3 email misconceptions that can kill a promotion

I’ll let you in on a secret: I write a lot of promotional emails. Some of them are for pretty big brands. I’ll let you in on another secret: sometimes people ask me to commit promotional email sacrilege. Things that, as a frequent email writer, I know are crimes against best practice.

If you don’t have the dollar to hire a professional to write your emails, it’s all good—just get some of these misconceptions out of your noggin before you start and you should be golden.

The lie: subject lines are a quickie job

Subject lines are the linchpin of your whole email. Get it wrong and no one will get far enough to read the content in your email. They’re something of dark art.

The thing is, what works for one company may not work for another. Even when you crack the formula, it won’t be long before your customers get wise to the tactic and stop opening. You gotta stay on your toes.

How to overcome it
I’ve seen many email urban myths floating about: the subject line should tell the reader exactly what’s in the email/bait the click with intrigue/always include a name/always include an emoji.

The truth is that email subject lines should be tested constantly. Only then can you figure out what works best for your customers. Once you know this you can start to build on it, evolving your approach over time.

My rule of thumb? Try to keep it under 35 characters with spaces, make it personal and give a little detail about what in the email. When testing, I like to do a version which gives detail and a version which plays on intrigue.


The lie: the body copy needs to include as much detail as possible

I say this in almost every blog post I write and I’ll keep saying it until I meet my untimely demise: you should only give your users the information they need at that specific point in their journey.

What does that mean? Well, my friends, it means that your email should absolutely not include everything but the kitchen sink. You want to give them the gist of the promotion, then push them through to a landing page that gives them more detail. If you tell them everything in the email, the following will happen:

1) They’ll look at their overflowing inbox, (hopefully) click your email, see a wall of text and immediately delete the message. Their time is precious and no one wants to read an essay.

This is a two-fold curse because they’ll probably remember how ridiculously long your email was and dodge all comms from you in future.

2) If you are lucky enough to have customers that will endure an essay-like email filled with text, they’ll read the email, get the gist of the promotion, and close the email again.

With email, the aim of the game is to push customers through to your site; giving too much away removes the need to do this. Boom (that’s the sound of you shooting yourself in the foot).

The problem with both these scenarios? No one clicked, no one converted. You were boring. You gave too much away. You lost the magic.

How to overcome it
Include some awesome imagery with just enough copy to tantalise. Team it with a kick-ass CTA button that makes them want to learn more. Only when they visit the site will they be able to satiate their curiosity. And that, my friends, is mission accomplished.


The lie: a CTA is a CTA

Oh no. It’s so much more than that. A good CTA is the doorway to your site and by sticking to the norm or not bothering to invest a little time in it, you could be hurting your click-through-rates.

How to overcome it
Instead of opting for a standard ‘buy now’ or ‘shop’. Try thinking about what kind of mood your promotion is inspiring and how committed your customers might be feeling.

If you’re selling hotel rooms, it’s unlikely that your email recipients are going to impulse-book a holiday just because you sent them an email. That kinda stuff needs planning, you know?

Instead, why not pull them through with something like ‘find my room’ or ‘get a quote’. They may not be ready to book, but they’ll certainly want to get an idea of availability, options and price.

Dude, I’m so glad we got all that out in the open. I was beginning to worry that you were going to keep making me write essays for emails! But now you know that’s so 1998, right? And we’re over it now.

Put these tips to good use and start smashing your promotional emails like a gooden.

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