E-MAIL CREATIVE: Getting your e-mails read

According to Internet consulting firm Fry Multimedia, more than 20% of e-mail recipients made a purchase after reading an e-mail promotion. But as more and more companies use e-mail to promote their goods and services, producing quality e-mail that gets results will become more challenging.

For instance, some catalogers are tempted to take advantage of e-mail’s virtually unlimited space by going heavy on the text. But “e-mail text is read more quickly than print copy, so it’s a challenge to give the reader as much information as possible, in less time,” says Joe Voellinger, Internet marketing manager for pet supplies cataloger Doctors Foster & Smith.

The Rhinelander, WI-based cataloger mails separate e-newsletters to dog and cat owners, “and we’re going to launch a general newsletter,” says Voellinger, who adds that it’s important to write both informational and sales copy so that it quickly answers the customer’s question “What can this product do for me?”

Doctors Foster & Smith sends e-mails in an HTML format, which enables it to incorporate images from its print book. But catalogers should be aware that some recipients may not have the capabilities to support graphics and will instead receive fragmented text documents. For that reason, Lincolnshire, IL-based office supplies cataloger Quill Corp. allows its e-newsletter subscribers to choose between a text-only format and HTML. Laura Hinze, marketing manager for Quill, suggests determining if your subscribers have systems that support graphics – by either asking them or combing your e-mail database for non-HTML-supportive addresses, such as those from AOL – before investing in e-mail graphics.

The subject was e-mail

Just as readers often decide whether to open or throw away a print catalog based on its cover, recipients of e-mail often make the same decision based on the message’s subject heading. To avoid getting your e-mails confused with spam or junk e-mail, David Fry, president/CEO of Ann Arbor, MI-based Fry Multimedia, suggests avoiding promotional words in the heading. Quill, for one, stays away from using “free” or “win” in the subject field, Hinze says. “Some administrators are implementing filters that reject promotional-sounding words.”

Fry suggests clarity, brevity, and appeal in composing subject heads. “Subject lines must be clear, concise, and catchy if possible. A subject line such as `Easter Wishes from XYZ Co.’ might do the trick.”

Once you get the reader past your subject line, keep the text fresh and interesting. Seattle-based novelty gifts cataloger Archie McPhee, which has mailed its e-newsletter since 1997, aims to “sell stuff with Alan without annoying people,” says president Mark Pahlow. “We try to keep our e-mails entertaining, honest, and perky.”

And just in case, he says, “we light candles to the DM god.”

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