Get it Write: Email Copywriting Best Practices and Trends

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Cara McDonald and Sarah Norden of the Copywriting team at DEG Digital will give a presentation called "Get it Write." We're excited to hear their tips and best practices gained from working on top brands such as Timberland, Lee Jeans, Three Dog Bakery, The Salvation Army and more!

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  • Before we start talking about specific tactics to attract attention in their inbox, it’s important to understand where they are looking. As we move from Open to Engage to Act, there are other mini conversions. For open, there are three: From line, subject line and preview pane.
  • Almost 50% of the people who read your last email read it from a mobile device.
  • Before we start talking about specific tactics to attract attention in their inbox, it’s important to understand where they are looking. As we move from Open to Engage to Act, there are other mini conversions. For open, there are three: From line, subject line and preview pane.
  • Sometimes, brands are sneaky and try to use an individual’s name as the From name. This is against best practices.Don’t be deceptive. Unless you’re having a one-on-one customer service interaction (that truly is one-on-one), your from name should be Cabela’s. They know you and trust you.Some things you can test: Brand Specific vs. Brand DEG vs. DEG Deals vs. DEG NewsConsistency is important
  • Sometimes, brands are sneaky and try to use an individual’s name as the From name. This is against best practices.Don’t be deceptive. Unless you’re having a one-on-one customer service interaction (that truly is one-on-one), your from name should be your company name. They know you and trust you.
  • You want to stand out on those cluttered screens we saw earlier. But you wouldn’t want to stand out with a subject line that read, “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE” if you weren’t actually going out of business. It is a constant challenge for marketers. So, how do we attract their attention if we can’t lie?
  • Check to make sure the first 2 words of your subject lines are most compelling. Good way to do this is to use action words. Ex: “Take Mom to lunch”
  • Jakob Nielson study – heat map tracking human eye scanning (F-shaped).Web users spend 69% of their time viewing the left half of the page and 30% viewing the right half. A conventional layout is thus more likely to make sites profitable.
  • Click through
  • Aweber ran a test across 20 subject lines, sent to a list of over 45,000 subscribers. Subject lines written creatively included:AWeber’sAWesome Anthony A.Getting Earth-Friendly Beyond EmailThreadless’ Frequency Alert: Hot or Not?Subject lines written with clarity included:Grow Your Email List 99% Faster: How One Site Did It43 Free Animated GIFs For Your Email CampaignEmail Timing: A Look At 6 MarketersThe clear, straightforward subject lines gathered far more response than their creative counterparts, surpassing them by: On average, 541% more response from the clear subject lines.
  • Sometimes, brands are sneaky and try to use an individual’s name as the From name. This is against best practices.Don’t be deceptive. Unless you’re having a one-on-one customer service interaction (that truly is one-on-one), your from name should be Cabela’s. They know you and trust you.
  • Before we start talking about specific tactics to attract attention in their inbox, it’s important to understand where they are looking. As we move from Open to Engage to Act, there are other mini conversions. For open, there are three: From line, subject line and preview pane.
  • In a September survey of The Intevation Report readers by Lyris:More than 9 of 10 email users have access to a preview pane, and 7 of 10 say they frequently or always use it.Appears in preview pane (third place looked)Image blocking (preheader text might be all they see)Huge role in mobile
  • Sometimes, brands are sneaky and try to use an individual’s name as the From name. This is against best practices.Don’t be deceptive. Unless you’re having a one-on-one customer service interaction (that truly is one-on-one), your from name should be Cabela’s. They know you and trust you.
  • Before we start talking about specific tactics to attract attention in their inbox, it’s important to understand where they are looking. As we move from Open to Engage to Act, there are other mini conversions. For open, there are three: From line, subject line and preview pane.
  • We want to say “BUY OUR THINGS.” They are interested in going camping. The relevance is the sweet spot where we can touch on their passion and get our message across.
