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B2B Email Copy Best Practices
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B2B Email Copy Best Practices


Revisiting the best practices for business-to-business email copy in light of social media and mobile first movements.

Revisiting the best practices for business-to-business email copy in light of social media and mobile first movements.

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  • Email is not dead, just taken for granted and assumed.In 2012:144.8 billion emails are sent every dayThere will be 4.1 billion email accounts by 201582% of smartphone users send and receive email on their deviceWe spend an average of 11.2 hours a week reading and sending emailsIn the time it took to read that sentence, 20 million emails were sent.Email volumes: complimentary to socialEmail drives ~6x the volume eyeballs compared to social traffic and higher email conversion rates than social traffic volume despite social referral traffic growing 331% YoYEmail traffic v social: is becoming mobile:Significant27% - 42% open email on mobile 82% of smartphone users (smartphones are now 58% mobile market penetration)AcceleratingNumber of commercial emails opened on mobile will pass desktop opens by EOY41% of marketing email were opened on a mobile device in the second half of 2012, up from 36% from first half of the yearCriticalIf an email does not display correctly in mobile, 69.7% will delete it immediately90% access from both desktop and mobileEconsultancyLitmus - Email Analytics, Jan 2013Google April, 2011Comscore March 2013 ( Bi Annual Report 2013Knotice February, 2013BlueHornet “Consumer Views of Email Marketing” 2012ExactTargetCentral Role in Content MarketingEmail always has been and will continue to be a bedrock of any effective content marketing strategy. Let your audience self-select their means of ingesting and interacting with your valuable content. Email has a unique role to play in supplementing and reinforcing other digital conversions, think of downloading a white paper or guide. Additionally, email needs to be part of your content repurposing strategy. And, don’t forget the power of promoting email content across inbound channels (and vice versa) breaks down content silos.Relationships Matter“Good email content deepens your relationship with your audience through effective subject line writing (getting your messages opened), your distinctive voice (getting those messages read), and delivering quality, niche specific content your prospect needs and shares with others (inspiring referrals and word-of-mouth).”
  • Subject LineEmail subject lines are similar to headlines that need to compete for your recipients attention in the inbox and warrant a chance of being read. Open rates are often a direct reflection of the quality of your subject line copy. Crafting your messages with compelling, action oriented copy that resonates with your audience is easier said than done at times. And, you have had added requirement to avoid the spam filters. We’ll talk abut the steps to ensure you are the ‘guest that gets a repeat invitation’ in the inbox by being a trusted provider of valuable content.Body CopyNow that your subject line has earned you the open, it becomes the job of the email body copy to earn the conversion and get the readers clicking. Keys to optimizing the email conversion rate lay in:PersonalizationIs much more than <<insert first name>>. Is about being personal to the email recipient’s business pains, awareness of sender, stage in the sales funnel and personal opt-in preferences. Personalization dramatically impacts open and conversion rates: Promotional Email open rates without personalization of subject line: 15.1% v 19.5% with personalizationPromotional Email conversion rates without personalization of subject line: 2.3% v 3.2% with personalizationTriggered Email open rates without personalization of subject line: 23.3% v 29.2% with personalizationTriggered Email conversion rates without personalization of subject line: 4.4% v 6.7% with personalization BrandingThat is reinforced visually, branded delivery, (re) establishing the value connection and consistent on-topic brand messages.Contextual messagingThis again speaks to personalization and requires list segmentation to optimize.Highly segmented emails have 39% better open rates than bulk lists. to Action (CTA)Know – and articulate - the singular action your email message is to drive. Is it a blog read, a social mention, a download, an event registration etc.Unsubscribe & subscription (self) management options are required to comply with CAN-SPAM Federal regulations.
  • 4 UsUseful: Is the promised message valuable to the reader?Ultra Specific: Does the reader know what is being promised?Unique: Is the promised message compelling and remarkable?Urgent : What does the reader to need know (and do) now?Reminder that urgency corresponds to the reader’s needs, not yours as the marketer except as you may have programmatically built into a campaign which then correlates to a value for the reader. this is about being personal (read relevant) to the email recipient’s business pains, awareness of sender, stage in the sales funnel and personal opt-in preferences. Alignment with Body Copy & OfferWhat your email subject line promises, your email message has to deliver, so do not overpromise and then under deliver.Clarity 1st, Catchy 2ndUse actionable language. Never sacrifice clarity for entertainment value. It is ok to sometimes be catchy, or entertaining or funny and pique interest, but only when you are extremely clear. If you violate this rule, your CTR rate suffers short term and long term so will your open and unsub rates.Length guidelines:Shorter is better. Think similarly to a page’s title tag: 70 characters or less, knowing that only the first 45 characters may be visible in preview depending on the email softwareMobile email is even more constrained at 40 characters for display.Specificity helps!
  • Relevance thru PersonalizationHow you become relevant is by using your audience intelligence to tailor the message to precisely add value to the reader based on their needs, pains and relationship with you the sender.Write in 2nd PersonWriting in the 2nd person is an expression of how client-centric you are as a company in delivering value to the reader. An email isn’t about you, it is always about the reader! If you need to, count the number of you/your references in comparison to the I/we/we’re uses in your copy. If there are more I’s – rewrite it! Another useful tool is a word cloud to help you objectively evaluate the balance of your copy. Try for a useful – and free – word cloud tool.Remind of ConnectionTake the time to remind the reader how/why they opted in to your email before you dive into the offer. Your reminder of their past (hopefully) positive experience with your email content correlates to higher conversion in this email message.Value PropositionAs marketers, we know the value of our topic presented in the email. Take the time to set the stage for your reader to understand and embrace your solution by focusing on the benefit of the conversion at hand. This means less of a focus on the features and being explicit in connecting the driving benefit(s). Don’t assume that your readers will come to the same conclusion without your stating (and restating) it directly. BrevityA common mistake is to try to have an email tell the whole story. That is simply too much work for an email. Remember that the email should be paired with a landing page and secondary conversion which are additional opportunities to continue the story. While it is at times a challenge to limit the number of concepts in an email, remember that by adding more content often means your key message gets lost. Think of how you use email. Do you ever scan messages for important points in the preview pain? So do your readers. Don’t make your readers have to work hard to understand the benefit of the singular action your email is designed to entice. Having one primary call to action means better click through rates, so embrace brevity.
  • As referenced earlier, every email message should have a singular action it calls the reader to act upon. To optimize your email conversion rates, follow these guidelines:Easily identified Large, bright, distinct from other design elements and placed in a (tested) higher converting location for your audience and delivery point. Keep an eye on your mobile email consumption rates as mobile conversion have specific design requirements for usability and optimization.Clearly describes conversion benefit Much like the email subject line and body copy alignment, make sure that your email and landing page content are directly aligned. And the more clearly you define the benefit of converting, the higher your rate – assuming its value to your audience!Lastly, reinforce your singular conversion point with a visual CTA, anchor text reference(s) and alt text of images. This can help to ensure that even when images aren’t rendered (as in Outlook defaults) the email can still perform for both the reader and you as the sender.Image:
  • Reminders on some of the operational delivery guidelines for email marketing in 2013:Ensure your emails come from and replies to actual senders and maintained email addresses. A <donotreply@>reply to address does not install trust , communicate client centricity nor build relationships with your readers.As discussed repeatedly related to personalization, the importance of list segmentation continues to grow in the age of marketing automation. It is a powerful tool when used well, but also be weary of overuse or inappropriate inclusion which may violate the privacy expectations of your readers.Remember not to try to tell the whole (brand) story in a single email. Emails are the start of a conversion, but work in tandem with landing pages and secondary conversions and touch points to tell your story in digestible and memorable segments.As email moves mobile, it is especially important to optimize the size of your email design to ensure you make it to the inbox. Recall that if emails don’t render immediately – or correctly – readers will typically delete your message without second thought.No matter how much you – or your clients – feel you know about your audience, it is critical to assume that they do not act like you and use the tools at your disposal to intimately know your audience. Where and when do they open your message? How many times do they open your message? Whey do they convert – or unsub?Analytics are critical. Do more than simply report email campaign metrics. The purpose of analytics is to empower better decision making. Is your open rate falling? High open rate but low conversion rate? What does it mean? Investigate, test and validate. Make your analytics work for you and go beyond the benchmarks.
  • All that said, benchmarks do have value as we look to establish norms for new programs and/or set appropriate goals and KPIs for email campaigns. Current Silverpop research based upon 2012 email data gives us the following median and mean data for key email metrics. How does your email marketing measure up in 2013?Research source:


