Direct Response in Action

What Happened When I Taught My Nephew 5 Simple Tactics

We all know that direct response isn’t child’s play. It’s hard work. Nevertheless, if you keep just a few things in mind, even a novice can make a difference — and the story of my teenage nephew, Ian, and what he was able to accomplish is a good example.

Ian is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. His final project in order to achieve this top rank is to create something for the community that includes a fundraising component. Ian’s idea was big: in memory of a deceased friend he would clean up and upgrade a student community area at the high school his friend loved and attended. This would entail purchasing and installing a new gazebo, as well as adding a picnic table and a bench or two. Total cost: $5,500.

That was a daunting amount for a teenager to raise. But I knew it was doable — as long as Ian followed some basic fundraising tactics on his crowdfunding site and in his letters. Here’s what I taught Ian:

5 Simple Direct Response Tactics That Work

1. Think: Who are you writing to and how do they want to be addressed? It’s important to start on the right foot. Ian was writing Mr. and Mrs. Smith (not real name). I asked if that is how they want to be addressed. Ian said no, by their first names. Then do that, I said. His teacher wants to be called Mrs. Jones (not real name). That’s how Ian addressed her.

2. Tell a sincere story: Show compassion, without ever going over the top. Ian told the story of his dream of becoming an Eagle Scout and his deceased friend simply and from the heart.

3. Give the facts: Where is the money going? Be as specific as you can because people want to know. Ian provided cost figures for each major item on his list.

4. Simplify: Make it as easy as possible for donors to respond. Ian added a form to the letter so people knew what to do next. He also provided a reply device: a postage-paid envelope with his return address on it.

5.  Remind people of tax benefits: Give donors an added incentive to be generous. Let them know that their donation could be tax-deductible. It’s easy to do, and Ian did it.

I’m happy to say that, in a month’s time, Ian exceeded his fundraising goal!

Lift Your Open Rates: 2 Tips from the Trenches

Part 2 — Spam Filters & Preheaders

I learn a lot from my email work with clients. In Part 2 of my series on mistakes to avoid, I want to alert you to Mistake 3 and Mistake 4, which — when it comes to lifting open rates — you should never, ever ignore!

MISTAKE 3:
Using this CTA phrase (a spam filter favorite)

sbutton

One of my clients was using the above phrase often in email text. Harmless, right? Wrong. To their horror, they discovered that many spam filters don’t like that innocuous phrase, making their emails prime candidates for the junk folder.

Here’s another phrase that we found to trigger spam filters:

money-back guarantee
One solution is to use images. But it’s not our first choice for these two reasons:

1. Images don’t work everywhere on the email and
2. Images lose impact when an email is opened and the images are not displaying.

We try to code as much as possible in the email, including the buttons, to make sure an email is most effective. Play it safe, forget these spam filter favorites altogether. We like to use LEARN MORE or GO HERE for the call-to-action button. For the money phrase, that’s a little trickier since nothing beats those 3 classic words. We normally don’t include the money phrase in the email but make it prominent on the landing page. If you feel you must include the phrase in the email, then make it a graphic image — but make sure your developer leaves the alt tag blank.

MISTAKE 4:
Ignoring the preheader and its impact on opens

You and I know that, together with the sender (or “From”) name, the subject line has the biggest impact on whether your email gets opened. But, today, when you often have barely 3 seconds to get someone’s attention, my clients make sure to pair the subject line with another tool: the preheader, which can increase open rates sometimes up to 45% (Litmus statistic). In my example below, the preheader is the gray text that is circled.

Sample Preheader
Most inboxes automatically take copy for the preheader from the first few words of your email, if you don’t specify otherwise. What we do for our clients: We write specifically targeted preheader copy, to hook readers. This is placed at the very top of an email, above the “view in browser” — giving it top billing. If we don’t do this, then “view in browser” will be the first sentence of the email, causing it to appear in the red-circled area above.

SPECIAL NOTE: Some email deployment systems automatically add their own “view in browser,” which knocks your composed preheader out of the top billing spot. To stop this from happening, the “view in browser” function needs to be disabled in the deployment service software, and your developer will need to code this part by hand.

Lift Your Click-Through Rates: 2 Tips from the Trenches

Part 1 — Alt Tags; Retina Images in Email

We all know that emails are the “workhorse channel.” But are you working everything available to you to optimize your open and click-through rates? In creating hundreds of emails for companies, I’ve learned to do just that. I see firsthand where the trouble spots are. To help you get the best results more often, here is Part 1 of a special 2-part series of newsletters I’ve created that address frequent mistakes and ways to avoid them.

