If limiting your soul-baring tweets to 140 characters is a challenge, think smaller when it comes to your emails. Much smaller: Smart phones only display five or six words of your email’s subject line, so the gist of your message needs to be conveyed in about 20-30 characters when in portrait orientation.
Being concise is already a great parameter to have in place if you’re a known rambler (like moi), but you could be missing out on business if your subject line runs on or doesn’t grab attention. Smart phones don’t have preview panes, so it’s important to use what you’ve got: a clearly identified from name that builds trust and a short subject line that does its job of getting the email opened. Put the most important information first, and be aware of truncation – A subject line like Free gas at your Mapco station for one lucky winner could display as Free gas at your Mapco station.
From my own inbox:
You had me at "happy hour" with 35 characters total.
The entire subject line of 27 characters displays on my iPhone. This also lets me know that the email makes sense for smart phone use.
This one reads Up to 74% off artisan-inspired furniture, high-style home designs, distressed decor, The Farmhouse Kitchen & more – Hello, run-on: 113 characters. Luckily, the from name for this biweekly email is consistent, so I know it isn’t spammy, but it still doesn’t grab my attention. Delete.
Next step: a split test to find which of your clear, concise subject lines is best-liked.
This week, we're inviting the Emma community to check out our latest collection of free readymade templates, designed for creating email invitations.
They're great for inviting email subscribers to parties, speaker events, conferences and shows.
After all, invitations are powerful. They make us feel included. They make us feel special. They're personal, and they're exclusive. And the best part? You don't even need an event to send one. With a little creativity, you'll find all kinds of ways to engage your audience just by framing your message as invitation. Here are three ideas to get you started:
Invite subscribers to like you on Facebook.
Tie together your email and social efforts with a little self-promotion. Your email audience is by far your most engaged customers and fans, so why not mobilize them to boost your social profile? Studies show that asking for likes on Facebook yields three times more likes than not asking at all, and if you ask politely and in a stylish way (by using a fresh invitation template design, perhaps?), you're bound to get a good response.
Invite readers to take your survey.
Want to know what kind of products your customers would like you to carry? Or how often your readers like to hear from you? Use an invitation template to ask your subscribers to take a survey. You can create one survey right in your Emma account, or use a service like SurveyMonkey to craft your burning questions.
Invite customers to an online event.
You don't need to break out the place cards and flower arrangements to host an event. Move products faster by launching an exclusive online sale. Provide expertise and training in an online webinar. Host a focus group on Google Hangout.
Log in now to find 15 invitation designs in your account, and let us know how you're using this new collection to engage your readers.
Not yet a customer? Peruse the new invitation templates on our website, and try Emma for free.
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 Meetup.com. 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.
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.
And even though we eagerly watched the opens and clicks tally with each send-off, I saw an opportunity to start the new year off with a look at all the emails in one place.
There's nothing complicated or high tech about this exercise, unless you count not being certain about which office printer I sent my files to. It just takes wall space, Post-its, and a few brains to make sense of it all.
I made a timeline of emails sent over the last six months, adjusted each one's height on the wall according to the open rate, wrote out each subject line, labeled key metrics and trends, and – here's the important part – pulled together a small group of Emma staffers to soak it all in and make some insights.
We took note of what jumped out to us:
In general, emails that feature new template collections get the most opens and clicks, so we'll be making more of those.
But our simplest (and kindest) subject line, "Thank you," yielded our highest open rate – 43%! (Psst...read more about how saying thanks yields more opens.)
Big, bold login buttons get the job done and drive customers to check out what's new.
A text link that appears just below a compelling image often gets more clicks the image itself (we link them both to the same place).
And then we let that shape our conversation about the kinds of emails we want to send in the coming months.
Did you do an email retrospective? What did you learn, and how many Post-its did you use?
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When I was growing up, my mom taught both grammar and etiquette ("No passive voice at the dinner table, dear!"), so this time of year, I cannot help but write thank-you notes to friends and family for their holiday generosity.
I always put it off for a while, but when I finally sit down to say thanks, I relish the chance to say something kind -- with real ink! -- to the people I love the most, especially when I consider how great getting a thank-you note makes me feel.
