E-mail: Less Can Be More, But It’s More Complicated Than That

I recently read a great article from Jeanne Jennings at JeanneJennings.com about using a Johnson Box, a technique commonly used in direct mail letters, as part of an e-mail for a client. (http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3628228) When the Johnson Box was added to an e-mail control group for testing, it generated a 220 percent lift in response rate!  

A Johnson Box contains the key message of a letter. The purpose is to draw the reader’s attention to the key message first and motivate them to read the rest of the letter. In an e-mail format, it has the additional benefit of allowing the most important message in the e-mail to be visible in the preview pane of an e-mail reader.

Reading the article, I wondered if the Johnson Box alone–one, focused and simple message–would have had the same impact on response rate. Was the rest of the message even necessary? I posed the question to Jeanne and got some great advice:

“While I’m a fan of short, I’ve done enough testing to know that there’s no ‘one size fits all’  solution. And there are copywriters I know who swear that longer is always better (I don’t agree).

In my experience, it depends on the information you’re trying to convey and how much commitment you’re looking for in return.

I have a client right now doing lead generation for a service that’s $15,000 a year and up — and for them we’ve found that bare bones ‘postcard’ emails don’t work as well as longer emails. One control that does particularly well for them is a long, unattractive ‘text-look’ letter email — even a shorter, nicer looking HTML creative just matched, didn’t beat, its performance.

It’s the law of direct marketing, online and off — test, test, test. ”

Thanks, Jeanne, great food for thought!