MISTAKE 1:
Not proofing alt tags

Look at this edited email I received from a Wine Club. It came in my inbox with the images off.

Notice the blue text in the white boxes — the alt tags. They still allow me to see what the offer is. That’s good, since it’s enough of an incentive to click-see images. But do you see the typo in the second line of the blue text? Not so good!

I added that typo to illustrate that alt tags can have errors! Few people proofread the alt tags for sense and accuracy, leaving them open to errors that could reduce the number of clicks you get. Solution: Do as my agency does for each email: Proof. Use Firefox as your browser and add a Web Developer extension [here’s the link] so you have the tools you need to proof the alt tags.

MISTAKE 2:
Not recognizing the importance of using
retina display images

Think the images in your email look great on your standard office monitor? Well, readers on retina displays might be seeing something else — like blurry product shots or a blocky-looking logo! See my example below: same image, different pixel density.

 
sharp image
 
  2x image  

blurry image
   
1x image  

Only the 2x image on the left looks sharp on a retina display. The 1x image was created only for a standard office monitor and does not have enough pixels in it to render properly on higher pixel density retina displays. That’s why it’s blurry. All the emails created at my agency have the higher resolution, so no worries!

But how can you make sure your other vendors are supplying retina display images if you are using a standard office monitor? Simple. Just use the Web Developer extension (here’s the link again) and select image>view image information. If the images appear twice the size of what is used in the email, you have retina display images.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can be of further assistance. And keep your eye out for Part 2 of my special series of blog posts for more tips from the trenches.

How to Stand Out with More Visual Promotions

Top 3 Reasons for Charts

Did this chart catch your eye?
Today, you may have just a few seconds — maybe less — to grab someone’s attention. Charts (pie, line, bar, and others) are proven attention-winners. Of course, they’re perfect for presentation of data. But, with a little creative flair, you can also employ them to make your most important sales messages pop, online and off.

What makes charts work?
No need to rack your brain — just look at the chart above. In addition to ATTENTION, they provide AUTHORITY and QUICK UNDERSTANDING. A chart speaks volumes, with just a few words. So today’s multi-taskers can quickly say, “Aha, I SEE your point!” Moreover, a chart lends an air of authority to what you’re presenting because it supports your point or actually proves it, when you include relevant data. Add a short caption to your chart and you can be certain it will be read.

Take a cue from infographics: Get MORE visual!
You’ve heard of Information overload? Maybe that’s why infographics are now so popular in content marketing. They break things down with visuals, including charts, and a pinch of razzle-dazzle. But you don’t have to go that far in your promotions — a simple, unstuffy chart will be just as effective, whenever you want to:

Make a strong price or savings statement
Provide competitive product comparisons
Visualize a problem/solution
Show a relationship
Highlight a trend

Try it! Charts might be just the thing to make your promotions stand out. Let me know if I can be of assistance.

Raise Response with Email + Direct Mail

When email and direct mail join forces, their combined strengths can really put some POW in your response rates and give your business or nonprofit greater ROI. Here’s how:

Email first, followed by direct mail

Time Inc. sent prospects an email announcing a special subscription discount offer that was coming in the mail soon. The email showed a picture of the direct mail package so that recipients would take more notice of it when it arrived. The package was sent about a week later. Result: Greater response than if only email or only direct mail had been used.

Direct Mail first, followed by email

Email marketing is so popular these days that cluttered inboxes are becoming a problem. Plus, research shows that emails are opened at much lower rates than direct mail. How do you fight those obstacles? Some marketers are sending direct mail — such as a postcard — to alert prospects to a special offer, followed soon after by an email with all the details. Result: Improved email OPEN and CLICK-THROUGH rates, and improved response.

Powerful takeaway for you:

Today, to get people’s attention, it pays to give your message double exposure by synchronizing email and direct mail so they work in tandem. You gain more mindshare, too, when you brand your campaign with a consistent look and feel across channels!

A Timely Message

motionmailapp.com

Get ready! It will be here before you know it! For what, you ask? Above is how much time we have left until it’s 2020!

Did this clock get your attention? Countdown clocks get results in emails and on landing pages. They engage the recipient/viewer and help create a sense of urgency for whatever event or product offer you’re promoting.