And it turns out I'm not alone. Over at Eloqua, they found that emails with "thank you" or "thanks" in the subject line brought in a 14% higher click-through rate than their unthankful counterparts.
Email marketers who consistently conduct split tests know that the rewards are numerous—higher open rates, increased conversions and, perhaps most importantly, insights into subscriber behavior and preferences. But if you’re new to testing, how do you know you’re doing it right? Testing subject lines is a simple, effective way to start building a solid email testing program. These five tips will help you get started today:
As you probably remember from seventh grade science, any good scientific experiment follows structured steps. First, start with observation and research. For email marketing, this means analyzing data and reviewing current subject lines. Then, come up with a hypothesis based on your research. For example, your hypothesis might be, “A short subject line will lead to a higher open rate than a long subject line.” After you conduct the test, you’ll see if the results proved or disproved your hypothesis.
There are many ways to measure success—how will you measure yours? Determining your business goals at the outset will help ensure that your testing campaign will be worth your time. Figure out which metrics you’ll be looking at once the test deploys. Open rate may indicate reader interest, but your ultimate goal may be to increase the number of people who submit the form on your landing page. In that case, the email version that gets the most opens may not be the one that leads to the most conversions.
Batch test first.
Conducting your test on a small sample of your subscriber list can be a smart way to maximize results. Use the winning subject line for the remainder of your subscriber list. Be aware, though, that batch testing only works when your results can reach statistical significance. The sample has to be large enough to draw sound conclusions; if your subscriber list is small, you won’t benefit from batch testing.
Test one variable.
Effective testing leads to learnings about your audience. But learnings aren’t clear when you test more than one variable at a time, because you aren’t able to tell which one made a difference. For example, you may want to test personalization: Will your readers respond better to a subject line that includes their first name? In that case, make sure the two subject lines you’re testing, aside from the personalization, are completely identical. Additional variations—whether in messaging, tone, length or offer—will lead to inconclusive results. Likewise, testing subject lines means that all other content is the same, from the email to the landing page.
Contrary to what many email marketers believe, creating a compelling subject line isn’t hard. The real challenge is creating a compelling one that is consistent with your email and landing page. Otherwise, your awesome subject line could inspire a lot of opens, but very few clickthroughs. Worse, the email will likely end up in subscribers’ “deleted items” folder—and your subsequent emails will be regarded with suspicion. Take the long view when it comes to testing. Short-term wins are pointless if you’re not learning about your audience.
These five best practices are a good starting point for any email marketing campaign. But this is just the beginning. Testing is a mindset, not a tactic. Your results will help shape future tests, inspire additional testing ideas and form new research questions. After all, a testing expert’s work is never done.
Today's post comes from Rachel Healy, senior copywriter at Brooks Bell Interactive. They're long-time Emma customers and experts in all things testing and optimization. If you're looking for expert guidance for optimizing your website and running smart tests, give them a shout.
Think back on the last few months. Is there anything that you cringe to cop to, any deeds that make you shudder? No, I'm not talking about over-imbibing at the company cocktail party or referring to Bon Iver as Bone Eye-ver (though I feel for you, if that's you). I mean email faux pas, like hitting send too hastily or emailing a 60%-off coupon to the wrong list.
I worked with an Emma customer the other day who was wowed (in fact, he said “wowza,” much to my delight) when I helped convert his Microsoft Word document into an email campaign. He was eager to send it right away, but I said, “Hold it right there. Spend a bit more time with it." If you take the time to add your own finesse and flavor to your email campaign, it'll go a long way with your audience. And, above all, please avoid these often-overlooked mistakes:
This one's the most cringe-worthy, in my book. I used to work in a newsroom, where show producers had to type in ALL CAPS for the teleprompter. Seriously, I believe that the constant shouting through type contributed to the high blood pressure that many producers shared.
If your company is a high-end boutique, a restaurant, nonprofit or university, my hunch is you'd like to convey confidence, authority and an absence of chaos. Even an exciting and important message does not necessitate random bold and italic words, huge font sizes or new font colors for every paragraph. Your communication should speak for itself through its message and offerings without making your readers go cross-eyed.
