A Surefire Way to Get Your Email Queries and Promotions Read

If you're mounting an email marketing campaign or using email to contact potential clients, you must avoid a common mistake that many DM copywriters make: ignoring the importance of the email Subject line.

The Subject line is just as important as your envelope teaser. And you should treat it almost the same way … with one huge difference.

Like envelope teaser copy, the Subject line has to be compelling. But unlike a teaser, it has to get through THREE layers of scrutiny before your letter gets read.

The First Layer

The first inspection your email goes through happens before it even arrives at your prospect's computer. Because it has to make it past one or more spam filters.

There's no denying spam is a huge problem. (Not the canned meat product … but the indiscriminate emailing of millions of solicitations to anyone and everyone in hopes that a small fraction of them will respond.)

In order to reduce the amount of spam that reaches their customers, many Internet Service Providers put a spam filter on their servers. These filters remove email that looks like spam before it's delivered. So if you want your legitimate, targeted email sales package to get by this first layer of scrutiny, you MUST avoid doing anything that will catch the attention of these filters.

Here's how to avoid most filter triggers:

  1. Make sure your "From" or "Reply to" field has a legitimate address.

    Usually, your email software puts this in automatically, but you may have turned it off. Send yourself an email and see if it has your return address in the "From" or "Reply to" field. If it doesn't, go into your email Properties (Windows) or Preferences (Mac) and turn it back on.

  2. Keep your Subject line field simple … but not blank.
    • Don't use all capitalized words.
    • Don't use exclamation points or question marks.
    • Don't use words and phrases that are commonly used by spammers. For example, instead of saying "Lose Weight Easily," say "10 Ways to Keep Fit."
  3. Don't use numbers in your email address on the username side of the @ sign.

    JoeSmith1234@your_isp.com is not a good email address. It looks like it might contain the tracking code some spammers use. If possible, change your email address to one that has fewer or no numbers in it – like JoeSmith56@your_isp.com or, better yet, JoeSmith_writer@your_isp.com.

  4. Use care with HTML or backgrounds in the text of your email.

    If you can specify the font, size, and color of the type used in your email, you are using HTML. Spammers often use HTML, so it's best to use plain text (if possible). To do this in Outlook, simply click on the word "Format" in your "New Message" window and be sure that "Plain Text" is the selected format. Spammers also frequently use bright or dark backgrounds and colored text. Your message may look like spam if it’s not written in black type on a white background.

  5. Don't use spammer language in your copy.

    Words and phrases that are commonly used by spammers include the names of popular prescription drugs; the letters XXX; any mention of mortgages or the enlargement of certain body parts, and the words "insurance," "diploma," "free," and (believe it or not) "spam," as in "This message is not spam."

The Second Layer

The next layer of scrutiny your email goes through is the recipient's email software. Many of the newer email programs label suspicious email as "Junk" or "Spam" or move it automatically to a Junk Mail folder. These user software filters base their decisions on many of the same triggers that the server software uses.

Another thing that triggers these filters is a spamlike sender's name. Some of the names currently in my Junk Mail folder include Sexy Girls, Liveliness, Casting Agent, and True Beginnings. The way to avoid being filtered out is to configure your email software accounts properly. In Outlook Express, go to "Accounts" – and make sure that the account information entered there has your real name.

The Third Layer

The last (and most obvious) layer of scrutiny your email goes through before being read is your prospect.

Your Subject line MUST be compelling if he is going to open the email when he receives it. So, avoid generic, boring words in your Subject line, such as "Offer" or "Query" or "Something Special for You." And, while avoiding spam-filter triggers, follow the 4 U's and make it Unique, Useful, Ultra-specific, and Urgent.

Follow all of the above guidelines and your email campaign has a much better chance of succeeding!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: August 2, 2004

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