- Before you write an outreach email, you must define an email goal, such as building brand awareness or generating a sale.
- Identify your target audience and their interests so you can communicate effectively.
- The structure, voice, and clarity of your writing will give your email the persuasive style it needs to succeed.
- When writing, prioritize personalization over promotion.
- Proofread for mistakes and make adjustments, track performance, and repeat for optimal results.
While many businesses are planning on upping their social media and mobile budgets in 2015, email remains one of the most effective ways of connecting your company with its audience and potential customers.
So, in a time when people are busier than ever, how do you begin to write an outreach email that will get opened, read from start to finish, and simply stand out in a crowded inbox? Whether you’re running a larger campaign or trying to establish that one key influencer relationship, if you take the following essential tips into account when creating your marketing email, you’ll be off to a good start.
1. Define an Email Goal
Before drafting a marketing email, it’s crucial to determine its purpose, which will inform your writing, revision, and evaluation process. As such, you can’t even really begin writing your email before you understand what you want it to do. These goals may include:
Establishing a Relationship
In some cases, you may want to simply introduce yourself and your company to a potential customer or online influencer. You can think of this type of email as the first step in building a sustainable relationship with the recipient.
These kinds of emails generally want nothing explicit in return — there’s no pitch, no call to action. However, that does not mean an email with this objective can’t be successful. If your email is well-executed and the recipient opens and reads it, then that makes one more potential customer.
Building Brand Awareness
Awareness is the first stage in the customer purchase funnel, which makes this a valuable goal for an outreach email. If your audience is unaware of your company’s existence, they never have the option to buy into you. To increase the awareness beyond just the one recipient, an email with this purpose should include some kind of pitch or explicit ask. Do you have something you’d like them to share on their Facebook, Twitter, or website?
There are a number of possible positive outcomes in this scenario, from general widespread brand awareness, to increasing your online authority.
Generating a Sale
While establishing relationships and building brand awareness will help draw in customers, sometimes your email marketing strategy will be more explicitly promotional — maybe there’s a clearance or discount, product launch, or other kind of promotion.
Again, these emails should include a clear call to action. It’s also best practice to save these emails for those who have already done business with you or who have expressed interest in doing business with you. Blatantly promotional emails aren’t always the best for making first impressions.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Once you establish what you’re trying to accomplish with your email, you need to identify your target audience before you begin writing. You can’t have an email goal without an audience, and in order to communicate effectively, you need to know and understand who you’re communicating with. No one will open or act on your email if it doesn’t relate to them.
For now, let’s think beyond your email subscribers. Who else is out there? In terms of building brand awareness and gaining influence online with non-subscribers, some common general target audience categories include:
Bloggers. In general, bloggers are their own boss and enjoy connecting with a public audience over a specific topic of interest. There is an inherent amount of ego associated with blogging, and a someone’s personal blog is, in a sense, their online identity. If you decide to target your email at a blogger, ask yourself:
- What subjects does the blogger write about?
- What is the blogger’s mission?
- How would you describe their online voice?
Webmasters/Site Owners. A site owner may be in charge of designing the website, content placement (not necessarily content generation), revising web pages, replying to user comments, etc. There are many instances when an email marketing strategy may require reaching out to a webmaster.
Journalists and Contributors. Multi-subject magazines have a number of article contributors and/or journalists along with an editorial staff. Who you contact depends largely on the scope and purpose of your email.
Organization or Institution Administrators. Academic institutions (.edu), government agencies (.gov), and non-profit organizations (.org) cater to a very specific kind of strategy. Targeting these sites usually requires a new, highly personalized and sincere email for each site contacted.
When planning out the elements of your outreach email, however, there are many additional factors about your audience to consider that will heavily influence the style, tone, diction, etc., and thus effectiveness of your email. Some questions to ask yourself when defining your target audience include:
- What are their demographics? In other words, what are their quantifiable stats? E.g., age, gender identification, location, marital status, etc. However, avoid targeting an email based solely on this data; you will end up with content that talks at people.
- How do they define themselves? This includes what they do and what their background is. What is their education level? Do they have hobbies? What might they experience on a regular basis?
