Thursday, January 11, 2007

Freshen Up Your E-mail in the New Year...

After a couple month study of e-communications at Americans for the Arts, I compiled some recommendations that I thought I would share with you:

To Improve Deliverability
1. Eliminate Hard Bouncing E-Mail Addresses from your e-mail list. Once two e-mail campaigns have been sent to an e-mail address and have hard bounced, they should be flag as no longer active.
2. Be Careful When Writing Subject Lines. When writing a subject line, it is important to be proactive and stimulating with content, but be careful with your wording because it might trigger a spam filter on the receiver’s end. Subject lines with all CAPS, strange spacing, unusual symbols and the over use of common spam words such as FREE!, can cause a campaign to be caught in a spam filter. Check to see if your e-mail marketing provider has a spam content checker. In addition, you should set up a AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail test account and send each campaign to the account before sending to see if the message is blocked.

To Improve Open Rates
1. Avoid Sending E-Mail Campaigns on Monday or Friday. Industry best practices have always suggested that e-mail campaigns should not be sent on Monday or Friday. Typically, these two days of the week have the lowest open rates. Our data has shown the same results. Mondays have the worst open rates followed by Fridays.
2. Shorten the Length of E-mail Campaigns. Even a dedicated, loyal consumer will avoid reading a campaign if it is too long. No matter how important we think the copy is, a consumer will not read it if it isn’t presented in a succinct manner. Longer campaigns should be shortened by the use of a “more” button. Write a catchy headline and a very short description for each article. If a consumer would like to read more, he can click on the “more” feature. A website redirect can also be used. If the information is available on the web, there is no need to repeat it in its entirety in an e-mail campaign. Instead, use links to direct readers to the information on the web. Under no circumstances should we be sending a campaign with more than 1,000 words.
3. Improve Subject Lines. Many times, a consumer will make the decision to open or not open an e-mail campaign based on the subject line. Please use the following recommendations when writing a subject line:
a. Avoid the Use of Internal Jargon.
Avoid using any internal jargon that general audiences may not understand.
b. Brand Your Subject Line.
If you send out a monthly or regularly timed e-mail campaign, start branding it. A practice that has been recommended by e-mail experts is including the name of your company or entity (i.e., ABC/NY) in the subject line, usually at the beginning and enclosed in brackets. For example: {ABC/NY} Encore Award Nominations. This practice reinforces the from line, ensuring recipients that it's coming from a trusted source.
c. Have Someone Else Write, Edit, or Review Subject Lines.
Oftentimes, the writer of the e-mail is too close to the content to write an intriguing and clear subject line. Have someone other than the person who creates the e-mail itself write, edit, or at least review the subject line. Use this person like a newspaper headline writer, and ask them to write the headline for the e-mail campaign.
d. The Shorter, the Better.
National studies indicate that shorter subject lines (usually of less than 50 characters) have higher open rates than longer subject lines. Also be very careful when writing longer subject lines because most e-mail providers have a maximum number of characters they will allow in the subject field.
e. Make Sure the Subject Line Catches the Attention of the Reader.
The reader will make a decision based on the subject line whether or not they will open the e-mail. Don’t be afraid to try subject lines that are more aggressive, creative, or tantalizing.
4. Provide Readers an Incentive for Opening a Campaign. With every e-mail campaign, there should be an incentive for the reader to open the campaign and read it. These incentives don’t necessarily mean discounts, rewards, or other offers, although they can be used to generate more interest. Oftentimes, readers will read e-mail campaigns if they know they will be given something of value (i.e., content they couldn’t find otherwise or content that will improve their daily lives).
5. Personalize Subject Lines. Most e-mail marketing companies will allow and support personalized subject lines. For example: “Chad, Please Remember to Renew Your Membership.” We need to check with Magnet Mail to see if this is a possibility.

To Improve Click Rates
1. Actionable Items Should Be First Up to Bat. Many e-mails are read in a consumer’s preview pane. In 2007, Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail will add preview panes to their Web-based clients, adding to the already significant use of preview panes through Outlook and Lotus Notes. When designing your campaign, make sure you put the most important, actionable items in the top two to four inches to ensure that those who will read the e-mail in the preview pane are able to view them.


Anonymous said...

Check out Dot Email:

It's a new online community for email marketers. It looks pretty interesting. I'm pretty sure it's free to join.


Alan H.

Unknown said...

All very good advice! Thanks for the good work!

Unknown said...

Great advice.

Thanks for the good work!