E-mail Marketing: Which Words Convert?

We talked recently about email marketing and why obtaining new subscribers is still a vital part of the small business marketing mix. All businesses are pursuing higher open rates, but there are times when what you're doing simply doesn't work and it's time to make a change. There are many ways to change up your marketing emails and spike customer interest in what you have to say, but possibly the most important aspect is also the most frequently overlooked: which word convert? We know that a critical factor in higher open rates is a compelling subject line, so it stands to reason that the words we choose in that small space play a big part in pulling readers in. So what do you need to watch out for and how can you make sure customers aren't ignoring you because of a simple turn of phrase? [caption id="attachment_1272" align="aligncenter" width="400"]man with thumbs down If customers give your emails the thumbs down, it's time to test new words.[/caption]

Test Your Text

Even a tiny change in wording can have a tremendous impact on your open rates. From terms that trigger delight and intrigue to those that set off spam filters, the words you choose both outside and inside your email marketing communications makes a big difference in how customers feel about your business. Testing is one way to gain greater insight into which words your subscribers respond to, and those that turn them off. The common form is A/B testing, which at its most basic means sending one version of your email to half of your list and another to the other half. By varying an element of the email - most likely the subject line but also the inner headlines, article titles, or any other influential portion of text - you can then compare open rates and apply the most popular choice to your next email. This can be slow going, as you generally need to vary only one area per send so that you know which change has made the difference. Even so, over time this becomes a valuable way to understand what your audience wants. You can also use focus groups, surveys, industry studies and more as a form of testing opinion, but the purest reaction occurs when the recipient is unaware that you're conducting the test. 

Which Words Convert?

Social media app Buffer wrote an outstanding post on specific email marketing words that convert, so we'll take a broader view of those and the trends that are out there. In terms of communicating the value of what you want to communicate, there are certain terms that trigger an impulse to buy, while others raise alarm bells that something is tacky, or perhaps just too good to be true. You obviously want the former for what you're offering, which means words like "sale," "voucher," and even "new" in the subject line to prompt an open. Even though these are more basic terms, the trend is away from sensational language and hyperbole to simpler terms that communicate value within. Furthermore, most mail delivery services encourage us to focus on simply describing the real offer that your message delivers to recipients, so avoid promising the earth and failing to deliver within the email. On the other hand, there are times to steer away from the simple and plain. Cutting out standard words including "newsletter," "webinar" and even "learn" in favor or something more intriguing has been shown to improve open rates. Don't bore your reader from the first words, but do use them to get to the point as efficiently as possible. A great way to have subscribers hanging on your every word is to craft a marketing series that keeps them coming back for more. If you can hook them early on, readers may come to not only expect your messages but to look forward to them (every marketer's holy grail!) 

A Note on Spam Laws

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 means your business could be fined for emails that mislead the recipient. It's law and most delivery systems abide by it, meaning that you need to as well. Even some seemingly innocent terms can see your mails fall into the email black hole policed by mail server spam filters. For example, you might like "free,""one time," "instant", and "sample." If a word strikes you as generic (say the kind of thing you might find in an infomercial!) you would be wise to avoid using it. Try out even a small change in wording somewhere in your next email marketing campaign. As you experiment, you'll be surprised to see which words make the most difference to your subscribers.

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