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In 1968, a group of independent filmmakers from Pennsylvania led by writer/director George A. Romero used a rented farmhouse and fake blood manufactured with chocolate sauce to make one of the seminal horror movies of our time: Night of the Living Dead. Featuring the story of strangers barricaded in a home as space radiation brings the dead back to life as flesh-eating monsters, the movie paved the way for the innumerable zombie movies and television shows that would follow.
The film was (and some say still is) shocking for audiences. Film critic Roger Ebert writes after first seeing the movie in 1969 at a matinee filled with children, presuming it was a typical cheesy creature romp, but instead: “The kids in the audience were stunned…The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying.”
As a young child, a realistic zombie movie is about as frightening as it gets. As a marketer, zombies are not nearly as terrifying as an email marketing campaign that seems to be dead on arrival. You might send out wave after wave of emails with no response. You start to wonder if your emails are there but not really connecting with anyone—like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense.
Luckily, there are ways to revive your seemingly deceased email strategy. And unlike Night of the Living Dead, bringing your emails back to life will leave you happy instead of horrified.
1. Ask Your Subscribers’ Permission
One issue with your email list is that it might be filled with subscribers who never really opted in for your emails in the first place. While you always want to try to reach as many people as possible with your emails, filling your list with unwilling recipients will not be helpful (and could cause compliance issues). Those individuals aren’t your target audience, so trying to connect with them could be a waste of time.
Make sure your email opt-ins are always clearly marked. It’s also smart to use a call-to-action to get visitors to your website to sign up for emails.
2. Master the Subject Line
In Night of the Living Dead, those trapped had one chance to escape the house by using a pickup truck in the front yard. Your subject line is your one chance to make an impression and convince subscribers to open and read your email.
Make it urgent, but not alarmist—convince them that they will gain value by looking at your email right now. You can also bring up an issue that you’re certain they’re grappling with, then assure them your email contains a solution.
3. Test Your Subject Line
If you only have one shot to connect with your recipients—or to escape a house surrounded by zombies—you’d certainly want to try a test run before going for it. Luckily, email marketing platforms give you that very opportunity with A/B testing. Before you go wide, send different subject lines to a smaller sample of your list and see which ones stand out to subscribers.
If you’ve seen Night of the Living Dead, you know that the group would have greatly benefited from a test run for their escape plan.
4. Make It Personal
If your name is Barbara, and someone was trying to scare you, what’s worse?
They’re coming to get you!
They’re coming to get you, Barbara!
Clearly the second one, right?
That’s exactly what George A. Romero went with. And it teaches a valuable message: personalization has a greater impact.
When it comes to getting someone’s attention in an email, personalization goes a long way. Include the recipient’s name in your initial greeting or the email subject line. Going the extra step to forge a personal connection with your subscribers can make a big difference.
5. Be Bold and Clear in Your Email Design
After you have convinced someone to open your email, it is imperative to get your point across quickly. Don’t distract the eye with too many images or updates. Opt for a design that utilizes the entire email space but doesn’t get too busy.
But “not busy” doesn’t mean “not creative”—just check out how J Crew used simplicity and high definition images to craft a truly clever email heralding a sale.
6. Get Interactive
Once you’ve captured your recipient’s interest, try to go the extra mile to get them to engage with your email. Perhaps an appropriate GIF will increase likelihood that they’ll click, or maybe use of an in-email search bar. Go beyond the idea of your email as a static e-poster: make it more of an extension of your website and you’ll have a better shot at getting folks to connect.
7. Send to Less People
Sure, this seems counter-intuitive. Obviously you always want to be growing your email, but you want quality over quantity. What’s better, sending a broad and somewhat vague email to every single subscriber or being able to pack an email with specificity and details by sending it to a targeted few? Which one is more likely to connect?
Focusing in on the people who are most likely to engage with your content is always the best use of your time. By utilizing an email marketing platform, you can target specific groups of subscribers and tailor messages for them.
By following these tips, your moribund email marketing may come lurching back to life. And like Romero after Night of the Living Dead, you can expect to have plenty of success to follow.