  • throws a 30% off discount in your face, but doesn't explain the value behind it. What does 30% off a GoDaddy product do for my goals? Will it let me adjust a small business' expenditures on infrastructure costs, freeing up money for a new hire? That benefit is far more tangible than 30% off an undisclosed cost.Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/32606/The-9-Must-Have-Components-of-Compelling-Email-Copy.aspx#ixzz2NCHo6RRc
  • The goal of the email is to sell shorts, but the copy isn't just shoving shorts down the recipient's throat. Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/32606/The-9-Must-Have-Components-of-Compelling-Email-Copy.aspx#ixzz2NCKGeQp8
  • According to Litmus, readers spend 3-4 seconds scanning your email.
  • According to Litmus, readers spend 3-4 seconds scanning your email. Does this look like you could read it in 3-4 seconds?
  • Sometimes, brands are sneaky and try to use an individual’s name as the From name. This is against best practices.Don’t be deceptive. Unless you’re having a one-on-one customer service interaction (that truly is one-on-one), your from name should be Cabela’s. They know you and trust you.
  • Michael Aagaard, Copywriter, ContentVerve, spoke about how the very delicate tipping point between bounce and conversion, and the call-to-action copy is critical in leaning the scales in marketer’s favor. The more value and relevance that copy conveys, the more clicks it will receive.When composing a call-to-action, he said, focus on what the prospect gets by clicking the call-to-action, rather than what the prospect has to part with. Aagaard used the example of "Buy Membership" being negative, because it focuses on losing money, where "Get Your Membership" adds value and the copy "Find Gym & Get Membership" adds needed relevance. 
  • Before we start talking about specific tactics to attract attention in their inbox, it’s important to understand where they are looking. As we move from Open to Engage to Act, there are other mini conversions. For open, there are three: From line, subject line and preview pane.
  • The mystery sale has grown popular and is driving serious sales to ecom. This one’s from Banana Republic and it includes helpful, instructive copy.
  • This one from Three Dog Bakery is more simple, yet enticing.
  • Special characters and symbols draw attention. We are also seeing “Emoji” icons being used in SMS and phone application updates.
  • These onomatopoeias‎ and exclamations are being used because they are short and demand the user’s attention.
  • Text-only is concise and right to the point. It usually is a great place for compelling, short copy that leads to an obvious CTA.
  • “Because you’re on our Nice List….” this is something they have signed up for, but it still feels like only a select few are receiving this message.
  • Email, Facebook and Instagram all have similar messaging. The consistency really drills in the message.
  • Email & text both drive to mobile for deal in this case, corresponding messaging. This creates a consistent experience for the user and makes it easier and easier for them to shop.
  • Many retailers are doing a great job leading to a different call to action that involves social media – a great way to generate buzz.
  • Though the sale is talked about in the top banner area of the email, it is not the primary focus. We have the deal, but we also have good reasons to wear ballet flats. J. Crew adds valuable content to its email by discussing three ways ballet flats can be worn, from “designer Gayle.”
  • Staff picks --- social proof from authority figure + makes brand super personal
  • Not just “buy the shorts” but shows/tells you how to style them
  • Much like value-added content, this give the consumer a reason to shop the product, while still being concise.
  • Much like value-added content, this give the consumer a reason to shop the product, while still being concise.
  • Using pop-culture references to make your content relevant. When content is top-of-mind, it is clickable!
  • Get it Write: Email Copywriting Best Practices and Trends

    1. 1. ET Communities, November 2013 Get it Write: Email Copywriting Best Practices and Trends Cara McDonald & Sarah Norden, DEG Copywriters
    2. 2. Email Marketing Goals
    3. 3. Open • From Line • Subject Line • Preheader Text • Email Body Engage • CTA Button Act
    4. 4. Consumers receive an average of 44 emails a day, 25% of which are permission-based commercial messages. Source: ExactTarget, http://www.in.gov/visitindiana/techcorner/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/SFF2_EmailXFactor.pdf
    5. 5. How do we, as copywriters, cut through the clutter?
