Subjects, Subjects, Who’s Got the Subjects …

I’m going to let you in on a little secret — sometimes, I have absolutely no idea what to write about for this blog. In the interest of full disclosure, this is almost always the case. It’s Friday afternoon, I have a semi-blank page, and I can practically hear TM’s editor wondering where my entry is from his office on the other side of the building.

Usually, the light bulb goes off and I remember an interesting test result or think of a creative theme to write about. But once in a while, those “copywriting boogeymen” win, and I have no choice but to wave the white flag. But, I still have to fill my blog space with something. And that’s when I’m going to use other peoples’ creativity and compile it all together to look like my own. (And blabber about it for two paragraphs beforehand.)

And so, here is a rundown of my favorite subject lines to hit my inbox this past month! They are in no particular order.

  • There you are! We’ve been waiting for you.
    —Anthropologie
  • Oh my!
    —com
  • Use code EM623 to get $50 off!
    —FreshDirect
    (Author’s note: I just like the simplicity and directness of the offer.)
  • NoMo Waiting for the Perfect New York Hotel
    —JetSetter
    (Author’s note: I love a good pun.)
  • Carpe diem(s)…2-Day Sale on now!
    —Kohl’s
  • Dad Has Enough Ties … Save 10% on Manly Blooms!
    —The Bouqs Company
  • Hey! It’s me — your $26.99 credit
    —com
  • Sign up ✔ Save ✔ Repeat ✔
    —com
  • What’s Lime Green and Ready to Party?
    —Zillow
  • Get $25
    Peapod
    (Author’s note: Alright, you have my attention! Also — they usually use the from line “Your Friends @ Peapod,” which I like.)
  • Don’t open this email if you don’t like lists of awesome things
    MarketingProfs
  • The DMA is taking over the Northeast
    DMA
  • Up to an Extra 30% Off–There Go Your Excuses
    Groupon
  • Would like to see samples from [Company name]
    —Gold Ink Awards
  • [Watch Now] 50+ Email Marketing Hacks
    —Marketo

And there you have it — a medium-sized handful of cleverness that might just inspire your own. I tried to sift for subjects that weren’t so specific they couldn’t offer any idea for other purposes. Coming up with subject lines can be almost as brutal as … well, as coming up with blog topics.

Hope this helps when you find your own light bulb going a little dim. Have a great week!

A Tale of 3 Speaker Promos

After a little bit of a rant in my last entry, I’m going to reel it in this week with something a little more objective: the stages of one of our virtual event HTMLs, and a simple creative test.

Target Marketing and its sister publications do a number of events each year, both virtual and physical. Often, at least one of our promotional efforts will focus on the lineup of speakers featured at the event.

While we always enlist highly qualified expert speakers for our events, we were finding that these emails didn’t seem to pull in the highest registration numbers. Clearly, a re-design was in order.

Design 1

Design 1 was nice, but it was a little cluttered, a little busy, and didn’t really let our speakers shine. This promotion earned a .5 percent click rate and only 1.2 percent of those who opened actually registered for the event. Not the most effective.

Design 2

For our next round of events, we tried out design 2. We opted for a cleaner design, a little more to-the-point for sure. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to dig up the exact stats on this guy, somehow I let them slip into the void. (Bad marketer, bad!) Suffice it to say, it did a little better than its predecessor, but not by much. Enter re-design number 3….

Design 3

This year, we rolled out design 3. We made a series of improvements this time: we brightened the colors, eliminated the dead space, ix-nayed the pre-amble at the top, and most importantly, we blew up the headshots to make them the undeniable focus of the promotion. You can’t see it here, but we also had each separate headshot linking to the speaker’s bio page.

Just before we dropped the email, a colleague had a thought: why not also include the topic each speaker will cover at the show? Brilliant. We decided to do an A/B test to find out if the extra info would make a difference. Version 1 just listed the usual name/title/company under each speaker, while version 2 listed their session topic in orange.

Overall, this promotion absolutely did better than the ones that came before, even the “losing” version. The results?

Version 1 (no topics) earned a .6 percent click rate and 5.5 percent opens to registration conversion.

Version 2 (with topics) was the winner by a hair, with a .7 percent click rate and 7 percent conversion. A clear victory for the design itself, and another small nudge thanks to giving the recipients a taste of what the speakers would be presenting.

Of course, there’s always room for improvement. I’ve noticed that it isn’t immediately clear exactly what the orange text is referring to– it takes a few extra seconds of scrutiny to make the connection, which as we all know, can be a crucial window of time. Things to adjust for next time.

