“Who is my audience?” That is the single most important question when writing anything – branded emails, blogs, articles, and even 140 character tweets. Can you honestly say that you stop to ask yourself that question every time you put your fingers to the keyboard?

Most people just start typing. Then, edit, edit, and edit again until the piece is acceptable for the masses. Sound familiar? The end result is usually muddy and lacks the most important part of anything worth writing (and reading) – your voice.

Stop trying to appeal to the masses.

Crazy comment for a piece on audience engagement, but an audience is simply one individual or a large group of individuals. So, don’t evaluate your audience based on averages. Write specifically for one, not the sum of everyone. Write the way that expresses your company or personal brand best.

Email marketing is one of the hardest things to be great at in marketing. There are so many emails to compete with and a great email is as much science as it is art. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when writing branded emails to ensure that your brand is being well represented and all the other factors that affect audience engagement fall into place:

  1. Data quality: Your email is only as good as your data. Always be diligent about using the same fields in your forms so that you have clean data. Without it, your message may be strong, but it falls short when the first name is ‘asdf’ and last name is ‘jkjl;’. Another quick tip: If you’re using a marketing automation platform (MAP) to send emails already, be sure to check your default merge tag for ‘first name’. A lot of companies set it as ‘customer’ but then message prospects who left the first name field blank with a message that says ‘Hi Customer.” I recommend making the default merge tag ‘there’, for a message that says, “Hi there.”
  2. Segmentation: Have you decided to email everyone who has a first name that starts with a ‘B’, likes Diet Coke, but hates emojis? I’m sure that list is long, so that means many of your audience members are in different regions throughout the world. If you have local company presence, be sure your emails reflect the language and dialect of the people you’re emailing. Engagement will be stronger this way.
  3. Message: Ask yourself these few questions before pressing send and your message will be well received: Who is my audience? Is this message the most applicable to everyone in my audience or should I be further segmenting my list? And lastly, would I find value in this message?
  4. Subject lines: If your email really offers the ‘best cat video ever made’ then you can use that in your subject line, but if it doesn’t don’t use the catchy subject line just to get opens. Make sure the subject line matches the subject of the email.  There are no magic bullets here. Keep them short and test them as much as possible.
  5. Testing: Testing your messaging is a great way to understand engagement, but be sure not to compromise your brand with vastly different messages. Subject lines are easy to test, but try testing different tactics like writing in different tenses, the ‘from’ address, the time of day, day of the week, or even HTML versus text-based emails.