To cut through the clutter and make your email the one that jumps up and grabs attention requires seven simple steps, beginning with catching the readers' attention. You have three seconds - if that - and the most important tools in your arsenal are your subject line and page title tag.
Page title tag
Often overlooked, and usually defaulted to 'Untitled Document', your page title tag is the piece of text that shows in the tab of your browser window when the document is viewed online, and most importantly, is the text that is picked and displayed when the little notification box pops up to tell your reader that a new mail has arrived.
This text should be salacious and inviting, and should encapsulate the main gist of what you want to get across. (Remember the first rule of web copy? Put your most important info at the top!)
Another way to use these is to populate them with contact details. It works simply because it puts the call to action in a clear, visible spot, right at the top of the page, where people can't miss it.
With a bit of digging online, you can uncover literally reams and volumes of information on great subject lines, why they work, how to sell with them, and most surprisingly, that great advertising sales copy hasn't really changed at all in the last century.
There are great frameworks and templates you can use to easily build powerful and effective sales subject lines that cut through the clutter and get people to open your mails, and once you get into them, you'll quickly notice how often these headlines are still in use today on many of the great-read websites that are out there.
One thing you may not have considered though is what your subject line looks like in the actual inbox, without the rest of the mailer to support it - and this insight can be golden.
As human beings, we are inherently curious and a large majority of us are judgers too - we can't bear the thought of something unfinished, or not knowing the end of the story - so capitalise on this!
Ask a question, look at the letter value at which your subject line cuts off, or invoke a hope or fear, e.g. 'The fastest way to make money...' or '7 easy ways to find new clients for...'
There's enough meat in these subject lines to get attention - especially for people who have a need in that area - but it cuts off quickly enough to engage their curiosity and makes them have to read further - and that is more than half the job done.
Bold background colours
It always amazes me when people choose plain and boring looks and layouts for their digital marketing.
One of the biggest things that make digital marketing so cool is the fact that your production costs are usually limited to the actual skillset of the designers and writers involved. There's no extra cost for printing or process or pantone colours and it won't cost extra to send or host because you've used four or more colours.
A completely black and white jpeg pasted into an email will cost you the same amount to send as a fully designed HTML mailer. The only difference is that your fully designed HTML mailer looks more professional and is more likely to return results and be legible but that's not the coolest thing about colour.
We all have associations to colours and if you go into the ongoing research done by organisations such as the Pantone Colour Institute, you'll discover that these meaning-associations to specific colours are worldwide - it doesn't matter where you go or who you chat to, they all see green as being money, and purple as luxury and black as classy and elegant.
What's even more important is that as these trends change around the world, you see the same patterns of change in the meanings, regardless of where you are.
So, a simple solid background colour in your email can scream the intention of the e-mailer and easily help you convey the gist and feeling of the message you want to get across - before you've even said a word!
Good typography and bullet points
Who has time nowadays? It doesn't matter where you go or who you talk to, everyone is rushed and overwhelmed and in a hurry. So, are you structuring your copy to be scanned rather than read? Good typography is about so many things.
Let's start with editing - Great digital and email marketing are brief - they use the shortest amount of words possible to get the point across. I always like Mark Twain's take on this one: once you're finished writing, go back and delete every third word. Yes, really, that much. In fact, take off more if you can.
Now, turn it on its head - Put your most important info first, so that if people only read the first paragraph they know what it is you're selling or telling.
Then, borrow from the web - Keep your paragraphs short - even as short as a sentence per paragraph and definitely limit your writing to an idea per paragraph.
Use headings, sub-headings and bullet points - Make it simple for your reader to take everything in at a glance. If your typography is good, then it makes it easy for your reader to understand what it is you are conveying and, more importantly, what the selling points of your offer are.
Scan reading is about understanding that people will look at the headings, sub-headings and bullet points - does your marketing tell a complete story just through these elements?
Use web-standard fonts
Digital marketing changes according to the device it's being viewed on, the browser or email-rendering engine being used.
Digital marketing also moves around according to the resolution it's being viewed at - and the same typeface, at the same size, will look different at different resolutions.
