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4 surprising email lessons learned from trick-or-treaters

When you’re a kid and you’re granted that one night to roam around the neighborhood collecting candy from adults, you have to make the most of it. The door-to-door adventure usually lasts just a few short hours, so it’s important to make smart choices about what houses to visit and which ones to skip.

It’s a lot like crowded inboxes. Your subscribers are short on time, their attention spans are dwindling and there are A LOT of emails to choose from. But smart email marketers can get inside their subscribers’ heads to navigate the tricky landscape and get the best treats, usually in the form of opens, clicks and conversions.

The best-decorated houses (and emails) get the most traffic.


1. Skip the house on the hill with the really long driveway.

Like I said, trick-or-treating takes place in a short window of time. And sometimes it’s just not worth it to haul your cumbersome Thundercats costume that far when you’re not even sure what kind of treat you’re going to get.

Now, as an adult, everything takes place in a short window of time. The human attention span is down to 8 seconds, and yet we receive 150 emails a day on average.

The email marketing lesson: Make it easy for subscribers to see the good stuff.
Let your audience know about all the good stuff they’re going to get in your email right away with clear subject lines and enticing preheader text. And don’t bury the call to action at the bottom of the email as a text link in the middle of a bunch of other copy – that’s the equivalent of overgrown bushes concealing the front door and doorbell on Halloween night. Instead, put your CTA front and center in the form of a large clickable (or tappable) button. They’re easier to spot, and they improve conversion rates, especially on mobile devices.


2. The best-decorated house gets the most traffic.

In my youth, if a house had spooky cobwebs, strobe lights, a soundtrack of screams playing and a Grim Reaper dummy sitting on the front porch (or maybe it’s not a dummy!), I knew those neighbors meant business. But if the house was undecorated, and the porch light wasn't even on, I took that as a cue to move on (or throw eggs at the front door).

The email marketing lesson: Appearance matters.
Lay out a path for your audience to engage with your content. The latest eye-tracking studies show that people are only scanning your emails, not reading (now that’s scary). So include large, eye-catching images, plenty of white space and clear sections separated by bold headlines. By making it easier for scanners to engage with your content, it’ll increase the chances that they decide to click through or take action.

And if your emails aren’t mobile-optimized, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a good egging from subscribers. Did you know that 80% of people will simply delete an email if it doesn’t look good on their mobile device? It’s why designing for the small screen is more important than ever. Designing in a single column, using large fonts (we recommend at least 16 pixels) and doing all the things we just talked about for scanners will go a long way to making sure your email is mobile friendly. Or, you can make it easier on yourself by using a template that’s already responsive so your content looks great on any device.

Using a responsive template will help your emails look great on large and small screens.


3. Hit up the house known for giving out the full-sized candy bars first.

There was always one house in my neighborhood that doled out full-size Snickers, year after year. Supplies were always limited, so my strategy was to go there first — skipping the houses that were handing out fun-size stuff — and then work my way back.

The email marketing lesson: Be consistent.
Once that house started giving out the big Snickers, they were beholden to do it every year. And it paid off! Over the years, that house became the stuff of neighborhood legends. Consistently serving up relevant and valuable content to your audience is a great way to generate that positive buzz for your brand. Marketers should also pay attention to their brand ambassadors — they’re spreading the good word about you! And don’t forget to reward them handsomely every now and then in the form of exclusive content, early sneak peeks or full-size Snickers. Those never disappoint.

Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to create a sense of urgency when appropriate. We had to make a beeline for that house for fear of them running out, and the same thing applies to your content. Add an expiration date or limit the quantity on an offer to create that same sense of excitement.


4. Don’t miss the house that’s giving out actual dollar bills.

Candy bars are a crowd pleaser, but I have to give a shout out to the house that skipped the sweets altogether and just gave out money. I can’t speak for every trick-or-treater, but I felt like I’d scored big-time when I was handed that crisp dollar bill. It meant I could pick whatever candy bar I wanted next time I was at the local gas station.

The email marketing lesson: Try something different.
The lesson could be that people love money (duh). After all, Emma customer Chinet included a simple $1 off coupon in their welcome email, and it got a 93% click-through rate. But the bigger lesson is that marketers should figure out ways to be an outlier amongst their competitors. Do something different, be surprising or create a buzz – and it doesn’t have to be groundbreaking. Something as simple as adding a video to your email can improve click rates by as much as 300%. You can try adding a fun emoji in your subject line or incorporating a gif in the content to see if it boosts engagement. Do a little split testing and see what works best with your audience. You might just end up with a long line of excited trick-or-treaters at your front door.