Tom Peters, in his The Pursuit of Wow!, discusses creative ways to turn readers into "proactive, action-oriented winners in the marketplace."

As Peter says, "Being average has never had much appeal. Better to fail with flair in pursuit of something neat." (Of course, as Homer Simpson says, "Trying is the first step toward failure." But that's another article.)

Especially if you have a great product or service in the offing and a fired-up sales team, you want to launch with a great, juiced-up marketing campaign. You need the WOW factor.

When you need the WOW factor, or when you need to make your company, product or service stand out from the rest, where do you turn for inspiration and creativity?

Are you creating works of art in the form of marketing plans? Perhaps, another area of your business life is sending smoke signals. Put out the smoke with help from 100,000 “MarketingProfs Today” readers. Submit your dilemma and receive a complimentary copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

This Week's Dilemma

Pursuing a WOW campaign to market products

We have a great product, the marketing support materials are in place and the sales team is hungry, but we want to add a "wow" factor to our product launch. Where do we start in our search for creativity that leads to a wow campaign?

—Zachary, Project Manager

Previous Dilemma

Open me, I want your attention!

We've tried many tactics to nudge readers to open our email newsletter. But we think we can do a lot better. What are the most effective ways to increase e-newsletter open rates?

—Dylan, Marketing Rep

Summary of Advice Received

With spam cluttering everyone's email inboxes, newsletter publishers have to do all they can to make their newsletters stand out. Great content is a must, but it can't stand alone. So smash your open rate records by trying the following:

  1. Provide relevant information to the right audience.
  2. Create catchy lines.
  3. Take advantage of the preview pane.
  4. Watch the frequency.

1. Provide relevant information to the right audience

Marketers never hear the end of this: give your target market what it wants. It can never be repeated too much, as it's easy to forget the mantra when you're wrapped up in work.

Jill Stolt, marketing specialist with BUYSEASONS, Inc., suggests adding fun to relevancy:

We sent an email out in our relatively "off" season but related it to summer movies (all the hype with Spider Man and other hot releases) and got a 77 percent open rate. Even now with more of a sales push theme, we get a minimum of 35 percent open rate—even higher when we can make it a fun theme that relates to whatever is popular in culture at the time.

Who says fun doesn't pay? Not us! Not only should the information be targeted and sent to the right people, it should also consider a couple of other things as suggested by readers.

Michel J. Bergier, Ph.D., professor of direct response marketing and customer service excellence at Concordia University in Montreal, says, "Provide readers with unexpected value. If they open the newsletter and do not see anything unexpected, they'll get bored very quickly and might not return."

B.A. Aravinda, marketing manager at Geometric Software Solutions Co. Ltd., says, "Use problem scenarios and how your product/service can solve them with benefits offered."

2. Create catchy lines

What are the first things readers see when they receive a newsletter? The "subject," "from" and "date" lines (depending what the email client displays; but these are the most common). Louise Rasho, manager of marketing communications at Overture, says, "Make the subject line very short and benefit-oriented, like 'Increase your sales this month.'"

Subject lines aren't the only place to get snappy. Karl Lundberg, marketing director at Wesleyan Publishing House, uses catchy wording. He says, "We are in the book publishing business. We sometimes use the promotion line 'Two good books, two days at one great price.' That has given us a good response." This promo line could succeed as a subject line.

Study those open-rate stats and determine what subject lines may have done better than others. Build on those. Some successful publishers use the same one every month, and it works because their readers create mail filtering rules to ensure the email is not sent to the trash or junk bin. They also know the subject well enough to know what it is right away and that it isn't spam.

3. Take advantage of the preview pane

We shouldn't use the preview pane, but we do it anyway. Experts recommend not using it because of viruses that are in HTML-based emails that go on the loose as soon as the email is opened. Regardless of whether or not it is good practice, one reader says most people look at email through the preview pane:

That means you have limited space to show the reader a reason why he/she should open the email, click through to your Web site, or take other action. So, you have to do two things:

  1. Design the email so that it's thin enough to fit in the preview pane. This makes it look kind of narrow on a full screen, but who cares?

  2. Place a value proposition high in the copy. What will I gain from opening this email? Give me a reason to use my valuable time to look at your message.

By the way, since viewing an email in the preview pane is counted as an opened email, open rates can be a little deceiving. You should also be looking at click-through rates. Make sure you have a link to your Web site in the preview pane also.

Put all the important information "above the fold," the area that is viewable without any scrolling. Use it to entice the reader to get more information "below the fold."

4. Watch the frequency

How often do you get each newsletter to which you're subscribed? Once a week? Once a month? Less often? Most newsletters are weekly, twice monthly, or monthly. A few come five business days a week, and fewer arrive multiple times in a day. It depends on the topic and the audience's needs.

Cindy Dashnaw, senior manager of communications with Riley's Children's Foundation, has this to say:

Don't send them too frequently, and don't immediately send five different e-newsletters to each individual who signs up to be on your list. If users are getting so many e-newsletters from you that they can't keep up, they'll just start deleting.

She is right. Many who unsubscribe from newsletters indicate that the reason was that they were overwhelmed with the number of newsletters coming in. The quality of the content was of no concern.

Next time you check your email, think about why you open certain newsletters and ignore others. Apply those thoughts to your own campaigns.

Wow your colleagues and customers by receiving whiz-bang ideas from MarketingProfs readers. You never know what one suggestion can do for you. Pose a challenge, and readers will respond.

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Hank Stroll ( is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.