Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Don't get deleted, write for skimmers

Are your emails written for skimmers?

Skimming isn't about reading quickly. Being a skimmer means you're just looking for the key points and ignoring the rest. Skimmers love a good contents page, a short abstract and quick-fire humour. They struggle with ring-bound reports, jokes that take ten minutes to get to the punchline, and novels by Henry James.

So what's my point...? The first thing email recipients skim is the inbox.

In a survey of US email users conducted by the ESPC, 80% said they report spam or delete emails without opening. 73% make that decision based on the 'from' name and 69% based on the 'subject' line.

In other words, a quick skim of the inbox is enough for most people to decide whether to delete or open.

Which means your 'from' name should be transparent, consistent and meaningful outside of your organisation. I still see plenty of genuine emails coming from 'Customer Service' or 'Sales Office' which sadly makes them indistinguishable from spam.

As for subject lines - the best practice advice is to test, test, test. Different audiences respond to different subject line strategies. And it sounds obvious, but keep an eye on subject lines currently being used by spammers and try not to look like them.

In the next eTips: making the body of your email skimmer-friendly.

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