To hit the ball farther, swing harder!

I have a 9 year-old son who is turning into a pretty decent baseball player. And with his growing enthusiasm for the sport comes a time commitment to develop both his skills and joy for the game in a way that has bonded fathers and sons for generations. I was pitching batting practice the other night, something that we've done hundreds of times since he started playing at age 5. Always a pretty decent hitter, what my son lacks is power. He's a bit on the skinny side and is really too young to start hitting the weights. While pitching I realized that even though he makes solid contact that his practice swings are about 2-3 times faster/harder than his real swings. So I made a simple suggestion: "Son, you've always been a good contact hitter. For the next bucket of balls, forget about making contact and simply swing as hard as you do with your practice swings." Freed of parental expectations of actually hitting the ball, he happily obliged. What happened next you can probably predict: He continued making contact as before but drove every ball he hit out to left field, and hard!

Sometimes life is simpler than we make it. If the ball isn't going as far as you like - and assuming the rest of your mechanics are sound - swing harder! This discovery led me to think about other things that seem to be over-complicated. Email marketing was among the first that jumped to mind.

It always boggled my mind the level of importance placed on 'Opens'. Think about it, direct mail has forever been the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse for this metric. Depending on the study, anywhere from 80%-90% of direct mail gets 'opened'. Which I tend to believe based on my informal focus group (i.e. my extended family). But direct mail has taken a major hit for a variety of reasons that its 'Open Rate' just can't overcome. Inexplicably, e-mailers continue to bang the drum about the importance of 'Opens'. So let's address that concern.

Email 'Opens' are registered when images within the HTML creative are downloaded. Therefore, not all emails that are truly opened are recorded and reported as such (i.e. those emails that were opened, read, and even acted upon, if the recipient did not 'download images' that email was not recorded as an 'Open'). Most times we open an email, we are greeted with all of those red "X's" where images/content should appear and, depending on what we have going on with the rest of our life, we either 'enable images' or we simply delete the email. Either way the email was technically 'opened'. So to those who hang vital importance on the 'Open' metric, you are essentially pandering to those who really don't have a lot going on, are extremely bored, etc. and therefore click 'enable images' while the rest of us plow along with our lives hoping that the next task isn't the one that breaks the camel's back. Disagree? See # 11 here.

I have a better idea. Rather than worrying about getting more bored people to 'enable images', why not deliver your HTML in a manner where almost what you intended to deliver can actually be seen? Doing so will depress the almighty Open Rate because absent the downloading of images, those Opens won't register, but guess what... more people will get to your landing page because more of the intended target who aren't bored with their career, hobby, family, etc. will actually see what you're trying to show them and click-through to learn more about your offer. How do we do this? Well technology of course and one that LavaMail uses successfully for those marketers who understand that 'Opens' is a flawed metric at best.

The following examples illustrate the standard 'images disabled' view, the 'images disabled' view with LavaMail, and then the designed HTML that was intended to be viewed. (It should be noted that 'images disabled' is the default for roughly 90% of email that is successfully delivered.)

IMAGES DISABLED - STANDARD:

IMAGES DISABLED - LAVAMAIL:

HTML AS INTENDED:

So let's simplify. To get prospects to act on your email offer, they need to see your offer. Just like to hit the baseball farther you need to swing harder... son.