Email success absolutes
What is the most important part of every email you send - whether to one person or to your entire email mailing list? The subject line.
What's the second most important part of every email you send? Your signature.
Marketing is often considered a very subjective exercise. But the expectations and behavior of email recipients have created certain absolutes associated with subject lines and signatures. Use them well, and you will add a lot of success to your work day. Use them poorly, and you will generate inefficiency, confusion, frustration, and a lot of wasted time - in your day and in the working days of your recipients.
The Mighty Subject Line
What's inside? Should I open this?
These are the Two Big Questions people ask themselves when they read a subject line. This is after they've asked themselves, "Who is this from?" When it's from someone you know, the subject line isn't as important. It can be superfluous, in fact. You will open an email from your best friend even if there is nothing in the subject line.
So the first question is always, "Who is this from?" If the answer is, "someone I love," the email is opened, no matter what. If the answer is, "someone I know," then we shift to a mental pecking order filter. An email from the boss or a client gets top priority. The email from an employee or vendor gets opened next. An email from a working peer, friend, or acquaintance will also get opened. All other emails depend on the subject line exclusively.
One of the problems with subject lines is their tendency to lose relevance when the message becomes part of an ongoing discussion between people working on a project. Perhaps you sent an email with the subject line "Meeting on Friday?" After the decision is made to meet on Friday, the reply-based emails back and forth increasingly contain information about things that may or may not have anything to do with the meeting.
Now the subject line and the contents no longer match. Do you change the subject line as the content changes? I say yes. Why? Because our email inboxes have become our most important filing cabinet. All day long, work flows into our lives via email. Later, when it's time to look up a specific fact or track down a file someone sent, we find ourselves sorting through our emails. Subject lines can make it easy to find what you are looking for - if they're used properly. Far too few people pay attention to the fact that email inboxes have become our main information repository.
When you're sending emails to your prospects and customers, there's a tendency to make the email look like it's coming from a trusted friend. Big mistake. Scammers and spammers use this method all the time, which is a good reason to avoid this approach. Why associate yourself with leeches and jerks? Plus, the minute the person opens the email and realizes that you just tricked him into opening it, he makes a mental note: Don't trust you in the future.
Trust is actually the issue when we're talking about senders and subject lines. We open emails from our loved ones and friends because we trust that the content will be relevant and worthy of our time and attention. We open content from our bosses and clients because we trust that the content is important to us. We resent it when someone who does not fit in either of these categories tries to fool us into thinking the message is worthy of our time and attention.
What should you put in your subject lines? Well, you can always start with the truth - and a clear representation of what is inside the message. I get a lot of emails from PR people, and it's always helpful if they come right out and say why they're sending it. "Release: Superflop announces speedy new chip" is a good subject line. It tells me exactly what the message contains.
If you send out a regular newsletter, the first few words of the subject line should be the title of the newsletter, so the person can sort emails by the name of the newsletter and find specific content later on. Tout the lead story in the subject line. Don't bother putting the date in the subject line; all email systems always display the date.
The subject line should be compelling. WebProWorld subject lines are compelling: "Strange Experience with MSN," "Suspicious Click Activity on Ads," "This stat function real or a scam?"
One way to move up on the trust scale is to be specific, since spammers love being vague, in the hopes that your curiosity will cause you to open the message. People who get 200-plus emails a day (especially corporate employees, for whom many of those emails must actually be answered), aren't opening emails because they're "curious." An email with the specific, "Auditing Information Security" subject line will get opened before the email with the more generic subject line "Upcoming Ethisphere Council Events."
The subject line should always communicate what is inside. Don't make people open it to figure it out. Sure, there will be people who don't open the message if they know what's inside, but the people who do open the message will be much better prospects for you. And that is better than getting a recipient to open a message, only to shake her head and think, "Screw you, spammer." As this negative thought is going through her mind, and she's closing your message, the image of your logo (which probably appeared at the top of the email) will be fresh in her mind. Now your logo and "screw you" are linked in her mind. You'd be better off to have her reject your subject line than to reject your logo and its associated content.
The Essential Sig
Every single message you send should include your email signature at the bottom. Your signature should include your name, title, company, website, and contact info - especially phone numbers. Your email message is the first place someone will go when they decide it's time to call you. If it's on every single message, they only have to open one email. I have gotten many emails from people who have a "sometimes I do, sometimes I don't" attitude toward including signature lines at the end of their emails. It's frustrating, then, when I go back into those emails looking for their phone number, having to open more than one message to find one with the information.
It's so easy to set up an automatic signature, there's no excuse for not having one. And as long as you're doing it, make it complete, and use it to establish and reinforce your brand (the promise that you keep). For example, every email I send always has this at the very end:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Revenue coach for company leaders
President, Zhivago Marketing Partners, Inc.
381 Seaside Drive Jamestown RI 02835
tel 401-423-2400 fax 401-423-2700
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It's a little lengthy, but it makes it easy for anyone to 1) know what I do, 2) contact me via phone or fax, or 3) click over to our corporate website, blog, or book site.
Few people use subject lines and sigs to their advantage, even though email has become the most common form of communication between people doing business with each other. It's like sending out every letter without an address or a stamp; it won't get very far or do you any good.