In the meantime, chalk this one up as a successful evolution. Third time’s a charm!

10 Marketing Clichés I’d Challenge to a Fight if I Met Them in the Street

There you are, minding your own business, when it rounds the corner and rams into you full speed: the copywriting cliché. (It didn’t see you coming because it was too busy looking up the percentage of Americans who rely on a mobile device to complete daily tasks, without which we’d have no idea that mobile is important.)

There you are, minding your own business, when it rounds the corner and rams into you full speed: The copywriting cliché. (It didn’t see you coming because it was too busy looking up the percentage of Americans who rely on a mobile device to complete daily tasks, without which we’d have no idea that mobile is important.)

You’ve seen them ’round these parts before, and to put it mildly, you’re sick of it. Time to put up your dukes.

We’re all guilty. I’m certainly guilty. Lock me up in cliché jail and throw away the key, Copper. In fact when I was looking for ideas for this entry, I Googled “marketing clichés” and Google spat back “About 435,000 results (0.53 seconds).” Even this article is a cliché. But, as the slew of tired and overused concepts and phrases is certainly not static, let’s give my own list a go anyway.

Here are a few gems that make me clench my fists. They’re not really in order, save for No. 1 frosting my cookies the most. Disclaimer: I use some of them — frequently. And a lot of them, we continue to use because they work. But there’s always a tipping point, and for these guys, we’re definitely getting there. Consider this an exercise in self-awareness as much as anything else.

10. The latest and greatest resource for today’s [insert industry professional here]
9. With technology rapidly evolving…
8. “Look who’s talking!” to promote a speaker lineup
7. Mobile/Social media/Online is everywhere these days…
6. Grandiose list boasting — ie: “Build your audience with the bestest file out there … no really, honest … THE.BEST.LIST! Ever.”
5. I know you’re busy, so I’ll only take a minute!
4. Before you leave for the weekend/vacation
3. If you only register for ONE event this year, this is the ONE/A fresh, totally unique event
2. A one-stop shop for all your ________ needs
1. Any variation of “How to Market to Millennials”

This last one I just need to just expand on a tiny bit further. Look, I know. I totally get it. From roughly 1980-2000, people continued to have babies, and those babies continued to grow up, and it’s all very scary and brand new.

There’s all kinds of studies about how differently our brains work or how we think about spending money in an unsteady economy, so on and so forth. It’s only natural to feel like there’s a code to crack or a secret language to learn.

If you Google “market to millennials” you’ll get About 13,000,000 results (0.22 seconds). I’d say the industry has it pretty much on lock. And a good portion of these results will discuss us with the clinical tone of a scientist journaling the behavior a newly discovered species of fruit fly.

It gets to be a little much for those of us under the microscope. I promise, we’re just people. Hath not the millennial eyes? If you prick us, do we not bleed?

But I digress — this is possibly a whole other topic for a whole other entry. Meanwhile, tell me which clichés you avoid like the plague! (It’s a cliché that I used “avoid clichés like the plague,” since every English teacher in America has that poster in their classroom. This blog has been a wild trip to meta-land.)

See ya!

Email Creative That Demands an “I Do”

So my big sister is getting married in July! I’m the maid of honor, which means somewhere along the way I signed up for one wedding planner website or another. Obviously, this means my personal inbox has been overflowing for the last six months with everything from florist promotions to caterers to personalized cufflinks.

So my big sister is getting married in July! I’m the maid of honor, which means somewhere along the way I signed up for one wedding planner website or another. Obviously, this means my personal inbox has been overflowing for the last six months with everything from florist promotions to caterers to personalized cufflinks.

Promotions for pretty much any object or service you could ever even vaguely imagine at a wedding have made their way into my inbox. Half the time I’m too lazy to unsubscribe from all these lists, but it turned out for the best because now I get to focus a blog entry on it!

Thought I’d just give you a little taste of a few bridal-centric emails I thought really caught the bouquet. In the spirit of wedding themes, I’m using an age-old nuptials adage as a guide. To be honest it’s probably going to take a little creative fudging to fit my choices into these categories. Work with me here, planning a wedding is stressful.

SOMETHING OLD
From:
MyGatsby.com
Subj.:
10 Days Only: Enjoy 40% OFF Wedding Invitations
Why it’s an “I Do”: Subject line cuts to the chase and gives a clear time frame to act within. 40% is an appealing offer for anyone shopping around for invitations which, like all things matrimonial, can lighten your purse quite a bit. The email itself has a nice, clean, elegant look as well.

