What are some easy ways to boost my e-mail results?

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Due to increasingly cluttered inboxes, e-mail responses are down overall. Here are my Top 5 best practices to optimize your e-mail efforts and increase key metrics. Remember, all audiences are different, so always test changes.

1) Make e-mail messages stand out in the preview pane. Most people view their inbox in a preview pane, seeing just the first several inches of e-mails until they scroll down or open it fully. Make sure your offer is clearly conveyed in the preview pane, is branded and includes a link to registration/action. Pay particular attention to the first two or three inches of your e-mail, as this may be all the recipient sees. Limit graphics for better rendering on both PCs and handhelds.

2) Keep the “from” line friendly. This is how your e-mail is identified in the preview pane and people’s inboxes; it should be branded.

3) Write a strong subject line. This is the most important factor determining whether an e-mail is opened. Keep it to 50 characters or less.

4) Pay attention to snippet text. This is simply the first line of the e-mail, above any graphics. It is picked up in a pop-up window and shows in the preview pane. It should give an indication of the content within the e-mail. Include a hyperlink to the offer.

5) Make content easy to scan.People don’t read their e-mail; they scan it. Remember: The average person spends two to five seconds with each e-mail. Write your content in easily scanned chunks or paragraphs with clickable header and footer links to registration. Use bullets when appropriate. Don’t e-mail a novel; keep it to a single page.

Bottom line: You must continually prove to recipients that you understand their interests and that you respect their time. It’s better, for both the health of your database and your response rates, to have fewer e-mails that are well-constructed rather than a lot of e-mails that aren’t effective.

Sarah Welcome is director of customer intelligence for IDG Communications (

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