  • 1. 2013 B2B Email Copy Best Practices
  • 2. The State of B2B Email Marketing• Erroneous death reports• Social Media collaboration– Email drives more traffic still• Mobile first movement• Content Marketing bedrock• Relationships still matter
  • 3. • Subject line• Body copy– Personalization– Company branding– Contextual message• Call to Action• Unsubscribe optionAnatomy of Effective Email Copy
  • 4. • 4 U’s methodology• Personalized• Alignment with bodycopy & offer• Clarity 1st - Catchy 2nd• Length guidelines– 40 characters for mobileEmail Subject Line Best PracticesUsefulUltra SpecificUniqueUrgent#1#2#3#4
  • 5. Email Body Copy Best Practices• Relevancy rules!• Voiced in 2nd Person• Remind of connection• Value Proposition– Tangible benefits• Brief, scannable– Not the whole story here!
  • 6. • Easily identified• Clearly describes whatconversion ‘gets’ you• Reaffirm in anchor text• Must work without images(hint: use your alt text)Email Call to Action Best Practices
  • 7. • Comes from & replies to actual sender(s)• List segmentation matters – use it for good!• Pair with landing pages for conversion optimization• Below 40 KB in size• Know your audience & mobile use• Act on analytics, go beyond the benchmarks2013 Email Mandates
  • 8. 2013 Email BenchmarksMetric Mean MedianHard bounce 2.3 % 0.8 %Unsubscribe rates .25 % .18 %Open ratesUniqueGrossPer opener18.9 %35.7 %1.89 %16.5 %26.5 %1.61 %Click to open 17.5 % 13.1 %Click through rate 3.3 % 2.2 %Clicks per clicker 1.7 % 1.53 %2013 Email Marketing MetricsBenchmark StudySent Q1-Q4 2012US geographyNon-industry segmented
  • 9. Confidential © 2012 Canyon Communications, Inc. All Rights ReservedQuestions?