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.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, the average ROI of email is around $44 for every dollar spent. That’s more than double that of any other digital marketing channel.

That’s great news for event promoters, but there’s an art to producing emails that work. To help you create marketing emails that reach their recipients (rather than ending up in the spam folder) and get opened, read, and acted upon, we compiled the latest industry best practices.

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

Part I: 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. Let’s start by looking at how you can ensure it appears legitimate to mailbox providers — and interesting to your reader.

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 — to avoid your emails being fast-tracked to spam folders.

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 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 a number of leading trusted ESPs, enabling you to automatically add event attendees (past and present) to your email list. For example, our integration with MailChimp lets you seamlessly import attendees into your MailChimp account, design eye catching campaigns, automatically manage subscriber lists, and track results — with no coding or programming required.

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

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

Make it clear by using the name of your event or events company (i.e. “Melbourne Tech Conference”) along with an email address specific to that subscription (i.e. “ Wherever possible, don’t abbreviate the name of your company or event (i.e. “MTC”), as your reader may not easily recognise you.

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

Personalise your email

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

Likewise, it helps recipients trust your email, since they’ll be able to immediately see your message as 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 (i.e. “Hi John,”).

Avoid spammy language

There is debate over the impact of language on spam filters, 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, dollar signs, or exclamation marks can have a negative impact 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 color, 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 colors. 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 offense, so pay close 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 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 go beyond providing details of upcoming events, and talk about areas of interest to your audience. For example, if you offer seminars on financial challenges, 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.’

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 pitting different subject lines against each other. Analysing the results can provide valuable insight on what engages your contacts.

Part II: Getting your emails read and acted upon

Once a recipient has opened your email, will they like what they see? Using a template provided by your ESP (such as the Eventbrite templates in MailChimp) can help you put together an email that is well laid out, visually attractive and — most importantly — 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 to your site.

Use your brand colours, logo, and fonts, and include images and the tone of voice that fits your brand. 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 under the assumption that images won’t be seen. In other words, your message should still be discernible without images.

If it’s  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 filters.

Do make a visual impact

Although you might not be able to rely on images, you shouldn’t neglect them either. Graphics and high-quality professional event photography can really make your email stand out. Just ensure you imagery supports the text, rather than the other way around.

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 a web page.

Include multiple clear CTAs

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

Punctuate your email with multiple calls to action (CTAs), providing different reasons for the reader to click through to your website. This CTA might be to find out more about speakers or sessions, get logistical information about 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 color (green and orange buttons are reported to perform best) and easy-to-read text. Use action-oriented language, substituting boring words like “submit” and “enter” for more action-packed words like “get,” “reserve,” and “go.”

You’ll be able to see the effectiveness of your CTAs by checking the 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.

Don’t be a stranger!

Finally, an 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. If someone signs up to your newsletter six months before they receive their first email, it’s likely they’ll have forgot they ever signed up in the first place!

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

Get emailing!

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’ll be rewarded with increased ticket sales.

Ready to get started with the Eventbrite MailChimp integration? Head to Eventbrite Spectrum to find out more on how you can access custom designed Eventbrite templates and synchronise attendee data into MailChimp.