Wednesday, April 17, 2013

your email sucks - another bad subject line and the anatomy of an email

today while at work, i got a forwarded email, and the comments for the email were "best subject line ever - i love this". i got excited, i thought how can i rework it to be something my readers will open. then i opened the email, and the subject line was "need subject". oh no, another email marketing fail and oh yes - an entry for my blog!

so in the common "your email sucks" fashion, here's the email that i was forwarded.

in the interest of full disclosure, the email didn't include the red lines and the caution tape overlay. i'll address that in a little while.

but like i've said in the past, this is one of those palm-forehead mistakes that we have all made. it's a rookie mistake, one that with proper testing and having a few editors check your communications won't happen ever again. so before you hit the send button, check everything - twice.

now that said, you'll notice that the title of this blog also brings up the anatomy of an email. this has been the buzz word in my cubicle for the past two weeks. i was fortunate enough to be looked at as an expert in my field (long enough time coming) by my employer and asked to present to our internal stakeholders about quality communications and how we as an organization can improve on the ones that we are producing.

as part of this process, we are going through a complete audit of all the emails that we send out to subscriber population (life-cycle, transactional, winback...) and as part of the training, we're working on changing the mindset of the individuals who send emails. my portion of the 60+ slides in the first training (i had the majority of those slides), was to talk about the anatomy of an email and deliverability (another topic for another post).

so the make up of an email has been on my mind a lot the past couple of weeks. and i couldn't help but to look at this one, and what went wrong. let me preface this with i hate templates, honestly hate them because when you build a template with some of the sending tools, they junk them up with what they think they should look like and how the footers should be built - which to me just looks unprofessional and not pleasing, and that is probably what has happened with this email. so there's my grain of salt for this posting - it was probably out of the control of the sender because it was built using a template.

if you look at the email, you'll notice the red lines and the caution tape design. these show the "below the fold", that mythical line that we as email marketing professionals need to remember. for this one i set the bottom line to be 600 pixels from the top of the email. with this example you'll notice that the call action is pushed well below the fold - so if the actual subject line was a good one, and caused me to open it, the call to action is well below my preview pane.

what's contributing to this problem?
1. the height of the preheader text, i try to actually have that information sit on top of my header/hero image (for those exact target users out there).
2. the header and the graphic could be integrated to reduce the height of the two combined images - this by itself would probably move the call to action up into the preview pane, problem solved.
3. white space below the header text, is also pushing the call to action text down.

as more and more readers abandon desktop computers for tablets and smartphones, we need to be even more concerned about the height of our graphics and look at the opportunity costs of reducing white space without sacrificing readability or branding.

the moral of the marketing story here, proof your work, test your work, test your work again, and keep the anatomy of an email in mind as you build your campaigns. there is a saying in the world of carpentry - measure twice cut once... i think we should adopt this and change it to proof twice, test (twice) and send once.