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To all keyholders of the company spam cannon, before causing immense collateral damage by firing off emails that don't fit with the lovely idea of your brand, follow these ten pointers and, with me at least, you'll be guaranteed a pair of eyes.

Give me whitespace and time to think

My eyes often refuse to work. They close on the world of advertising and allow me to walk into the middle of roads without realising it. 

Quora’s welcome email is an industrial eye-wash station and not only left me opthalmically refreshed, but gave me the most important information, and nought else.

Give me welcome emails (if you have to) and make sure their content is well-defined

Don’t send me continuous wishy-washy ‘your account’ emails, telling me how great your services are. I ain’t got the time, MAN.

Do like the FT and make each of your welcome mails distinctive. You can see from my inbox, the FT firstly welcomes me (manners); secondly, promotes its reports; thirdly, introduces market data services; fourthly, its blogs and multimedia; fifthly, its lifestyle section. 

Give me your digits

I’ve opened your email, you’ve interested me with your content, but I don’t want to book online because I’m superstitious and will only buy something from men called Gareth. So do like Lastminute.com and give me a prominent phone number.

Give me humanity

The same screenshot from Lastminute’s email shows a quirky piece of copy – ‘Has this email gone a bit Picasso’ – where usually a purely functional piece of copy (‘Can’t see this email?’) resides.

OK, it might remind you of the person who thinks they’re crazy at a party, but it’s widened my demoralised-Friday-afternoon slits-for-eyes ever so slightly.

Give me the opportunity to subscribe again??

A cute call to action from The New Statesman – ‘If you were forwarded this email by a colleague, click here to subscribe’.

I can’t prove this was reverse psychology, but it certainly made me think about forwarding this email to a colleague. Clever stuff.....maybe.

Give me love, with just your words

I am an RA member. RA knows this, and sends me nice exclusive(ish) announcements. The copy is the warming thing here – ‘as a valued Friend of the RA, we wanted to make sure you were one of the first to know about it’.

Polite and gentlemanly language should always win out.

Give me something personal

If you know lots about me, don’t just keep it in your database and look at it, creepily, every now and again. Show me you know about me, and I will think of you as a friend. Trainline doing this very well below.

Give me creative you’ve taken a chance on

Trainline again – they know I haven’t booked a hotel with them ever, but they can’t possibly know if I sleep on couches or not. So what, go for it, accuse me of doing so, raise a smile, lead me into luxury.

Give me something to consume

Not the best emails from wegottickets, but inspired inclusion of a YouTube video of one of the touring bands. Try before you buy; I’m not going to buy tickets if I’ve never listened to a band before. Thanks.

 

Give me some content and not more sales crapola

I’ve opened your email again! Now mercifully please let the ribbon run out of your typewriter of spiel.

Yes, the below is a specifically educational email from Google Analytics, who know I already use their product (ish), but admire the way they get straight down to business and give me some useful content, instead of bleaching my retinas with brand hyperbole.

Give me a nice sidebar, with simple icons, that wouldn’t look out of place on your website, and allow me to find things

This from the RHS of the Barbican’s emails.

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It’s nice because rather than overloading me with events I’m not interested in, I’m tempted to explore on my own through a link to the larger event calendar.

The ‘eat and drink’, ‘amend details & preferences’, ‘membership and ‘social networks’ links are all discoverable but not in your face. The use of simple icons prevents competing designs on my time from too many copy-heavy areas of the mail pane.

Email marketers and spam-cannon primers, let me know your best tips below.

Ben Davis

Published 14 November, 2012 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (16)

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Aoife McArdle

Would love to read more about better email marketing for B2B audiences.

almost 4 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

" ‘Has this email gone a bit Picasso’ "

I actually think that's a great idea! Why not inject a little personality and humor into the email in places people aren't used to seeing it. It's definitely eye catching and incredibly refreshing.

almost 4 years ago

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Georgia Leybourne

My 2013 goal is to get some of my team's work showcased by eConsultamcy as best practice.
Watch this space!

almost 4 years ago

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Mark Young

Here here all round.

Emails and actually websites that cater for human beings as well as business people always work better, are a joy to read and connect and engage on an emotional level rather than just commercial.

