Editors sometimes get a bad rap, particularly on marketing teams, but their critical eyes see flaws that can otherwise go unnoticed. Email campaigns don’t often fall under the review of a content marketing editor, but they can benefit enormously from a thorough editorial review.
Here I’ll walk you through a four step review process that will help you identify flaws in the story that your emails are telling so that the next story you tell will be about your higher engagement metrics.
If you have an editor whose unfiltered honesty you can tap for this process, that’s great. But if not, anybody can ruthlessly evaluate content. Just follow the steps below, and don’t pull any punches.
Step 1: Choose an Email Campaign to Review
The best candidates for this test are either a drip campaign (a series of emails that you send at regular intervals) or transactional emails (emails triggered by the need for payment, account expiration, etc.).
These kinds email marketing work best for a content-driven review because taken as a whole they tell subscribers a story. (Or at least that’s what they should be doing.)
Campaigns that are at least three emails long are preferable, again so that you can analyze the flow and overarching story.
The only problem with choosing longer campaigns is that sometimes the first in the series — especially if it’s an order or subscription confirmation — may not be totally editable. If that’s the case, you can choose a one-off “campaign” to start with.
Step 2: Print All the Emails from the Campaign
Printing out an email marketing campaign may seem a little old school, especially since we spend so much time worrying about inboxing. But this is by far the best way I’ve found to view the entire campaign in a truly linear fashion.
After you’ve got hard copies, pin them up on a bulletin board or tape them up on a wall so everyone can review them.
If you just can’t stomach the idea of all that wasted paper, you can also combine them into a single file of some kind (like a PowerPoint deck) and display them on the biggest screen you can find.
The main point here is to see them all at the same time so you can effectively evaluate their flow. So whatever method seems best to you to make that happen, go for it.
Next, address them just like you would a blog post or article.
At MarketerGizmo that means identifying a user story for the series of emails, and then deciding whether or not the emails as a whole are effectively telling that story.
After that we look at each piece of each email, allowing us to figure out where there are gaps in the flow or broken promises that need to be fixed.
Step 3: Is Your Email Campaign Easy to Read Online?
Remember, although they don’t necessarily appear in a browser, your emails are still technically online content. People rely heavily on scanning to consume this kind of content, so you need to be realistic about what they will see.
Formatting like larger font, bulleted lists, and images will help draw the eye down through the email, ensuring that more of your email campaign gets read.
Email Subject Lines and Content Titles
The emails’ subject lines act a lot like an article title in search results: a subscriber will use them to judge the content and quality of what’s behind those words.
That means that you need to craft email subject lines just as carefully as you would an article title, and you should be very critical of their content.
Does the subject line accurately reflect the email’s content? Given the source, would it make sense to the recipient? Is it sufficiently enticing, or will it bore or confuse the reader?
Keep in mind that subject lines are one of the few pieces of your email marketing that everyone will see (unless it’s going to their spam folder, in which case you have a whole different problem). Make the most of them.
Experimentation is key when it comes to subject lines. Even after a thorough review you may not have chosen the best way to communicate with your recipients. Test, evaluate, and test again until you’ve gotten as many clicks as you can out of a campaign.
Interior Email Content: Give Away the Farm
Don’t be coy about your content. Tell your readers right away why you’ve sent this email and why they should care.
Just as with online content, people are going to read the first couple of words/lines and decide if they want to go on.
If they do choose to continue, they’re going to glance at headlines, bolded text, capital letters, etc. to find content out if there’s any content they want to engage with further. If they don’t find that right away, they’ll delete the email and you’ve lost an opportunity.
That means that even though email marketing content is typically vastly shorter than what your content marketing team is creating you still need to incorporate headlines, bullet points, and other easy-to-consume content whenever possible.
Step 4: Scrutinize Your Use of Visuals in Your Email Campaign
This part of the email content review is particularly problematic because, unlike online content, people can disable images in their email.
To compensate, we suggest printing out two versions of your emails: one with images, and one without. Double copies will let you be completely sure that even without images the emails scan well and engage subscribers.
Once you’ve established that they work both ways, focus on the images themselves.
Are they relevant to the content of your emails? Are they adding value or just taking up space?
If they aren’t relevant or adding value, consider other ways to add visual interest and avoid a solid text email. Some good options for using visuals in your email marketing are:
- Call to action buttons. These serve the dual purpose of adding pops of color and driving traffic to high value resources or pages on your site.
- Employee images. Add a personal touch by include a message from one of your employees. Bonus: headshots don’t take up much space.
- Icons that represent your topic. If you have access to a graphic designer, you can get them to produce a series of icons that match your brand and create a consistent visual tone through a campaign. If not, there are lots of great options like Canva and Piktochart that will give you access to a huge library of options.
- Photos of people. We’re naturally drawn to pictures of people, so if you can naturally incorporate these kinds of photos into your content you’ll get a nice engagement boost.
Review Email Campaigns Ruthlessly
The bottom line here is that the level of scrutiny you apply to a thought leadership article should also be applied to your email marketing efforts.
Don’t let these crucial touch points go untouched, or you’ll miss out on a huge piece of the marketing puzzle. Turn your inner editor loose, and let him/her get your campaigns back on track.
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