How to make email headlines rock
Email is the number one provider of direct response enquiries and that’s not changing anytime soon. Getting email to work well has become tougher, especially with Generation Z who spend their life in one-to-many social conversation rather than the secret world of email. They will use email as they realise privacy is something to be treasured and appreciated. The big changes in email currently are:
- Mobile as the first-choice device for delivery
- Less is more
- Engagement: Actions speak louder than words – folks want to do stuff, not read stuff
- Social and sharing
In every case the most stand-out element is the FROM field, then headline then the snippet which is (generally) the 100 characters from the email. The art, as with most electronic communication, is getting the viewer to stop in her tracks when speed scanning (usually with a finger over the trash icon). I’ve assembled a list of ideas and suggestions to help this process, it’s just a start and I’d welcome comments and feedback.
With the FROM label you are a little limited in terms of what you use but the principles for from, headline and snippet are all the same. It’s about engagement.
If you are lucky enough to be able to support subject and snippet testing then I would strongly advocate this, even better in if the testing can be done during sends.
Keep the list short with no more than about 5 items and above all make them easy to read. What we are looking for here is for the reader to trigger on one of the words and move out speed-scan mode. Groupon are good at doing this. It helps to change your message every time you do a send and test-it.
Via opinion, language, taste, sex or simply left-field ry to hit readers over the head with something that is just plain shocking. Your reader may see sex as the most base or most exalted activity humans can engage in. This is the risk and the reward for bawdy banter in your email subject lines so take care and choose sex wisely. A strong opinion will normally polarise opinion and for many marketers that’s a worry as we don’t generally aim to offend folks when we are selling to them but if we can generate love via strong agreement in 50% of our readers then we might not mind offending the other half – compare this to an anodyne subject that generates no emotion?
You could also try to create a common enemy; there are lots to go at … big government, unethical bank bonuses, Simon Cowell, Microsoft Windows. If that fails tell it straight, insult someone (Simon Cowell again). If done with authenticity it comes across as straight-talking and most folks appreciate being told exactly how it is. Very few of us actually revel in spin and PR and most dislike political correctness.
Grow some cojones. Be brave.
Our brains are wired to quickly discard the familiar faster the abstract. Our purpose is to get folks to switch out of speed-scan mode and forcing them to read something twice or making them think about what you have said is a good step. We don’t actually read email, we process it, and it’s not a nice task for most. Drag your reader out of the Inbox Slum and engage their higher thought processes.
We process numbers very quickly and they mean things to us. Often this meaning is not a true representation of the actual number but because they are documented we subconsciously believe them to be correct. We can also set expectations easily by using purposely low (1 minute video on how to increasing retirement income) and high (Up to 75% discount) to pull the reader into the email.
If you know your target audience reference items that you know they will relate to. This year we are going to be sported-out with Euro 2012, Wimbledon and the Olympics so play to the possibility of Andy Murray making it to the final now that Nadal is out. Be careful with sport alliances as many are restricted and under trademark (especially the Olympics) so you’ll have to be a little creative. Hell, you’re a marketer, you are supposed to be creative.
Me? I’d like to see Justin Bieber caught swigging Jack Daniels in a room full of hookers and coke. Only joking.
A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that describes a subject by asserting that it is, on some point of comparison, the same as another otherwise unrelated object. Metaphor is a type of analogy and is closely related to other rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via association, comparison or resemblance including allegory, hyperbole, and simile. So says Wiki.
They can work as well. But you probably knew that. Try them in headlines and the first 50-100 characters of your email and, just maybe, you’ll make a connection with your reader/scanner/processor.
You’ll have some USP in the business. Make a promise that is really strong, you can always water it down a little in the body of the email. Remember the purpose of the headline and first 2 lines is to get the scanner to change mode and become a reader. Once engaged you can then work on the subtleties of the promise message. It’s also key to remember that although you’ve sent out 500,000 of the emails the recipient doesn’t know that. To them it’s a personal offer, albeit templated … Try our product with a money-back guarantee!
You cannot break your promise, or even be seen to be breaking it so be a little careful with what and how you promise and make sure that you can deal with the delivery side of it.
Have fun with your headlines, remember to test them and do tell me which ones work and which ones don’t. When you’ve got a better feeling for how and what to say to your audience you can transfer the learning over to Facebook posts, shares, Twitterings and the rest of the social media circus.