June 24, 2019
Your email recipients are easily distracted skimmers who are too busy to read every email they get. They may take a quick glance at your email but you could lose them if they see another email arrive, hear a text notification, or impulsively click away to an open tab.
Is it a lack of time, focus, or interest? Whatever the cause, you can get members and others in your audience to slow down, settle in, and read what you have to say if you know how to format and write emails that capture their interest and boost email engagement.
Your email is one of dozens or hundreds your member will read all day, so do them a favor… help them save time. Keep the needs of a busy, easily distracted reader in mind when you format emails.
First, you must convince the reader to open your email—that’s the job of your email subject line, a topic covered in last week’s post on improving email open rates.
When the reader glances at your email, it should look like an easy, quick read. If they open it up and see long blocks of text, they’ll immediately think, “Ugh,” and move on. Here are some tips on formatting an email that subconsciously convinces the reader to stick with it.
Keep emails short. Don’t include entire articles or posts. Preview them with a blurb and link to the rest on your website.
46% of all emails are opened on a mobile device—the percentage may be even higher for your members—so keep the mobile reader in mind when formatting emails.
The next time you’re reading emails on your phone, notice which ones are easier and more enjoyable to read, and which ones aren’t. Which ones hold your attention, and which ones don’t? Figure out what they are doing differently and why one email is more engaging than another.
The first sentence of your email must hook the reader’s attention so they go on to read the rest of the first paragraph. If they’re still hooked, they’ll move on to the second paragraph and so on. People don’t want to scroll too far down the screen to find the most important information, so put it right up top.
Get out of the default mode of “We have something to say to you.” Instead, use conversational language. Write as if you were talking with a specific person, for example, a colleague at another association. You want to be professional but not institutional. Throw in a question every now and then, one that will prompt the reader to respond back to you in their head.
The word “you” is the most powerful word in marketing, so use it liberally. Another behavioral science principle to keep in mind is social proof. If you’re trying to convince the reader to click on a link for an upcoming event or to subscribe to an additional newsletter, tell them what other members say about it.
Simple conversational language is also easier (quicker) to read. Use the active, not passive, voice. Active language is more emotionally powerful and persuasive than passive language.
Edit ruthlessly. If a member knows they can get something of value in just a minute or two when they open and read your emails, then you’ve done your job well.
Images must be quick loading. Don’t frustrate readers by making them wait for images to load. Always reduce an image’s file size with photo optimization software.
Use the “alt tag” to briefly describe what the image portrays. If the recipient’s inbox has high security settings, images aren’t always downloaded, especially on mobile devices. The textual alt tag helps the recipient make sense of the missing image.
A call-to-action (CTA) is a marketing term for an embedded URL in a phrase or graphic that asks the reader to take action, for example, register for an event, subscribe to a publication, or make a purchase. To improve the effectiveness of a CTA, include only one type of request in each email.
Make the CTA the most obvious graphic in the email. Surround it with white space so it stands out and is easier to click on a mobile device. Use text in addition to an image, like a graphic or button, for your CTA. Some email recipients won’t be able to see an image-based CTA if their security settings block images.
The CTA doesn’t only have to be at the end of the email. Insert one near the first or second paragraph too so the reader will see it before they get distracted by something else.
Your members and subscribers are busy professionals whose attention is constantly being pulled in many different directions. Respect their time by using a reader-centric approach to formatting that keeps them focused on the email in front of them. As long as you stick to an email strategy that prioritizes valuable content that’s relevant to the recipient’s needs and interests, your emails will continue to engage readers.
Find out how MemberSuite’s E-Marketing module can help you manage and track emails, assess their performance, and improve their effectiveness by downloading our E-Marketing information sheet.