They say that you only get one chance at a first impression - and that couldn’t be more true when it comes to email introductions. In fact, the average email user is 80% more likely to unsubscribe and/or not open any follow up emails if the introductory email isn’t “up to snuff.” On the other hand, email campaigns with a successful email introduction (an open rate around the industry average 5-15%) tend to have their follow up emails opened 23% more. So you can see the potential performance increase we’re talking about when we say that email introductions matter.
‘Cause ooh boy...do they matter.
A successful email introduction - like any real conversation - can set the tone for a fantastic business relationship that both benefits and delights the user. A bad one, can leave you left unread in the inbox or - worse - marked as spam and flagged as a suspicious email account.
The reason email introductions are so important is because the average email reader only spends 8 seconds reading any given email. That means you have only seconds to clearly explain to your audience who you are, how they came to be a part of your email list, and what they can expect from your incoming email(s).
You can bet that the pressure is on.
You have quite a few boxes to check when it comes to your introductory email. For starters you need to clearly answer the questions I listed in the paragraph above.
On top of that, you need to establish the theme of your email sequence for the sake of consistency, familiarity, and - most of all - user delight.
“You should [...] take this chance to set the tone for your email campaign. When it comes to creating a delightful email experience in your user’s inbox, your [email introduction] is one of the best opportunities to focus on bright and memorable creative and clever branding while not being bogged down by too much copy or sales-focused offers.”
With all of these vital components needed in such a short timespan, making sure you optimize the design of your emails to prioritize above-fold content is key.
If you’re not familiar with the term ‘above-fold,’ it refers to what the user can see on his/her screen without having to scroll at all. Above-fold content is often read 29% more than content/copy that the user has to scroll to find - even in emails.
Ideally, you want to make sure that all of your vital email information is easily visible without them having to scroll or click anything - completely “above the fold.”
Speaking of the “vital components” of your introductory email, let’s take a moment to discuss which bits of information are essential and which are more fluff and style than anything else.
We’ll be keeping those three primary points of interests that I’ve mentioned twice already as the most vital components of your email introduction. But what else do you need? Well, let’s take a look at some examples to get a better idea of what we need and how best to get it above the fold in your emails.
Now, this email wasn’t performing poorly, per se. But it was hardly hitting it out of the park.
This email sequence’s original goal was to win opportunities to write guest posts for similar blogs on related topics to the digital marketing business. However, because of the less-than-memorable email design, the campaign was only generating about an 8% response rate. Which - like I said - isn’t half bad. In fact, it’s about industry average - as a usual guest blogging campaign can expect somewhere from 5-15% response rates.
The issue was that with the size of the email audience at hand - the campaign was sending about 25 cold emails a week - the 8% response rate only meant 2-3 potential guest posts every week. The return simply wasn’t coming in.
And, because of the lackluster introductory email, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th follow up emails in the sequence ended up performing even worse - with the response rate dropping off to a complete 0% by just the 3rd email!
It was odd - because if you look through the email you’ll find all the “vital components” there. But this simply doesn’t come across as a conversation. It’s templatized, it’s sterile, it’s a list - it’s simply unpleasant. And that’s not what you want as your email recipient’s first impression of your brand.
So let’s take a look at how I was able to optimize this email sequence for a more personable approach. And how it took that measly 8% response rate to a whopping 34% (on the first email alone) - and a final response rate of 64% through a cold, four email follow up sequence!
It’s one of the greatest quotes I’ve ever heard when it comes to email marketing - and I’ll keep quoting it as long as I keep sending emails:
“Here’s the thing. You don’t want more emails yet you presume your customer wants more emails because email is the number one tool businesses use to communicate with their customers. Why do you think they wanna read your email? They don’t. Unless your email is designed and written in a way to spark curiosity, to get their attention, to provide value, to drive them to act.”
Ain't that the truth.
We all hate combing through our inboxes. Yet we never take the time to savor the seconds we spend in our user’s inbox. And then we’re shocked when they don’t respond with elation to our recent emails.
Instead we try to beat around the bush and sneak our offers into the copy at the bottom of our emails - afraid we’re being “too salesy” or too aggressive for non-product focused eCommerce emails.
Don’t be afraid to be direct with what you want. If you’ve built your business with the right focus in mind, your goal will be to provide as much value to your users as possible.
So be direct - and transparent - about what your email is offering and how it will help your user.
And when it comes to being direct, I like to rely on the “big five” of simple and direct email communication:
Now, as I mentioned earlier, having all the vital components of an email isn’t enough. You need to know how to present the “big five” in an efficient and delightful way if you want to make your email introduction count:
As you can see, I was able to make some significant changes to the original email sequence in order to optimize its performance. And even though it’s the same email, with the same content, and the same “big five,” you can tell that it’s far from the same first impression.
In the interest of being direct, there’s a little email tactic I picked up from Brian Dean a few years back that I’ve found is incredibly useful in all of my digital copywriting efforts to this day.
He calls it “The Because Sentence.”
It sounds simple. And it really is. But this little change has proven its worth time and time again in some serious campaign optimizations across the board.
All you do is write a sentence starting with “I’m writing you this email because…”
And that’s it.
Those 8 words alone when isolated in a single sentence paragraph and placed above the fold can make all the difference in the world for your email performance. Quite simply, it’s the most direct value proposition you can put in front of your email recipient - it clearly demonstrates what you want out of the exchange and what you’re offering, and shows that you’re direct and serious about the interaction.
And the tactic can be applied to more than just email. Any time you want to clearly convey the reason or value behind an action, statement, or product.
Using the word “because” activates a simple causal relationship in most readers’ minds that peaks their attention.
You should always be using a “because sentence” in any cold welcome email, as it’s the safest way to guarantee you communicate your most important value points in the introductory email.
Relying on the big five and a strong “because sentence” should set you down the path of clear and effective email communication, which is the backbone of any successful email marketing campaign.
Now that you know how to master your introductory email, it’s time to talk about what happens after the initial interaction.
They call it “give and take.”
And in a commonplace conversation it’s considered common courtesy.
So why not in email?
It never really made sense to me either. Which is why the first ever email sequence I ever built already had response based segmentation built into it. I just figured - “of course everyone isn’t going to respond the same way, so I should have different responses ready for each type of response they have, that way I can adapt the email sequence to what they’re really looking for.”
It seems like another obvious observation, but so many of the most powerful and impactful digital marketing strategies are just that: implementing those simplest and purest forms of earnest human-to-human communication back into the advanced digital campaigns of our technologically integrated lives.
And to those of you who say that taking the time to create a conditional logic flow or an segmented email follow up isn’t worth the investment, I’ll just have you know that this little “give and take” was the final push that took the original email campaign from a 34% response rate to a final 64% total response rate.
And I’d say more than half of all of your cold emails generating a positive response is most definitely worth the investment.
I mentioned it at the very beginning of the blog post for a good reason. You only have 8 seconds to grab and hold the attention of your readers once you enter their inbox.
This means that you only have those three seconds to communicate everything you have to offer to a nearly complete stranger. And if that’s all the time you have, you need to make sure that every inch of your email is efficiently designed to deliver that message clearly, directly, and quickly.
Make your first impression matter and start making more out of your email introductions today.
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