What’s unique about this clock is that, whenever you open an email or view a landing page you get the exact time before the event — providing real-time incentive to act.

NFL Big Win: One example of where the countdown clock was very effective, according to Marketing Sherpa. The NFL placed a countdown clock in their email newsletter, and it increased open rates by 121% and clickthroughs by 26%. Not only that, but people kept going back to it to see when the next game was. A marketer’s dream!!

That said, what better holiday to test a countdown clock than Christmas — especially when it’s 4, 3, or 2 weeks before the big event! And don’t forget to put some timely visuals in your print campaigns, too: Use a picture of a clock, with appropriate copy. Or show a calendar with the holiday date circled. These are classic tactics that continue to perform well.

Let me know if I can be of assistance.

Responsive Emails: Make Them Work for You

Research proves that the best way to get your audience to respond to your email is with a responsive email.

For those who are not sure what I mean by responsive email — it’s an email that is designed and coded to enable the device it is being read on (desktop, tablet or smartphone) to automatically adapt the layout to better fit the reader’s current screen size.

Below is an example of how my latest newsletter looked in responsive email format. Depending on the device it was read on, the layout of the email changed.

email for mobile
Email on a desktop
 

Notice the same email looks dramatically different! Elements of the mobile version image have been “stripped away” to two key points. The rest of the content is either hidden with the “Read More” option or is absent. Stripping down is a needed component of mobile emails. Why? Mobile users are often on-the-go or engaged with other activities. If you want your email read, a simple, direct, clear message and image work best. Therefore the most important points need to be determined and all else “stripped away.”

Another thing to consider is if an email is not formatted properly for the user’s device — meaning not responsive, the user becomes less engaged. This translates into a lower click-through rate.

Responsive email is more complex to design and code than standard email, and therefore costs more. That said, it will result in a better user experience and has been shown to produce a higher click-through conversion rate, which can improve your ROI.

 

Unopened Email: How It Can Bring In Sales

Try this out. Look at the above subject lines.

Just by reading the subject lines and NOT opening the email we do know —

1. If we stop by a Verizon store the new BlackBerry Z10 will be there
2. If we need a new Apple product we can save on shipping at Staples
3. It’s a good time to go to The Gap, we can save over 40%
4. If we want to hear Broadway Stars singing this weekend we can go to the Irvington Town Hall.

Therefore, we can easily say this: Unopened email can bring in orders. People will just show up at the Gap knowing they can save over 40%, or show up at the Irvington Town Hall and see Broadway Stars singing.

Does this tell us that the subject line is not only important for getting people to click-through, but also effective in doing a quick shout out? My answer is yes and no.

Look at which sectors it works well for, namely retail and entertainment. You can use the subject line as a marquee that basically states the offer. But if we look at this Adobe subject line — “Avoid the five pitfalls of personalization” — it’s a little different. Here, I can’t really do anything unless I open the email and read what the pitfalls are.

Conclusion: A subject line can stand in for an unopened email in certain sectors and with certain offers — but not if we have more of a story to tell.

 

How to Lift Email Response: 4 Call-to-Action Design Ideas

Try testing a new call-to-action. According to Hubspot by changing the design of your call-to-action, you can improve your click-through rates by 1300% (or more!)

Four ideas to try are:

1. Use different copy. For example, instead of “Learn More” try “See How XX Works”:

2_button

2. Add a drop shadow:
Button

3. Use a different color or texture:
button

4. Add an arrow and even change the shape:
arrow

**KEEP IN MIND ** When you are testing, a button needs to look like a button.

Plus: Do not create a long button along the bottom. People will think it’s a footer — not a button.

 

Are You Turning Off Customers?

Judging Email Creative Based on “Images Off”

The default settings on some email programs are with images off when opening the email. Above are examples of 2 emails with “images off.” The top one (which I created) is an HTML-coded email with several grayed “images off” boxes. Note here that the message was still strongly evident — which will help pique someone’s interest to turn the images on to see the entire email. On the other hand, the bottom image has just one very large gray “images off” box. We have no idea what the email’s message is. This is not good, since there is nothing here to get someone to want to learn more.

Big lesson: Don’t risk losing your customers before they’ve even had a chance to read your email: Never use one big image for your email. Besides, the big image may take too long to download, which is another way to lose your customer.