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Marketing Watchdog Journal   August 2008, Issue 54

Lisa Harmon  
Feature Article
Five Tips for E-mails that Fly Above the Fray

Practical Advice from the Experts: A Q&A

We've compiled the Q&A session from Craft the E-mail that Gets 'em in the Seats, a live Webinar featuring experts from online lead marketing specialist Bulldog Solutions and design agency Smith-Harmon.

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Craft the E-mail that Gets 'em in the Seats

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Q: How many calls to action should there be in your e-mail? Can there be too many or too few?

Lisa Harmon, Smith-Harmon: My answer is always to test it. We have seen it work both ways depending on the content. It's an easy test to do: Send one message, then send another with a sub-message, then see which one performs better. Make it a part of your process. If you design your e-mails so that they are modular, so it's easy to pop secondary messages in and out, then this is something you can play with and optimize based on the type of content you're sending and who you’re sending it to.

I do think that if you include too many calls-to-action or too may links, then you'll see some diminishing returns, but it is important to find the right balance for your recipients.

Q: Since so many people now use BlackBerries and mobile devices to read their e-mail, how do you capture their attention with minimal text?

Lisa: Copywriting is a very important art, and I think it's sometimes neglected in e-mail creative and by people looking at the design. The particular combinations of words are very important. One strategy is to include numbers, and tips, such as "Fifteen top tips". The pre-header is also important to include when you have more and more people viewing e-mails on their mobile devices. So those are two strategies you can use.

Kamran Shah, Bulldog Solutions: Often it comes down to figuring out what the "hot button" topic is and using those words in the pre-header, and also focusing on that in your subject heading.

Q: What is considered an effective click-through rate? What is the magic number?

Lisa: I don't think there's a magic number. Depending on your company, how big your list is, where you’ve gotten your names from, what your message content is—if you're actually giving something away, versus if it's a newsletter, versus if it requires a direct response like registration—your click-through rate is going to change. In the case of an event like a Webinar, I think a 15% click-through rate is a healthy one. If I get 10%, I wouldn't cry. If I get 15%, I would be happy. It's important to look at your responses over time and really compare against yourself.

Kamran: We actually get this question a lot from our clients. One of the things we do is, over a series of events, establish an index for them, so they can compare against how they performed over time. This gives us a baseline for improvement.

Lisa: It's like running with your heart rate monitor on.

Q: In Outlook, you can move your preview pane around. So how do you design your e-mail when the preview pane could be on the bottom or on the right?

Lisa: That's a great point. We talk about the first two top inches of your e-mail as being the most valuable real estate, but we could say the same thing about the left-most two inches. So look at that two-inch square as being the "golden square" in your design. Generally, you'll see things like a table of contents or HTML text or a preheader in this space, so you really need to think about how you're using that space and be super smart about it.

Q: Have you seen higher open rates for non-branded e-mails, i.e., text e-mails only versus company-branded ones?

Lisa: Generally we've seen better response rates from branded e-mails, but I think it is dependent on your message, your audience, and how they're viewing it. If most of your audience is viewing their e-mail on a BlackBerry, then it might make more sense to look at text-only. But that's the great thing about e-mail: Send out a test, see how it does, and then keep testing, because just because something works now doesn't mean it's going to work later. Keep testing and responding to those results. Let your subscribers tell you what to do.

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Lisa Harmon is principal at Smith-Harmon. Kamran Shah is vice president of Products at Bulldog Solutions.

Marketing Watchdog Journal is a monthly newsletter from Bulldog Solutions, a lead optimization and lead management company dedicated to helping our clients generate more, better leads and turn them into revenue. We welcome your feedback on this newsletter's content and design, and encourage you to share your ideas for topics you would like us to cover in future issues. Please send your comments or questions about Bulldog Solutions to Amy Bills, senior manager of Field Marketing.

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