How to write a winning marketing email – part two: creating the content

Following on from our last post, How to write a winning marketing email – the nuts and bolts – here are some of the most important things you should think about when creating content for marketing emails.

Timing

Make sure your email content is timely and relevant to your audience at a particular time. For example if you’re sending an email about revising for A Levels – make sure you send it when you know students will be revising for their A Levels.

Consider when your audience are most likely to open emails, ie for school/college students, that might be lunchtime or straight after school.
For a staff email, during working hours would probably work best.

Audience

Always think about your audience when writing content:

  • Who’s reading the email?
  • What do they want/need to know?
  • Who do they want to hear from? (the University, department, a specific academic)
  • What kind of content will work best for them? (video, images, blogs, shorthand articles)

The most successful marketing emails are relevant to the audience who are receiving them.

If your audience and content are very broad, you may want to segment your audience to ensure a more tailored experience. If people are receiving information that isn’t relevant and interesting to them, they’re more likely to switch off, delete the email and not open your next one.

Personalise

Personalisation makes a marketing email feel less like a mass-mailout and more like a one-to-one communication. 

The simple addition of Dear Helen can make an email recipient feel like you’re talking just to them, rather to everyone. This is emphasised when the rest of the email is also personalised, for instance department-specific information or advice for international students.

Depending on the system you use, personalisation can be added automatically (dynamic content) or manually by sending separate emails.

Clear call-to-action

What do you want the email recipient to do as a result of your email?

Do you want them to book for an event, download a document, sign up for a webinar or read more content online? Whatever it is, make sure it’s clear, obvious and in the first content block within your email – not hidden at the bottom. Recipients are unlikely to read the entire email so make sure your most important content is at the top. 

Rather than a text link

Make sure your button is a clear action, for example:

  • Book your Open Day place
  • Read our student blogs
  • Sign up for our arrivals webinar
  • Find out more about Freshers’ Week

Images/videos

Include images and/or videos in your email to support your written content and make it more visually interesting.

Images

  • Make sure your images are resized and optimised for web.
  • Don’t use too many images in your email. Each image increases the email size and if the email size is too big this may cause the email to be delivered incorrectly. 
  • Don’t put important information solely in an image – some people have images turned off in their emails or use screen readers, which means they’ll miss this information. Always provide text alternatives to images.

Videos

  • Most email marketing platforms allow you to embed a YouTube video directly into the email using a URL. This automatically pulls the thumbnail you set in YouTube and overlays a play button. 
  • Make sure your video has subtitles.

Accessibility

  • Always make sure you create a plain-text version of your email – most email marketing software will create this for you, you’ll just need to refresh the content when prompted.
  • Make sure your link text is explanatory, ie ‘It’s time to book your Open Day place‘. Never use ‘click here’ or ‘follow this link’ – these are inaccessible for people using screen readers.
  • What colour combinations are you using? Is there enough contrast for someone who’s visually impaired to read the text?

If you have questions about the marketing emails you’re sending, get in touch at marketing-support@york.ac.uk.

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