I think that the email overload makes readers extremely selective before bothering to open and respond to email. This problem engendered the spam filtering industry that continues to struggle with separating valid emails from the bottom feeders.
But with the maturation of spam technology, spam programs no longer automatically delete emails that use carefully selected selling copy and offers. ISPs and the associated software have improved performance with algorithms that score each email that now allows strong selling copy.
Pay attention to spam filtering while using proven direct response copy
Direct marketing creative people provide significant abilities in creating effective email. They write teaser copy that gets direct mail opened, first lines in letters that hook the reader and headlines in print advertisements that get the best response rates.
Emailers need to pay attention and use the hard won expertise offered by direct marketers.
The body of knowledge as it relates to effective direct response copy is enormous and readily available. There are a number of direct marketing oriented books as well as experienced direct response copywriters who have seen what works and what doesn't.
In other words, great direct response copy applies to all channels, including email.
Words proven to increase response
You probably already know the winning response words:
If there is an offer associated with the email, then make sure the key benefit is incorporated in your subject line.
A social media maven took exception to this recommendation and wrote the following comment.
Sorry my friend - any one of those words in a subject will make me, and most of the people I know, not to mention their spam filters, bin the email without opening it.
99% of the people who send emails as a marketing tool are following the same hackneyed courses as everyone else who fails.
I believe the above statement does not come from testing but rather a bias from some social media practitioners and other so called specialists who do not live or die based on the results required by the C suite.
Indeed, spam filters are indeed a concern. But the more important vote comes from respondents. And testing shows that these words get past both ISPs and high quality spam filters.
Some test results
A couple of examples demonstrate how direct response "spam" words left response.
The Tumbleweed Tiny House Company test their emails regularly. Here are a couple split tests they’ve done on the subject line.
Using the word free in upper case:
Winning subject: “It’s FREE. All the tiny houses on our site and more”
(26% more opens)
Losing subject: “It features all the houses on our website plus more…”
Putting the subject line in all Upper Case:
Winning subject: “SOLAR LIVING GOES TINY”
(18% more opens)
Losing subject: “Solar Living Goes Tiny”
Digital versus the printed word
Powerful response copy techniques do not change just because the channel is electronic versus print.
Direct response words are indeed used a lot. And for good reason -- they work. So do not base copy decisions on what non-direct marketers say. Better to rely on actual A/B split test results.
People are still people and they have the same motivating needs, desires and aspirations as they did 50 years ago or 2,000 years ago. These include, among other things, a need for financial security, good health and a fear of loss.
Bear in mind that if increasing sales is the objective for a given campaign, then open rates are only part of the success picture.
The bottom line
After taking all into account, remember to evaluate email looking at open rates, but not at the expense of the real success criteria -- responses to the offer.