SOMETHING NEW
From:
J. Crew
Subj.:
Exciting wedding news…
Why it’s an “I Do”: Big fan of the ellipsis in subject lines, I fall for them regularly, just can’t handle the suspense. Beautiful HTML design that makes it easy to quickly find your fashions—the full email had a section for the groom and groomsmen too.

SOMETHING BORROWED
From:
www.BellaPictures.com (From line: Nicole Reilly)
Subj.: Touching base about your wedding
Why it’s an “I Do”: First off, this one’s a Something Borrowed because apparently I’ve borrowed my sister’s name and her role in the wedding. News to me! So they get a few points docked for not looking at the “I am the __________ in this wedding” response on whichever form got me added to this list. That said, the subject line, text-based copy, and conversational tone were all on point. It really does feel like this is someone you’ve already chatted with, making their studio more appealing. The casual question about venue in the beginning is a nice personal touch.

SOMETHING BLUE
From:
David’s Bridal
Subj.: Bridesmaids, Get Your Lace On!
Why it’s an “I Do”: When it comes to fashion, sometimes it’s best to let the image do the talking, such is the case here. The few lines of text above and below are just brief and easy-breezy enough to give the extra nudge—plus, of course, a free shipping offer. Not to get all color-psychological on you, but maybe worth noting that pale blue like the shade they chose for this email is by and large considered to be pleasing and calming to the human eye.

Actually, that last one gives me an idea for testing the same copy and creative with varying color schemes. Look out for that in a future post, maybe. As always, feel free to comment if you have more to add about these picks, or if something landed in your inbox you’d like to share.

In the meantime, I’m knee-deep in shower planning and the wedding isn’t until July but I’m already having nightmares about writing my speech. I’m not sure any amount of email marketing analysis can help me there. Wish me luck!

Flash (Sale) AAAHHH!!

Part of me feels like, since I revealed my obsession with song lyrics in my first entry, I can’t keep using it anymore—like that old magician’s rule. But oh well, I found myself way too amusing when I came up with this title so I’m going to get past that.

Part of me feels like, since I revealed my obsession with song lyrics in my first entry, I can’t keep using it anymore—like that old magician’s rule. But oh well, I found myself way too amused when I came up with this title so I’m going to get past that.

Today I’ve got just a quick A/B test result from a (wait for it … you’ll be shocked …) flash sale (gasp!) I did this past summer for our Direct Marketing IQ Bookstore.

We wanted to offer a 24-hour flash sale on some of our popular titles, but the question was how to get the most out of the offer. Would we get a better response by offering a discount on specific titles, or would it work better to simply toss out the discount code and give recipients free reign on what to use it for?

When in doubt, hit the split. We created two very similar HTML promotions, both promoting the flash sale for the same 24-hour period. We gave both the same subject line: “24-HOUR FLASH SALE—The countdown is on!” And of course, each version was deployed at the same time.

Email A offered the discount for three specific titles belonging to the same Boosting Direct Mail Response series. Email B gave a code which could be used on any title in the store produced by Direct Marketing IQ. The coupon codes themselves were slightly different for easy tracking of which email had prompted the purchase.

Any guesses as to which would be the bigger hit?

Get your guesses in now …

Drumroll, please …

  • Email A’s click rate was 1.2 percent; Email B’s was 0.7 percent.
  • Email A earned more than double the number of items sold than Email B.
  • Those sales amounted to Email A bringing in a grand total of $380.77 more than Email B over the 24 hour period.

So, there you have it. Based on these results, folks are much more likely to act immediately on a sale if the options are narrowed down and laid out for them plainly. It’s a test I’d like to try a few more times, but the difference in numbers was pretty significant this time around.

Look for future posts talking wedding emails, memes in email marketing, more fun with subject lines, or whatever else happens to poke me in the side along the way.

My Inbox Knows the Season Better Than the Weather

The famous poet Percy Shelley once wrote, “O wind, if winter comes, can spring and a million emails using flower puns and references to April showers be far behind?”  I’m pretty sure that was the quote anyway. Or it should have been

The famous poet Percy Shelley once wrote, “O wind, if winter comes, can spring and a million emails using flower puns and references to April showers be far behind?” I’m pretty sure that was the quote anyway. Or it should have been.

Ladies and gents, break out your Vivaldi, Spring is officially here! Though the weather here in Philly hasn’t quite gotten the memo, my inbox makes it unmistakably clear. As is the case for any distinct time of year or holiday season, marketers love to use springtime as inspiration for subject lines and creative. Some of them we’ve all seen and used before, but some are as colorful and refreshing as the season itself.

