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From My Inbox: Gentle Critique of an Email Marketing Program Resurrected, Part 2

Last week I discussed some features and flaws of the below email I had received from an industry acquaintance:

This week, it’s time to discuss how this email message might be improved.

  1. Use Descriptive Subject Lines.

While the subject line “A scintillating start” (above) is intriguing and cute, it doesn’t provide any value to the reader. I get that it’s a reference to the award the sender just won, but why should someone spend the time to open and read this email? Using vague subject lines like this may work once, but over and over again they lose power.

  1. Make Your Preview Pane View Engaging.

The preview pane view is what’s at the top of your email, which will be seen in the preview pane that many email clients offer. With this email, there is not a lot in the preview pane view; it didn’t make me want to continue reading to find out what he was trying to tell me.

  1. What’s in it For the Reader? 

As a general rule you want your email newsletter to be at least 60% editorial or non-promotional, meaning that the reader gets value without a purchase. I analyzed the email to see how many sentences communicated a value for the reader without purchase. The result? Only two sentences met this criteria (and I am being kind here) – that’s only 2 sentences out of 40, or 5%. The paragraph with these sentences appears below.

The two sentences I identified as providing value without a purchase contain practical advice for an aspiring author, but not for the general reader (since it doesn’t seem like his audience is made up of aspiring writers).The rest of the email is all about the writer: his books, his alma mater, why he needs to brag. In fact, the writer used the word combo “me” and my’” eight times.

  1. Use a Clear Call to Action.

At first read I wasn’t sure what the writer wanted me to do. In the fourth sentence he mentions a novel so I assume he is wanting readers to buy his book, but it hasn’t been published yet. There really is no clear call to action here that I can find. The main subject of the email is to communicate that his not yet published book has received an award for the best opening pages. He does mention in passing that if the reader doesn’t have a copy of his other book they can purchase it on his website, but this call-to-action is buried and doesn’t rise to a primary call-to-action status.

  1. Get an Explicit Opt-in and Honor Unsubscribes.

I know that I never opted-in to receive email from Fred; he is sending to an address that appears on my business card but which I never use to opt-in to anything. It appears that Fred grew his list by personally collecting business cards at industry conferences. While it can be tempting to add people to your email list without their permission, you increase your risk of spam complaints by doing this.

You shouldn’t assume that everyone you meet wants to be added to your email list. There are many ways (search this blog for ideas!) to grow your email list that are opt-in — and you are likely to see higher open, click and response rates when you go opt-in.

One more thing… I am pretty sure that I unsubscribed from this list in the past. I couldn’t swear to it, I may be mistaken, but I think I did. So how would I be back on the list if I unsubscribed previously?

I’ve seen this happen, more than once, when organizations change email service providers (ESPs). They download their subscriber lists and port them over to the new ESP – but they don’t know to also pull the suppression lists associated with each subscriber list. This is a serious problem when can cause spam complaints and blacklisting – it also puts the sender in violation of the U.S. CAN-SPAM act.

I hope you found these tips practical. If so please share them! It is my hope these tips will provide some insight to make your 2017 email marketing campaigns the best ever!

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