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Good E-mail Campaigns Are Clever … Great E-mail Campaigns Don’t Have To Be

May 12, 2010 By Neil M. Rosen
When marketers think about developing e-mail campaign dashboards, they typically focus on two areas: open rates and conversions.

It’s a reality that clever subject lines often lead to high open rates. “You Don’t Want to Read This E-mail,” “It’s OK to Not Know What Your Friends Know,” or “Pssssssssssssst” are great examples of this kind of subject line. These―and hundreds of other subject lines like them―will definitely drive up your open rates. That’s good news, right? So, what’s the problem?

Actually, there are a few problems.

First, is the pressure it puts on the marketer to create an equally clever and amusing campaign. A clever subject line that leads to a dull e-mail will fall flat. Moreover, a clever subject line that leads to a hard-sell e-mail raises complaints. You would much rather have people ignore some of your e-mail campaigns then complain about them.

What about clever e-mail campaigns? Do they perform well? Clever subject lines and e-mail campaigns work best for borderline spammers who are trying to entice people with whom they have either questionable or no relationships to open the e-mail.

But for CRM marketers, those who are deploying campaigns to their opt-in lists, the results driven by clever campaigns are typically disappointing and can increase both unsubscribes and complaints. The main reason for their failure is that e-mail campaigns need to have one very clear, very solid call to action, one that logically follows your business model. And the cleverness (unless, of course, your business is www.weareaclevercompany.com) becomes a call to action on its own, one that competes with―and detracts from―the call to action in the e-mail … and one that drives down conversions.

So if clever isn’t the answer, let's define great.

Clarity and sense of purpose are what make a great subject line and great e-mail. The call to action in a great e-mail campaign is clear after one second of viewing, and it is an expected next step after reading the subject line.  Remember the marketers’ mantra: Tell people what you are going to tell them, next tell them and then tell them what you just told them. This is what makes up a great e-mail campaign. For example:
 

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