You’ve heard the saying that you can put lipstick on a pig … well, don’t be a hog, y'all. Our new content editor will help keep you in line by suggesting typography and colors that coordinate with the template you choose, so you can avoid coming across as, well, oinkish.
Careless spelling and grammatical errors
I'll try to refrain from sounding like an 8th-grade English teacher here, but you should know the difference between they’re, there and their. And how to correct run-on sentences. And how to write subject-verb agreements.
One of the most common reasons I unsubscribe from a newsletter (other than overwhelming sending frequency) is slapdash writing. It completely distracts from the message. And if a company takes little pride in its marketing, what am I to expect from its product or service?
Read your newsletter slowly and out loud before sending it to your audience. Then, send a test to up to 25 recipients using Emma’s preview feature. You'll likely catch an error or two that you can address before sending to your entire list.
A disengaging, dull voice
As you know, Emma's an email marketing company. The topic of email, while pretty exciting to most of us that work here, isn't the most compelling thing in the world. Yet, we still like to talk about it in a style that’s conversational and unstuffy. That's why you'll see references to ferrets, an '80s action figure and bananas on our website. Even our 404 page is fun to land on.
How dull would it be if we said things like eblasts (ick), leveraging subscriber relationships (yawn) and offering top-of-the-line, data-rich solutions (eyeroll)?
Take a look at your copy and ask yourself: Who are we? What sets us apart? Then write about it like you're explaining it to your favorite aunt. If you'd like extra tips along the way, check out our post on turning off the bot talk.
An over-caffeinated, salesy voice
Sending an email is one of the best ways to have a one-on-one conversation with a customer, prospect or fan who you probably haven't met in person. But, let's say you are meeting them in person. Would you walk right up and say, "Hey, I'm from Company Z. I've got a bargain for you! It's without any gimmicks! We accept credit cards! And your first shipment is freeeee!" No, you wouldn't. Unless you want to receive the stink eye or a slap across the face.
So why are you sending emails that are all about the sale? Get to know your audience first. They're real people, and they're more than their wallets. So appeal to them as more.
What faux pas do you see in the emails you receive? How do you address 'em in your own emails? Comment here to keep the conversation going.
Successful customer support means going the extra mile
In today’s world of instant gratification — where customers can tweet, email and call you within the same five-minute timeframe — you can never turn off your customer service. Plus, potential customers and current ones are not exclusively active during the traditional nine-to-five work hours. Being able to respond with a timely reply is more important than ever.
Service that stands out
Let me share an example. I’m at the point in my life where I’m looking to get in better shape and live a healthier lifestyle. Recently, I was curious about running so I did what I always do when I have a question: I asked it on Twitter.
I was flooded with responses. People on Twitter are extremely helpful, and with a topic as popular as running, there were lots of opinions. I’m still getting responses this morning.
Less than two hours after I asked my question, a company had chimed in. It wasn’t Puma, New Balance or Reebok (who all have local offices near me), but rather Richmond, Virginia-based Natural Running Store.
As I write this post roughly 24 hours after asking my question, they are still the only running company that was listening enough to chime in and answer.
But, they didn’t just reply to a tweet and leave it at that. They followed one of our Content Rules: “Share or Solve, Don’t Shill.” They realized that answering my question might be hard to do in the 140-character limit of Twitter and instead recorded a quick, custom video.
Yes, this running shoe company took time out of their day to film a video for me. The video is personalized by my name and, at the end, it references my book and a couple of other things I had talked about online earlier in the day.
If you watch the video, you’ll see that it’s obviously filmed in their store. You’ll hear people working in the background — it’s not overly-produced or scripted. It is simply a heartfelt conversation that they probably have multiple times every day in the store with customers who walk in.
The only difference? They realized their store is more than the brick-and-mortar structure they are based in.
So, how does this apply to you?
You might not be able to record custom videos for every question you get. But, couldn’t you take the top 10 most-frequently-asked questions and film video answers to them? Then, when you receive those questions via social media or email, send along the video link.
The personalization in this particular video was awesome, but honestly, if they had sent me a note saying, “Hey C.C., we’ve got this great video on how to start running that might help. Let us know if you need more details,” it would have been just as helpful.
