In an age of apps and AdWords, you might find it surprising that the number one most effective tool for promoting events is still email.

To help you create marketing emails that reach their recipients (rather than ending up in the spam folder), get opened, read and acted upon, we have compiled the latest industry best practice.

Read on to discover how to avoid the spam filters, create trust in your recipients, write effective subject lines, produce well designed emails, and supercharge your calls to action.

Related: Beginner’s guide to email marketing

Part 1: Getting your emails delivered & opened

There’s no point spending hours crafting brilliant content and beautiful design if your email is simply destined to end up in recipients’ spam or trash folders, so let’s start by looking at the steps you can take to ensure it appears both legitimate and of interest.

Use a reputable email service provider (ESP)

It’s really important to choose a reputable email service provider – and be prepared to pay for the service if necessary – in order to avoid your emails being fast-tracked to spam.

ESPs are evaluated as senders based on the reputation of their customers’ IP addresses and domains. If the ESP is working with clients sending out spam to bulk email lists, and clocking up subsequent complaints, it will eventually be blocked by the mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail.

ESPs that send only solicited emails and ban spammers from their platforms have greater credibility with mailbox providers. Eventbrite is integrated with the leading trusted ESPs, including MailChimp, Aweber and Mad Mimi, enabling you to automatically add event attendees (past and present) to your email list.

However, you also have a role to play in upholding the integrity of the ESP (and your own domain), by only sending to people who have opted-in, either by subscribing on your website or via the ticketing process. In other words, never buy email lists!

Be easily identifiable

Because it’s so important that recipients know who you are and why you’re sending them an email, take extra care completing the ‘from’ field when setting up your email campaign.

Make it clear by using the name of your event or events company (i.e. London Tech Conference) along with an email address specific to that subscription, which will be easily associated with the contact’s subscription expectations (i.e. newsletter@londontechconference.co.uk). Wherever possible, don’t abbreviate the name of your company or event (i.e. LTC) as this will hinder easy recognition.

For smaller events, such as workshops or classes, where you personally interact with attendees, you may choose to use your own name and email address. But in all cases, it’s important to keep your sender names consistent. Not only do people become accustomed to whom those emails come from, mailboxes actually penalise frequent name changes. By consistently sending engaging, solicited emails under one identity you can build a good reputation all round.

Personalise your email

Spam filters will judge your email more favourably if it is addressed to a named recipient as opposed to just an email address.

Likewise, it provides more trust to recipients, who will be able to immediately see your email is one they have signed up to receive.

You can use merge tags to personalise the ‘to’ field when setting up your campaign, meaning each email can start with the recipient’s name, e.g. “Hi John…”

Avoid spammy language

There is debate over the impact of language on spam filters in 2016, but we do know that certain words and symbols can still trigger people’s own internal spam filters!

Attention grabbing tactics such as using all capital letters, pound signs or exclamation marks can have the opposite effect because people do notice the emails – and quickly single them out as spam!

Likewise, common sales language can also be off-putting. Examples include:

  • Free
  • Prize
  • Bonus
  • Buy

Other aspects of your email content that can set off spam alerts are the font colour, style and size, and spelling mistakes.

According to a study by the Radicati Group, more than 60% of respondents considered it unacceptable for email marketers to use different font sizes, irregular fonts, and different font colours. Nearly 70% of respondents prefer fonts to be one size.

The same study found that 80% of all respondents find spelling and grammatical errors the most unacceptable email offence, so pay attention when proofreading.

It’s a good idea to send out a test to a few friends before hitting ‘go’ on the campaign so you can benefit from extra pairs of eyes and get their feedback.

Write subject lines that result in emails being opened

Just because your email makes it through the spam filters doesn’t mean it will get opened. The subject line is arguably the most important factor of all when crafting your email campaign, so take the time to get it right.

It’s vital to provide the recipient with a reason to open your email – in turn this means that the actual content of your email should be useful!

Your communications should extend beyond providing details of upcoming events, to encompass the issues of interest to your audience. For example, if you offer seminars on financial issues you might send out top tips for evaluating mortgage deals.

Once you have established the ‘value proposition’ of the email, writing the subject line gets a lot easier. You might, for example, say: ‘Thinking of remortgaging? Read these top tips for evaluating deals’ (it does exactly what it says on the tin).

