Tips for Writing Powerful Email Promotions – Brief Article
Robert W. Bly
Email promotions typically generate response rates ranging anywhere between 1 and 20 percent, although some do better and a few do worse. And your email copy plays a big role in whether your message ends up pulling at the bottom or the top of that range.
Here are 15 proven techniques for maximizing the number of email recipients who click through to your Web site or other response mechanism.
* Give serious thought to how you introduce yourself. The “SUBJECT” line at the beginning of the email should be constructed like a short, attention-grabbing, curiosity-arousing outer envelope teaser.
The idea is to compel recipients to read further, without being so blatantly promotional that it turns them off. (Example: “Come on back to Idea Forum!”)
If you’re emailing to your house file, the email “FROM” line identifies you as the sender. If you’re emailing to a rented list, however, it may well be more effective to have the “FROM” line identify the list owner as the sender. This is especially true when the opt-in list’s owner (e.g., a Web site) has a strong relationship with its customers/users.
Some e-marketers think that the actual wording of the “FROM” line is unimportant, but others think it’s critical. Internet copywriter Ivan Levison says: “I often use the word ‘team’ in the FROM line. It makes it sound as if there’s a group of bright, energetic, enthusiastic people standing behind the product” For instance, if you were sending an email promoting a new software product to a rented list of computer professionals, your address lines might read as follows:
FROM: The Adobe PageMill Team
SUBJECT: Adobe PageMill 3.0 limited-time offer!
* Be aware that “free” can actually work against you. Despite the fact that “free” is a proven, powerful response-booster in traditional direct marketing, and that those in the Internet culture tend to expect free offers and information, some e-marketers now avoid using the word in the subject line.
The reason: Some Internet users have installed spam filter software to screen their email, and many of these filters eliminate any message with “free” in the subject line, on the assumption that these messages are promotional.
* Start your message copy with a killer headline or lead-in sentence. You need to get a terrific benefit right up front. Pretend that you’re writing envelope teaser copy or a headline for a sales letter.
* In general, short is better. This is generally not the case in classic mailorder selling. But email is a unique environment. Readers are quickly sorting through a bunch of messages, and aren’t disposed to stick with any one message for very long.
* Get the important points across quickly. Deliver a mini-version of your complete message in the first paragraph. State the offer and provide an immediate response mechanism, such as clicking on a link connected to a Web page. This appeals to Internet prospects with short attention spans.
Use subsequent paragraphs to expand on your offer by presenting copy covering features, benefits, proof of your claims and other information that the buyer needs to make a decision. This is particularly important for selling to the prospect who wants more details than a short paragraph can provide.
You might also consider an attachment, such as a Word document, pdf file, or html page. People who need more information can always scroll down or click for it.
* Repeat the offer and response mechanism in the close of the email. That’s a standard direct marketing rule. But with email, the offer and response mechanism should almost always appear at the very beginning, too. That way, busy Internet users who give each email only a second or two get the whole story.
* Don’t engage in response link overkill. John Wright, of the Internet marketing services firm MediaSynergy, says that if you put multiple response links within your email message, 95 percent of click-through responses will come from the first two. Therefore, it probably makes sense to limit the total number of click-through links to three. An exception might be an e-newsletter or “e-zine” that’s broken into five or six short items, where each item is on a different subject and therefore has its own link.
* Use wide margins. You don’t want weird wraps or breaks. Limit yourself to about 55 to 60 characters per line. If you think a line is going to be too long, insert a character return. Internet copywriter Joe Vitale sets his margins at 20 and 80, keeping sentence length to 60 characters. This ensures that the whole line gets displayed on the screen without odd text breaks.
* Take it easy on the all-caps. You CAN use words in all caps, but you need to exercise restraint and judgment. Remember: In addition to denoting “shouting” in the world of email, caps can be hard to read.
* Establish a tone that’s helpful, friendly, informative and educational, not promotional or hard-sell. “Information is the gold in cyberspace,” says Vitale. When they’re online, people want real information, and lots of it. Hype-filled sales letters and vague claims (that your magazine is “the best” or offers “quality editorial,” for instance) won’t work here anymore than they do in direct mail. Be specific. How are you the best? What exactly do you mean by quality? And who says that this is true besides you?
At the same time, you need to inject excitement into the copy. Information may be the gold, but readers don’t want to be bored.
* Make it easy to opt out. Set up your opt-out so that all the user need do to be excluded from further messages is to click on “reply” and type “unsubscribe” or “remove” in the subject line.
An example of effective opt-out statement: “We respect your online time and privacy, and pledge not to abuse this medium. If you prefer not to receive further emails from us of this type, please reply to this email and type ‘remove’ in the subject line.” Similar wording can he used to get opt-in permission to send readers emails from other companies with products or services areas of affinity.
Robert W. Bly is a freelance copywriter specializing in conventional and Internet direct mail. His latest book, “Doing Direct Mail on the Internet,” co-authored with Steve Roberts and Michelle Feit, will be pub-lished this year by NTC Business Books.
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