Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
An email is a message sent to a reader’s inbox. Different types of email content can contain text, images, video, or a combination of all three. Two out three marketers use email to distribute their content, making email a tool you want to know how to use if you’re an entrepreneur, writer, blogger, freelancer, or business owner.
I’m not referring to the personal, one-on-one email you write to a specific person. I’m talking about automated emails sent to a large group of people using an email list manager. (I use and love Constant Contact).
You may also hear them called email campaigns, email marketing messages, email blasts, bulk email, or mass email. Automated email messages save time, reduce costs, increase productivity, provide a written record, and make marketing easier.
The hundreds of marketing emails that land in your inbox boil down to two types of content.
The two different types of email content are two sides of the same coin. One the one hand you provide information about a problem … and on the other, you promote a product, solution, or cause that is a solution.
As you write email content, you face a problem: balance.
Let’s say you focus solely on providing information. But you don’t offer a call to action in your email content – whether it’s to subscribe, click, buy, give, volunteer, share. Fewer readers act on content unless you tell them what to do.
But when your content may lead readers to act without a call to action, you won’t be able to track reader response because you cannot see click-throughs or replies or sign ups or sales. How can you know whether or not your email content is effective?
Yet if you focus solely on promotional content then readers feel like they’re “being sold.” A steady stream of sales pitches may work when a customer enters a brick-and-mortar store, but that approach doesn’t work on the internet.
The better approach is a combination of helping and selling.
“Success on the web requires a critical mindset shift,” says businessman and small business web guru Ken Evoy. “Replace the offline strategy of ‘location, location, location’ with the online strategy of ‘information, information, information.’”
By delivering great information to an online reader, you help her understand her problem and the solution. “What you write will directly affect how many people click- hrough,” says Evoy. “So, take your time and get it right."
Successful email content offers helpful information to the reader about her question or problem, which helps prepare her to make a decision. Promotional content invites her to take action.
Informational content and promotional content work together to both help and sell.
How much of your content should help the reader and how much of your content should present an offer or a call to action? It’s here that you can use the 80/20 Rule. Also known as The Pareto Principle (in a nod to its 19th century originator, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto), the rule suggests that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of efforts.
Use that ratio for producing your email content. “Only 20% of content should be promotional,” says marketing executive Rebecca Barnatt-Smith, “While the other 80% should educate, inform and entertain.”
Your best email content ratio is ...
Now that you know the optimum balance of the two different types of email content, you can structure your email marketing messages accordingly.
Regardless of how you structure individual campaigns, write so that 80% of your posts offer valuable information to your readers. The remaining 20% can be promotion or calls to action.
Do that and you’ll both help and sell.
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