You had me at hello.
That’s what your constituents should think and feel when your email arrives in their inbox.
Hello is a way to call attention… a greeting… an invitation to a dialogue. Does your email do that? Does it easily capture your intended reader’s attention? Does it greet them warmly? Does it encourage interaction with you?
If your emails aren’t getting the open rates you’d like, it’s time to take charge! [Check this benchmarking report from Mail Chimp to compare your open rates to other nonprofits in your industry.]
If you want your email to get folks at hello, try out my 5-point ‘Oh Goody!’ rule:
As in “Oh goody! I’m going to open this email because…”
- “It’s from _____. She always has something interesting to say.”
- “I can tell what it’s about and it looks interesting.”
- “It always looks great and is easy to read. There’s no funky stuff going on, ever. Whether I open it at work using Outlook or at home using Gmail, it’s still good.”
- “I know I can read it on my phone, and that anything I click through to I’ll also be able to read . I get so frustrated when I realize I’ll have to save an email to read it later; sometimes I’ll just delete it.”
- “I know I can open it right away, it won’t take forever to load, and there’s often something compelling to look at.”
Take charge and make your emails true “goodies.”
1. The “FROM” line.
“From”is at the heart of the ‘Oh Goody’ Rule that gets your email opened. Whose emails do you open first? And whose emails do you save for awhile; then sometimes simply delete because you’re pressed for time and they don’t look that interesting? It can be argued that the ‘from’ line is more important than the subject line because it’s often what motivates people to open the email. According to a recent Constant Contact study, 64% of people open emails because of the organization it is from; compared with 47% of people opening emails because of what is in the subject line.
Your email should come from a person or brand your targeted reader knows, trusts and, ideally, likes. Often this will be the E.D. It could also be another beloved staff member or lay leader. Even when you have a trusted brand, you’ll likely get a better response from the person at the brand. People give to people, not institutions. If you’re not sure about this, it’s certainly something worth testing!
2. The “SUBJECT” line.
The subject line is like the outer envelope for direct mail. It’s the window into your message. Make sure it’s wide open and gives a glimpse of something that grabs folks’ attention. Make it intriguing, urgent, exciting, compelling, emotional, shocking or funny. The more useful and specific it is the better. But don’t mislead. Folks don’t mind being teased a little, but they don’t like being lied to. If folks open your email, but then see it’s not at all about what you promised, they’ll toss you right out of their mailbox.
Also keep in mind that you have only a few seconds to capture attention. Subject lines with less than 50 characters have open rates 12.5% higher than those with 50 or more, and click-through rates are 75% higher. And be cognizant of the fact that different email clients and devices cut off your subject line in different places – another good reason to keep them brief so that nothing gets missed.
Announcing Your Chance to Buy Raffle Tickets for our 10th Anniversary Gala
would be more effective as
10th Anniversary Gala: Buy Your Raffle Tickets Now
3. The “EMAIL CLIENT.”
Not everyone you send to uses the same email provider (aka “client”). You can see the most common ones and their market share in this infographic by Litmus. Sadly, an email that looks perfectly fine on Gmail may not resolve properly on Outlook or Yahoo. So you’ve got to think about optimizing your email for different clients. It’s tough to do this for every single one (there are 30+), but you should at least try to do so for the major ones used by your constituents. Just set up some dummy accounts and send your email to these accounts to preview prior to sending to your entire list.
4. MOBILE optimization.
Did you know that more email is opened on mobile devices than via desktop email clients or webmail? According to Litmus data, 51% of all opens occurred on mobile devices in 2013 –an increase from 43% the previous year — an upward trend that will almost certainly continue. You’ve surely experienced the challenge of reading email on mobile. The images don’t load… the type is too tiny… the columns get rearranged… and so forth. Take charge by investing in responsive design to optimize your email templates and adapt to different devices’ shape and font size.
Check with your email service provider to see if responsive email templates are available. Or check out 32 Responsive Email Templates for Your Small Business (lots of free and low-cost options). Also keep in mind that your website must be optimized for mobile as well. It won’t do you much good to inspire your reader to click through to your website, only to have them discover that the website page doesn’t display well and is difficult to use. There goes your donation! You can fix this. Go to HubSpot’s Device Lab and type in your site’s URL to view how it displays on different devices. It’s pretty cool!
5. IMAGES display.
Some email clients block images. This can include your donate button. So what you think your reader is seeing is not at all what they see! When you preview your emails on different clients you’ll be able to see how your emails look if the images don’t load. One way to look less funky is to assure you use the “alt tag” whenever you upload images. This describes the image so the reader at least knows what is there. For example, if you have a photo of a client your “alt tag” can read “Sophie with therapy dog.” And never rely solely on an image; always mix it up with text so your message comes across no matter what.
Remember, your constituents check their inbox all day, every day. Make sure you show up – and be certain you’re putting your best foot forward when you do!
What are you doing this year to get emails opened?