A few days ago, Sky TV sent me the following email:

The sports fans amongst you will be aware that Sky has recently faced new and rather stiff competition from BT Sport, which has grabbed a sizeable chunk of football and rugby from the satellite giant’s hands. As a result, Sky are noticeably ramping up their marketing tactics for their long-established sports arm. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than in their email marketing strategy, which has focussed on proving why they are still the best when it comes to sports coverage.

The email above is a great example of how email can come to the rescue when competition gets tough. Sky already benefit from a recognisable brand, therefore their emails are refreshingly sparse in design, relying simply on their logo, placed top right. However, with their viewers potentially turning off, they need to grab their attention in other ways.

An instantly-engaging image is featured prominently, immediately drawing the recipient’s eyes to the faces on the pitch. We want to know who’s standing there, and why…

…which brings us onto the call-to-action. Although this email features a clever bit of marketing copy; ‘our biggest season ever’, most people will be drawn instantly to that blue ‘What’s on, when’ button.

As if that wasn’t enough, they go on to remind us that we can record the forthcoming sports spectaculars and, as you would expect, they also take the opportunity to highlight some key non-sport related shows on the horizon. Further down, they also display what we can expect to see on their service this week.

It is certainly a clever email all round and, although there is considerably more content out of sight in the screenshot above, the key message they wanted to get across is delivered almost instantly. The subject line ‘Breaking news…’ could be considered a bit of a cop out, but it’s actually a fantastic example of how to grab the subscriber’s attention, instantly.

So, how do you grab subscribers’ attention?

We’re not all blessed with the brand power Sky enjoys, so we have to get creative if we want to grab the attention of our email subscribers as quickly as possible. Here’s some valuable tips on doing so:

Focus on your objectives

As an email marketer, it is all too easy to focus on clicks and opens, rather than conversion rates. The latter is why we send emails to customers and are the most important statistic you can gather. Consider exactly what you want your subscribers to do upon receiving your message. Sky knew what reaction they wanted and they worked the content accordingly.

Craft that subject line

Experts believe you should spend as much as 80% of your time crafting the email subject line, reserving the remaining 20% for the copy itself. This is good advice. Be specific, keep it short and avoid spammy words such as ‘free’. Tie your subject line in with something newsworthy and current – it will grab the recipient’s attention.

Think pre-header

Many email clients will read the first phrase of an email newsletter and present it to the user without them needing to open the email. This is one area Sky has arguably slipped up on. Theirs is likely to read ‘You have received this email as part of your TV service’, which is hardly inspiring. Think of this as your opportunity to extend the subject line and be a little bit more specific about the email’s contents.

Don’t offer too many choices

Once again, it could be argued that Sky have offered too many links on the email above, but so strong is the central message that it doesn’t really matter. It is, however, good practice to keep the number of call-to-action buttons and links to a minimum. Don’t confuse your subscribers. Offering too many choices might result in them ignoring the email entirely. Similarly, trim your copy. If you’re using bulleted lists, try and stick to three items – you can save the rest for the landing page on your website.

Test. All the time.

I probably sound like a broken record, such is the frequency with which I mention the ‘t’ word, but it really is crucial. It is all too easy to send your email newsletter without testing it thoroughly beforehand. Doing so will save you the potential embarrassment and heartbreak of discovering that the email you sent to thousands of customers contained a poorly-constructed sentence or incorrect link. Testing your emails constantly by sending them to colleagues is a great way to ensure that the finished product maximises engagement from your subscribers.