Try Internet Direct Mail That Works

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Internet direct mail typically generates a response rate between 1 percent and 20 percent. The copy in your e-mail plays a big role in whether your e-marketing message ends up at the bottom or the top of that range. Here are some proven techniques for maximizing the number of e-mail recipients who click through to your Web site or other response mechanism.


• At the beginning of the e-mail, put a "from" line and a subject line. The from line identifies you as the sender if you're e-mailing to your house file. If you're e-mailing to a rented list, the from line should identify the list owner as the sender. This shows the recipient that the e-mail is not spam, but rather a communication from someone with whom they already have an established relationship.


The subject line should be constructed like a short, attention-grabbing, curiosity-arousing outer envelope teaser compelling recipients to read further - without being so blatantly promotional it turns them off.


• In the first paragraph, state the offer and provide an immediate response mechanism, such as clicking on a link connected to a Web page. This appeals to Internet prospects with short attention spans.


• After the first paragraph, present expanded copy that covers the features, benefits, proof and other information the buyer needs to make a decision. This appeals to the prospect who needs more details than a short paragraph can provide.


Despite the fact that "free" is a proven, powerful response booster in traditional direct marketing and that the Internet culture has a bias in favor of free offers rather than paid offers, some e-marketers avoid putting it in the subject line. The reason is the spam filter software some Internet users have installed to screen their e-mail. These filters eliminate incoming e-mail, and many identify any message with "free" in the subject line as promotional.


Some e-marketers think the from line is trivial and unimportant; others have said they think it's critical. Internet copywriter Ivan Levison said, "I often use the word 'team' in the from line. It makes it sound as if there's a group of bright, energetic, enthusiastic people standing behind the product."


• Deliver a miniversion of your complete message right in the first paragraph. Within the first paragraph include your response mechanism: a link to a Web page or form that serves as the response mechanism for the offer.


The offer and response mechanism should be repeated in the close of the


e-mail, but they also should appear at the very beginning. That way, busy Internet users who don't have time to read and only give each e-mail a second or two get the whole story.


A short-form e-mail marketing message may consist only of a few lines or a few paragraphs. If you want more detail, you should still start with a powerful lead that sums up the offer and asks for action. Then you can follow with a series of bullets or short paragraphs that give more details.


John Wright of Internet marketing services firm Media Synergy Inc., Toronto, said that if you put multiple response links within your e-mail message, 95 percent of click-through responses will come from the first two. Therefore, you should probably limit the number of click-through links in your e-mail to three.


• Use wide margins. You don't want to have weird wraps or breaks. Limit yourself to about 55 to 60 characters per line. If you think a line is going to be too long, insert a character return.


• Take it easy on the all-caps. You can use words in all caps but do so carefully. They can be a little hard to read - and in the world of e-mail, all caps give the impression that you're shouting.


• Get the important points across quickly. If you want to offer a lot of product information, add it lower down in your e-mail message. People who need more information should scroll down for it.


• Lead off the message copy with a killer headline. You need to get a terrific benefit right up front. Pretend you're writing envelope teaser copy or are writing a headline for a sales letter.


• In general, short is better. E-mail is a unique environment. Readers quickly sort through a bunch of messages and aren't disposed to stick with you for a long time.


• An opt-out statement prevents flaming from recipients who think they have been spammed. State that your intention is to respect their privacy and make it easy for them to prevent further promotional e-mails from being sent to them. All they have to do is click on reply and type "unsubscribe" or "remove" in the subject line.
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