I’m giving a presentation at the SIPA Marketing Conference this week entitled “9 Fundamentals for a More Strategic Email Program.” Its function is to encourage email marketers to take a thoughtful look at their email program, and to find ways of balancing the near-term needs the email fulfills with the long-term health of the email program itself. It’s about what I call “Sustainable Attention” –or keeping your audience as engaged and vital in 5 years as they are today.
But I realized as I was finishing it that as a conference session it has a glaring shortcoming. What’s the first thing your colleagues ask you as soon as you return from a conference? OK, never mind. What’s the second thing? They want to know what you’ve learned. And by that they mean, what can you do today that makes our jobs easier? My presentation gives plenty of advice, but it’s the kind of work that requires meetings and planning and budget allocations, not quick fixes.
I knew I’d never be invited back if I didn’t balance the long view of the email program with the near-term needs of conference attendees, so I concluded with a section called “7 Things You Can Do To Boost Your Email Results This Week.” Because really, if you’re going to work hard to preserve your email program for the future, you might as well make sure it works as well as possible for you today:
1. Hyperlink like you highlight: If we think that when our subscribers get our emails, they expand them to the full screen, turn off their instant messenger, mute their phone and immerse themselves fully in our missives, we’re delusional. Even “read” is often a generous term. Many subscribers scan, their eyes naturally alighting on the words or phrases that are hyperlinked. So treat your hyperlinks like a highlighter, and include the whole phrase you want to catch your subscriber’s eye. Instead of linking “click here” link “click here to save $100 on conference registration.”
2. Post your newsletter online: Real Magnet offers a link to view a message online. Use this link from the message you send as a test to yourself and post it on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, and any other media that’s suitable. You’ll reach new audience with the same content (and also some of the 50% – 80% who are subscribed but do not read everything you send), and also promote the existence of the newsletter, drawing in new subscribers.
3. Create a mobile template: Return Path published some research this week that revealed a 37% increase in mobile email readership over the past six months. Some of our clients have reported that as many as 30% – 40% of their opens on some campaigns are coming from mobile devices. If you want to boost your results, make it easier for the mobile population – now fully at critical mass – to read your messages and take action.
4. Be more social: Email works better if your brand is stronger. One way for your brand to become stronger and more relevant to your customers is to increase your presence in other channels, like social. By tweeting more often, posting more pictures on Facebook, and engaging in more social conversations, you are generating more brand impressions among your audience, which increases their anticipation for your emails.
5. Unstick stock messages: When someone subscribes to your email, fills out a form on your site or makes a purchase, they are at their most engaged with your brand. Yet it as these instances that we rely on canned email confirmations and auto-responses. When is the last time you looked at yours? Are the messages your subscribers are receiving at these moments of piqued interest taking full advantage of their attention?
6. Edit more; write less: Lester Wunderman, the founder of direct marketing, remarked that the right length for any direct response communication is as long as it can be and still hold the reader’s attention. I think the same is true, but the window of attention has narrowed considerably. To many of your subscribers, 140 characters now constitute a complete paragraph. Write shorter messages that adapt better to shortened attention spans and increased clutter.
7. Send from a person, not a “team”: Another trend we have social media to thank for is the expectation from our customers that they are doing business with people, not a nameless, faceless company. The irony of email as the “true one-to-one communications channel” devolving into another mass reach channel should not be lost on us. It’s time to make it conversational again, where real people are identifiably involved and accountable for responses. Saying a message is from a “team” is the same as saying “do not reply”. It’s a sentiment that does not allow your customers to be well taken care of at all.