Like most people, my email inbox is flooded with newsletters, ads and emails from strangers all competing for my attention. The senders are hoping that a clever subject line will catch my attention and motivate me to open the email. And then, the holy grail would be if something in the body of the email is interesting enough to result in me clicking a link within the email.
I decided to do an experiment and save all of the promotional emails sent to me at my work email address in one day. I wanted to analyze how many B2B emails I receive, how many I open, and how many I ultimately click through.
Most mornings my work day starts with me scanning through my inbox to see who sent each email and making a split-second decision whether to read the subject line, or just delete it quickly. I like to organize my inbox and make sure emails from my colleagues are prioritized and acted upon, so I clear away clutter quickly.
Before 9 a.m., I’d received a dozen emails most of which got deleted with a quick mouse click. One email was a daily newsletter that I read unfailingly, so that one got opened and clicked through.
I admit that I’ve signed up for a lot of daily and weekly newsletters, many of which I’ve forgotten why I receive them. It takes a lot for me to unsubscribe to an email, but I’ve noticed I habitually delete emails from the same sender day after day without my ever reading the subject line.
Unlike my personal email inbox, which also is swamped with hundreds of emails a day ranging from blatant SPAM to every loyalty program I’ve ever subscribed to, my work inbox is one that I am actively monitoring every hour of my work day to ensure that I respond to job duties.
Therefore, I want to organize the chaos as quickly as possible. I rarely linger over promotional emails with “From” lines that I’m not familiar with unless they have a subject line so compelling that I am curious enough to open it. Sometimes I’ll open emails just to see what they are about. I admire pithy one liners like, “Ain’t no mountain high enough.” What could that be about? It was an email from adtech about their upcoming conference featuring a mountain-climbing keynote speaker.
Other email subject lines are clear as to their content, and they catch my attention because they pertain to my job: “7 Email Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Holiday Marketing.” What? I’ve got to read that to make sure I don’t make those mistakes!
My favorite subject line was, “Free Donuts to Anyone Who Replies.” Are you kidding me? I opened and replied to that email in seconds. What an ingenious way to get my attention!
Emails I deleted right away included, “Have you voted yet? Support your favorites” or “Learn BCW, A&S, PMP” and “Free Stock Update” Truthfully, I’m not even sure what those emails were about, and I’m not interested in diving into them to find out.
I open and read emails from trusted senders because I know they contain news, tips and other content that I’ve asked to receive and am interested in reading. Sometimes these get deleted within seconds, but at least I give them a quick read to determine if I need to investigate further.
But back to a day in the life of my inbox. By noon, I’d received 46 emails of which I opened fewer than 5. Just to be sure this day, which happened to be a Friday, wasn’t an anomaly, I saved all of the emails I received another day and the numbers were almost the same. The total for the day was a whopping 72 promotional emails.
So what does all of this mean for marketers? It means you are competing with thousands of other companies for attention in the B2B inbox. It means engagement and conversion are hard fought battles that can be won only by the best of the best through relevance and segmentation. The most personalized emails that directly pertain to my job from trusted senders are the ones that not only get opened regularly but also receive more than a few seconds of my attention.
Email attention spans are less than 11 seconds. To ensure emails are going to generate engagement, senders should optimize subject lines and preview text so they align well with an email’s content. Use mobile responsive emails, short paragraphs and short sentences to allow an easy email scan. Use compelling images and make sure links are working.
A day in the life of my email inbox is just another day that could spell victory for the company that’s driven me to open and respond to an email or spell defeat for the dozens of other promotional emails that I sent to my deleted folder without opening or reading. My inbox number was 72. What’s yours?