This is why it's vitally important that your digital marketing is designed to be able to expand either going down or sideways to an unlimited amount. Yes, an unlimited amount. A huge part of getting this aspect right is your choice of font. The idea behind web-standard fonts is that these are fonts that every machine, regardless of the service provider, would be issued with.
This is important because digital marketing is code - a set of instructions that tells your device how to recreate the marketing piece on the machine it's being viewed on.
So, if you have specified a font that the user doesn't have installed, your typefaces will default to Times New Roman, approximately size 16 or 17 - otherwise known as HTML size 3.
This will change the layout of your marketing piece. Different typefaces take up a different amount of space, so if your typeface changes, the spacing you sat and worked out so perfectly will too, turning your layout on its head.
Use columns and scaling
Recent statistics show that there are two to three mobile devices per person in the South African population - so if your digital marketing isn't geared for mobile viewing, you're easily throwing away half your database - if not more.
Scaling images in email marketing is a must. If your images are set to a fixed width - usually much wider than the pixel width on the average mobile device - that fixed width will determine the final width of your whole mailer.
When set to scale properly, the images will fit to the width of the screen and the screen width will determine your final document size in pixels - and your reader won't have to scroll across and down to be able to view your content. No sideways scrolling ever!
This applies to columns too. For those of you that regularly use their mobile devices, you'll know the pain that comes with having to scroll sideways to read a sentence - that you've already had to zoom into to make it large enough to view.
Mobile devices zoom in columns - so finding the column width that will make your mailer easy to read, while avoiding the need to scroll sideways, will go a long way towards ensuring that more people finish reading the message you've so carefully crafted.
Images are just an added extra
As much as we place such high value on the look and graphic design, the sad truth is that up to 70% of people won't see any of the images you've included in your marketing.
This is for a variety of reasons:
Limited internet access in the workplace - Most images are stored externally and only called when downloaded and it is almost guaranteed that your site is not on the allowed list.
People's personal download settings - It doesn't matter if your product or service is life-changing, or even life-saving, when you send unsolicited email, it is likely to be classified as spam. Living in a country where email and internet access is still a luxury for the 'upper class,' most people are very precious about their bandwidth costs - and how dare you use up their valuable bandwidth with your spam.
Internet access may be down - You have to think of each image in an email as its own unique web page - called, at a specific size, to live in a specific spot on your email document. So, if your reader is without web access in the moment they get to your perfectly crafted email, they won't be able to see the images - even if they want to download them.
It's a month later and you took the images offline - Even worse, you or your service provider takes the images offline because that email campaign is over - and we are always ready for the next big thing. Except - your reader is not. I've seen people hold onto e-mailers - and then respond to them - literally four years later.
Just because someone doesn't respond to your marketing straight away, doesn't mean they aren't interested in your product or service. They might not have the budget right now, or they might be busy with projects of their own and emails are so small - and easy to file and categorise - that many people put them aside until they have the time and resources to action them.
Make sure your email looks complete, and is easily understandable, with all the images hidden. Repeat everything - including your headline - in HTML.
That way, if one of the above does take place, you still have a perfectly intact piece of marketing that secures future clients for you, and keeps the wheels of your business turning.
Chemory Gunko is the MD and creative director of Dsignhaus, a B2B marketing services agency with in-depth and specialist knowledge in the field of digital marketing. For more, go to www.dsignhaus.co.za, email her on or follow @dsignhaus on Twitter.
First and foremost - personalise!! The art is to make your emailer look as much like a personal email as possible.
Second - TEST, TEST, TEST, TEST, TEST!!! And pay attention to what happens when the tests arrive - most of the tricks and tips I've learnt over the years have been because I was involved in the actual sending and testing - and every day means a new test to see what has changed.
Third - your subject line! Avoid the spammy words and test, test, test!
Fourth - every day is a brand new day. Turn your auto-updates on and NEVER assume that because it worked yesterday it will work today :)
There are more tips and articles up on our site - go take a read, and get in touch! Posted on 12 Jul 2012 09:57
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