I took a quick peek through my own inbox as well as the trusty Who’s Mailing What! database to find a few stand-out spring-themed promotions. Check out my bouquet of fresh spring pickings, in no particular order. (You can see images of the emails themselves in the media player at right.)

From: Brighton Collectables
Subj.: Adorable Spring Charms
Why I like it: The subject’s straight-forward enough, we get exactly what it says on the tin. Once I opened, it’s the cutesy rhyme and clean but eye-catching pastel “Easter egg” design that had me chirping. In the original email, the egg basket charm actually opened and closed as well.

From: ZOYA
Subj.: Fill Your Easter Basket With ZOYA
Why I like it: Another spin on the “fill your Easter basket” idea, this is another email I just really like the look of. This is definitely my kind of Easter basket, and just looking at the colorful display would tempt any polish fan to stock up on spring shades. And of course, a good coupon code is always hard to resist.

From: FeelGoodStore.Com
Subj.: Never fear a puddle again
Why I like it: This one’s approach to the spring theme is a little more subtle (much like the approach of spring itself if you live in the northeast. Ha.) The creative is simple and nice enough, but it’s the subject line that really made the grade. In the half a second it takes to skim over a subject line, I was certainly intrigued enough to open, wondering why puddles no longer pose any threat to me.

From: IKEA
Subj.: We’ve got #SPRINGFEVER for smart style!
Why I like it: Always love a good hashtag in a subject line, first of all. Second, IKEA knows we have spring cleaning on the mind and they’re taking full advantage. An email like this one, including links to ideas and tips for affordable springtime organization and rejuvenation, could easily spur a reader into action.

From: DogVacay
Subj.: Going on Spring Break? Get $10 Off Pet Sitting.
Why I like it: Here’s another subject line that I think works because it serves as a reminder and an action item—Oh, I did forget to make arrangements for Fluffy next week, good thing I’ve got this link and discount offer right here! The playful, sunny imagery and large, bright CTA button tie it all up with a bowwow.

Honorable Mentions

From: Rejuvenation Lighting & House Parts
Subj.: SAVE 20% ON WINDOWS AND WALLS + 6 ways to spring for green
This email followed up its 20% offer with six green product suggestions such as a green lamp, throw pillow, and tumbler to help get you in the spirit of spring and get you using the offer code. While something of an afterthought in a long subject line, it was an effective way to let the reader “window shop” before diving in.

From: OnlineShoes
Subj.: We can see spring, and it looks amazing
The email itself is a fairly basic design, a pair of sandals and a simple call to action. I’m a fan of this subject line though—catchy, conversational, and got me curious enough to want to take a look at the “sights of spring” inside.

From: Appleseed’s
Subj.: We’re Bringing Spring – Shop Top Styles!
Two rhymes for the price of one! It might be a little bit of a tongue twister, but it’s also short, punchy, and every bit as cheerful and perky as the season. An effective attention-grabber.

Here’s hoping you found a few blossoms of inspiration in some of these, and also that spring is springing a little more dutifully for you than it is for me. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have any good examples to share! And I promise not to desecrate any more classic British poetry in my next entry.

Subject Lines in Sheeps’ Clothing: A Go or a No?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, if not used it yourself: Marketing emails wearing a friendly disguise, boasting “RE:” or “FW:” in their subject lines, usually with a real person’s name in the from line rather than a publication or company name. Obviously, the objective is to give the recipient a sense of familiarity. But is it worth the risks?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, if not used it yourself: Marketing emails wearing a friendly disguise, boasting “RE:” or “FW:” in their subject lines, usually with a real person’s name in the from line rather than a publication or company name.

Obviously, the objective is to give the recipient a sense of familiarity, or curiosity about whether this is a correspondence they were previously involved in, thus hopefully prompting an open.

I can tell you that in my three years copywriting for the Target Marketing Group’s marketing department, I’ve used subjects like these several times, as have most of my colleagues—and to be perfectly honest, we’ve seen impressive results as far as response and conversion rates.

Many marketers feel strongly that this method is simply too dishonest, erring on the devious rather than the clever side of crafty. Integrity and ethics are never negligible factors in what we do, even when a high open rate seems like the most important goal.

