July 15, 2013

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Write Sizzling Subject Lines Subject lines initiate successful email marketing. The right subject line opens up a conversation or a relationship as quickly as “abracadabra.” The wrong line condemns your brand to die alone in the dark. Great subject lines are like great billboards or great headlines; they telegraph easily understood information to drive immediate comprehension and action. Marketers are sending more email than ever. They stack up in an inbox, which may or may not be fully opened. Multiple adjacent subject lines compete for fleeting attention. Faced with huge numbers of emails lined up one after the other, a SUBJ line must signal instant value. An open Inbox displaying sequential emails is email marketing’s “moment of truth.” It’s just as easy to click as to delete. Your 50 characters are competing in real time against genuine friends, family, personal messages and other brands making claims or offers. An open is life. A deletion is death. Adestra, a UK-based email service provider, looked at 2.2 billion emails representing 90,000 campaigns in an attempt to benchmark the words and phrases that work best. Defined using conventional email metrics, a best SUBJ line contains those words or phrases that drive more opens and clicks, improves the open to click ratio and/or reduces the opt-out or unsubscribe rate compared to industry benchmarks. Get the complete report here. Consider four topline results. Skip the Expected. While everyone sends monthly newsletters by e-mail, using the word “newsletter in the subject line has just a marginal impact on open rates (+0.7%) but really hurts your click-thru-rate (CTR) which plummets -18%. Maybe it’s too pat and too expected. Other expected terms like “report,” “learn” and “book” and “monthly” trend downward in terms of driving opens and clicks. Evidently people don’t want to see themselves as scheduled or predictable. They discount standard message cadences. Aim for Immediacy. The implied urgency and immediacy of the word “alert” prompts a 38% bump in opens and a 61.7% spike in clicks. People are hooked on knowing what’s going on right now. Words like “daily” get 27.8% more opens and 100% more clicks than the norm. “New” yields +17.2% clicks and 38.2% more opens while “News” drives +34.8% opens and +47.7% clicks. “Breaking” gets +35.4% opens and +77.6% clicks.Present your message as new, exciting and of the moment. Present a Deal. Predictably “free delivery” drives 50.7% more opens and 135% more clicks. “Sale” has +23.2 opens and +60.7% clicks. “X% Off” has a similar impact. Everybody wants to save money or get more for less. Watch out for generic terms like “save” or “cheap” or “free” and avoid aggressive terms like “buy.” These classic retail words depress opens and clicks. Try Multi-Word Headlines. Multiple key words separated by a straight vertical line drive +27.5% opens and 90.7% clicks. The same kind of alignment separated by commas drive +17.8% opens and 67% more clicks. This newspaper/news ticker approach probably signals the same kind of immediacy and urgency as the immediacy phrases. The beautiful thing about email is that consumers vote with their cursors so marketers and copywriters don’t have to rely entirely on intuition or imagination. Research like this helps us engage customers and prospects faster and better.
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4 Ways to Support Creative People Creative people are the heart and soul of every good agency. They create the art in service to commerce that the rest of us sell. But getting smart and savvy account and strategy people to contribute significantly and collaboratively to the creative process is not a slam-dunk. Account and planning types support the creative team by finding relevant insights, mining customer data, understanding the customer’s journey from awareness to purchase and by projecting client business goals and communications sensibilities. Ideally the support team packages all this up as a springboard for the creative, who then internalize the brief and make the magic. But real life is much messier. Here are 4 proven ways to support creatives. Differentiate. There are very few unique things on this planet. Every product or service has a competitor or two. Finding the real point of difference, that actually matters to prospective buyers, and communicating it to the copy and art guys is critical. Do whatever you can to explain, illustrate and articulate the practical, physical, mechanical and emotional differences between your brand and its competitors. Use analogies, schematics, examples, stories or sock puppets to get this across. Don’t stop till your teams can credibly playback the point of difference. Provide Context. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Your creative team needs to understand the full product cycle, the competitive environment, the brand history, voice, tone and manner plus whatever else is going on at retail, in social or broadcast media or on mobile devices. You are asking them to board and re-route a moving train. They need to know what they are getting into and the forces that their ideas will have to contend with. Think Experience. An ad prompts seeing, thinking, feeling and action. Define what these are and what you need the creative execution to accomplish. Think through and detail where prospects are (physically and emotionally), what they already think about the brand or the category, what kind of offers and ideas they respond to and what you want them to do in response to your message. Walk thru how a person goes from total ignorance of a brand to fervent advocacy. Then map out the inflection points and the media touches over time along the way. Factor in reach across channels and frequency; the number of times or ways your target population is likely to hear or see your ads. Creatives need to empathetically see the world from a prospect’s perspective in order to get inside their heads and intercept them in the course of their routine online and offline behavior. Sharing the experience expedites the process. Set Limits. Most people need deadlines. Some geniuses don’t. They are rare exceptions. Clearly and carefully cue creatives about what is needed when. Also be very clear about client mandates, legal requirements and client sensibilities. These are necessary evils that can annoy or limit creative people. But make sure they are properly accounted for. Working with great creative people is one of the joys of being in advertising. There’s no better feeling than knowing that you’ve set them up for success.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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