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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

How to Get Your Broadcast Emails Read

Last week, FEI sales leader Zoot gave young salesman Ganymede tips for creating customized post-sales-call communications. This week, we join Marka and her apprentice Lucy for their discussion on creating a broadcast email headline that stands out from the clutter. Remember, fire = print.

Marka entered Lucy’s office to find the marketing apprentice in a sad mode and gorging herself on lamb casserole. “What’s wrong?” Marka asked, keeping a safe distance so Lucy wouldn’t accidentally gnaw on her arm.

Embarrassed, Lucy put a lid on her remaining casserole and slid it under her desk. “I was just reviewing FEI’s latest broadcast email stats. The open and click-thru rates are terrible. Lately, our emails haven’t been getting attention.

“You know, I read somewhere that the average professional receives more than 100 emails a day. How the heck are we supposed to stand out from all that clutter?” she lamented.

“When prospects see our email, they usually only take a couple of seconds before deciding to read on or delete it,” Marka said. “And with so many emails tumbling into our prospects’ inboxes, grabbing attention with the subject line is more important than ever. What was the latest email’s subject line again?”

“‘FEI’s ZX10 Model Torches are Good for Businesses,’” Lucy admitted sheepishly.

“That’s a stinker,” Marka said.

“I know it’s not good,” Lucy agreed. “I was in a hurry. I figured it was just one line.”

“One very important line,” Marka corrected. “Most advertising experts agree that the subject line is the most important written component of a broadcast email, or any other advertisement. According to advertising pioneer Org Ogilvy, on average, five times as many people read an ad’s headline as read the body copy. An email’s subject line is our first impression, and must convince busy prospects that our message is worth their valuable time.”

“And how do we convince them of that?” Lucy asked.

“Employing the Four U’s principle—a time-tested formula for writing effective headlines—can help,” Marka answered, as she grabbed a piece of coal and started scribbling on the whiteboard in Lucy’s office.

The Four U’s formula for effective headline writing:

  • Useful: Is the promised message valuable to the reader?
  • Ultra-specific: Does the reader know what’s being promised?
  • Unique: Is the promised message compelling and remarkable?
  • Urgent: Does the reader feel the need to read the full message now?

“Subject lines that employ the Four U’s are more likely to get your emails read,” Marka explained. “This proven headline writing technique is practically as old as Prometheus. But there’s a reason we still talk about it—it works!”

“Let’s rewrite your old headline using the Four U’s,” Marka said. “Now, the ZX10 is actually an impressive new product of ours. It’s about 20 percent more fuel-efficient than any competing torch. Try turning that feature into a compelling benefit, then craft the subject line around it.”

Lucy grabbed a piece of coal and scribbled a bit on the whiteboard. Finally, after a few minutes, she showed Marka her headline:

Mid-Winter Special: Save 12 Percent on Your Next Heating Bill with FEI’s New ZX10 Torches

“Not bad!” Marka enthused, pleased with her protégé’s quick progress. “Let’s determine how this subject line ranks on each of the Four U’s. First, is the message useful? Yes—few things are more useful to our prospects than something that can save them money. Ultra-specific? Yes. ‘Save 12 Percent on Your Next Heating Bill’ tells readers exactly what’s being promised and why they should read on.

“How about unique?” Marka continued. “Yes again—few single products can potentially save a business that much money. Urgent? Yep. Phrases like “new,” “next” and “special” (as a noun) instill urgency in the reader.”

“Thanks for all your help,” said a grateful Lucy. A week later, she sent the same email to a different list, with the new subject line. Open rates and click-thrus increased tenfold from the last email.

Lucy noticed that several recipients had even clicked on the “Buy Now” button and ended up ordering the new torches. The new subject line had not only driven more prospects to read the email, it had helped inspire action.

FIRE! Point
With so many emails tumbling into your prospects’ inboxes, grabbing their attention in the subject line is more important than ever. The Four U’s principle—a time-tested formula for writing effective headlines—can help your email get read. When writing an email subject line, ensure it is useful, unique, ultra-specific and urgent.

FIRE! in Action: Headlines Matter
Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is one of the most popular motivational books in history, having sold more than 15 million copies. This book’s title is a prime example of a headline that delivers on the Four U’s, which has likely helped it sell so well for the past 85 years.

Next week: Marka gives Lucy some tips on creating killer landing pages for email and other promotions.

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