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The Email Cliff

1 May

If you’ve had someone skim your email and click delete without reading it all, you’ve experienced this fact firsthand: our readers are only willing to give us a certain amount of attention before moving on.  The more words you write, the harder it is to get people to read them

 Illustrating that statement might look something like this:

Email not

This is close…but not exactly how readership works.

But that’s not really how readership works.  It’s not a linear function, where increasing your blog post or advertising email by a certain number of words means that you’ll lose a predictable number of readers.

How does it work?  Have you ever decided to read or not read an online article based on its page length?  Or received an email at work and condemned it to some buried folder after reading 1/3 of it because you had to scroll for days to see all the text?

At some word count, at some unfortunate sweet spot, our audience decides that our written message is too long to engage with and stops reading.

At this word count or page length, the majority of our audience clicks delete or x’s out the brower window, creating a steep, ugly decline in readership.  I call this steep decline the email cliff:

Ouch...your audience fell off the cliff, but you're the one hurting.

Ouch…your audience fell off the cliff, but you’re the one hurting.

For all of us that want to be read instead of deleted like spam, the email cliff means we should do two things:

1) An extra sentence doesn’t necessarily mean losing a small number of readers.  It might push the majority of your readers over the edge of the email cliff.  That’s why when we’re debating whether we need another bullet point or sentence, we must scrutinize whether that extra bit is really needed.  

2) Different audiences have different cliffs.  Your mom might read pages and pages of an email before she decides to stop reading.  Colleagues will probably jump off the cliff sooner.  And potential customers?  They tumble off the cliff after a paragraph or two (if we’re lucky).  We need to think hard about the audience we’re writing to and craft a message accordingly.

Email Cliff 4

If you think about the cliff, you’ll be a click-through champion.  And more importantly, the important things you have to say will be heard!

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My Pet Shrimp Named Google

14 Feb

My focus group attendees are like shy freshmen on the first day of high school.  They walk into our focus group room, immediately shuffle to the last row of seats, and avoid all eye contact.

Which is why I treat them like high schoolers.  At the start of every focus group, we all sit in a circle and introduce ourselves to the rest of the group just like on the first day of class.

But I add a little twist.

1)     As attendees enter the room, I hand them an index card and ask them to write an interesting fact about themselves on it—without including their name.

2)     Right before we start, I collect the cards and put them in a hat.

3)     When we start, I pull the cards out of the hat and read them one at a time.  After I read a fun fact, the group has to try to guess who that fact belongs to.

4)     When the owner of the fact is exposed, he has to explain the fact and what he’s looking to get out of the focus group.

The best fact I’ve heard to date: I have a pet shrimp name Google.

028

Part of running great focus groups is priming attendees to comfortably share their feedback.  If attendees show up but don’t talk openly and honestly, your session is a waste.  The fun fact game immediately loosens up a crowd, endearing the attendees not only to each other, but to you as well.

If an attendee can tell you about his pet shrimp, or his Chilean spear fishing championship, or how he lost his big toe, he’s ready to give you feedback on your product.

Spend a little time running the fun facts game at the beginning of your sessions.  You’ll get better feedback during the rest of the session, and attendees will always remember the fun game they played in your focus group.

When Content Isn’t King

22 Jan

Telling someone content isn’t king is like telling a mom that you think her baby is ugly.  It always leads to a shocked look, and sometimes a slap.

Which is why I’m hesitant to tell you this.  When it comes to achieving higher click-through rate (CTR) in marketing emails, the content of the email is DEFINITELY not king.

In my first year as a marketer, I wrote prose worthy of publication, copy that extolled the virtue of our beautiful wares (textbooks…).  But I still had average to below average CTR.  I spent significantly more time than my colleagues worrying about the body copy of my emails, but that extra time didn’t lead to more customers clicking on links in my emails.

Which led me to examine more closely my marketing emails.  Which led to the conclusion that if I were a potential customer, I would have NEVER clicked on the links in my own emails.

That was humbling.  But also helpful.  I realized that the reason that I wouldn’t have clicked on my own links had nothing to do with the copy I wrote.  It had to do with what I now know are the two critical components of CTR:

  • The subject line
  • The link we ask customers to click on

For you to achieve high click-through, customers 1) have to open your email and 2) click on the link you provide them.  It doesn’t matter how good your copy is (and mine was good, damnt).  If your subject line is spammy or doesn’t convey that there will be clear value within the email, customers will just delete it without opening.  And if they open it, the description of the link you want them to click better be specific (“Learn more here” just doesn’t cut it) or they won’t click on it.

I now spend all of my time worrying about subject lines and my links…and my click-through rate is the best in my marketing team.  When I write the actual body copy of my emails, my goal is not to pen magic that will allure customers.  It’s only to keep the content short so customers make it to my link.

The content isn’t king.  It’s so intuitive to me now when it comes to CTR, it’s shocking I didn’t realize it sooner. 

Change your perspective on CTR.  Focus on the subject line and the link, not the copy.  And enjoy more success.

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