What makes a great inbound email? 9 helpful tips

Posted by Sarah Mills

Inbound emails are a key part of an automation strategy. How do you write good emails? Here are our tips.

How do you keep in touch with your customers, remind them that you’re there, and remind them that you care? How do you nurture them through your sales cycle and provide them with the right information to help them buy your product or service? How do you share exciting news about your company, regularly, in a way that it’s hard for them to ignore?

If you’re a digital marketer, the chances are that you know of (and use) at least a dozen ways of doing all of those things – but one of the most tried and tested ways is also still one of the most effective: email marketing.

In this blog post we take a look through the elements that we think make a great inbound email and share 9 helpful tips that we’ve discovered on our own inbound marketing journey.

1. Great subject line

What makes you read an email? Probably several things: do you trust the sender, did it attract your attention, and do you have the time to read it.

We’ll assume that your audience trusts you so how do you ensure they make the time to read your emails? It starts with a great subject line. In fact, 33% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

Like all inbound marketing, email subject lines should reflect what you know about your audience. You should talk to them in a way that demonstrates that you don’t just know them, you also care about them. But that’s not where the magic ends. Great subject lines attract attention by cutting through the noise. One way of doing this is to include the words ‘thank you’, or the recipient’s first name in the subject line. Another way is to A/B test alternative subject lines and pick the best one. Or, if you’re completely stuck – you could try one of these 10 free tools to help you create the best email subject lines.

2. Answer the question: WIIFM (what’s in it for me?) 

Okay, so they’ve opened the email – now what? Email really works when it’s creating a good user experience and answering the WIIFM question, what are THEY going to get out of your email? If you can address that, and you can make them feel like they’ve genuinely gained something from your email, then your click-through rates (CTRs) are more likely to go up.

3. Make the email measurable

Well done, they’ve opened the email and read it. That’s great! Or is it? Unfortunately, it’s not enough email success relies on several phases. If you’ve got super info but no-one’s taking any action as a result of reading your email you’ve still failed. Your email can be beautifully crafted and wonderfully laid-out, but if the content doesn’t help convert people down the funnel, or drive them towards your ultimate CTA, did it really help?

A great inbound email contains:

    • good CTAs
    • images that click through.

4. Give value within the email, don’t just link out

This next point may seem a bit contradictory – but it’s not. While you do want people to click through from your content, emails that just link out to other stuff, without engaging people in the process, are likely to find your ‘from’ address being relegated to the junk folder sooner or later. It may only take them a few seconds to read your email before they make that all-important click-through – but if it engages them: makes them smile or think, laugh or gasp, crinkle their brow in concentration or just click on the ‘follow-up’ flag, you’re on to a good thing.

5. Deliver a consistent experience

Have you ever opened an email with a great subject line and then been thoroughly confused by the content? Or, worse, clicked on a link and wondered where on earth you’ve landed and how you got there? Email, like all great inbound marketing, must deliver on what it promises. Consistency of experience is key. From subject line, to content, to click through, to landing page it must have:

    • no false promises
    • no ‘mirage content’ – superficial content that promises but doesn’t deliver.

6. Mustn’t feel automated – even if it’s part of a workflow

People like to feel special, like individuals, like they have a relationship with someone – even if that someone is an automated email workflow. So, while we do have the tools available at our disposal – marketers, be warned! If your workflows are too frequent, written in the wrong tone of voice, or just completely off track, you run the risk of losing your target’s attention. Tips here are:

  • don’t send too many at once in a series! (Sometimes people might want to unsubscribe in the middle).
  • don’t forget your exclusion criteria! (Be careful to exclude people who don’t fit the purpose of the email).

There’s also great value in staying authentic, and that might include acknowledging that you do sometimes send out automated mails. For example, subscribing to a blog and immediately getting a mail afterwards indicates that the mail is automated, and your reader will know that.  Simply saying, “Though this is an automated mail...” will build trust by proving your authenticity.

7. Make it real – don’t be afraid to schedule delays 

In a similar vein, although great inbound marketers are super at automating things, we have to remember that people don’t always expect to be ‘marketed to’, the moment they click on something. Actually, it’s often more valuable to schedule a delay in your automation email response processes – to make it feel more authentic. Does this feel disingenuous? It’s not. A lot of human behaviour comes down to expectations. The chances are that, in future, people will expect ALL responses to be automated but, until then, don’t freak them out by replying too soon.

8. BE HUMAN! Don’t be a robot

This isn’t just about tone of voice, it’s about engagement. However you choose to communicate with your audience, keep it real. Law firms are traditionally more formal, companies selling to millennials tend to adopt a more conversational or quirky approach, and niche markets can adopt any tone of voice from edgy to enigmatic, sophisticated to sarcastic. Make sure that whatever tone of voice you choose to use, it’s consistent across your entire brand experience – including all your emails, in nurtures, one-offs and even special offers.

9. KISS and H2H

Lastly, KISS your emails - Keep It Simple, Stupid. Don’t over complicate things unnecessarily. And remember that we’re all human – even if we (as marketers) have written an email once, created a workflow, and set it loose to do its thing in the world and bring leads rolling in to our door or converting down our funnel – it’s still going to do its automated thing with real people. Never lose sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s not about B2B or B2C – it’s about H2H: Human-to-Human interaction. Great inbound email connects with people, emotionally, and then helps them solve the problems that they need solving.

So what inbound problems do you need solving? Download our Lead Scoring ebook for tips on how to implement your lead scoring strategy.

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