    6. 6. Where Your Reader Looks 1 2 3 From Name. Subject Line. Preheader Text 4 Headline FOLD LINE 5 Primary Message 6 7 Call-to-Action Secondary Message
    7. 7. Open • From Line • Subject Line • Preheader Text • Email Body Engage • CTA Button Act
    8. 8. Open • From Line • Subject Line • Preheader Text • Email Body Engage • CTA Button Act
    9. 9. Subject Lines
    10. 10. Your subject line’s purpose is to attract their attention (without abusing their trust) and entice them to open the email. You aren’t selling anything (yet).
    11. 11. Subject Line Best Practices: Short (<35 characters) First two words optimized Descriptive Give reason to explore message further Be clear over creative
    12. 12. 50 characters is acceptable. 42 is OK. 35 (or fewer) is best.
    13. 13. Keep it Short Average Open Rate 30% 25% 24.02% 20% 16.93% 15% 10% 5% 0% 35 or Fewer Characters Source: MarketingSherpa Over 35 Characters
    14. 14. The first two words are crucial.
    15. 15. The first two words are crucial Get answers for your tax questions. (Commerce Bank) Repin to win (Copious) Three ways to make their heart pitter patter (Three Dog Bakery) You + Boots… a classic love story (Country Outfitter)
    16. 16. The first two words are crucial Get answers for your tax questions. (Commerce Bank) Repin to win (Copious) Three ways to make their heart pitter patter (Three Dog Bakery) You + Boots… a classic love story (Country Outfitter)
    17. 17. Clarity > Creativity
    18. 18. Clarity > Creativity CREATIVE – Wrapp, Freestyle (Send the Trend) CLEAR – Get wrapped up in these scarves
    19. 19. Clarity > Creativity CREATIVE – Hoppy Easter - Limited Edition Easter Treats Are Here (LUSH) CLEAR – Fill Their Easter Baskets with Bath Treats
    20. 20. Clarity > Creativity CREATIVE – So Fresh, So Clean – Colorblock Totes & Prints for Spring CLEAR – Colorblock Totes & Prints for Spring
    21. 21. Make them want to explore.
    22. 22. Make Them Want to Explore NO NEED TO EXPLORE – BRGR celebrates 3 Years with $3 Burgers on Sunday 2-5 pm (BRGR) – 4 Days Only: 25% Off NESPRESSO Machines (Fab) – SALE: 20% off EVERYTHING. 3 Days Left! (+$25 Credit for Orders $150+) (Fab)
    23. 23. Make Them Want to Explore Urgency – 25% off. 48 hours. Go. (Madewell) – Last Chance: Break Up or Make Up? (scrapbook.com) Curiosity – At work? Don't open this email. (J. Crew Factory) – Going… going… (Lee Jeans)
    24. 24. Make Them Want to Explore Question – What’s in your nature? Join the discussion. (Cabela’s) – Can you keep a secret? (Lee Jeans) News – A New Blog from The Land of Nod (Land of Nod) – BIG. NEWS. (REALLY.) (Madewell) How to – How to keep your social fresh and flowing with templates (Wildfire)
    25. 25. Tactics Worth Testing: Localization Special characters One-word subject lines all lowercase subject lines
    26. 26. Words that Trigger Spam Filters: Free Percent off / % off Closeout Help Reminder Tactics that Trigger Spam Filters: SHOUTY CAPITALS Extensive use of punctuation!!! → Excessive use of special ♥ characters 
    27. 27. Preheader
    28. 28. Open • From Line • Subject Line • Preheader Text • Email Body Engage • CTA Button Act
    29. 29. Where Your Reader Looks 1 2 3 From Name. Subject Line. Preheader Text 4 Headline FOLD LINE 5 Primary Message 6 7 Call-to-Action Secondary Message
    30. 30. The preheader text’s purpose is to continue the subject line’s message and support the primary call-to-action.
    31. 31. Preheader Text Why Preheader Text Matters Appears in preview pane Image blocking Huge role in mobile
    32. 32. Preheader Text Preheader Text Best Practices Can be longer (100 characters) Could stand on its own Don’t be cute
    33. 33. Email Body
    34. 34. Open • From Line • Subject Line • Preheader Text • Email Body Engage • CTA Button Act
    35. 35. Where Your Reader Looks 1 2 3 From Name. Subject Line. Preheader Text 4 Headline FOLD LINE 5 Primary Message 6 7 Call-to-Action Secondary Message
    36. 36. Talk about benefits, not features.
