By Leigh Ashton, co-founder of Sasudi.com

Email open rates are rising again but attention spans continue to fall. How can you engage the reader and help them take action?

It’s not many years ago that email marketing was the next big thing. Then many said it was a spent force. Now? Definitely not a spent force. Email open rates are rising due to the increasing prevalence of smart phones and the cultural shift that sees more and more of us opening our emails on a ‘Martini’ basis – anytime, anywhere!

But your results will very much depend on the quality of the contacts you have on your database and the quality of your email.

Attention spans are decreasing

It might be a little easier now to get your email opened than it was 2 years ago, but open rates still hover around the 20% mark, meaning there are a tremendous amount of messages that don’t see the light of day. There might be more chance these days that your email will be opened – but less chance that they will read all of it! It’s well documented that attention spans are much lower now than even a few years ago.

Firstly, you have to have an extremely powerful subject heading to make your email stand out in that quagmire of marketing messages, otherwise known as the receiver’s inbox!

Once opened, you have 5 to 10 seconds to engage the reader, make an impact, make them want to read the remainder of the email – and ultimately prompt some action on their part.

The psychology of emails

This brings us nicely back to the psychology of selling. If you’re sending your promotional email to hundreds, maybe thousands on your database, how can you write content that is unique and appeals to each and every one?

After all, “everyone has their own unique map of the world”. Every person is different. Everyone is unique. Tough assignment, eh?

The truth is – if you’re sending out a mass email it’s mighty challenging to make everyone of those recipients feel unique. But there are things you can do to make those recipients feel that the email is just for them.

Here’s my take on the language you should be using in your emails – and for that matter your website, written proposals, one to one emails, brochures, pitches and presentations and so on.

‘You’ not ‘We’

Don’t write “we can do this”, “we can do that”, “we are an award winning company” etc. It won’t work. Instead, use lots of ‘You’ (i.e. them) language. For example, instead of “we design great websites”, use “if you’re looking for a great website”. Same message, more impact. They don’t want to hear about how great you are. They want to know how you can help them. Big difference.

“Towards and Away”

Some of your potential customers will be motivated towards goals and challenges. When buying, they focus on what they want! Yet many other potential customers will focus on the obstacles and problems that are getting in their way, these people are motivated away from what they don’t want. Your content should therefore include towards (what they will get) statements and some away (what they will solve, or avoid) statements.

Like or dislike change?

Some of your readers embrace change and are motivated by constant change. Others will dislike change with a vengeance. You need to cover both extremes in your email. So, for those who like change, make sure you mention how different your offering is from what they are currently using. To appeal to those who detest change, you’ll also need to accentuate the commonalities and similarities with the status quo before introducing ‘small’ differences.

Hang on a minute...

You may be asking if having statements and counter statements contained in the same email cancel each other out? No. For example anyone who is motivated ‘away from’ will only home in on the statements designed to appeal to them, and won’t notice those goal-focussed statements at all. Goal focussed statement will pass them by – and vice versa.

Forget you - think them

So, forget your natural tendencies when writing your email and make sure you reflect these language differences. If it’s too challenging to incorporate all of these changes at once, then introduce them one at a time.

Remember too to experiment with subject lines which reflect these differences. Email open rates can change quite dramatically when you, for example, alternate between a ‘towards’ subject line and an ‘away from’ subject line.

As usual there are lots more to say on this subject and if you need to ask any questions then do get in touch.