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Designing Emails for the ADOS Crowd

4 ways to appeal to your subscribers' short attention spans

The attention span of the average online consumer seems to be getting shorter every second. Unless you can do or say (or link to) something awesome ... and do it quickly ... you'll likely lose your readers' attention. In fact, I would bet that many folks already stopped reading this blog post. Another portion clicked on that link (above) and are now going down the rabbit hole that is YouTube.

For those who are still reading, please understand that ADOS (Attention Deficit. Oh, Shiny!*) syndrome also applies to email marketing messages. With very few exceptions (read: killer content from a very trusted source), when it comes to email marketing, shorter is better. Humans are busy. We are looking for that instant gratification -- the email that (quickly) saves us time, saves us money, makes us smarter, and/or entertains us.

If your email marketing message cannot do one (or more!) of those four things, and do it quickly, chances are your content will not get read/clicked/shared/acted upon. So, how do you design an email for this ADOS crowd? Here are four ways:

1. Create a subject line that is compelling. If an email landed in your inbox with the subject line, "Burn after reading ..." would you open it? My wife did. Check out this email from Red Envelope. Now, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that "boring" subject lines can't also work, but if you are finding that your open rates are on the decline, try something different!

2. Test various from names. Every so often, mix up your from/sender name. Do you always send using your company or brand name? Try using a person's name. Do you normally use a person's name? Try sending from the company or brand. And, if you really want to get crazy (creative), try sending from someone like Don Draper. That's exactly what MarketingProfs did last year in an email promoting its B2B Forum. Be sure to read Part II and Part III of that blog post series too.

3. Keep the content of your emails short. On January 1st of this year, a friend of mine received an email from The entire email copy consisted of one sentence, six words -- "Resolutions are meant to be broken." There was a custom header that read "New Year's UNRESOLUTIONS" as well as a button that read "TRY THESE INSTEAD." That's all!

4. Provide something of value. This one is usually the easiest one to do (in theory), yet toughest to actually execute on. After all, how does one define value? In many cases, value is different for each person. In some cases, there is monetary value -- an email that saves a subscriber money (discount, free, etc). In other instances, value is defined as saving someone time (a "hack") or making them smarter (a "tip"). However, that's why email marketing is so awesome. All of this can be tested. You don't have to guess what call to action provides more value. Test it.


If you are still reading this (and not off looking at some shiny object), take a moment to leave your thoughts below in the comments. Do you agree? Do you think I'm crazy? Have you seen (or sent) an email marketing campaign recently that is perfect for the ADOS crowd? If so, we want to see it! Please share below.

*Credit to Peter Shankman for coining the ADOS acronym.


Today's guest post is written by DJ Waldow, an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that creates opportunities for social engagement and community development through a fresh approach to email marketing. DJ has spent nearly 8 years in the email, social, and community-building world, advising clients on how to optimize their email marketing campaigns and--on occasion--break some of the “best practice” rules. DJ can be found on most social networks under the handle “djwaldow” or by searching “DJ Waldow.” DJ is an alumnus of the University of Michigan (Go Blue), a knowledge craver, a sponge, & a lover of beer, coffee & people.