GOOD email marketing is like mastering the 15-second soundbite

May 3rd, 2005


Here’s a startling bit of research, done by EmailLabs and written up in MarketingSherpa, for all of you folks responsible for crafting email campaigns and newsletters:

This [past] fall tens of millions of emails from permission mailers were tested for a brand new metric: actual read time.
Turns out 15-20 seconds was the average. Consider the last email campaign or newsletter you sent. Could a typical reader skim the entire thing, digest the graphics, and decide to click on the best item for them in just 15-20 seconds?

Yes, people. You read that right. The read time of your precious prose is, on average, a lousy 15 seconds… 20 seconds, tops!

You labor so hard over that e-newsletter: spending countless hours writing it, then perfecting it, then testing it, then further refining it… and to what end? The bloody inconsiderate recipient spends a mere 15 seconds absorbing it! How rude!

So, what to do? Email marketers must become masters of the 15-second soundbite. The conventional wisdom in email marketing of short sentences, short paragraphs, placing the call-to-action so it appears above-the-fold in the preview pane, etc. etc. just won’t come close to cutting it any more.

Based on this study, I’ve been totally rethinking how we’re doing our regular “communiques” to our clients & partners. Perhaps we should ditch our current approach of a roughly-monthly, short-and-sharp 400-word e-newsletter? I think we’ll test another approach: where I strive to deliver a single idea or tip that offers real value to the recipient and coaxes that person into engaging in a dialogue with me — within a mere 80 words! (This paragraph, including this parenthetical note, is 80 words.)

Bite-sized chunks of relevant advice, personalized to that individual client’s situation, sent on more regular intervals than our current “communique”… Sound like a plan? (Actually it sounds like an extranet blog, but done less frequently and delivered via email instead of RSS.)