    37. 37. People don’t read. Make it scan-friendly.
    38. 38. Email Body Copywriting Checklist Does it provide value to the recipient? – Is it going to add more knowledge to my subscriber? – Is it going to solve their most pressing problems? – It is worth the time reading? Can I scan it in 3-4 seconds? Do I understand benefits, rather than just features?
    39. 39. Alt Tag Tactics
    40. 40. People don’t read. And sometimes, they really can’t read.
    41. 41. Alt Tags Best Practices Write alt tags for every image in the email Alt tags should convey the primary message
    42. 42. Open • From Line • Subject Line • Preheader Text • Email Body Engage • CTA Button Act
    43. 43. Source: http://litmus.com/blog/designing-the-perfect-call-to-action Source: Litmus, https://litmus.com/blog/designing-the-perfectcall-to-action
    44. 44. Don’t be generic.
    45. 45. Open • From Line • Subject Line • Preheader Text • Email Body Engage • CTA Button Act
    46. 46. Industry Trends
    47. 47. Mystery Sale
    48. 48. Mystery Sale
    49. 49. Special Characters in the Subject Line
    50. 50. Onomatopoeia/Exclamation in Subject Lines
    51. 51. Text Only
    52. 52. Exclusivity
    53. 53. Corresponding Messaging Across Touchpoints
    54. 54. Corresponding Messaging Across Touchpoints
    55. 55. Social Callouts
    56. 56. Social Callouts
    57. 57. Value-added Content
    58. 58. Value-added Content
    59. 59. Value-added Content
    60. 60. Product Attributes (Retail)
    61. 61. Product Attributes (Retail)
    62. 62. Real-time Marketing
    63. 63. Email Copywriting Checklist
    64. 64. Email Copywriting Checklist From Line Is it a company or a company department? (i.e. DEG Support, DEG Rewards, etc.) Subject Line Is it fewer than 35 characters? Are the first two words optimized? Is it descriptive? Preheader Text Is it fewer than 100 characters? Does it support the Subject Line and primary call-to-action? Could it stand alone? Is it cute? (It shouldn’t be.)
    65. 65. Email Copywriting Checklist Email Body Does it provide value to the recipient? – Is it going to add more knowledge to my subscriber? – Is it going to solve their most pressing problems? – It is worth the time reading? Can I scan it in 3-4 seconds? Do I understand benefits, rather than just features? Does each image have an alt tag? Do the alt tags convey the primary message? CTA Buttons Does it answer “what?” “why?” and “when?” in seconds? Is it generic? (It shouldn’t be.)
    66. 66. Email Copywriting Checklist
    67. 67. Educational Resources Sharpen Your Tools Copyblogger.com Copypress.com Nielsen.com ET Swipe File (Pinterest) DEGDigital.com/blog Subscribe to emails!
    68. 68. Thank you! Cara McDonald & Sarah Norden, DEG Copywriters
    69. 69. Resources Resources • Email Client Market Share: http://emailclientmarketshare.com/ • Litmus Email + Mobile: https://litmus.com/blog/webinar-email-mobile • Email on Mobile Devices: http://mailchimp.com/resources/guides/email-on-mobile-devices/ • Responsive & Scalable Email Design: https://litmus.com/blog/responsive-scalable-email-designwhats-the-difference • Responsive Email Design Guide: http://www.campaignmonitor.com/guides/mobile/ • Responsive Email Patterns: http://briangraves.github.com/ResponsiveEmailPatterns/ • Connections 2012 Design for All Inboxes: https://litmus.com/blog/connections-2012-keytakeaway-design-for-all-inboxes • Guide to CSS in Email: http://www.campaignmonitor.com/css/ • Is responsive email design really worth it?: http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/post/3856/isresponsive-email-design-really-worth-it

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