Famous Last Words: Cold E-mail to Strangers Can Work
Unlike TV news people, direct marketers can be deliciously savvy. Take, for example, zephermedia.com, which slammed out an e-mail blast—probably to tens of millions—that cashed in on the incredible hype by offering a two-disc DVD set on Reagan. Ten years ago—sans Internet—this offer could only be made in print ads or mail long after the publicity had died down.
Look at the message above, specifically the subject line. Three words, right on the money. The reason cold e-mail does not work is because most of the people who create it do not understand that the subject line is the equivalent of the headline on the ad (“The ticket on the meat,” as David Ogilvy called it) or the teaser on the outer envelope. World-class copywriters spend hours on this single element. Boardroom’s legendary Mel Martin could spend weeks thinking though a teaser or a headline.
Yes, I found weaknesses in this effort. The copywriter used virtually no emotion. And the following two sentences were truly poor: (1) “He is also credited by many with the greatest peacetime expansion in U.S. history,” and (2) “From the attempted assassination on his life, to his … .” Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase was the greatest peacetime expansion in U.S. history, and if the “attempted assassination” was not on his life, what was it on? Further, if you clicked on a button that said “click here” you landed on a page with the same illustration and the same copy—an unnecessary redundancy. Everywhere were guarantees of financial safety and confidentiality. At the top of the page I was told that 1,201 others were shopping at that moment. At $40 a set, these guys were taking in $48,000 every few minutes. Not bad for a promotion that cost zilch.
It could have been done better. But the point is, the promotion was slammed out and working. In the words of Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”