Brevity Pays Off in Email Marketing

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted March 13, 2015

Do your subscribers give your email updates and promotions the cold shoulder? A new analysis from small business online marketing specialist Constant Contact reveals that your customers may suffer from information overload.

Over 13 weeks, the company studied 2.1 million customer emails sent to more than 100 recipients to determine the qualities that make up the most engaging emails in terms of click-through rates, or what chief analytics officer Jesse Harriott calls "the ultimate success metric for emails." His company's data suggests that small businesses may want to silence their inner Shakespeare and get their point across a little more succinctly.

"Less is more and being concise is better," Harriott told Small Business Computing.

Constant Contact discovered that the most successful emails contained three or fewer images and roughly 20 lines of text. "Having a short concise message has more impact than a long one," added Harriott.

Remember, there's a lot of competition from major brands going on in your subscribers' inboxes. In addition, consumers "read emails on a lot of different platforms," said Harriott. Here are several practical considerations to help you get to the point in your email marketing campaigns.

Mobile-Friendly Email Marketing

Marketers can no longer take it for granted that subscribers read their emails on the generously-sized screens of a PC or laptop as they settle in with a cup of coffee. Today's smartphone- and tablet-addicted customers are on the move, and can often spare only a second or two before moving on to the next email—if even that.

Tight and focused copy helps capture a person's attention sooner, and it also allows your emails to adapt seamlessly to a variety of screen sizes, from an iPhone to a Surface Pro and every type of device in between. By the same token, fewer images make it much easier for mobile email providers to get your message across faster and in style.

For added impact, messages should contain a call to action at the very top, advised Harriot. Not only does it set the tone, but it also spurs engagement before subscriber attention drops off.

"In today's mobile-dominated society, consumers want content to be straightforward, concise, and easily readable on all screens," remarked Christopher M. Litster, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Constant Contact, in a statement. There is some wiggle room, however, depending on the type of business you run.

"While small businesses in some industries can afford to test more images and lines of texts, and others less, generally by sticking to three images or less and about 20 lines of text, they can craft their email campaigns in confidence, knowing that they are optimizing click-through rates," Litster added.

Tailored to Your Small Business

While small business retailers will want to stick to 20 lines of text or less, other types of organizations should aim for other benchmarks.

In fact, retailers may want to avoid brushing up against the 20-line limit. Constant Contact found that click-through rates for retailers improved by 50 percent if their emails contained between 17 and 19 lines of text. Conversely, click-throughs dropped by 50 percent when their emails grew to between 19 and 21 lines of text. Office supply companies, meanwhile, will want to keep to 15 lines of text.

Real estate agents are allowed to get wordy and to sprinkle their emails with some pictures. Home buyers generally expect a thorough description of a property and will reward emails with about 35 lines of text with the highest click-through rates.

Some businesses can even get away with loading their emails with pictures. "Image-heavy emails can be appropriate for some businesses," like salons, spas and restaurants, said Harriott. Those businesses score the best click-through rates when customers get to feast their eyes on emails with 15 images.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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