Thursday, December 28, 2006

Do your emails have the X-factor? Part 2

In the last eTips I talked about injecting the 'X-factor' into emails - giving them personality, making them more readable, building a rapport with the reader over time.

For example, a common technique is to feature the name and photo of the editor or writer, and have them introduce the content or comment on it. You could include feedback from readers or answer a commonly-asked question, as this can strengthen the dialogue.

Make references to the real world, anchoring the exchange in time and place - it's more evidence that the email has come from a real person, who understands the lives and concerns of its readers.

Of course, an email newsletter shouldn't consist purely of promotional content. But when you do want to sell something, how you say it makes all the difference.

Here are a couple of examples. The first is from a promotional email for a US audience. It illustrates the importance of empathy and relevance, both email marketing essentials.

XYZ is the leading manufacturer of free online games. We offer you great games to play, including:

  • Classic titles
  • Sports games
  • Action titles
  • Children's games
Make the most of your game time with XYZ -- check out our newest games now!

Excited about March Madness? Stage your own online tournaments playing family and friends with Basketball Fever, free online from XYZ.

Even if you don't have hoop dreams, you'll love the games we offer:
  • Tetris, the classic
  • Rally Race, for action
  • Match-It! , for children 3 and up
And much more!

The 'before' copy was factual but just a tad boring. Also, although you may think in terms of categories like 'classic games' and 'sports games' that doesn't mean your audience thinks that way too. Since it was due to go out in March, the 'after' version focuses on a specific game and hooks it onto a topical event ('March Madness' refers to the season ending baskbetball tournaments played each year in the USA.)

(thanks to Jeanne Jennings for this example.)

The following copy extract, introducing a new product, shows how re-ordering the information and presenting it in a more conversational way creates a more readable and compelling 'story'.

Why use Screenblock?

Time spent with TV is time not spent:
  • talking to the family
  • taking exercise
  • playing
  • pretending
  • creating
  • learning.
Too much TV can bring:
  • Overweight
  • Tiredness
  • Problems at school
  • Shyness
  • Aggression.
Screenblock protects your developing child from these dangers.

Do your kids watch too much TV?

You want your children to be happy and to have the best possible chances in life.

Nobody wants their kids to miss out on playing sport, making friends, having fun or doing well at whatever they're interested in And nobody imagines their kids are going to be overweight, have problems at school or be lacking in confidence.

But that's exactly what research tells us can happen to young people whose TV watching isn't regulated.

You might think you can’t do anything about it.
But now you can – with Screenblock.

Yes, bullet points are good - brief, easy to scan and read on screen. But too many bullets can induce a kind of 'bullet blindness' where some of the points are skipped entirely. Not only that, but sometimes a more conversational tone is required.

In this example, the first draft is factual, but somewhat cold and blunt. The second version talks more sympathetically to the reader, empathising with her as a parent who naturally wants the best for her child and presenting her with the solution to the problem.

Good, readable email newsletters with personality are a breed apart. But they're the ones that get read, enjoyed and acted on, month after month. From time to time I'll be commenting on the best ones I know of in my blog, so please add it to your RSS reader if you'd like to be kept updated. Also, I'm always interested to hear about any great examples you've come across.

Thank you for reading in 2006 - Happy New Year and here's to a fantastic 2007!

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