10 tips to make your email communications more engaging
Ensuring your email communications resonate is no mean feat. In fact, it’s even harder today than it used to be. Twenty years ago, research found that we have an attention span of 12 seconds. Today, this has reduced to 8 seconds.
But why are we seeing this decrease?
Distraction. We have distractions everywhere. I bet just by inserting the emojis below you looked at those before reading this sentence!
😀 💥 🐩 🍉 🏝️ 🚕 ⚽ ⌚ ✏️ 😍 📣 ✔️ 🛁 🖐️ 👀 🍦 🥂 🦄 🐬 🙋 👑
Today we are always connected. Smartphones, hyperlinks, pop-ups; they all grapple for our attention making it far harder for us to focus on one thing at a time.
So, if we don’t capture the attention of email recipients in that 8 second window, there’s really little point in sending the communication in the first place.
10 tips to ensure your email communications resonate
1) Use the right language
The 101 of communications: using the right language to capture attention.
Headers and subject lines need particular attention because these in themselves could use half of those precious 8 seconds. Draw upon your creative juices and really put yourself in the shoes of your target audience to find a headline that will make them want to read on. Below are some of the best subject lines we’ve seen our customers use.
The best email subject lines
“[name], thank you” (used for an internal financial update) – firstly it specifically addresses the person which always grabs attention. Secondly it is showing appreciation for them. For a particularly dry topic, this captures attention at the outset.
“Since we can’t all win the lottery” (used to pitch a promotion) – this one makes us feel like one of the herd. It also subtly suggests there will be some sort of saving within the email but encourages the recipient to find out by opening the email.
“A sneaky peak for VIPs only” – there’s nothing better than feeling special. This hits that nail on the head beautifully!
“Oops, sorry about that” – us humans are nosey. If a mistake has occurred, we often want to know what happened! Apology emails often get much higher open rates than the original, so why not get creative and start off with an apology email instead!
“[name], is data your king? 👑 (used to promote a white paper) – once again it uses personalisation. It also inserts an emoji when you wouldn’t expect it. While emojis are now commonly used in subject lines for B2C comms, they are less used in B2B or internal comms so, in these scenarios, they can really help capture attention.
“How did they price that job so cheaply” (used to pitch a service to builders) – This targets an audience where price is a critical buying decision. It also adds a bit of healthy competition into the mix which creates the curiosity to want to open the email.
“Did you get what you were looking for” (used for basket abandonment follow up) – designed to remind anyone who got distracted of what they were doing. Given our short attention spans this is a simple but very effective way of bringing people back to your website.
8 best practices for writing email communications
In addition to the initial hook of the subject line or title, keep these best practices in mind with everything you write:
• Write for people, from people
• Use the vernacular your target audience use
• Be succinct
• Use headlines to break copy up
• Ensure the purpose of the communication is upfront and clear
• Be consistent
• Always proof read!
2) Make your communications visual
The majority of us are very visual. For example, a study found that 75% of people are more likely to watch a video than read an email or text.
That’s because we’re able to digest more information if it is visual and this captures our attention for longer. Even if text is necessary in your communication, consider using something visual at the start to draw people in.
3) Find the right frequency
Sending specific communications at set times can help with engagement. BUT this will only be effective if your communications are informative.
Just because you’ve always sent a newsletter every month for the last 6 months, it doesn’t mean you should maintain that rhythm if you don’t have anything valuable to say. If you believe your audience have tuned into the consistency of your updates, instead of sending the full-blown newsletter you could just send a shorter message explaining the reason for the quieter month and inviting them to tune in next month instead.
Don’t be afraid to break the mould. By being honest you are connecting as a person and this will keep your recipients more engaged than sending stuff for the sake of sending it.
4) Use segmentation to stay relevant
In our everyday lives we witness segmentation (or often it is known as personalisation) all the time. The recommendations we receive via our online supermarket shop relate to what we’ve bought before, the adverts that pop up on web pages are items we’ve looked at but not yet bought. We live in a consumer-led world in which we are presented with information that is relevant to us.
If I repeatedly receive information that is not relevant to me, I will ignore it from the moment the message arrives. We’ve all been there. Think about the times you’ve ended up on a mailing list for something you have no interest in. Now, as soon as you see who the email is from, you do a quick swipe on your phone and it goes straight into your deleted folder.
Relevance is key. Only send email communications to the people it is relevant for, or of interest to. These segments need to be mapped against the type of communications you send and you will probably have multiple segments for different groups. For example, if considering internal comms, you will probably have geographical segmentation, job role segmentation and project segmentation.
