Aristotle’s 5 Email Messaging Strategies That Get Results
What does an ancient Greek rhetorician know about email messaging? Aristotle knew how to captivate his audience and drive them to action. While the word seems dated and highbrow, rhetoric is simply the art of persuasive speaking and writing. And persuasive writing is a must for your effective email campaign.
Aristotle knew that for a rhetorician's argument to be effective it had to drive action from its listeners or readers. To help other rhetoricians, he defined how you can use specific topics of invention (i.e., persuasive techniques) to achieve specific results from your readers. Now we can use those rhetorical techniques of Aristotle's to create effective email messages!
1. Definition: Showing the RelationshipThe technique of definition is when you show your readers the meaning of a product, word, idea, etc. The goal of the definition technique is to frame the story on your own terms — to establish your point of view as the correct point of view.
One great example of definition messaging is a phrase that you see used all the time is "Learn from experts who actually do what they teach." They have "defined" themselves as an expert. And they have also defined what type of training is better — it is better to learn from those who actually do what they teach. The definition technique is a classic brand building technique.
When to Use the Definition Technique in an Email Message: The perfect time to use the definition technique is to establish yourself as an authority with new customers or new email subscribers. The definition technique allows you to establish what you do and why it matters to the reader.
2. Comparison: Revealing Similarities or Differences
Using analogies, metaphors, or similes is a great way to implement Aristotle's comparison technique. The power of comparison is when you use it to explain complex idea or product that is previously unknown to the reader. For example, let use an analogy to explain blogging frequency to someone who has never blogged: Blogging is like exercising, you will see better results when you do it 30 minutes every other day rather doing two hours once every other week.
When to Use the Comparison Technique in an Email Message: Do you need to explain a complex product in a short email and inspire your readers to take action? Then metaphors, analogies, and similes can be a powerful tool. You can use a comparison to create a quick, dramatic picture that your readers can immediately relate to. Pair that picture with a strong call to action and you will get results!
3. Relationship: Cause and EffectYou can use the relationship technique to establish scarcity. Scarcity is a time tested marketing technique and for a good reason — it works. Show how the action you desire from your customers relates to their desired outcome. "Act now or you will miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to change your life!"
When to Use the Relationship Technique in an Email Message: Cause and effect, relationship messaging can be used to invoke the feelings of scarcity, fear, and other strong emotions from readers. If you need immediate action, this is the technique to use. Scarcity, in particular, has the strongest impact for immediate returns.
4. Circumstances: the Possible and the Impossible
Inspiration! You use the circumstances technique when you encourage your readers by sharing how your product, service, etc. makes something possible, or, in other words, when you share an inspiration story about how your brand impacts customers. We all love a great inspirational story and they make for great messaging opportunities.
When to Use the Circumstances Technique in an Email Message: The circumstances technique is a great messaging tool for charitable giving or giving back type programs. Inspire readers to give to your cause by telling an inspirational story of what is done with their donation. But the circumstances tool is just as effective for motivating consumer purchases. Nike is a brand that is very adept at using the circumstances technique to show how their brand makes athletes achievements possible.
5. Testimony: Establishing Authority
Product reviews, expert endorsements, social sharing — they all provide testimony that your product is worth purchasing. Testimony is perhaps the most important technique of the five: testimonials and other form of social proof can dramatically increase conversion rates!
When to Use the Circumstances Technique in an Email Message: You should pair some form of testimony with one of the other four techniques. Your customers want to know that others have had positive experiences with your brand! Add a customer testimonial to your email, use a photo of a customer or celebrity using your product, show your Yelp reviews, etc. Give your readers the incentive they need to act now: testimony reassures readers that they are making the right decision by acting on your email.
Aristotle would have made a great messaging strategist. I hope that you can put some of his techniques to good use!
(For those of you looking for a great, in-depth summary and study of Aristotle's Rhetoric, Stanford has a great online guide to Rhetoric you can read.)
Wendy Johnson is a sought after messaging strategist. She shares how she helps companies connect with customers via targeted content and social media at KapowContent.com. You can connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.