Email Checklist– Before You Push “Send”
I’ve done it more than once. In a hurry to get an email out to our list, I forget to include something. Or I realized, after the send button was pushed, that I made an error.
And truthfully, I know I’m not alone.
So I decided to put together an email checklist with what should be checked and included in your emails. I’ve also included a free download of the checklist, along with a planning worksheet.
The subject line is the most important part of the email. Why? If the email is never opened, the rest of it doesn’t matter. And the subject line is the only part visible before it’s opened. Be sure to give the receiver a reason to open it. Subject line generating tools (like SumoMe’s Headline Generator) can help you come up with proven, high-converting subject lines.
Make the first 45 characters strong
This is the amount of space that shows up in the preview of most email service providers. (Beyond this number of characters, it’s cut off). So make sure the first 45-50 characters are used for the strongest part of your subject line. Short, strong subject lines WILL increase your open rate.
Focus on their benefits and make it about them
Ask yourself this difficult (but necessary) question: “Would I care about this subject enough to open it?”
Use their first name, if possible
Using their name will make it feel more personal– like you’re writing directly to your reader. If you don’t have the first name of everyone on your list, try to change your signup forms to get the first name of future subscribers.
Use the AIDA format
Back when I took a copywriting class in grad school, I was taught the AIDA method of copywriting. It is essentially this:
- Attention- Get their attention with a bold statement
- Interest- Offer your target customer something that will be of value to them
- Desire- Let them see the possibility and transformation this can provide for them
- Action- Tell them what you would like them to do next
- A: Get a free coffee on Monday!
- I: Because you’ve been a loyal customer, we want to give you a free cup of coffee on Monday
- D: Wouldn’t a free cup of coffee get your Monday off to a perfect start?
- A: Just print off this coupon and bring in!
Address their problem and quickly offer a solution
What problem is your customer having right now? Think about how you could bring a solution to this problem (your solution) and offer it to them.
Use a positive tone
Although addressing the problem may be helpful, be sure to move quickly to a helpful positive tone. I know I’ve made the mistake of dwelling on the problem too long. That can cause stress and push people away.
Engage the reader with a story or personal message
Everyone loves a story that challenges, entertains or educates your reader. Share a story and talk to them like you’re talking to a friend–your target customer.
Use a natural, conversational tone of voice
An overly polished voice can seem inauthentic or even sales-y. Use correct grammar, but write like you talk. Then read it out loud to yourself to see if it sounds natural and easy to understand.
Use short sentences and short paragraphs for easy scanning
People are busy and inundated with email. Make sure your emails are easy to scan and get quickly to the point. Short sentences and paragraphs are faster to read than long ones.
Include a plain text version
A good percentage of email readers prefer to receive their emails in plain text format. Be sure your email service provides that. Sometimes they come through as plain text without your control, so be sure to follow the next tip regarding images.
If you use images, use alt text
If your email comes through to an inbox via plain text format, images will not be visible. Be sure to have the alt text indicated for the image. This also helps people with visual disabilities so their computers can “read” the image for them.
Also, remember to include any text that’s in the image in the body of the email too, so everyone can read it–even people who won’t see the images.
Leave out the images for greater open rate
A recent study showed that emails sent without images have a greater open rate and a greater conversion rate–perhaps because it feels like a personal email and less like spam. (Source) Although I like to see images in my email, I’ve noticed this is true with the emails I’ve sent too. Fewer images = a higher delivery rate.
Make links clearly identifiable
Make sure the links are easy to see and easy to click. Consider putting 2-3 links (to the same target page) in each email to make it easy for your reader to say “yes”.
Make sure default template text is replaced
Some email services provide templates for emails which contain text, such as “Headline here” or “body copy here”. Be sure to make sure the sample text they provide has all been deleted and replaced with your own text.
CALL TO ACTION
Make sure the CTA is included and clear
It may be a click, call, buy or reply, but clearly tell them exactly what you’d like them to do.
Include a focused message with a single call to action
A confused mind doesn’t convert, so each email should be focused on getting your reader to do only one thing. You can include other links in the email, but make it clear so they know what to click on and it’s not confusing.
Offer them a quick reward
Make sure the call-to-action will give them a quick result to what you promised them. Be sure your link goes exactly to the page they need to be to get what they’re looking for.
For example, if the email is about a sale on glassware, don’t send them to your home page–send them to the glassware page. You have only a few seconds before they click away if they don’t find what they’re looking for.
Make sure it contains unsubscribe link
The CAN-SPAM act in the U.S. (and in other countries as well) requires an easy way to unsubscribe from any email that is promotional. Most email services will put a link in the footer for you. If it’s not included, give them clear instructions on what they should do if they want to unsubscribe (such as “email me to unsubscribe”).
Make sure it contains your street address
The CAN-SPAM act also requires a street address for your company. A P.O. box is okay too. Tip: If you have a home office, renting a P.O. box is an easy way around putting your home address on all your work-related emails.
Check spelling and grammar
In my advertising days, guess the place we found the most misspelled words–in the headlines. Fortunately, spell checkers catch many of those now, but grammar is a different story. Because I sometimes overlook grammar errors, my new favorite tool is called Grammarly. It’s a free Chrome app that catches my spelling and grammar mistakes as I am typing. It’s pretty cool!
Make sure it’s mobile friendly
55% of email is read first on a mobile device, so please make sure your email is mobile-friendly. This will even become more important as time goes on. (Source)
Double check all links
Sometimes bad links happen, no matter how careful you are. Double checking the link before you hit the “send” key will decrease the likelihood of dud links.
Update the preview line
Some email services (such as MailChimp) have a tiny preview line that needs be updated before sending each email. It’s at the very top of the email, and it’s easy to miss. (I know this because I’ve forgotten to update mine many times).
Email it to yourself
Most email services offer the option to send out a test email. Send it to yourself first to check that it all works as you hoped. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to catch an error when your reading through the composed email than when you’re typing it up.
Have someone else proofread it
Another set of eyes always a good idea. If possible, have someone else look over your email before you publish it.
Use a spam checker
Spam checkers will help you catch offending words, phrases, and other issues that will send your well-crafted email directly to the spam folder. There are several out there. Here’s a couple to try: http://info.contactology.com/check-mqs, http://www.emailspamtest.com/,
Email is still the best way to reach your potential customer. With these tips you can increase your open and conversion rates!
Here’s a handy checklist for you to refer to, and an email planning worksheet. Print them off to use for your next email!