Creatively speaking, emails live or die based on three key elements: the subject line, body copy and call to action. Each represents a critical “go -no go” point for the reader.
Getting those elements right has never been more important – or more difficult.
Today, the majority of emails are read on mobile devices, which means marketers have less physical space available to convey their message. And today, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the human attention span has dropped below that of a goldfish, which makes engaging our audience a challenge.
So what’s the best way to create emails that don’t get skipped, or worse, trashed?
You need to give each of those three critical elements an extra advantage. You should approach them not just like a marketer, eager to deliver your message, but also like a social scientist, acutely aware of the whims of human behavior.
Tap into the Common Decision-Making Shortcuts Your Target Relies on
Social scientists and behavioral economists have well documented the fact that people don’t always behave in the most rational ways. In fact, very often they default to decision-making shortcuts – automatic, reflexive responses.
According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, “up to 95% of decision making takes place in the subconscious mind.”
In other words, people don’t consciously consider the emails you send them. Whether they open and read them has less to do with whether it’d be beneficial for them to do so, and more to do with the simple fact that your target is human.
However, this doesn’t have to pose the problem it may seem to.
If email marketers factor in the decision-making shortcuts of our targets, it can actually work in our favor. If we know the decision someone is likely to default to given a certain situation, email marketers need only create that situation.
Step 1: How to Craft a Powerful Subject Line
For example, social scientists have found that people are very motivated by scarcity. When something is only available to a certain group of people, or only available for a certain amount of time, people often want it more. Humans automatically place increased value on things that are limited.
So write your email subject lines to leverage the Principle of Scarcity. Stress exclusivity (just for certain people, including you) or urgency (just for a limited time).
Include an expiration date, make an email only offer, or a flag that your message is exclusively for members of a particular group.
According to a recent Worldata study, B2B emails with a date in the subject line generate a 34% higher open rate. Email only offers generate a 14% higher average open rate. And subject lines using the word “exclusive” get an 18% increase in open rates.
Step 2: How to Make Sure They Keep Reading
Once someone opens your email, the challenge is to make sure they engage. One of the biggest problems email marketers face is that our targets quickly glance at the email content and decide that what we’re offering is not for them.
Fortunately, there is a way to overcome this. And it involves Availability Bias.
Social scientists have found that people will judge the likelihood of something happening based on how easily they can recall an instance of it (how “available” that information is to them).
For example, because the news only reports plane crashes and not the many, many safe landings that happen every day, when asked most people estimate that far more travelers die in plane crashes than actually do.
So how do you use Availability Bias in your emails?
Get your target to remember a time when your product or service would’ve come in handy for them, or to imagine a time in the future when they could use it. Once they’ve done that – judged the likelihood they’ll need what you’re selling – then you can ask them to buy it and expect better results.
For example, prompt your target to recall someone they know that was temporarily disabled before you ask them to buy disability insurance. With the idea of how easily this could happen to them (since it happened to someone they know), they’ll be more receptive to your message.
Step 3: How to Structure Your Call to Action
The final key element of your email is your call to action (CTA). If your target doesn’t click that button as they read your email, there’s a very good chance they never will.
That’s why you want to carefully consider how you structure your CTA. Don’t settle for a hastily written “learn more” or “submit.” Instead, put your CTA in the best possible light using Framing. Social scientists have proven that the way information is presented, or framed, influences how people react to it.
One of my favorite examples is for a theater. They were raising funds to renovate. But instead of a button that said “donate now,” it said “Support restroom renovations at A.R.T.” They framed the donation as something that would address a specific pain point that people who went to that theater had: the restrooms were really outdated.
The truth is, there are many other decision-making shortcuts you can trigger in your emails. The important thing to remember is to apply them in these critical areas: your subject line, body copy and CTA. That’s where they’ll have the most impact.
And that’s how you’ll create emails that your target finds irresistible.
Want to learn more? Don’t miss your chance to see Nancy Harhut speak at LeadsCon New York and B2B LeadsCon in August. Register by July 29th for advanced pricing. Register now!