March 13, 2006
Blog Entry

Email Copy -- How Brief Can You Possibly Make It? OK, Now Cut It Again

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

Over the past six months, every marketer I've talked to who uses email extensively has told me the exact same thing. So, I'm going to go out on a limb here and call it a trend. Super-short email copy for offers.

I think we all started out thinking that email copywriting was like writing a letter. And for a very few, very special brands (mainly based around an individual) that's still the case. But based on reams of anecdotal evidence across multiple industries, I've gotta say, how short can you cut it?

Fact is, people don't spend more than a few seconds when they open and review email prior to making a clickthrough-or-delete decision. And, from what I can tell, that clickthrough decision sure isn't being made by anyone reading *complete* sentences, sentence after sentence in order.

Our eyetracking studies show the eye skips around more than that. Flick, flick, flick.

Instead of plodding along reading word after word in order, the eye is seeking clues that will allow it to cut-to-the-chase quickly. People want to make that clickthrough-or-delete decision and get on with life.

Alain Tremblay, who's been heading the email team at Bell Canada since before there even was an email team to speak of back in the mid-90s, told me his copywriters have changed the way they write messages.

"Before we would have a descriptive before the link. An example: 'You will find all sorts of good information about your service call answers here, and, remember if you want to get your messages, dial *98.' We found that was just too much information. They just wanted to know where to go and click. Now we just say 'here's the info on message retrieval' and the content is the link."

He continues, "It's obvious the more stuff you put in the email the less people are gonna read it. I sound like a broken record when I say this, but it's keep it short, keep it short, keep it short."

"Back in the old days we thought more than 300 characters sounds like a lot, and right now, we're A LOT less than that."

The idea behind Alain's newer copy (which by the way gets significantly higher click rates) is copy as navigation.

That's right, you're not explaining and informing and detailing and convincing and half-way converting. You're just getting the frigging click and letting the landing page take over from there with the more detailed information.

And now, of course, I've taken up plenty of words to tell you to just use a few. Ah the little ironies of editorial life!

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