After some consideration, our marketing department decided to stash away the “RE”s and “FW”s for a while. Still, I thought I’d check out the stats for a few of these emails, to see if it was at all possible that the benefits outweighed the risks. Here’s what I found at a glance:

Subject 1
Re: Your Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk Registration

Subject 2
Re: 2014 email marketing plans

Subject 3
FW: Reasons to register

Registrants:

340

Registrants:

336

Registrants:

15

Open rate:

28%

Open rate:

18%

Open rate:

21%

Unsubs:

372

Unsubs:

309

Unsubs:

90

Spam Complaints:

6

Spam Complaints:

7

Spam Complaints:

4

The first two examples were used in promotions for free virtual conferences, while the third promoted a paid workshop. You can see that the open rates were rather good, especially the first of the three. You wouldn’t know from the table, but I can tell you that these registration numbers were among the highest of any email in these events’ respective campaigns.

Now for the bad news: Example No. 2 had the highest number of unsubscribers and spam complaints in its campaign by far. Nos. 1 and 3 were not the “winners” in this respect, but certainly too close to the top to be in the clear. We also received a small handful of, shall we say, colorfully phrased (so colorful they’d have been bleeped on network cable) criticisms from offended readers.

So, what’s the conclusion? Does the fact that all of these emails were huge successes purely in terms of conversion mean that a large majority of recipients were fans, or at least not bothered by the tactic? Or are those unsubs, spam complaints, or simply the principle of the thing too significant to handwave?

As of now, I treat them as I treat wasabi: Use sparingly and with extreme caution. I’d love to hear what you think, or if you’ve done some testing with it yourself!

How to Defeat Your Copywriting Boogeymen

If you rely on writing to any extent in your day-to-day, you’ve faced the Big Bad Blank Page, probably at the least convenient time possible. And, if you’re anything like me, it’s never just your cut-and-dry “writer’s block”

Considering the name and nature of my blog, this post was stuck in the “blank page with blinking cursor taunting you” stage for an unforgivably long time. Creative Caffeine? More like Creative Sleepytime Tea.

If you rely on writing to any extent in your day-to-day, you’ve faced the Big Bad Blank Page, probably at the least convenient time possible. And, if you’re anything like me, it’s never just your cut-and-dry “writer’s block.”

In this blog, I’ll cover a range of copywriting-centric topics, including some testing and experimentation with real results from my own marketing endeavors. Hopefully you’ll get struck by a few creative jolts along the way. But for my first entry, why not start from square one: When I can’t even get to the writing part.

When it comes to copywriting, I am my own writer’s block. My three greatest enemies, the boogeymen in the closet that keep my fingers frozen above the keys, are as follows:

  1. I feel like I’m not being original: “There’s nothing new here, Dani, you’re not making the event/product/company sound any more interesting, they’ve read this a million times before.”
  2. I don’t know how to start: The first line is crucial, if it doesn’t shoot off fireworks your reader has already checked out by the second. No pressure though.
  3. What was I even writing about, again? So much focus on items one and two, you forget the objective of the copy in the first place.

As is the case with any creative endeavor, there really is no magic fix other than to just grind on through—and in this case, results from an A/B test can’t help much either.

But here are a few little tricks I’ve found to get the gears turning and the cursor moving:

  • Pretend You’re Emailing a Friend
    I wouldn’t agonize over convincing my sister that watching “Cupcake Wars” will change her life, so why should I when telling readers to come to a webinar? This trick is two-fold: It keeps the tone natural and readable, and it helps to quiet the pesky “originality police” in my head, since it will sound like my own unique voice.
  • Start With a Song Lyric
    Honestly a personal favorite. It’s no lie that music brings us together. If a reader recognizes a reference, you’ll have their attention—and if you get them humming a familiar song, your copy will automatically stick with them. Recently I used the subject line “All you need is love … and a great direct mail piece,” and I was rewarded with a flood of positive comments and a stellar open rate.
  • Or Any Pop Culture Reference, Really
    They make me open my emails, at least. (Stick with this blog: I’ll be testing some of these, if you don’t want to just take my word for it.)
  • Get a Little Personal
    Talk about yourself! Promoting a report on social media trends? Start with a line or two about how the information will help you tweet your way to glory. When promotion is genuine and personable, it comes through.
  • Start From the Middle
    A good way to get over “if the first line sucks what’s the point”-phobia. Start with whatever you’ve got; nine times out of 10, something catchy will hit you midway through.
  • STOP THINKING SO HARD!!!
    Sorry for yelling. But it’s important. I need this reminder constantly, and often giving myself permission to just shut up and write the [bleep]ing thing is enough for a breakthrough.

Hopefully one of these nuggets helps you through a future hitch. (If you’ve heard it all before and I just wasted ten minutes of your life … well, you kept reading buddy, so joke’s on you.)

Got any little tricks or suggestions you use when the creative juices just aren’t flowing? Hit up the comments section, I could always use more. Hope to see you here again in two weeks!