Our E-mail Addiction - 2
The late guru Dick Benson said, "A letter should look and feel like a letter." Certainly this is true for snail mail, and I believe it also holds for e-mail.
For example, last week I received a letter from The Wall Street Journal alerting me that on Wednesday the new and improved Web site would be launched. You can see an illustration of it below. I've been a subscriber to WSJ for years under the moniker, Walden Hatch. The reason: If I receive a mailing to Walden Hatch, I know to whom WSJ has rented my name.
The WSJ letter does not look and feel like a letter. "Dear Walden Hatch" was slugged in an oversized serif font while the rest of the letter was set in small sans serif type. It has two signature blocks but no handwritten signatures. When two people sign a letter, it's ipso facto groupthink and not personal. The text is gray, making it difficult to read.
This is a clumsy attempt at personalization that's supposed to make me feel special, but it's obviously a letter to the entire WSJ file with "Dear Walden Hatch" slugged in at the top in the wrong size.
What do you say in your letter? "Tell a story if possible," suggested Harry Walsh:
Everybody loves a good story, be it about Peter Rabbit or King Lear. And the direct mail letter, with its unique person-to-person format, is the perfect vehicle for a story. And stories get read. The letter I wrote to launch the Cousteau Society twenty-some years ago has survived hundreds of tests against it. When I last heard, it was still being mailed in some form or other. The original of this direct mail Methuselah started out with this lead: "A friend once told me a curious story I would like to share with you ..."
Once you have emotionally hooked a prospect with the benefits, you can add a digital, illustrated circular that shows and describes the features of the product or service. This is the "it" copy (that shows and describes "it") as opposed to the "you" (and the benefits to you) copy in the letter.
Sprinkle "Click to Order" hyperlinks liberally around so the prospect doesn't have to hunt for them. "Always make it easy to order," said Grolier Enterprises Founder Elsworth Howell.
55-Word Book Review
Note: In the May 8, 2007, edition of this e-zine, "The Book Business: An Industry of Whiners," I proposed an online (for-profit) book service, QuickieBookReviews.com, that features short reviews (55 words) and one to four stars--just like movie reviews. You're invited to submit 55-word reviews of any really good book that readers would enjoy.
****The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. A riveting masterpiece that explores the twisted mind-set of the jihadists, their pathological hatred of the West and their bleak lives. Among the players and their stories: the founding Islamic scholar, Sayyid Qutb; Ayman al-Zawahiri; and Osama bin Laden and the evolution of al-Qaeda. Especially upsetting: the failure of American intelligence and its sad-sack bureaucracy. Vintage, 576pp, ISBN-13: 978-1400030842, $15.95, paperback. --DH 09-19-08