People buy people so you might as well keep things light, intelligent and humorous (without being silly)

It has to come naturally though as there's nothing worse than reading an email from someone who clearly wants to come across a certain way but hasn't quite cracked it!

almost 4 years ago

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Jennifer Watkins

Innocent Drinks have this at the top of their emails:

If this email looks a bit weird just click here to see it look not so weird.

Love it! Innocent and Graze are two brands which are really good at this kind of chatty, informal copy.

almost 4 years ago

Lucy Conlan

Lucy Conlan, Marketing Consultant at Conlan Consulting

Some great examples here.

I have seen some great results using email in terms of purchase and engagement with a wide variety of clients.

I have found testing can help refine your approach further; who likes visuals, who wants text, who can cope with humour (some do like formality!) etc etc.

Long live email!

almost 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Thanks for the comments! Agree, Lucy, was probs a bit devil's advocate re the creative. Testing is always important to 'calibrate' the gut, and you don't have to be a lark to get straight to the point and lend the right impression of your brand.

I'll consider picking out some transactional mails in future, as these are just as, if not more, interesting (when done well).

almost 4 years ago

Lucy Conlan

Lucy Conlan, Marketing Consultant at Conlan Consulting

Nothing wrong with devil's advocate! I think transactional emails would be a good future topic. Happy to send examples to you if useful.

almost 4 years ago

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Samantha Markham, Marketing Executive at Virgin Atlantic

Really useful post. I think another crucial point with email marketing is getting the balance between personalised, relevant comms and not coming across as too 'big brother' like - people can sometimes feel uneasy with over personalisation. I do love what the trainline have done with their comms - witty, brave and to the point.

almost 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@samantha

Yes, a great point to bear in mind. I think a good rule of thumb is if you sell a fairly specific product e.g. TheTrainline, there is some leeway to use that personal info because generally my purchases don't have wider implications.

Of course, if I had a mistress in Manchester, or if I'd been to a funeral I didn't want reminding of, then suddenly this personalised correspondence would become perhaps 'too personal'.

But in general, it's targeting such as that done by 'Target', based on lots more info, that becomes big brother. See this wonderful article from the NYT first pointed out to me by our research analyst, @agwp http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html?_r=0

almost 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

I should add I'm not making a judgement about Target above, simply pointing out that it annoyed some customers.

almost 4 years ago

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Sandra Pickering, Founding Partner at opentoSmall Business

Some great examples, thanks.

The RA one commits the most common and infuriating crimes of all direct marketing:
"as a valued friend, we..."

More usually, it's:
"as a valued customer, we...."
when the sender is, of course, not a valued customer. If I'm meant to be the 'valued customer', the email should say "as a valued customer, you...."

If I had a Marketing Magic Wand, I'd make the
"as a lovely person, I want to annoy you.."
construction disappear from all communication instantly!

almost 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@sandra

ah crap! I hang my head and thank you for pointing out the grammar issue.

Aside from the misplaced modifier, I think in this particular instance, because the RA specifically refers to its paying members as 'friends', some of the negative connotations are removed, because I puff my chest out as a friend, and like to see they contact me as such. However sad that may be :-)

almost 4 years ago

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Sandra Pickering, Founding Partner at opentoSmall Business

Yes, a misplaced modifier - I was trying to remember what it was called!
But I think you are right on the substantive point of how they try to treat you as a friend.
In the branding world, there are some very powerful tools for looking at how brand language signals the way a company views its customers. (Not just tone of voice, though that is relevant too.)
For example, some of my credit cards come with automatic travel insurance. For one card, the guidelines say "if you are delayed, you must not spend more than $x,000". The other card says "feel free to spend up to $x,000".
One card seems to view me as someone who is likely to overclaim; the other views me a someone who is honest.
You can guess which one I use more often.

almost 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

Great example! I won't ask which of the banks knows you best. ;-)

almost 4 years ago

Jonathan Mallia

Jonathan Mallia, Lead Management & Marketing Automation Consultant at GFI Software

Thanks Ben for this well written article. I would like to see some great examples and stats later on focusing more on B2B lead nurturing best practice mailers.. especially best practice approach for nurturing MQLs with incorrect contact details, especially bad phone numbers. Would be great if I can see some best practice examples and a few stats. Thank you!

almost 4 years ago

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