Email Marketing – Getting It Right, Getting It Read

Email is one of the most effective direct marketing techniques available. When done well it enables us to talk to large numbers of prospects and customers in an instant; alerting them to offers, telling them about new products and services and forming an ongoing relationship.

Done wrong, email marketing emails get deleted without even being viewed. Even worse, our emails can be viewed as annoying spam, damaging the very relationships we are all trying so hard to nurture. So, as professional marketers, how can we ensure our carefully crafted email marketing pieces get read in the first place?

It starts with the subject line

Research has shown that open rates vary enormously, depending on the subject line used. Common sense tells us that punchy subject lines with attention grabbing headlines are going to do better than dull versions. However, it comes as a big surprise to many marketers to learn that the best open rates are from 'informative' rather than 'creative' subject lines.

One notable study revealed subject lines such as, "[COMPANYNAME] Newsletter - February 2009" typically outperform lines such as "The Future of International Trade" by a factor of 5 or more. The simple truth is that the best performing subject lines describe the subject of the email. To do something different flies in the face of hard evidence and is only attempted by the very brave or the foolhardy.

Not all email readers display the entire subject line. Just because you use Microsoft Mail doesn't mean that all your readers do too. Keeping your subject line length below 51 characters will ensure that everyone can see all of your subject line, no matter what email program they are using.

Some words are better than others

Be wary of words that trigger spam filters. The obvious ones are "free" and "discount". Most spam filtering works by scoring the email according to length, origin, words used, images and so on. Once a threshold has been reached the email is classified as spam and the software rejects it. Even punctuation such as exclamation marks in a subject line can increase your score, bringing you closer to the threshold. If you are unsure about how to avoid spam triggers in your email marketing copy, a professional email broadcaster will be happy to advise you.

Grab Attention above the Fold

In email marketing, preview panes are the equivalent of the copy that falls above the fold of a letter. Preview panes have become the standard way of quickly glancing at an email and deciding whether it's worth reading or not. In our quest to get our emails read, our mission is to grab attention "above the fold" using our most compelling copy and imagery.

Design and write your email so that your offer, call-to-action, urgency indicator and branding all appear "above the fold".

Be aware that each email reader will have a different preference for their preview pane. This results in the area available to grab attention being significantly different for each. Design and test your email marketing pieces in different formats to ensure your "above the fold" copy can be viewed in each.

Many preview panes block images by default, so 'alt tag' considerations should be included in the creative and design process. Alt tags also help improve accessibility to those with visual impairments. UK Companies are required by law to take reasonable steps to ensure accessibility under the 2005 amendments to the Disability Discrimination Act, so missing out alt tags could prove a costly mistake.

Perhaps because email is so ubiquitous and everyone writes emails every day, companies have a tendency to devalue them. However, as this article has shown, there is a lot to think about when planning an email marketing piece.

A final suggestion is that precisely because there is such a lot to think about and because things are changing so quickly in the world of email marketing, calling a friendly expert once in a while is a great shortcut to success.

For help and assistance planning your email marketing campaigns talk to the experts at Email Flow. Email Flow is an Enterprise email broadcasting solution that provides a tried and tested method for sending messages to consumer and business email lists.

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