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The ABCs (and Rs) of Email


How many unread emails are sitting in your inbox right now? How many do you actually care about?

And what will you do with the rest of them?

As direct marketers, we used to worry about catching and keeping a prospect's attention as he or she walked from the mailbox to the trash can. That minute or so seems downright luxurious now. In the world of email marketing, your message can be assessed, rejected and — alas — deleted in a split second.

The average person in the United States receives about 41 pounds of unwanted postal mail each year. (That's a lot of landfill.)

The same average person receives about 105 pieces of unwanted email every day. (That's a lot of "Delete.")

Here are some tips that may (we repeat, may) keep your next email from being deleted.

Tip 1: Don't neglect your subject line  it will make or break your email

Your email's subject line is the digital equivalent of your direct mail piece's outer envelope. And, it's just as important. If it doesn't convince the recipient to open the email, all your other work was for nothing. Here are some pointers worth trying and, if you can, testing:

- Simple, no-nonsense lines work best (this isn't the time to show off).
- Be brief; browsers will cut your subject line after 6-8 words.
- Use numbers when possible.
- Avoid ALL CAPS.
- Avoid humor (most of the time).
- Offer a solution to a problem.
- Include a deadline, if applicable.
- Test using the recipient's first name.
- Eliminate extra "filler" words that can wait for body copy.
- Imagine that your subject line is a newspaper headline.
- Make sure your subject line can stand alone.

Tip 2: Align your email headline and body copy with the subject line

Whatever your subject line promised is what your email has to deliver. In other words, if your subject line was enticing enough to make someone open the email, don't switch gears. If the subject line and email content don't align, you'll:

- Lose those who were initially interested.
- Miss others who might have been interested.
- Piss people off (that's a technical term, btw).

Tip #3: Encourage action

Don't forget that email is direct marketing. You still need to practice the power of persuasion, and you want to engage the recipient in a marketing conversation. As you compose each email keep the basics in mind:

- What do you want them to DO?
- Highlight the call-to-action and make sure it's clear and compelling.
- Sell the OFFER, not the end relationship.
- Make it easy for the recipient to say "Yes" to something, even something small.

Tip #4: Focus on the 3 Rs

Don't waste your time — or your prospect's. Review your email and make sure it addresses the 3 Rs. Put yourself in your target audience's shoes and ask yourself:

- Is the email content rational? (Should I believe it?)
- Does it resonate? (Is it meaningful to me?)
- Is it relevant? (Does it matter to me here and now?)

At the end of the day, writing great direct marketing emails isn't that different from writing other great direct marketing campaigns. 

You just need to be great faster.

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