Thursday, 18 March 2010

How to craft email headers that get your emails opened

Pokes and Tags and Tweets – do they annoy you or catch your attention?

It seems that if a statement or opening line has more than 140 characters then it is destined to go unread. In today’s world where people’s attention spans seem to be diminishing constantly what can you do to get your messages across to your charity’s supporters?

Since I am no expert in tweeting or tagging I shall stick to a subject I know one about – the email. Email headers to be more specific. Note here that by email header I mean the subject line and From name line.

Today, many charities use email to update their supporters about their work, to fundraise, to campaign and much more. And, while weekly or monthly emails are carefully crafted the email header is often a last minute job.

What is the first thing a recipient sees when an email drops into their inbox? – It is the subject line and the sender’s name. These two statements have to be motivating enough to make that person open the email rather than delete it.

Here are some things you might want to consider when crafting email headers for successful campaigns:

Inform or engage? – Before writing an email header consider this question: what’s the main reason for sending this email? Do you simply want to share some success stories? Or, are you trying to get donations/ volunteers, etc?

Be personal – Include the name of the recipient or the sender in the email header or some other kind of personalized message. A personalized header like: ‘Redina, here's a unique opportunity for you to help homeless Haitians directly’ is better than ‘Latest news from work in Haiti’.

Or, for example an email with a header like ‘Hello from Rob Parsons’ is more likely to be opened than an email whose header is: ‘Important news from Care for the Family.’

Interest triggers. Since the words on the email subject line are the primary bait to hook the recipient into opening the email, you need to learn how to identify and write interest triggers.

Read through the content of the message, think about the purpose of the email and try to identify any interest triggers. Look at newspapers and magazines, what headlines and triggers pull your attention and how are they constructed.

You can try and use similar constructs of words for your charity’s headlines… Make sure you keep testing them though so that you can discover which ones might work best for you. Here are some examples of good triggers:

1. STOP THE TRAFFIC: Don’t be oblivious
2. Premier Christian Media: Is your freedom to vote a privilege?
3. Leading your enemies

Asking questions or making statements? - An engaging email campaign like a direct appeal or a meeting should be a two-way conversation, so you might want to consider starting with a question in your subject line.

You might want to use a question as a subject line for email fundraising campaigns or petitions.

Going for long or short subject lines? – That depends on what you want to say but generally speaking a good length subject line should have about 35 characters. This doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with longer subject lines – as always keep testing them to discover what works best with your constituency.

Who is the email from? – You might have already set up your From name as the charity. If that is the case experiment with a different From name – that of leader in your charity or a well known field staff member. Do an A B test to see which From name performs best.

Also you might want to use different From names for your fundraising campaigns, e-updates or event invitations always using the name of a staff member who has the most relevant relationship with the recipients.

Like with anything else in fundraising and development the key is to test new approaches continuously. Use different email headers for different groups of the database and compare the opening rates, try to determine how the header or the From name is connecting with recipients. Knowing how to capture the attention of your email recipients will give your message a better chance of being read.

1 comment:

Pat Royce said...

Hi Redina,
Thank you for this blog, I feel it's going to be very helpful for me, as I'm only just beginning to get the hang of all this Internet stuff!

Can any one comment on my first effort?

Sincere Warm Regards
Pat Royce.