offer a promotional deal, or keep them informed about new products or services. Whatever your goal, make sure the content is helpful and informative. Create content your customers want to read, and then keep it coming.

You'll also want to vary the kind of content you send. You can't fill your customers' inboxes with promotional emails, day in and day out. If all you do is sell-sell-sell, you risk pushing subscribers away. Offer a variety of content—informational newsletters, offers, event invitations—to keep your readers engaged.

5. Strong Call to Action

The point of every email is to get subscribers to take some kind of action. Whether you want them to make a purchase or to sign up for a free trial, a clear call to action makes it easy for recipient to follow through.

When you create an email, ask yourself, "What do I want the recipient to do?" If the answer is to make a purchase, you could include a "buy now" button in the email. If you want readers to get a free trial, include a button or link to "sign up for free."

Tips to create a strong call to action:

  • Keep it short. A call to action should be no more than five words; most are only two words. You want something that's simple and effective
  • Use active language. Words like "purchase now" or "try our new service today" are good examples
  • Create a sense of urgency. Give readers a reason to act now. Put deadlines on your promotions; for example, a 3-day-only sale or 24-hour offer

6. Creative Images

It may be cliché, but it's still true; a picture is worth a thousand words. Using images in your emails is a great way to appeal to our visual nature. One of the easiest ways to incorporate images is to highlight your product or service. Images give readers an idea of what the new product looks like or even how the service might benefit them. For example, for a closet organization service, a before-and-after photo could illustrate how a once messy closet looks once the service works company works its organizational magic.

7. Social Media Buttons

Don't forget to include social media buttons in your email that link to your company's social networks. Engaged subscribers want multiple ways to connect with the companies they like, and including links right in your emails makes it easy for them to connect with a single click. You can also include social sharing buttons, which allow your recipients to share your email with their social network, expanding the reach of your message and maybe even getting you some new subscribers.

8. Unsubscribe Option

This last element is non-negotiable. The CAN-SPAM Act says your email must include a way for customers to opt out, and every reputable email service provider will provide you with an easy way to do this and manage unsubscribe requests for you.

There you have it: eight must-have elements for every email you send. Have any to add to my list? Please share them in the comments below.

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse (a Deluxe company), a provider of self-service email and social media marketing solutions for small businesses. Connect with her on Twitter at @janinepopick.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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