(MoneyWatch) Picture this scene: a prospect reading direct mail over a wastepaper basket. If your mailer doesn't give them a compelling reason to open or read on, it gets trashed in a matter of seconds.
But that is nothing compared to email because discarding it takes microseconds. Prospects have their finger poised on the delete key to quickly rid themselves of unappealing marketing messages. Email is opened, scanned, and tossed at rates exceedingly faster than direct mail. The digital age has sped up everything, including the trashing of junk mail. Here are ways to ensure your marketing communications avoid the email garbage heap.
1. Welcome to short attention span theater. First, realize it's imperative that every message contains a clear, compelling call to immediate action and provides a transparent response mechanism. The time customers and prospects spend searching for a "reply" button or URL is enough to lose them. So a message's layout is critical, as well as traditional direct marketing discipline and principles.
2. Get personal. Personalization is the key to higher email response rates. Craft messages based on information known about individual recipients and segments of recipients. Although much attention is given to one-to-one marketing, email content crafted for segments can perform well, too. For example, content crafted differently for executives in sales, marketing, and senior management will lift response better than the same message sent to all three business titles.
3. Get to the point. You can't trick prospects into buying. Please, quit the cute stuff and be straightforward in the subject line. The call to action should be the backbone of your subject line, and should include words that describe the offer or reason for action.
4. Get real. While marketers often worry about "fatigue" in their lists, that is not only a matter of frequency of communications but also a function of being misled by a marketing message the first time the recipient encounters it. Hiding or cloaking the true message's true intention feeds fatigue and undermines confidence. Who wants to do business with a liar?
5. Call and write, too. Integrating a telemarketing and direct mail program with email will boost response rates from 5 percent to 15 percent, as measured in click-throughs. While one message might suffice, an ongoing dialogue using integrated media will lift response with clients and prospects.
6. State your name. The sender should be a person, not a company. People also are more likely to open email from a person, rather than from a company or some generic server address.
7. Give them an out. Email messages must have a clear opt-out process. Permission is permission, but the choice to take that permission away must be clear to the recipient. The quickest way to earn the wrath of busy prospects and customers is to send an unexpected email with no way for them to opt out.
8. Don't take them home. In most cases, an email campaign with only a home page link generates higher website "hits," but that traffic can get lost after the home page. When using links, it is better to have a landing page tailored specifically for the offer in the e-mail message. Still, even a landing page cannot overcome an uncompelling offer.
9. Try short and sweet. Plain text-based emails can be very effective if they are targeted, make a compelling call to action, and are brief enough to be read quickly. HTML emails, if utilized, need to include the same clarity and brevity.
10. Know how low saturation points can go. The optimal frequency for receiving email messages is declining -- across all categories. Appropriate use estimates vary widely, but generally fall within a range of twice a week to twice a month.
Overall, err on the side of caution with your email marketing. That will foster the goodwill needed to avoid automatic delegation to the digital dump.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Katmeresin