ian bocks image

Say “Ian Bocks” 10 times fast.

If you’re a marketer who utilizes email as part of their marketing strategy, you probably ended up saying “Inbox.”

But let’s say you read the name “Ian Bocks” on a subject line in your inbox, on an email from Marketo Webinars. It would probably look something like this:

[Delivery Confirmation] Ian Bocks, Your Email Has Been Delivered

What would your initial reaction be? Depending on whether you’re skimming or thoroughly examining each email in your inbox, you could be thinking: “Sweet, what have I ordered recently?” or “Damn, crappy personalization from… Marketo? Tsk tsk!”

You also have to factor in whether or not you have a preview pane open, and how much of the email you see.

Here’s a portion of the email. Would you have noticed the H1 (Header 1)?

webinar invite email

If you noticed the H1, then that whole “Delivery Confirmation” and “Email Delivered” thing might make a bit more sense – or not. The subject line is arguably clever, but reception was a roll of the dice.

And last month, that’s exactly what I did. I rolled the dice. I needed to write a promotional email for a webinar, 5 Secrets to Better Email Inbox Deliverability, and the idea of a package delivery confirmation to the human form of an email inbox – Ian Bocks – popped into my head.

I ran with it. Guess what happened? I got a bunch of emails from confused sales reps:

“…looks like there was an error in the subject line.”

“…some asking who Ian Bocks is. … certainly makes us look a bit silly.”

“…showing a weird subject line. Not sure if this is a mistake?”

Well tarnation, looks like my random attempt at marketing with deception was a fail. Arg, there’s even a tweet about it…

tweet abuot ian bocks

Time to crawl into a hole. I started to wonder whether it’s possible for webinar registration to actually go down.

*Checks campaign stats*

As it turned out, my email had an 8% higher click-to-open rate (percentage of recipients who clicked a link in the email after opening it) than the first email invite we sent. The first email had a harmless subject line: “[Live Webinar] 5 Secrets to Better Email Inbox Deliverability.”

And what did I find out next? Registrations had quadrupled.

Now I’m not saying that my subject line caused them to register. I mean, check out this comment on the above tweet from the original tweeter…

What got the attention was the subject line, but what got the registration was the webinar itself, which featured our own DJ Waldow, author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing, and Kiersti Esparza’s, Marketo’s Email Delivery Strategy and Compliance Manager. If you weren’t able to attend their webinar, you can still watch the whole thing here.

So, on to the point I’m trying to make: not everyone will get your content angle, your Easter eggs (little jokes or pop culture references you sprinkle into your marketing content), or the reasoning behind any of your zany ideas.

But that’s no reason not to experiment.

Granted, in the future I’ll probably send any questionably quirky content to a smaller sample size first (probably 10%). I’ll use those results to dictate whether or not to send the fun email, which is super easy to do with marketing automation.

So, next time you think of something slightly clever that may or may not go over your audience’s head, don’t dismiss it so quickly. It’s true that marketing is becoming more and more of a number game, as programs are tied more closely to marketing metrics like revenue and opportunities, but I still believe that much of marketing comes from the heart.

Now I’m not saying you should always go with your gut – that is a very dangerous game, my friend. But don’t discredit it either, roll the dice – you may be surprised by the results.