Written by Mark Dolce

A few months back the comedy writers at one of the business email platforms published an article about the “perfect” length for an email based on an analysis of their clients’ delivery statistics, including open and click-through rates. They took Excel out for a Sunday drive and came up with a magic number while dragging along a trailer-full of caveats and qualifications, one of which included the most salient lesson in all of this: your audience is your audience, not someone else’s, so pay attention to how your audience responds to your emails.

Consequently, the only relevant statistics are the ones generated by your emails. If you send out emails that would make Dostoevsky seem terse, but they garner consistently high open, click-through and action rates, then who’s to say your emails are too long? Conversely, if your emails are the paragon of incisiveness and they do well, Godspeed. There are also a boat-load of other contingent factors that affect open/click-through rates, including time of year, time of day and day of the week, as well as what you’ve sent previously to the same audience. You can compare your email rates to so-called benchmarks, but the most revealing statistics are those generated over time by your own emails, the star performers as well as the duds.

The simple fact is that form follows function with regard to the length of the email. You can sound a lot like Morpheus when you start making pronouncements that your email is exactly the length that it needs to be, but that’s what it boils down to. Once you define the audience (e.g. past event participants not-yet-registered) and the purpose of your message (e.g. register now to get the lowest price of the season), then you can compose something of an appropriate length.

For example, in our MuckFest® MS mud run event series, the two emails that have stratospheric open rates are the two emails that go out to registered participants one week before and immediately after the event. The high rates mostly have to do with timing, anticipation and peak interest of the audience members. Those two emails are also the longest not only because they need to be (one has event details and the other is a post-event Thank You), but also because we are sending them when participants are most focused on the event. On the flip side, we’ve seen some solid results from brief emails with novel subject lines, which are meant to tease the recipient, not explain what the email is all about; the reasoning is that your audience can’t click on anything if they don’t open your email. These emails are short, jokey, but to the point. Even so, their performance is affected by an array of contingent factors that are unique to the audience and the event.

With the rise of mobile devices, there is a new emphasis on brevity and the use of responsive graphics. While it’s important to create mobile-friendly content and test that content, your own eComm calendar and delivery stats are still the best guide as to what is and is not working. If you need a hand evaluating your event email performance and strategy or segmenting your email audiences, contact us. We’re happy to help.

Mark Dolce is the copywriter for the MuckFest MS event series.

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