To succeed, email marketers must overcome three hurdles.

First, they have to get people to open the email. Second, they have to get people to read it. Third, they have to get people to act on it.

Regarding email marketing strategy and metrics, a lot of attention goes to open rates and conversion rates — the first and third challenges. In between, there is the rather important step of getting people to read the email. Using proper email list management techniques and testing methodology for subject lines will boost open rates to be sure, but without getting those additional email openers to read the content, there is no conversion, and as a result, ROI goes nowhere.

Why Nobody Reads Your Emails

A Different Approach to Email Marketing Strategy for Content

Tips for getting people to read your emails are everywhere on the Internet. But these tips — for instance, writing about benefits, creating attention-grabbing headlines, having strong calls to action — are all good. However, without the right email marketing strategy for content, deploying these techniques is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The analysis and suggestions that follow may be a bit different from what you have read in the past, but a new way of thinking about your email content strategy may be just the thing to transform your email ROI from flat to flat-out fantastic.

What Happens to Your Email in the Real World

People are deluged with email 24/7. They are not likely to consume content for the purpose of saving it for future reference. Unless an email subscriber needs to act on the content now, it will be forgotten.

So, when companies send emails with information about new products, industry insights, helpful industry data and the like, the subscriber’s reaction will be, at best, “That’s nice.” In the back of the subscriber’s mind, there may be the thought, “This company is smart, they’d be good to work with” — but that’s a pretty fragile conversion hook on which to hang your hat.

As long as I’ve been in sales and marketing, there has always been a strong element of “out of sight, out of mind” on the part of customers and prospects. Now, any possibility of prospects hanging on to emails for future reference has dwindled to near nothingness  — because of search engines.

Information is immediately accessible to your email subscribers. If they have an immediate need to know about new products, industry insights and helpful industry data, they just Google it, then and there, when they need it. Nobody is going to sift through an email folder of old emails to find it.

Google processes more than 40,000 search queries per second. An interesting consumer study from 2016 shows that when consumers are searching for products, about 75 percent start on Amazon or Google, with, hmm … zero starting with their saved emails. On the B2B side, about 70 percent of product searches start with search queries and is trending upward. With mobile search and voice search set to explode, the ability to obtain instant information will only spike further.

The point is, email subscribers are well aware of their ability to get information instantly and on demand. Thus, if they have no immediate need for your email, they are not likely to read it.

Emails Must Be Immediately Necessary

To continue on this line of thinking, if your email needs to address an immediate need, what sorts of things are customers and prospects always interested in? Here are some pretty safe bets:

  1. Saving money (profit)
  2. Selling something (profit)
  3. Getting an edge over competitors (profit)
  4. Preventing a problem (security)
  5. Solving a problem (security)
  6. Not losing ground to competitors (fear)
  7. Getting promoted or being a hero (ego)
  8. Contributing to a good cause (ego)

There certainly are more items that could go on this list — please share your ideas in comments — but consider: If your emails cycled through these eight content themes, can you imagine the impact on conversions?

Boiling it down into a few practical examples:

  • Announcing a new manufacturing capability is boring. Telling subscribers they can take advantage of capability “X” and leave their competitors in the dust — now that’s interesting.
  • Talking about a professional HVAC staff is boring. Explaining how particulates in a home’s ventilation system could be poisoning the family —interesting.
  • Recapping changes to the tax code is boring. Explaining five accounting changes that, if made now, could reduce taxes next April by $2,000 — interesting.
  • Reminding subscribers of store hours is boring. Sending a coupon redeemable for $100 for the next 48 hours — interesting.

The common theme is immediacy. If your email content can be salted away, it’s unlikely to be reopened.

Buy To Sell

Offering to buy or accept donations is a very underused email marketing strategy, but people are always interested in selling something or donating to a good cause.

So, if “give-to-get” is a good marketing strategy, “buy-to-sell” is an even better one. There may be a good option for you in this area. For example:

Buying outdated equipment in exchange for a new model

Men’s Wearhouse runs its National Suit Drive to help people in need — and also tempts contributors to clean out overpacked closets. Could something like this work in your business?

These approaches have the additional benefits of building a very strong brand image, and may even enable your business to create a new revenue stream selling used or refurbished equipment or merchandise.

SEO: Make Your Emails Searchable and Optimized

One final technique worth touching on is to make your email content findable on organic search, which will enable all those people doing search queries to discover your email content.

From an SEO perspective, the best way to do this is to create an HTML page on your website domain for each email, optimized with relevant and at least moderately high-volume keywords. Thus, anyone (subscriber or not) with an immediate need can find your content and convert, tomorrow or three years from tomorrow.

This is an excellent way to repurpose email content and squeeze yet more conversions and ROI out of your email campaign. Also, steadily adding fresh content will help raise the organic visibility of your website. Google values sites with continually updated content, and for many types of searches, ranks fresh content higher.

Over To You

Addressing or creating immediate needs should be the constant theme of your email marketing strategy for content. Anything else is liable to be wasted motion, something nobody can afford unless they have an unlimited marketing budget. But in the real world, most organizations never seem to have a big enough budget, and by the same token, email subscribers never have enough time to plow through their inboxes. Subscribers must have a great reason — not just a good reason — to read what you’ve sent them.

What techniques have you used successfully in email campaigns to create a sense of urgency and boost conversions?