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Getting your e-mail opened, read

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If your newsletter subscribers are like everyone else in the world, their in-boxes get cluttered during the day. If they don’t open every message as it comes in, unopened e-mails may drop below the in-box fold and off the radar completely. Dave Lewis, VP-alliances and market development at StrongMail Systems, and Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact, provide these tips to get your e-mails opened and read as soon as they come into the in-box.

1) Check your subject line. People open messages they recognize, so it’s important to put your brand name or the newsletter’s name in the subject line. But be careful, Lewis said, because some e-mail programs such as Microsoft’s Outlook let recipients change the subject field’s size, your branding may get truncated without your knowledge. “If your brand is in the last part of the sentence, it’s going to get lost,” he said. “You have to make that brand or title pop by placing it at the beginning of the subject line.”

2) Give them what they want. If a customer opts in for one type of content and you don’t provide that content consistently, that customer isn’t going to bother opening future messages, Goodman said. The fix: Only send content customers request. “It may be tempting to send an all-purpose e-mail to your entire audience regardless of their stated preferences, but established best practices indicate that, from the recipient's viewpoint—the only one that really matters—irrelevancy can easily turn a good permission-based e-mail into spam,” she said.

3) Give messages some urgency. Many of the major content providers have this down already. They give their readers free access for a limited time and then put content behind a paid curtain, which encourages people to read their sites every day. You can do something similar with your newsletter, Lewis said. “If clients know that if they don’t click right away [your content] becomes inaccessible or something they have to pay for, they are going to go right in and see what’s there,” he said. “They realize if they don’t get it right away, they aren’t going to get it at all.”

4) Use your preview pane. Readers only allocate seconds for each e-mail as they are going through their in-box. Make sure they can clearly see who is sending the e-mail and what topics you’re offering up within a limited preview pane, Lewis said. “If this is a standard newsletter that I’ve signed up for, and I can’t see the specific content in the newsletter without scrolling down, that is a true annoyance,” he said. “If you want to engage me, help me make the decision immediately.”

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