June 16, 2012
Getting to Yes – How to make the reader respond to your email.
By Maureen McCabe
You want people to take action when you send an email. Perhaps you want the reader to request a quotation, buy a specific product or service, or sign-up for a seminar. But how do you do it? What do you need to do differently to increase the open rate and “get” the most favourable response?
These tips were developed based on years of experience working with small business owners – and my own tried and proven techniques. Six “how to” tips that work – and – are easy to implement. These tips apply whether you’re using an email ‘blast” tool or sending the note yourself.
1. Inbox – Sender’s Name
Before people read the subject line, they will look to see who sent the note. It’s quintessential (this is my favourite word which means – the most essential of essentials) that the reader knows who is sending the note.
In your inbox you can see the sender’s name, subject line, date, attachments etc. Even if both your prospective customers and customers know you, using your first and surname is recommended. If appropriate, you may want to indicate your company name or specialty.
This is the “from” name displayed for my emails: Maureen McCabe, Marketer. Constantly reinforce your brand at every opportunity – I do!
TIP: Avoid the potential appearance of spam by using your first name only or other non-descriptive identities such as “Admin” or “Inquiries.”
Some email programs enable you to set up a preview pane. I use Outlook and love this feature because I can skim without opening it.
2. Subject Lines – Test, Learn, and Resend
Writing a compelling subject line is a key factor to have your email opened. Write three subject lines and experiment to see which one works best.
How do you do it? Realistically, you need 250 email addresses to test each subject line. If you have fewer than 500, then try only two. When you know which subject line yielded the best response, resend the same email with this subject line. It’s all about testing, learning, and resending.
Four tips for writing a great subject line:
- Offer a benefit – what’s in it for them.
- Highlight a deadline/expiry date – entice the reader to take action now.
- Ask a compelling question – engage the reader.
- Remind the reader they requested the information. “Harry, your request for a consultation from McCabe Marketing”
TIP: Keep the subject line short. Aim for a maximum of 60-65 characters to ensure it’s visible in the inbox without opening it. If it needs to be longer that’s okay – put the most compelling words first. (The same tip applies to SEO page titles and meta descriptions.)
3. Attachments – Spam Folder
Filters help weed out spam. Like me, some business owners and consumers don’t check the spam or junk mail folder regularly; we occasionally miss a note or two.
Another reason why email notes are not opened is because attachments; examples include an image, video, MS word, or Mac word document.
Even when the email is opened, sometimes the attachments are not – even if the reader knows you. The following are two ways to get around this common problem.
- Where possible set up a page on your website that the reader can link to read this important information. You can create a hidden page which means it is not in your site navigation or site map. Your web developer can likely help you implement this tip.
- Use a PDF to increase the open rate vs. a word document.
If you want to share and collaborate on the same document, try using Google Docs. However, based on my client and prospective clients I have found less than 10% have signed up for the free tool. I have to admit that I haven’t either. Those who do use it – love it!
4. The Word “FREE” – Junk Mail
The use of the word FREE in the subject line is thought to trigger most spam filters. However, research by email marketing authorities and my own learnings are mixed.
You can be conservative and avoid using the word. I recommend testing it in one of the three subject line options.
5. Scrolling – Reading the Message or Skipping It
Even if the reader opened your email it doesn’t mean that it will be read in its entirety! It’s exactly what you do.
Ensure the key content is above the fold – an old newspaper term. You need to communicate the key message and call to action – before they need to scroll. The bottom-line – minimize the amount of scrolling or your message may be missed!
TIP: If you’re using an image at the top of the email – ensure that it’s not too large and forces the reader to scroll before the key messages are seen.
TIP: Restate the call to action at least twice – the reader needs to be encouraged to “take action” repeatedly.
6. Best Days and Times – Mid-week and 6-7 a.m.
Research shows that there are better days to send an email to obtain the most favourable response. Email blasts and newsletters sent by tools yield better results when sent mid-week – Tuesday through Thursday.
The general rule of thumb is not to send it during the day. Ideally you should send it between 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Your goal is to be at the top of the inbox to be seen, read, and acted upon!
TIP: If the mid-week day is before or after a holiday weekend avoid sending it on that day – it’s equivalent to a Friday afternoon! It’s plain common sense. It’s surprising how often I receive an e-newsletter on a Tuesday morning after a long weekend.
My target audience is business owners and their staff. Based on my Google Adwords (pay-per-client ad campaign) the best “conversions” are on certain days and within a specific hour range. I know this because it has been tested and analyzed. Sorry, but I can’t give away the “secret sauce” as a competitor or two may be reading this blog! But this tip about the days and best times really does work!
A “conversion” is not a religious experience! It’s defined as someone taking action which you have pre-defined. In my case it’s a phone call, email, request for my free report, or free no-obligation consultation with a marketing specialist.
Tip: Test which day or days work best for your business.
The Bottom Line
You will continue to learn with every email campaign – nothing is static. With every email or phone call you make, whether it’s following up with a prospective customer or contacting a customer – you learn about their preferences and work style.
When you stop learning and testing your email messages – your competitors will continue to evolve and grow. It’s hard to play catch-up.
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