With this in mind, I was a little shocked when I distributed a message last week, and 20% fewer people than usual were persuaded to open it.
It marked my worst ever open rate, and consistently low figures like these can be catastrophic for a marketing businesses like my own.
Even though it was hopefully a one off, I must admit I felt a little shame at this paltry open rate.
I've years of experience in online marketing, taken every available course, and am often interviewed and asked to give advice on the most effective strategies and techniques to get recipients to open emails and absorb the messages contained within.
So what was the problem with this particular email?
To put it simply, I tried to be a little too smart for my own good.
I give you exhibit A – the subject line: ‘Spooked By Shadows.'
Anyone who has experience with email marketing can probably see the issue straight away. There's simply no reason for people to click on it.
The actual message contained in the email is interesting, and discusses the need to avoid worrying about your competitors, and whatever strategies they are implementing.
Viewed in this context, the subject is actually quite smart. It also rolls off the tongue and has a nice ring to it.
The lesson is that a subject can be smart, witty and clever – but that doesn't mean it will be effective.
John Caples once researched the factors that made advert headlines effective. He found the best had at least one of these three factors contained:
- They highlighted the benefit the individual receives by engaging with the advert – or if they purchase whatever is being advertised.
- They contained a reference to relevant news that individuals actively wanted to read about.
- They got the reader's attention through the use of curiosity, persuading them to keep reading to resolve their interest.
It's useful to consider this study when you are writing your email subjects.
I've found the most effective strategy to use is often the ‘benefits' one. As an example, ‘How to improve your productivity today' offers the recipient a reward for reading, ensuring they are tempted enough to click on the email.
Headlines like these can also combine the ‘news' and ‘curiosity' principles to be even more effective. For example, ‘How You Can Boost Productivity and Beat the Financial Crisis Today'. This headline offers a reward (boosting productivity), is relevant (economic problems are daily news at the moment) and creates curiosity (what does the mailer know that I don't?).
The email I sent out contained none of these principles – although it could be argued there was a little ‘curiosity' in the slightly cryptic subject ‘Spooked By Shadows'.
At the end of the day, being witty and smart with your marketing is only a good idea if it's effective.
Being effective is all that really matters, and this applies to marketing emails, advertisements and web pages where you're trying to sell something.
Caples' principles work – so stick to focussing on ‘news,' ‘benefits or ‘curiosity' in your headings.