Learning from the Mistakes of Others

A couple of weeks ago, a Reddit user posted an email template that was mistakenly sent out by Amazon. The complete story of course is unknown, but it appears that someone on Amazon’s marketing team mistakenly sent out the template before completing the email.
The post went crazy with over 75K upvotes. If you haven’t seen the template – here it is…

It’s not often that we get insight like this from the leader in the market, so it’s a great opportunity to analyze it and recognize the value of this leaked template. If we’re being honest, every marketing team can benefit from following this template’s simple instructions.

Breaking it all down…

The Image Attracts

The recipient’s focus will immediately gravitate to the photo at the top of the email. The image should be noticeable and attention-grabbing with bright and attractive colors. But, as you’ll notice in the template above, the image should not overwhelm the reader.

A 600 x 200 image is the perfect size for achieving this goal. Placing the image at the top of the email allows the reader’s focus to start there before moving to the headline (which is still visible on most devices before scrolling down).

The Headline Is To The Point

A headline must not be too long, but it has to summarize the purpose of the email. This is the most valuable part of the entire email. According to advertising legend David Ogilvy one should spend 80% of their time and effort on the headline. The headline will determine whether the reader continues to read the rest of the email or merely hits ‘delete’.

A good headline are difficult. As the template states, the headline must summarize why this email is important. Why should your reader keep reading? What is in it for them? What do they stand to gain?

These are all questions that are necessary to answer in order to create a successful headline.

The Words Flow

The content in the email template are not Amazon’s own creation. These words come from the writer Gary Provost, author of the book “Make Every Word Count.” He understood that combining short and long sentences created a melody of words that would keep readers reading.

Here are the same three paragraphs as above, this time highlighted in colors. The colors represent the length of the sentences — blue being five words, orange being two words or less, green representing four words or less, yellow representing medium-length sentences, and magenta representing long sentences. Look at how the colors of each paragraph change the rhythm and flow of the words:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals-sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.

-Gary Provost

Your Call to Action Needs to Provoke a Specific Response

The call to action (CTA), must provoke a visceral response from your reader. Your reader should feel that they have to click on whatever you are selling or telling them. They must be intrigued, and they feel the tension that they will miss out on something important if they fail to click on that CTA.

It sounds obvious, but it’s truly shocking how many companies (large and small) forget this rule. Time and time again, I admit as I write this that occasionally I still write emails or campaigns that just say something as bland as “click here,” and that will never work.

Have you ever clicked on a button at the bottom of a marketing email that says “click here,”? I somehow doubt that I ever have. The CTA needs to invoke an urge to act. The reader sees the words and feels that they must click on the link or miss out completely.

On their blog, the conversion specialists at Sumo compiled a list of A/B tested CTAs used by many companies. Some of the best examples: the The Catch and the Hatch uses “Become an Epic Angler,” and Sumo’s own site changed their “SIGN UP” button to “GIMME” and got a 182% increase in conversions, Others, like Unbounce, made it personal by changing one simple word – from “Start YOUR 30 day Trial” to Start MY 30 day Trial” and got a 90% increase in CTR.

The point is this: Get Creative. What do your readers expect to see? What are their interests? If your click through rates are low or dropping, it’s probably time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.