How to Write and Design a Great Email Campaign

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Fisher & Company, P.A., Marketing & Creative Strategists

So far in my series about emarketing, Email Marketing: Have We Killed the Golden Goose - Part I,  Part II - Improving Your Open Rate, The Four Letter" Words of emarketing - 200 Triggers that Flag SPAM Blockers & Stop You at the Gate, I brought up the following points:

  1. Email marketing is losing its effectiveness because we are sending out irrelevant and unwanted content
  2. We are not applying a "Best Practices" strategy to our efforts
  3. Our emails are too broad and need to be more targeted using segmentation, targeting, and personalization
  4. Our mailing lists may appear to be large databases of potential revenue, but they are often filled with inactive or old "e-dresses"
  5. Many are relying on emarketing as their sole source of creating leads, driving traffic, or building sales
The next hurdle in emarketing is crafting emails that get opened.

Years ago, relatively all emails were opened because the average person didn't have the capabilities to create professional emails and broadcast them; emarketing was chiefly handled by marketing firms and agencies who created an HTML based email with pretty pictures and a well-thought out message that was highly targeted and sent out on behalf of companies with deep pockets and big marketing budgets.  Today, with $20 a month email provider services (ESP) and That You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG)creative tools that anyone can do, emailing has exploded.  Now a 20% open rate is considered a good open rate and a 30% open rate is considered great.

A few days ago I opted-out from a well-known real estate email flyer service.  I might not have opted-out if the emails I was receiving on a daily basis had been of interest to me, but no one from the email provider service ever asked me about what types of properties would be of most interest to me.  Unable to deal with the high volume of irrelevant material clogging my in box, I opted out.

The few flyers I did look at were flyers that had something in the subject line that told me I would be interested in looking at the content of the email.  There's your cue to the first step in creating an email that gets opened: write a subject line that invites the reader to open the mail.

Write your subject line geared to the following strategies:
  • Keep the subject line UNDER 40 characters (My title above is 38)
  • Tell them what's in it for them
  • Open with a benefit or spike their curiosity
  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Personalize it
  • Avoid using "Reminder", "Percentage Off" or "Help" in the subject line
  • Splashy or cheesy phrases will cause your email to go ignored


Rule number one: make certain that the content matches your headline.  People DO NOT like being tricked into opening an email with a misleading title. 

Here's a few other tips:

  • Write the content to be relevant and targeted to a segment of your database
  • Make certain that within 3 seconds of opening your email they know what it is about and why they have received it
  • Don't confuse the reader!  Give them ONE message, and only ONE message. 
  • Write your message over and over until is crystal clear.  Have someone else read it to make certain that what you wrote is what you want to say.  Make sure they understand it. If you can't boil your message down to a simple message, don't send it.  The message will be lost and your efforts will be wasted.
  • Use clickable graphics (preferably at the top so it is easy to click on)
  • Use short sentences to make it easy to read.
  • Limit your email copy to 4 to 6 paragraphs, and please, please follow the rules of grammar and punctuation
  • While you may think the email is about you and your company, it's not. It's about the reader.  Keep that in mind when crafting your email. Great email marketing needs to focus on the benefits to the prospect/customer.
  • Provide content that is not available on your web site
  • When presenting an offer, present an offer that is not available on your web site (If they can see your offers on your web, why bother opening your emails?)
  • Make the value to the reader clear
  • Provide compelling benefits
  • Create urgency through limited time offers
  • Watch the calendar when using date-relevant promotions; give people time to act
  • Don't use long copy or sell directly in the email
  • Have a clear call to action; reward the reader if they act by a certain date, one of the first 10 people, etc. 
  • Use links to drive traffic to your site; separate the links so that they appear on a line by themselves.  Deisgn some white space around them so that they stand out.  Put one link midway and another near the bottom so that as they scroll through your email they will always have something in eye range to click on.
  • Remember to craft your email to target specific segments of your database
  • Do not send more than one or two emails a week
Monitor how you're doing by using your ESP to track the number of:
  1. Opens (20% = Good, 30%+ = Great)
  2. Clicks (2% = Good, 4%+ = Great)
  3. Forwards
  4. Bounces
  5. Complaints
  6. Unsubscribes


 Good luck with your email campaigns, and happy marketing!

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Show All Comments
Janice Roosevelt
Keller Williams Brandywine Valley - West Chester, PA
OICP ABR, ePRO,Ecobroker

Particularly good stuff on the subject line - it often goes unsued. Thanks for a great post.

Dec 03, 2008 10:32 PM #21
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Constantly put yourself on the end you are pinging electrons at...would you think hey..this is great, helpful ? Or is what you are about to send just a large generic ball of propaganda and just thrown together? Are you wasting the readers time..he or she will not open another worthless, time and computer consuming message! It is so easy to tailor make your groups..rather than just reach many, you want to target folks that the timing makes them get into action...that's the point right?

Dec 29, 2008 07:02 AM #23
Tim Hart
VanDyk Mortgage-Branch Manager - Fort Myers, FL

Great post and thanks for the advice. I always like sending myself the e-mail before I send it to my database and read it like a borrower.

Dec 29, 2008 12:39 PM #24
Deborah Fisher
Fisher & Company, P.A., Marketing & Creative Strategists - Fort Worth, TX

Janice: thank you for reaffirming the importance of the subject line. The subject line tells the recipient whether or not to open or delete.  Subject lines that don't match content are automatic unsubscribes and SPAM.

Dec 29, 2008 01:00 PM #25
Deborah Fisher
Fisher & Company, P.A., Marketing & Creative Strategists - Fort Worth, TX

Andrew, the goal of a successful emarketing campaign is to create enough interest in your product with the recipient that they will contact you - either by going to your website, walking into your 'store', or calling you.  

You can't just throw an email together.  Make the content relevant to your audience by targeting them - use subsections of your database and create an email campaign specific to their needs - and remember the call to action.  What's in it for them? What's the benefit?  Features don't sell homes, benefits do.

Don't try to trick the recipient into opening the email by teaser headlines. If your subject line doesn't match the content . . . zap! You just ruined your credibility with your prospect and they will ignore your future emails, send you off the powers that be and blacklist your email address, or worse: tell you to never darken their inbox again.

Timing is everything . . . you have to create credibility for yourself by not stuffing their inbox repeatedly so that when you DO have something that would interest them you will get their attention.

Good luck. Happy marketing!

Dec 29, 2008 01:12 PM #26
Deborah Fisher
Fisher & Company, P.A., Marketing & Creative Strategists - Fort Worth, TX


I do the same thing. Also, I let the email sit for a couple of hours before reading it so that I look at it with a fresh perspective.  Thanks for pointing out that there is only a nano second between 'save', 'send' and embarrassment. 

Dec 29, 2008 01:15 PM #27
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