At dotdigital, we assess email creative all day long and one thing that we consistently notice is that many marketers regularly forget one very important thing, to have a clear message hierarchy within their campaigns.
In order to establish a message hierarchy for your next campaign, ask yourself what is it that you want people to do as a result of your email?
Prioritize these in order…and then look at your last campaign. Did you say enough to communicate the messages needed to encourage these actions? Did you say too much?
More often than not, marketers are saying far too much.
So, with that in mind, how can we trim the fat?
Let’s start with the necessities. Here are the things that have to be on your email (some of them are even legal requirements):
- Your logo
- An unsubscribe link
- Your company name and address
- A view in browser link
Those elements should be sticky, you might one day choose to move them around but they should always remain somewhere within your creative.
So what about everything else? To design an email that is easy to understand, you’re going to have to be ruthless and get rid of the clutter and then establish a hierarchy for your remaining messages.
- What do these customers already know?
Ask yourself, if they already know it, must I include it again? If yes, must it be so prominent?
- What do they not know? What must I tell them about?
For maximum success your email should be narrowly focused and you should be able to answer this section with one single point. Struggling to do that? We suggest either sending more than one email (one for each different point/piece of information) or alternatively, not saying/sending it at all.
- Why would they do that thing?
What must you include in order to persuade them? What is your most influential message?
Once you’ve answered all of the above then you should (in theory) be clearer about what should stay and what won’t make the cut.
Now you can begin working out where everything should be placed within the creative. Those messages that topped your hierarchy should rise to the top (above the fold) of your email campaign, and those that you deem to be less important should take a sub position or perhaps even be dropped entirely from your campaign.
Why is message hierarchy so important?
OK, so let’s assume you’re in the market to buy a car. You’d probably pay a visit to a local car lot wouldn’t you?
What if the car salesman, as well as talking to you about the cars style, its eco friendliness, sexiness and affordability, started asking you to save him to your contacts and like the business on Facebook?
What if he then proceeded to recommend an Indian head massage parlour locally? I’m guessing that a) you’d think he was mad and b) you’d think that he’d got his priorities a little mixed up.
It sounds odd and even a little humorous when we talk about it using a ‘real world’ example, but it happens all too often within email campaigns.
Many email marketers all too often seem to be shifting inventory as opposed to persuading their recipients of the benefits of whatever product or service it is they’re actually trying to push.
Why on earth would someone who opened an email about a car (for example) also want to purchase a hair treatment and/or photography workshop in the same day?
Essentially, this is nothing more than a stab in the dark tactic and these marketers aren’t using their data in a smart way. Not only is this ‘tactic’ ineffective, it’s a huge cognitive load on the recipient.
To illustrate our point, we’ve rummaged through our inbox and found one send that follows the guidelines we’ve referenced in this post and one that ignores them entirely.