8 Email Truths From a Word Nerd >

email design conferenceThe Litmus Email Design Conference in Boston a few weeks back was an exciting meeting of the minds—the gathering of a true community of people who write, create, design and build email day in and day out. It was an Email Nerd Convention of the highest order.

The best part of the conference is that it is so darn actionable. Most everyone seems to leave shoulders sagging from days of partying and conferencing, but rearing to get back to the grind and put some of that newfound email wisdom into practice.

The most exciting part for this journalist-turned-content guru was all the chatter about great, engaging content. Here are some surprising new email truths that seem like they were put in the universe just for me.

1. Lower commitment CTAs are more effective than high commitment ones.

In CTA writing, short, direct and action-oriented is still the gold standard. But another truth came to light in multiple presentations at Litmus: Lower commitment actions, like “Read a Sample Page” or even “Learn More” are more effective than “Buy Now.” Go ahead, test it out for yourself.

2. Banish clichés. Forever.

Kristin Bond’s manifesto on avoiding content clichés struck right at my heart. At first, I was like, “Oh, I am the cliché-avoidance poster child. I’ll just be nodding along with the entire presentation.” Then I realized that some of the more terrible “exclusives” and “just for you” have found their way into my life, leeching from the depths of marketing hell.

Her argument: If you are sending it to everyone, then nothing’s “just for you.” Avoid these traps like the plague. They insult your audience.

3. Metrics can and should be humanizing.

Vicky Ge from Amazon puts a classic quote in new light: “Don’t use stats as a drunk man uses a light post—as support rather than illumination.” She suggested using behavior clustering to identify cohorts and personas that are based on real human actions—among other brilliant metrics tricks.

Check out this awesome visualization of Vicky’s talk, created live on the spot by ImageThink.net.

Jen Rhee shared an amazing segmentation case study from Udemy—one that resulted in 13% higher opens, 52% more clicks and a 28% lower unsub rate. Her secret? Thinking beyond simple demographics. She segments behavior and psychographics instead—thinking about what people want next.

4. Don’t emphasize more than 15 words at once.

Matt Laudato is the Big Data Guy at Constant Contact—and he presented some numbers crunched from 300 million sends. (Yes, that is certifiably insane.) He found that when using bold, pull quotes or other formatting elements, you shouldn’t emphasize more than 15 words, or the phrase loses its… emphasis.

A word of caution: Constant Contact users may be different than your audience—they might be small business owners with smaller, localized lists, for example. As with everything, test the heck out of this to see if it works with your audience.

5. Use 5 to 7 words in a subject line.

Laudato looked at 300 million subject lines, finding that the 50-ish character, 5 to 7 word lines got the most opens. (And, ahem, see the cautionary tale above.)

6. Speak to your super fans differently.

You can’t argue with this: 38 percent of opens come from 5 percent of your audience; 51 percent of opens for from 10 percent of your audience. That means a small number of your “super fans” are the ones interacting with you most of the time. So treat them like gold.

7. Privacy policies are actually interesting (promise!).

James Koons from dotmailer is an undeniable expert in privacy policies—and he genuinely made the subject interesting. He makes a strong case for clear, conspicuous opt-outs and allowing customers to “opt down” with preference centers. Quality over quantity is the refrain, always.

8. Sometimes you can sell more with emotions than with discounts.

On sale! Free! 100% Off! Shaimoom Newaz from ExakTime shared an incredible case study that showed how emotional, relatable, attention-grabbing photography was far more effective than walloping his audience with those sales messages multiple times per week.

He first identified the pain points of his customers—then showed how his product can solve that problem and help them feel better. Brilliant.

Here’s another sweet, sweet visualization—this one created during Shaimoom’s talk.

In closing, take a page from Fabio Carneiro’s opening remarks and bask in the glory, y’all…

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