Want to Know the Secret to Killer Email Campaigns? Part 1

August 11, 2009

The reality is that most email campaigns we get from businesses are lame. And, if you are sending out emails yourself you may have already resigned to the fact that you get a low response rate. It’s just the nature of email, right?


The reason we can accept poor response rates from email marketing is because we are lazy. Creating and sending an email is just too easy these days. So, type away, drop it into a nice template, fire it off and see what happens.

No wonder response is weak. You’ve earned it.

Want to get some killer results? Read on.

To get the big numbers, you are going to have to do a bit of work. For an email to be super effective it must achieve three things (please note that I am going to avoid all the technical stuff about deliver-ability and getting through spam filters and just focus on your campaign):

  1. The email must be opened (attraction)
  2. The email must be read to some extent (engagement)
  3. The email must inspire action from the reader (response)

So let’s go through each stage and see what is needed.

Getting Your List To Open Your Email

Getting your list to open your email is often the biggest challenge. Many experts say that a provocative subject line is the best way to get your prospects to open your emails. I agree to some extent. Hey, if you have a great subject line then use it. But if that’s all you have and the content of your email does not match the excitement or anticipation created by your subject line then you will only fool them once.

And this leads to my first insight into email marketing. The key to getting people to open your email is to create the condition that they will want to open it—before they even get it.

Yes, before.

How is this possible? It is possible because all of your previous emails have offered them some great value.

You see, too often we write emails from our own selfish needs. Perhaps you want to up-sell customers to another program, or simply want to sell them something. Now there is nothing wrong with that but what is in it for them?

In every instance you emails must offer your prospect some value. This can range from some good information, insights into their business or even some good entertainment value.

A good example is the email we launched at FreshBooks back in January 2008. At FreshBooks the currency of our business is our relationships with our customers. It’s our lifeblood. Now we’d done a great job at connecting with them through our phone, email and forum support channels and also had a growing blog readership, but no newsletter.

What we did know was that our customers were always interested in what we were up to and how we worked. The blog revealed that to some extent but we thought that a more “intimate” and personal view might be a good idea for a newsletter. One of the things we do at FreshBooks is take our customers out for dinner whenever we are in their town. It’s a wonderful and intimate environment to really get to know our customers and them to get to know us. So we thought we could extend that experience to a newsletter and voila, the Supper Club newsletter was born.

FreshBooks Supper Club from July, 2009

FreshBooks Supper Club from July, 2009

Getting Your List To Read and Respond To Your Email

Now, the Supper Club is not opened by everyone, which is just fine because it was expressly designed for the group of customers that were interested in the goings on at FreshBooks. What we do have is a very loyal and consistent readership month after month. And we continue to get accolades from our customers about how much they enjoy it and look forward to it every month. We feed them the exact stories that reveal the goings on inside FreshBooks with photos, fun stuff and a very casual and fun writing style.

Importantly, pretty much every Supper Club includes an interactive element where we ask them to vote on something, participate in a fun contest or even volunteer for stuff. Heck, these are folks that want to take their relationship with FreshBooks to the next level, so we do our best to serve that up and get them participating.

Their response tells us that we’ve delivered what they were seeking. And that’s what we are after.

Can you do that? Yes.

You just need to think from the perspective of your prospect, not from your own selfish needs. What email can you send them that would add value for them? They may not buy anything with the first email, or even the second or the fifth, but over time, if they continue to open your emails and get good value from you they will come calling whether it’s to buy something or share their great experiences with your brand to someone else, or just be really happy they found you in the first place.

Feel free to read through all the Supper Club Newsletters to get some ideas on how we engage our audience every month.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I am going to share with you my very first email where I managed to get a—wait for it—98 percent open rate.

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.