The average email subscriber only spends 13 seconds reading an email. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly the equivalent of a NASCAR pit stop, which takes hours of practice and careful coordination.
Too often I see campaigns focusing on the wrong things when they draft emails. Here’s a quick run through of the process I follow when writing an email to ensure it raises as much money as possible.
Identify a Clear, Single Call to Action
Before you even get started, you need to answer the question, “Why am I writing this email?” Most supporters won’t open your email and those that do will only spend a few seconds reading it, so have a clear, narrowly focused action for them to take. Usually this means “click here to donate” or “click here to sign the petition” or “click here to take the survey.”
Write a Subject Line and From Name
Since the majority of supporters won’t open your email, these are the only two items most people will see. Don’t let the subject line or sender name become after thoughts. Make them the first thing you write.
Write a Compelling First Line
You’ll use this to grab readers, but it’s also used as part of the preview text in some email apps. Think of this like the lede for a news story – why does a reader want to continue reading?
Include Your Call To Action Early
You need to have a very compelling reason not to issue your call to action by the second paragraph or earlier. If a supporter is just scanning your email make clicking as effortless as possible. I usually like to bold AND underline the link text.
Repeat Your Call to Action
Yes, it’s just a single call to action, but repeat it at least once, maybe twice to really drive home the point. You wouldn’t run a TV ad just one time.
Use Extras Sparingly
By “extras” I mean graphics, boxed text, video screenshots and other visuals that break up the text. I only use these once every five emails or so. They always must be related to your call to action because they take more “processing time” for a reader than scanning text.
Limit to a Single Gimmick
Whether it’s a deadline, giveaway, matching funds, etc. Gimmicks stop working when they’re over used and if you use more than one in a single email, you limit their effectiveness.
Once you’ve got the email and send it around for approval, your pride of authorship should be finished. It’s counterproductive, if you’re a digital marketer, to quibble with decision makers over messaging, punctuation, tone, etc. Keep your focus on the tactics: is there a single call to action? Is it repeated multiple times? Even though these items account for just 20% of the overall email, they represent 80% of its effectiveness.