Writing e-mail messages: what do you want to achieve?

I just received an e-mail message a few minutes ago which hit my irritation button. Everyone has their pet peeves. One of mine is wasting my time with e-mail. The sender, whom I know, runs a trade fair that I am moderately interested in. So when I saw the address in the incoming mail, I decided to check the message:

XXXX Airshow: an exhibition where aircraft are sold!

Not exactly the strongest headline I’d ever seen. But I am interested and continued:

– FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE –

XXXX AirShow 2011: International Exhibition of General Aviation

– Press Release- June 30th, 2011

Please find enclosed the June 30th Press Release for the XXXX AirShow 2011.

To this was attached a Word document containing the event’s facts and figures, but also a non-clickable URL. Argh! I don’t know where to start with how wrong this is. But ultimately, I wonder what they were trying to achieve.

As I run websites, I often use news items. So why not simply paste the actual news in the message body? I could then read it quickly, see if I’m interested, cut’n paste if necessary and post to the site. Why use a separate Word document without letting me know what it contains?  Something tells me their open rates are pretty low.

Remember that increasing numbers of people are mobile and might be paying international roaming rates to download something which could be either text-based or on a site.

Mail shots: focus on the click

The same principle applies when you are copywriting and sending e-mail shots. You have to live with the fact that e-mail messages do not sell products or services. They serve to prepare me for the sales pitch. They act as a qualifier, and should provide just enough information to allow me to decide if I want to click through. That is it. Graphics are nice. The copy can be cute. But keep it short and simple if you want my click. And remember to let people know what to expect. At over 100 e-mails per day, most businesspeople don’t have much time for teasers.

Applying these principles can kick up e-mail click-through rates substantially.

Now, how about a little experiment? Every time you click through from an e-mail message this week, go back to it later and ask yourself what clinched it for you. Why did you bother in this case? You’ll probably be surprised how concise and effective the good e-mails really are.

Are there any tips you can pass on for writing e-mails, or insights into what happens when they arrive in your inbox?