Thursday, December 14, 2006

Do your emails have the X-factor? (part 1)

Now that email has become a standard tool for customer communications it becomes more essential than ever to make yours stand out from the same old stuff. One of the key ways to make email communications more memorable is to make them more enjoyable to read. Sounds a bit basic, doesn't it? But I wonder if sometimes we get so bogged down with making sure we've got enough calls to action, or avoiding spam filters and so forth, that we forget this simple fact.

Email newsletters need personality, the 'X-factor' that makes them compulsive reading and gets them forwarded. And for it to seem genuine, the tone of voice needs to be consistent across all email communications with the customer. It may be the personality of the brand, of your organisation, of yourself, of the editor or even of a fictional editor.

It's said that people buy from people, not from companies. Unfortunately, too many email newsletters seem to be computer-generated: consisting purely of press release copy, cut-and-paste news headlines or content resembling an internal memo or instruction manual.

It doesn't have to be this way, but getting it right is tricky. Here are a few examples of what can happen:

Being informal vs being over-familiar
WOW!! Can u believe its nearly 2007??
By all means inject some fun into your writing - after all, email is closer to a spoken conversation than to a written letter. But an overly jokey or informal style needs careful handling. It can backfire, especially if it looks like you're trying too hard. There's nothing worse than feeling talked-down-to.

Being polite vs being overly formal
Further to the last email requesting confirmation of your details on our company directory, our records show that you have not yet done so.
OK, this is a system email, not a newsletter, but the principle is the same. Read your copy out loud. How does it sound? An overly formal style can come across as pompous or even rude. The golden rule is, if you wouldn't say it, don't write it in an email.

Talking to the masses
Once again, we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the annual British Birdwatching Fair ....
Email is not a broadcast medium, it is read by one person at a time. Address the individual reader, not an audience, if you want to connect with him or her. In a way it's similar to giving a presentation: make eye contact with individuals and they will feel included, look over the top of their heads and they'll turn off.

Sloppy writing
Do you want more sales from you website. Reduce Website abandonment's
We know it's good to be concise - bullets win over long paragraphs any day. But accurate spelling, punctuation and sentence structure aren't just niceties - get it wrong and and readers stumble. Chances are they won't bother to re-read if they didn't understand it the first time.

Coming up in part 2 - copy makeovers and emails with the X-factor.

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