According to MailChimp, the best email subject lines are usually short (50 characters or fewer), descriptive, and keep their particular audience in mind. In fact, personalising the subject line with a recipient’s name or city can increase open rates by 20%.

Most ESPs offer you the opportunity to test the effectiveness of subject lines, by dividing the audience and issuing the campaign with different subject lines. Analysing the results can provide valuable insight on the factors that engage your contacts.

Part 2. Getting your emails read and acted upon

So you got your recipient to open your email? Well done! But will they like what they see? Using a template provided by your ESP can help you put together an email that is well laid out, visually attractive and –crucially – mobile friendly. Here are some other factors to bear in mind when working on the design.

Make it recognisable

Keeping the design of your emails broadly consistent with your website will aid recognition amongst your audience and create more of a seamless experience when they click through.

Use your brand colours, logo and fonts, along with pictures, graphics and tone of voice that fits your brand image.

A clearly branded email will increase trust in your recipients
A clearly branded email will increase trust in your recipients

Don’t rely on images

It’s bad practice to design your email entirely with images (or as a single image). That’s because, according to ExactTarget, more than 60% of email clients block images by default. This means that when someone opens your email, the images won’t load unless they click a button.

Consequently, it’s smart to design your emails on the basis that images won’t be seen i.e. your message should still be discernible without images.

If it’s sufficiently well written it should persuade the recipient to allow the images to be displayed. Maintaining a good image-to-text ratio is also important for avoiding spam filers.

When designing with ‘images off’ in mind, don’t forget to avoid using images for buttons, and to use descriptive ALT text on all images and graphics.

Free brightonSEO released right now
Don’t rely on fancy design – the message should be clear and to the point

Do make a visual impact

Although you might not be able to rely on images, you shouldn’t neglect them either. Bespoke graphics and high quality professional event photography can really make your email stand out. Take a look at these great examples below:

Announcing-our-2016-Conference-Speakers-680x3697
Lively people images show the character of this event
Grimes-Miike-Snow-Join-Moogfest-680x7074
Mixing block colours and white space creates visual impact

Using video in emails

By default, most email clients don’t allow the ability to view rich media like Flash or video embeds. Instead, use a thumbnail image of your video (with a play button) that links to the rich media on a website page.

Include multiple clear CTAs

When designing your email, always keep in mind your core purpose, which is to encourage further engagement.

Punctuate your email with multiple calls to actions, providing different reasons for the reader to click through to your website. This might be to find out more about speakers or sessions, for logistical information on getting to your event or to register.

Don’t forget to incentivise with discounts and special offers and, where possible, create a sense of urgency i.e. ‘last chance to register’.

Make sure your buttons stand out, by choosing a bold colour (green and orange buttons are reported to perform best) and easy to read contrasting text. Use action-oriented language, substituting boring words like “submit” and “enter” for more action packed words like “get,” “reserve,” and “try.”

You will be able to see the effectiveness of your CTAs by checking your click rate report available through your ESP. This will tell you which links in your content received the most clicks. Make use of your ESP’s A/B testing tools to try out different CTA messages and designs.

Include multiple call to action to increase click rates
Include multiple calls to action to increase click rates

Don’t be a stranger!

Finally, one more important element to effective email marketing is frequency. While you don’t want to bombard your audience and trigger unsubscribes, you don’t want them to forget you either.

Regular contact will build your relationship with your audience, increase their familiarity with your branding and actually make them more likely to open your emails.

Maintaining a steady flow of communications, that balance pure sales messages with value-added content, is the best way to get repeat attendees for your events.

The Content Marketing Institute builds a relationship by sending out regular value-based content
The Content Marketing Institute builds a relationship with subscribers by sending out regular value-based content

Conclusion

Follow the above best practices and your emails will not only have the best chance of landing uninterrupted in your recipients’ inboxes, but also of getting opened and read.

Crafting useful and compelling content does take time and effort but – get it right – and you will be rewarded with increased ticket sales. Email remains the most effective marketing tool in the event organiser’s toolkit, so be sure to exploit it!

Why not share the email marketing tactics that have worked for you in the comments or tweet us @EventbriteIE!

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