In a successful email program, your audience opens, reads and responds to your messages. But you really win when your subscribers look forward to your messages before they even arrive. Anticipation boosts all of your engagement metrics because it is an indication that your audience is genuinely connected to your brand, or at least what your brand is putting in their inboxes. Email works with permission, succeeds with attention, and positively thrives with anticipation.
How do you prompt your subscribers to look forward your daily, weekly or monthly visits to their inboxes then? Here are a few ways to build anticipation for your email messages:
Stick to a scheduled send date & time: Scheduling is an important part of anticipation. The Daily Deal sites have a competitive advantage here in that they push out content, well, daily, which much of their audience anticipates as hotly as the morning’s first cup of coffee. Even if you publish less frequently, however, a regular schedule helps. If possible, work in the day or date into the newsletter itself, so your audience makes the connection. Remember Thursday night on NBC’s “Must See TV”? NBC did an admirable job coupling “Thursday” with the “Must See TV” rejoinder, so that even mentions of the day outside of the context of Seinfeld and Friends would build anticipation for the show. Calling your newsletter “Tuesday Newsday” (or working a term like that into every installment) can help build anticipation in the same way, and without costing you $1,000,000 per star per episode.
Use a personal voice: Ultimately, the content in your messages itself is what drives engagement within each one. But the way you present that content can help build anticipation. Your audience will look forward to messages that are pleasant to read, even if the calls-to-action are not a direct hit with them. Using a personal voice helps build a personality around your brand, making your messages more memorable. If your subscribers remember that they enjoy reading your messages, first they will be more likely to open them when they see them, and ultimately they may start to look forward to them even before spying them in the inbox (such as the other points of contact with your brand – on your website, and social media).
Include a recurring feature: Not everything you include in your newsletters is going to resonate with your entire audience. Including a recurring feature in each – a statistic or quotation or graphic of the week, for example – will let your subscribers know that there is at least one thing in each newsletter that is consistent. The more appealing this recurring feature is, the more likely segments of your audience will start to anticipate it.
Pre-Promote with social media: Using social media to promote a web version of your newsletter is an excellent way to drive some additional readership. You can also use Facebook and Twitter to let your audience know that that the newsletter is coming, and to preview some of the content. Let’s say you send a Tuesday Newsday email from the example above. Use Monday to tell your social audience to watch for tomorrow’s newsletter, and also provide a teaser about some of the content or the recurring content feature. For example, you might tweet, “Tuesday Newsday tomorrow: 6 ROI-driving uses of Velcro; Save $50 on the Summit, Pic of the Week from the Pogo-a-Thon. In your Inbox by 10am.” (Pow – 140 characters exactly.)
Remember, building anticipation is something you do with this week’s email, but it doesn’t begin paying off until weeks in the future. Finding the balance between the near-term objectives of your messages and the long-term health of your email program is the email marketer’s greatest challenge. It takes discipline and foresight, but when done well pays huge dividends for years to come.