There’s no right or wrong answer. Just segment against your communication/campaign plan.
5) Make every message personal
Closely linked to the above point.
Ensure your communications are addressed to the individual. “Dear Team” or “Dear Customer” doesn’t cut it when we are used to the level of personalisation described above. We need to feel as though you are speaking directly to us.
Addressing your messages to a named person is a start but personalisation can go much further. With relevant segments in place, you can tailor messages much more precisely. Some technologies, such as NewZapp, also enable you to respond to previous actions taken and tailor web pages against data and behaviours.
Ultimately, the more you can personalise your email communications, the more engaged your audience will be.
6) Bring people together
On top of segmentation and personalisation consider the connections people have with each other. This is particularly relevant for internal and customer communications where relationships have formed. People are interested in people.
Your communications don’t have to be sent from the same person. And they certainly shouldn’t be sent from an ‘empty’ email address or account. For example, “The customer success team” or worse still “do-no-reply@company-name”!
Think about the messages you are trying to get across and consider which ‘sender’ would capture the attention of your recipients the best.
At times it is necessary to communicate ‘dry’ topics. These can make it extremely difficult to capture attention. If you aren’t seeing the engagement levels you want, consider wrapping your more mundane topics up with other people-focused updates. For example, while the financial update is important, your employees are more likely to be drawn to an update about their colleague. Using this as your hook could get their attention enough for them to then go on and read the financial update.
7) Make the journey simple
Within a few seconds the recipient of your email will decide if a communication deserves their attention purely based on how it looks. Take this blog as an example. If I had written this as it comes out of my mind without any paragraphs, breaks or headlines you probably wouldn’t have got this far.
Structure and layout
We need to make communications as digestible as possible. Consider the layout of your communication, the use of colour, images and bold text. Even the font you use will influence opinion.
Access to your communications also needs to be as easy as possible. If the layout is higgledy-piggledy on a mobile, people won’t stick around. Before sending your email, go on the journey you are expecting your target audience to take and ensure it is as smooth as possible.
If you are in a position to ask your audience what their preferred channel is for receiving information, do so. By giving them control of how they digest information they will instantly be more engaged.
8) Attract attention but only when necessary
If you have something really important to say, shout about it. You are just one communication amongst many distractions so use attention-grabbing techniques: urgent notifications or words that highlight the importance of the email. If for internal communications consider using a push notification via text message or an intranet pop-up.
Whatever tools you have available, don’t be shy about utilising them. But don’t do it often. If you do, the perception of ‘urgent’ will fade.
9) Know when to send
Use your statistics to learn the days and times that your target audience are most engaged. But beyond that there are also some additional time sensitive considerations:
Be the source of information
Every communication needs to be informative, accurate and timely.
If I’ve heard news via the grapevine, I’m unlikely to read an email about it two days later. Even if the information I received initially went through a process of Chinese whispers and isn’t actually accurate, the arrival of the official update two days later will feel like old news and not grab my attention.
Wherever possible, be the first source of information, not an afterthought.
Consider seasonal variances
Will your target audience have particular times of the year when they are busier. For example, if you are targeting accountants you many want to avoid the end of April. If you are targeting employees who are on the distribution line for school uniform, they are likely to be run off their feet in the summer holidays. Bear these additional time pressures in mind and adjust your communication patterns accordingly.
10) Measure everything
While all the above points are nuggets of best practice, ultimately it is your recipients who will tell you what grabs their attention. We touched upon using statistics to learn the days and times people are engaged, but there is so much more data you can utilise to build a picture of what works well.
Open rates give you a good indication of the effectiveness of your subject line.
Click rates tell you if the content of the message is of interest.
Open times show you when your target audience are reading your messages.
Heatmaps show you where your recipients are looking.
Page visits show you what information people are most interested in.
Video views tell you if recipients are paying attention all the way to the end.
Social media reactions show you what people feel about your messages.
Bounce rates tell you if the content is what your target audience was expecting.
Surveys give you detailed insights on specific elements of your communications.
Device usage tells you how your recipients digest your information.
There is a plethora of data sources: the above is just a snapshot. Once you establish what data is available to you, build analysis into your schedule until you have enough insight to inform your decisions.
This will make a huge difference. It will take away the guess work and give you evidence that you can build from.
Email communications are highly effective – both in internal and external communications. But they are up against fierce competition. With these 10 best practices for creating effective email communications that resonate, you will be able to grab those precious 8 seconds and get your important messages across.