We have done a substantial amount of research on what makes an email compelling. What we have found is that a lot of it has to do with people’s reading patterns. Most of them are time challenged like the rest of us. Think of your own email inbox. Some of us receive a couple hundred a day! A lot of it is junk, phishing scams and malware since the spam filters don’t catch it all, so for the most part many of us are skimming those subject lines, trying to sort out what’s worth reading so we can safely ignore the rest.
So, what’s going to catch a prospect’s attention? Well the good news is that there is a science for writing a good subject line. I would recommend buying The Hamster Revolution by Mike Song, Vicki Halsey and Tim Burress for a start. It’s a short read but contains plenty of time-tested advice.
There are plenty of other research-based insights out there that might surprise you:
- Email recipients tend to pay more attention to the first and last three words of an email’s subject line. Whatever is in the middle is often disregarded!
- Remember that whatever you choose to write should resonate with what your prospect is going through. For example, I recently worked with a client who was crafting an email for a customer who was going through a capital budgeting freeze. He ended up using the subject line “Low-Cost, No-Cost Improvements.” It got an immediate response.
- If you make your subject line segment-specific, you’re going to get much more traction. One of my clients who specialized in designing marketing campaigns for utility-funded energy-efficiency programs used our Segment Guides as a way to punch up her subject lines and make them more interesting to various customer segments. She found that doing so increased her email campaign’s click through rate by 30%, open rate by 30%, and lead form completion rate by 290% within 90 days.
- A subject line should provoke curiosity or fascination. It also helps if it’s short and punchy. When a prospect reads it, they’re thinking, “What is in this for me? Why is this worth my time?” If the answer to those questions isn’t there, they’re going to keep scrolling.
When it comes to the body of an email, there are reading habits that are pretty consistent. People tend to be scanners instead of readers. They also tend to read in an F pattern, completing the first full line, half of the next and then less and less as they skim through the message.
What does that mean? It means it would be best if you put the most important information on top. It also helps if you use bold headings to draw attention to a particular point.
Lastly, other studies have shown that many readers will pay more attention to a postscript than the body of an email. I suppose that isn’t surprising because it’s in an unlikely place, distinct from the body of the email itself, just below your signature line. If you write a postscript, make it count!