How often do you receive promotional emails which appear to promise something interesting in the subject line, yet once you open them up there is no immediately obvious benefit relevant to you? Quite a few I would imagine…

The fact is that over the last few years, email has become a more cluttered medium than direct mail, meaning that email communications need to work harder than ever in order to ‘cut-through’. But as you know, achieving this can be easier said than done, so let’s consider the key techniques you can utilise to effectively ‘front-end’ your email communications.

I covered the subject of how to develop an effective subject line in an earlier post, so let’s begin here with the assumption that your prospective customer has been sufficiently intrigued to at least open up your email. Once they have the opened email in front of them, it’s vital to ensure that your core message (for example your proposition, incentive and first call to action) is prominently placed ‘above the fold’: ie the first screen, usually 300 – 500 pixels from the top of the view pane. The majority of recipients will not take the trouble to scroll down beyond the first screen unless they have already been hooked in by your copy – similar to the way they engage with a direct-mail piece.

However, it’s not enough to just convey the heart of your message ‘above the fold’ – it’s increasingly important to convey your proposition or incentive in the preview window (ie the first 50mm or so of the body). The reasoning here is that nearly two thirds of email recipients now use preview-panes to assist them in dealing with the copious amount of email they receive – enabling them to quickly decide which emails are worth their time opening, and which can be filtered out. Your opening lines of copy must therefore be extremely compelling and relevant in order to engage your reader right from the get-go, giving them a clear reason to fully open your email (even more so than a typical direct mail sales letter).

In particular, it is important that you begin your email with a powerful headline promising a relevant, specific benefit. As per my earlier post on direct-response headlines, your headline should ideally incorporate an element of urgency in order to get the reader to act immediately (and can act as a hyperlink itself).

A common mistake I often see is emails which fill the first screen with a large image (as you would do with a press advert), presumably to ‘set the scene’ for the promotional copy to follow. Whilst the hope here is that the prospective customer will be sufficiently intrigued to scroll down to the copy, in more cases than not this approach will simply not be sufficient to overcome their inherent inertia.

What about you: have you picked up any additional techniques to successfully ‘front-end’ your emails? And any ‘pet peeves’ you commonly encounter when receiving email yourself?

If you’re interested in exploring this area in more detail (together with relevant examples), you might like my recent book ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.  If you have any thoughts or comments, do drop me a line below.

Written by Rob H

I’m a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years’ experience working in digital and offline marketing communications across the financial services, leisure, education and technology sectors – most recently working for a large financial services organisation, managing the acquisition marketing communications team. I gained an MSc in Strategic Marketing from Cranfield Business School in 2005 and the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing in 2012. In 2012 I became the part-time course tutor at the Cambridge Marketing College for the CIM diploma in ‘Principles of Mobile Marketing’ – also authoring the accompanying Mobile Marketing study materials for the college. In March 2017 I published ‘Successful Marketing Communications‘ (available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks), which has become recommended reading for delegates at the IDM (Institute of Direct Marketing). When I’m not knee-deeping in reading/ writing the latest marketing communications articles I enjoy outdoor swimming and anything involving snow – with my goal for next year being to combine the two…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *