Last updated: Catching goldfish: Create the best emails with these 7 tips

Catching goldfish: Create the best emails with these 7 tips


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No, email marketing isn’t dead. Nevertheless, an email should be perfectly devised if you want to get noticed and take the customer experience to a whole new level. It’s a matter of seconds before the consumer decides whether or not your message is worth reading. How do you make sure your email is not sent straight to the thrash can?

It was global news: Due to using mobile devices and social media, humans may just have a shorter attention span than goldfish. In the year 2000, we were still able to pay undivided attention on a task for an average of 12 seconds. Nowadays we lose interest after just 8 seconds.

An attention span of 9 seconds even puts the goldfish one step ahead of us. This is a funny ‘fact’ eagerly used by marketers, but according to experts, this claim is in fact not based on anything.

Bored faster
There are – however – clues that change our ability to concentrate when using new technology. American researchers concluded that thanks to the instant satisfaction provided by smartphones, we indeed have a shorter attention span and get bored more quickly. Another study demonstrates that intros of pop songs have become much shorter since the Eighties, as short intros immediately grab your attention.

Are you still there? Good. A marketer should master the art of exciting the target group and inciting action, as well as realising a unique customer experience. Email marketing is still an effective means for this, but always keep in mind the attention span. Here are 7 practical tips:

1. The subject makes or breaks an email
The most important part of your email is the subject line. The content of your email may be great, but the few words in this line determine whether or not your email will be read. So take the time to think of a ‘clickable’ subject line. Several pointers:

  • Be as concrete as possible. It should at first glance be clear what reading the email would provide. What’s in it for me?
  • Do not give away everything at once, but make the reader curious about your messages’ content.
  • Never make promises that you cannot keep and avoid superlatives, as the receiver of your message will definitely see your mail as spam.
  • Ensure that the receiver feels special and create a sense of urgency, for example by means of a temporary offer.
  • Use relevant data, figures or percentages in the subject line to get your email noticed.

2. Add a personal touch to your email
Personalized emails have better results. Send the email at a time when the receiver frequently opens messages, or adapt the content to the users’ web visit. Each and every bit of data can be used for segmenting your target group and personalising your text or image.

3. Mobile first is an absolute must
More than half of the emails is initially read on a mobile device. So it is crucial that your emails are responsively designed and are optimally utilized on as many devices as possible, and in different email services. This is a matter of testing. Some good advice is to first send each email to a select group of employees. Also ensure that any buttons are large enough to press.

4. Structure, clear use of language and short sentences
Reading an email should be easy. Avoid long, complicated sentences and do not use difficult terminology. Short sentences are easier and more legible. If the receiver only reads the beginning of your message, it would be a shame to state your main news at the bottom of the email. Use a clear structure, and include several lists.

5. Entertain receiver with interactive content
You may certainly present a commercial message attractively. An effective image, an impressive gif, a video, poll, or even a game can make your email stand out. This kind of content takes longer to load, so you should not include important text in images. The reader might just click away your message without even seeing the text.

Exemplary gif:
Caption: Subtle and full of repressed tension. Cable network A&E used a gif to promote the Bates Motel thriller series, based on the movie Psycho.

6. Clear call to action and qualitative follow-up
Do your emails meet all these requirements? With some luck, a large part of the receivers may open and read them. You should make sure there is a clear call to action, such as a button linking to a video, product page or offer. Long loading times, average content or intrusive commercials merely cancel out all your hard work.

7. Experiment and find your success formula
Dozens of factors determine your email campaigns’ popularity, including your tone of voice, image style and time of sending. You will find out what works best by experimenting. You could test two variations of the same message on a small section of your database, and send the best performing version to the remaining ones (A/B testing).

It starts with data analysis

Your campaigns’ success stands or falls by how well you know your target group. The more you custom serve your customers and prospects, the greater the chance that they will read your emails and take action.

Which services or products have your customers purchased in the past? What are they currently searching for? What are their future needs? Similar questions are answered by collecting as much data as possible, for instance via your website, social media and customer service.

This data, as well as the right marketing software – can be used to compose dynamic customer profiles. These profiles reveal new insights into customer behavior and requirements, making it easier to predict which emails result in the highest conversion for your target group.

AI will also play a large role in email marketing. Smart algorithms determine who should receive a certain message for maximum impact.

Email marketing may perhaps not be an exact science, but fine-tuning your emails and data analysis surely gets us close enough.

Old direct-to-consumer marketing playbooks don’t work today.
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