Email invitations are standard operating procedure for corporate events these days. But even seasoned pros will admit that keeping electronic messages out of the electronic trash is becoming a greater challenge.
1. Keep The Subject Line Clear. Avoid the temptation to use a teaser. Your recipients should be able to tell what the email is about without having to figure it out. And subject lines should never be misleading.
Even more important: Keep it brief says Ben Rothfeld director of strategy at Acxiom Digital a Little Rock AR-based provider of online marketing services. Rothfeld suggests using the event topic and date—something along the lines of Demo XCorp Accounting Software January 8. “It’s not exactly melodious but it gets the job done ” he says.
If your invitees know your company by name include that in the subject line.
“When our audience knows it’s from Volvo they will open it ” says Pamela Messer marketing assistant in the event department of Volvo Construction Equipment.
2. Avoid Spam Terms. ProQuest a provider of publishing information used ProQuest at ALA Midwinter Meeting as the subject line for an invite to a trade show last month. “We stopped doing subject lines like Special Offer for Attendees or even You’re Invited because they were getting blocked ” says Ann Curtis the company’s exhibit and event manager.
3. Use A Name. The subject line isn’t the only field that can trigger spam filters—or cause recipients to hit delete. Don’t forget the “from” line warns Melissa Andrade corporate communications manager for Visteon. When the automotive components manufacturer started using actual people’s names response rates went up fourfold she says.
4. Write It Right. Rothfeld suggests writing the body of the email as though it’s a newspaper article. That means starting with—and focusing on—the who what when where why and how. The why should be a clear benefit such as “learn a new skill ” “meet interesting people” or “see a new product.”
5. Consider Design. The email’s layout is important even for messages that are all-text. Because people tend to scan—rather than actually read—email it’s wise to use bullet points rather than long text passages and the design should include enough white space to ensure easy readability.
Don’t overdo the graphics. “Too much color or too many images can be distracting plus it takes longer to download ” says Rothfeld. Plus many spam filters automatically reject graphics-heavy messages.
Rothfeld suggests just one or two well chosen images and he advises against using stock images. “If it’s not relevant or fresh there isn’t much of a reason to include it ” he says.
6. Embed Value. Gartner’s worldwide event team has learned that response rates for emails with useful embedded information—links to research findings podcasts video or analyst interviews—are generally four to six points higher than for messages that simply announce an event.
One interesting result of this approach is that 50 percent of the resulting activity happens two weeks after distribution according to Jason Brandt the company’s group vp in charge of worldwide event marketing. “They feel there is so much in there that it’s hard to figure out how to archive it or pass it along.”
7. Consider PDAs. New technologies enable even those on PDAs to access the full content of e-invites. “We’re making our messages PDA-enabled—which means full content and visuals on Blackberry [devices] ” Brandt says. Among the results for Gartner: a 20 percent increase in click-throughs and an increase in pass-alongs.
8. Provide Reminders. Gartner has seen its response rate and the resulting registration numbers triple since initiating quarterly email calendar updates. Interestingly Brandt says registrations are taking place an average of one month after the updates are sent a sign that the reminders are being saved.
9. Build a Bond. For emails that are sent early in the pre-event campaign (save-the-date notices for example) Gartner often attaches surveys. Participating can help get prospective attendees more emotionally invested in the event and the event owner can use the feedback to plan the conference.
As technology and customer tastes evolve the rules for successful e-invites keep changing too. One constant though is the need to test test test. Rothfeld suggests varying message lengths graphics and types of messages to see what works best with your audience. “It’s basic direct mail theory but it’s still valid.”
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