The key fact here is the timely nature of your content. You’re no longer allowed to be asleep at the wheel or coasting through support queries. We live in a 24-hour world these days, and you never know where your next customer is going to come from. If you’re not spending at least one hour every day listening and reacting, you are missing out on business.
C.C. Chapman is the co-author (with Ann Handley) of Content Rules, a book that explains how companies can create remarkable blogs, podcasts, webinars, ebooks and more. C.C. is a leader in the online and social media marketing space; he speaks about building passionate consumer communities, and the strategic values of content-based marketing. C.C. can be reached by email at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter (@cc_chapman).
In many ways, content strategy is about finding the most effective and memorable ways to tell your story. And the inbox is an ideal place to do just that. The problem is, most companies send promotion after promotion, and they forget they’ve got a bunch of real humans out there just waiting for something worthwhile to show up. They forget to make things personal. They forget to make things interesting. Eyes glaze over. Expectations are lowered. Emails get deleted.
That’s a shame because email really is the genre everyone reads — inbox-checking is some kind of national pastime at this point, somewhere between baseball and apple pie. And if someone is on your list, they’ve invited you to their inbox. You’ve made a connection with them (yay, you!). So don’t become one of those automatically deleted emails. Engage those folks. How? Craft your campaigns with a story in mind. When you tell a story instead of just selling a product or promoting a cause, your audience tunes in.
Three ways to tell a story about your company
Tell a slice of your story
You know those email campaigns that are so broad they basically mean nothing? They may say something like, “Introducing our new collection: We have something for everyone!” or “It’s springtime, so come back and visit!” Yeah, don’t do that. It doesn’t give your audience anything concrete to think about. Instead, pull out one particular glimpse of who you are.
That’s exactly what the store Anthropologie does with this dreamy slice of an email. Before this campaign arrived one day, I didn’t know I wanted to “indulge in a land of lemon and cardamom.” But I do now, officially and forever. I’ll admit that I think about this email nearly every time I walk past (or, more likely, walk into) one of their store locations. Instead of selling clothes, those Anthropologie spell-casters lured me in with a story. Does everything they sell have something to do with lemon or cardamom? Definitely not. It’s a hook, and a poetic hook to boot.
Stories aren’t math, but they do add up over time. And, as my closet will attest, stories sell clothes.
Hint at a story that could unfold
Let’s say you sell scarves. You could send an email with pretty pictures of your scarves. Sure, why not? You could announce that you’re selling your scarves for half-price. Sounds fine. But your readers have likely seen pictures of scarves before, unless they’re living in some kind of dystopian society where the vampire overlords have outlawed scarves. (Note to self: Write next teen novel sensation with vampire twist. They no longer sparkle, but they hate scarves!) And they’ve also likely seen scarves on sale before. Again, unless … oh, never mind.
But what if you think of the scarf as more than a product? What if your audience could see themselves enjoying that scarf? You could create a stylish how-to video that shows how to tie that scarf and look like a sophisticated Parisian. Or you could take pictures of your customers wearing your scarves around town. Either way, you’re setting a story in motion.
Latch onto a bigger story to be relevant
The most obvious kind of relevance happens every time Valentine’s Day or any other holiday rolls around. But you’re not limited by the calendar when it comes to connecting what you do with whatever’s happening in the world. You can also look to current events. When everyone in the entire world seemed to be talking about the royal wedding last year, Saveur food magazine emailed tips and recipes for hosting a British afternoon tea. When legendary chef Ferran Adria announced he was closing his restaurant in Spain, one travel magazine included trip itinerary ideas for Barcelona in its weekly email a few days later.
By finding a connection to what’s already on their minds, you’re giving your audience a way to participate in whatever the bigger story is — you’re tapping them into the zeitgeist. They’ll appreciate you for that, and they’ll remember that you’re a warm human, not just a sender of emails with one promotion after the next.
So what's next?
Set aside some time to think about the stories hiding amidst the products or services you offer. Help your audience experience what you’re all about, instead of telling them. This extra effort will give your audience a reason to pay attention — because, as everyone knows, even scarf-hating vampires find a good story irresistible.