Our E-mail Addiction - 2
Kim Zinda's five ways to use e-mail marketing are:
* Provide subscription visibility.
* Employ e-mail onboarding programs.
* Use promotional activities to acquire new e-mail names.
* Append e-mail names to an existing database.
* Fine-tune your data.
I have no quarrel with anything Zinda says in her 937-word piece and have provided a hyperlink below FYI. Zinda's dealing with the technical aspects of e-mail marketing.
But once the electronics are in place--the right audience and the ability to reach them--what do you say and how best to say it?
I just ran across a Forrester Research report from July 2008 that predicts the volume of e-mail marketing will hit a high point of 838 billion messages by 2013.
Yes, the cost of e-mail is low. But with this huge blitz of traffic, the message must be compelling and relevant--from the subject line in the inbox to the landing page and the follow-up.
Always remember that, at any point along the way, the effort is a mouse click away from oblivion--whereupon ROI is nonexistent and your time spent is wasted.
My early experience was in the world of book continuity series--giving away the first book free (or for a buck) and selling the other 23 volumes at the rate of one book a month. Success was measured by the average number of paid books per customer.
If a customer quit after the first free book, you had what consultant Bob Doscher labels a "premium bandit"--a person who sends away for anything free with no intention of buying.
In the continuity business, you began to show a profit somewhere around volume three or four. If the average number of paid volumes was six, you had a success on your hands. However, if a customer could be persuaded to hang on for just two more volumes, the profit increase would be huge, because acquisition costs were amortized over the first two paid volumes.
The bottom line was selling books, but ultimately we were in the business of acquiring customers who wouldn't only buy the series we were selling at the time, but other stuff as well.
Acquire a customer and you gain share of market; the next task was to increase share of wallet.
E-commerce is no different. Do you want to sell stuff or acquire loyal customers? If you're a charity, do you want a quick gift or a loyal donor who'll give and give and give over the long haul?
Old Marketing and New--Similarities
The similarities between marketing by snail mail (or off-the-page advertising) and e-commerce are many. The old Ed Mayer formula for success--40% lists, 40% offer and 20% everything else--probably holds for electronic media.
Other rules also apply:
* "The prospect doesn't give a damn about you, your company or your product," said Seattle guru Bob Hacker. "All that matters is: 'What's in it for me?'"
* Put another way: "Always listen to WII-FM."
These rules are inviolate regardless of the medium. The prospect immediately must see and feel benefits--as opposed to being inundated with product features--or you'll be punished by the oblivion mouse click.
Old Marketing and New--the Big Difference
In the old days of snail-mail ordering, huge delays--weeks and weeks--existed between sales message, order, delivery and payment.
* In e-commerce, the action can be instantaneous. E-mail in inbox ... click ... sales message ... click ... order ... click ... credit card info ... click. Done. If the product or service is delivered by e-mail (special report, Bob Woodward book to your Kindle, downloaded software program, etc.) there's instant gratification. If not, just spend a few bucks extra to get the product the next day.
The Question That Determines Format
Many young Turks who've come into online marketing without the benefit of real-world marketing experience regard the number of e-mail addresses to be so huge and the cost to reach them so cheap that they, in effect, throw eggs against the wall and hope some of them stick.
The result is ineptitude and, in some cases, out-and-out spam. Spam gums up inboxes and generates ill will, but also garners enough response to let them e-mail another day.
The determining question: Is the product or service you're offering immediately recognizable to the prospect, or does it need a lengthy explanation?
Two basic formats exist--a text-based e-mail or HTML, which has images and other fancy styles--to make a kind of direct mail effort on a computer screen.
If the Product or Service Is Obvious ...
For example, since our six-day cruise to Bermuda over Labor Day, I have noticed an avalanche of online ads for last-minute, discount cruises--Vacations To Go, CruiseOne, CruisesOnly and Vacation Outlet. Plus, of course, we get promotions from individual cruise lines we've patronized--Norwegian and (many years ago) Princess.
Cruise aficionados don't need to read a letter about the benefits and pleasures of cruise ships. "Just the facts, ma'am," as Joe Friday used to say. All we want is an interactive landing page that lets us choose: from where and to where, dates, ship, costs and discount off rack rate, plus any special offers (companion goes half-price, $200-per-cabin credit, includes air, etc.). If we see a cruise of interest, we click for the itinerary, cancellation penalties and guarantee.
Those who wish to agonize over the decision can go directly to the cruise line, click on the ship, look at the layout and amenities, and shop other bargain cruise sites. However, many of these cruise deals are for last-minute opportunities. Dawdle too long and you lose.
Other offers that don't require long, benefit-oriented copy: airlines and hotels, insurance, credit cards, clothes and gardening catalogs, etc. These are products and services that prospects and customers are familiar with and can order quickly--unless they're shoppers and want to spend time on various sites comparing offers.
When You May Need a Letter ...
If you have a complex product that needs some explaining, a letter is very likely your best bet--just as in traditional direct mail.
The letter allows you to make an emotional, one-to-one connection with the reader. A letter traditionally should not contain a list of features, but rather talk benefits--what these features will do for the reader.
"The letter is the most powerful and persuasive selling force in direct marketing once the product, price and offer are set," wrote freelancer Malcolm Decker. "The writer creates the salesperson, usually from whole cloth, and you must be certain that this sales representative is truly representative of your product or service, as well of your company. The letter is likely to be the only 'person' your market will ever meet--at least on the front end of the sale--so don't make it highbrow if your market is lowbrow and vice versa."
"The tone of a good direct mail letter is as direct and personal as the writer's skill can make it," said the late direct mail copywriter Harry Walsh. "Even though it may go to millions of people, it never orates to a crowd, but rather murmurs into a single ear. It's a message from one letter writer to one letter reader."
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