- What are their current behaviors influenced by? People are motivated to share, buy, and publish for a variety of reasons.
- Where do they spend their time online? Sleuthing around social media and Google can shed light on many aspects of a target audience. What does their social media behavior tell us about them? What do they share and like? How do they consume information?
- Who do they listen to? Often, we lump audience and influencers together, but this is not always the most useful way to approach engagement. Once you identify who may be interested in your idea, look into who they trust and why.
- What are their concerns and interests? Try defining their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes towards whatever topics they engage publicly with. The more your message is able to resonate with your target audience, the better your chances are at success.
- What is an interest or concern your company and audience share? Common interests are an opportunity to successfully connect.
- What concerns or problems of theirs can your company solve? Answering this question can shed light on more opportunities to connect and engage. Err on the side of highlighting non-promotional solutions.
3. Have Some Style
Now that you have an email goal and a target audience, you can start the writing process.
When drafting the content of your email, it’s crucial that you keep your brand voice and audience in mind. These factors, along with your email’s structure, voice, and clarity, will establish your email’s style.
Regardless of its purpose, a successful outreach email guides readers from its introduction through to being open to your idea. The structure of your email is like an invisible guide.
If your email is organized effectively, the reader will clearly understand the who, what, why, and how of the email’s content from start to finish: Who is emailing me? Why are they emailing me? What do they want me to do? How should I do it? Consider the following outreach email building blocks:
- Subject Line
- Introductions (yourself and your company)
- Pitch/Ask/Main Point
- Sign Off
In general, the building blocks of an outreach email will be spread throughout your email. Experiment with how you put them together. If your outreach email successfully communicates and lays out its main idea amongst the building blocks, your structure will, in part, naturally unfold.
How your writing fits a specific context, purpose, or audience is known as its voice. While there are many elements of voice, the words you use, how you arrange those words, and your tone determine most of your outreach email’s voice.
While your company may have a distinct voice, a successful outreach email will shift it so that it’s appropriate for the target audience. Two outreach emails can contain the same information and still be completely different because their elements cater to different contexts, objectives, or audiences.
A note about diction: Your word choice is arguably your most powerful tool when it comes to influencing your audience. The words you choose (and their connotations) can implant the main ideas you want your audience to think about. Choose wisely.
Clarity, Concision, and Correctness
Effective outreach emails maximize clarity, readability, and impact. Tighter, well structured emails result when you choose your words carefully, use correct grammar and punctuation, make vague words more specific, edit out redundancies, and arrange your ideas for the greatest effect.
According to Experian Email Marketing Benchmark studies, more than half of all emails are now being accessed via mobile devices in the U.S. This makes having short, clear, and impactful emails that much more important.
In our experience, personalization trumps promotion. You can’t forget the fact that, despite the computer, phone, or iPad screen, you and your recipient are human. Promotional templates, despite how awesome your product or idea may be, turn your company into a robot, and chances are your audience isn’t interested in talking to a robot… in the context of an email, anyway.
Influencers receive an endless number of pitches and cold emails every day. Unless you make it clear that you understand their interests and what they’re all about, they aren’t going to waste their time. Effective personalization will quickly show that you’ve taken the time to understand your audience and are interested in making a real connection.
In the end, no matter how you spin it, personalizing your outreach emails will affect how your recipients view your brand and could be the tipping point for whether the recipient decides to invest any more time in your company.
5. Proofread, Test, Repeat
Once you’ve finished writing, there’s still work to be done to ensure your email’s success. Every marketer knows that the worst mistakes are those that could’ve been avoided with careful proofreading. Sending an email off with placeholder text, an embarrassing typo, a formatting faux pas, using the wrong name — it’s all avoidable.
But more than that, proofreading, and also testing, will help you identify any gaps or oversights in your overall message. Maybe there’s a disconnect between your voice and audience, or between your delivery and how your audience likes to consume information.
Or maybe you could use a better subject line, different copy, more personalization, or just a shorter message altogether. Testing and tweaking are essential when working to maximize engagement with your outreach emails, and vital to achieving your goal.