As any direct marketing pro knows, email can be an affordable and increasingly targetable communications tool. And for many direct mailers, email is now part of their integrative campaigns.
What's more, it can give you answers to important marketing questions super fast. Want to test a new offer or product price-point? No sweat. Send out a split-test email blast and in no time the marketplace will tell you what to do.
Another thing I really like about email is that it's very flexible. You can use it to meet all kinds of marketing challenges. For example, you can use email to:
- Get prospects to request a white paper
- Encourage the use of your downloaded software
- Ask for the sale after a free download
- Cross sell your product
- Upsell to higher-priced products
- Generate sign-ups for an online conference
- Garner customer testimonials
And that's just for starters.
Of course, there's a catch … You have to write your email right. That means avoiding the pitfalls that await the unwary — mistakes that any seasoned direct mail pro will recognize and hope to avoid.
Here's a list of five mistakes that I urge you to avoid making:
Mistake #1: Using a weak subject line
It doesn't matter how compelling your email offer is, or how brilliantly your message is written. If your subject line isn't working right, your email will never get opened and your campaign will be a failure. (Just like a bad teaser on an outer envelope will kill a campaign no matter how good the guts of the mailer.)
Subject lines should be kept short. (Never exceed 40 characters including spaces.) This means that every subject line must communicate extremely quickly and have a little punch. Flat or cute is bad. Examples:
BAD SUBJECT LINE: Who's minding the store?
GOOD SUBJECT LINE: Five ways to prevent store theft
GOOD SUBJECT LINE: Stop store thieves in their tracks
GOOD SUBJECT LINE: Don't let thieves steal you blind
Mistake #2: Burying your Web address.
This mistake is pretty obvious, but people make it all the time. They stick their hot-linked URL (to the landing page) at the end of the email and don't include one near the top of their message. Wrong. (This is similar to the direct mail piece which buries the calls to action.)
Some folks don't want to plow through all your copy. They're ready to clickthrough right to your site. Make it easy for them to do!
Mistake #3: Failing to identify the reader's pain quickly.
Just like Direct Mail Copywriting 101, don't start your email by enumerating every feature and benefit of your product. (You're not writing a data sheet!) One effective way to roll into your message is to prove to your prospects IMMEDIATELY that you understand exactly what they're up against — that you have the perfect answer to their problems.
Here's an example of a classic problem/solution lead-in format:
Have you ever been sued for malpractice?
I hope not, because it can be a terrible, devastating experience.
If YOU are concerned about protecting your practice, your income, and your reputation, download our free report immediately. It's called "Five Steps You Can Take Now To Avoid A Malpractice Lawsuit" and you can download it free right now at:
Mistake #4: Keeping the email too short.
Some people have a terrible fear that their email won't get read so they write two short paragraphs and run for the hills. (And this trend is also visible in direct mail, with all-important letter getting so cut down that it's been stripped of its power.)
Don't be so afraid! Prospects WILL read your email if it has valuable information for them. The typical emails I write run a good seven or eight paragraphs in length ... often with bullets too. They work just fine.
Don't forget, as I mentioned above, if you drop a URL in early, prospects can clickthrough without reading every single word. Some people, though, like to read what you have to say and you shouldn't shortchange them.
Mistake #5: Writing in a boring, flat style.
This is a big no-no. As I often say, you have to write with a little energy and sense of fun, just like in direct mail copy.
Example: Take a look at this email I wrote for Shockwave. When I sat down to write this email, I imagined that I was sending a note to a 21-year-old sitting in his messy dorm room.
SUBJECT: Shockmachine is FREE and it's AWESOME!
Hey, have we got something for YOU.
Shockmachine. Free. Now.
It's dynamite, and it's waiting for you at:
Why does Shockmachine deserve a place on YOUR hard drive?
Well, first of all Shockmachine is free so it will cost you absolutely nada.
(Not a bad selling point!) ETC.
Fun to write! Sometimes, when you add a little attitude, you can cut through the clutter and get the reader on your side. Then you're halfway home.
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for companies like Bank of America, Fireman's Fund, Intel and Microsoft. Levison writes direct mail, emails, and Web copy. For a free subscription to his monthly email newsletter for marketers, and a free copy of his report, "101 Ways to Double Your Response Rates!", visit www.levison.com.