Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Email Tip - How to Improve Open Rates

If you send out email regularly, getting a few extra opens is always a good thing. I had read a good case study a while back at Marketing Sherpa that mentioned that you may want to try writing emails that contain some good information at the top of the email as this will seen in the AutoPreview in Outlook. Marketing Sherpa left out a few key items:

a. How the hell do I add something at the top of the email that will display in the AutoPreview but not in the actual message.
b. AutoPreview is not the only place that this text is displayed. If you use Outlook 2003, you also have this message that shows up (typically in the lower right hand corner) with a quick snippet on who the email is from and the first few lines (see below). I don't know about you but I quickly scan this and delete any emails that are junk or that I could care less about. I don't need any more junk stinking up my inbox.

Outlook AutoPreview Defined

This is what I mean by the Outlook AutoPreview:
Outlook auto-preview
As you can see, the "From address" appears, the subject line appears and the first few lines of the email appears. Google's Gmail also does something similar. This feature is something that a user can turn on and off.

There is also that cool little pop-up message in Outlook that appears when a new email lands in your inbox. This was probably the best feature of Outlook 2003 as you can quickly scan emails as they come in. For those of us addicted to email this was either a great thing or a huge distraction. In any case, unlike the AutoPreview, I would say that most Outlook users have this feature turned on. Here is what it looks like:
As you can see, I make mine a bit transparent. Notice how important the AutoPreview information is. For a brief moment, you have the recipients attention - you need to make the most of it.

Why is the AutoPreview Important to Marketers?

If your a marketer, you know all about trying to increase the wallet share of your clients and prospects. When it comes to sending email, your immediate goal is to increase the "inbox share" or at least grab the intended recipient's attention. Typically, the "from" address and the email subject line are the biggest determinants in getting an email opened. The AutoPreview can also determine if an email will get opened. For example, take a look at this AutoPreview:
Notice the HTML code that appears. This is not the most appealing as compared to the AutoPreview examples above.

How do I Code for Outlook AutoPreview?

This is what had stumped me until I found Jeanne Jennings article over at ClickZ called: Optimizing for Snippets. Thank you, thank you Jeanne!! To add a message that will only appear in the AutoPreview but not when the email is viewed, add in code to your email that will display a tiny blank image. In this IMG code (you need to know some HTML here people), use the ALT tags. It's really brilliant and it works.

How can I use the AutoPreview to my Advantage

Subject lines have sometimes been used for more then just factual information. For example, instead of having "Join YourCompany at the Miami User Event" you may have an intriguing subject line like "Wouldn't it be great to go to Miami in the Winter?". This may get some people (especially Canadians in the dead of winter) to open the email but most may see this as junk and delete it. It's a best practice to get back to subject lines that are short and get right to the point. With the AutoPreview, you can get more creative. As an idea, try adding:
  • Persuading information such as the email offer (Now offering a 2 for 1 special! Open this email and find out how.)
  • A thought provoking question (Did you know that 82% of people who have been sent this email have opened it? Here's a better one "Did you know that right now you could increase the amount of qualified leads that your sales team gets by 100%?)
  • An intriguing statement such as an important statistic that cuts off in mid-sentence so you have to open the email to see the rest of it (82% of people who have opened this email have received...).
Test out different ideas just as you would do with other parts of your email marketing campaigns and good luck!

Chad H.

PS - Let me know if you have tried this or had any luck
PPS - Here are some other posts on email marketing:

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