The Importance of Effective Communication in Email Marketing

LinkedIn LogoAccording to the DMA, the ROI of email marketing is $40.56.

Not too shabby.

Yet, not every email must be sales-related. Not every email needs a big “BUY NOW” call to action button. Email marketing does not always have to be about selling more of your stuff. It can also be quite an effective channel to update your customers.

However, when using email marketing to communicate to your customers, it’s imperative that your messaging is clear and effective.

Last week, the folks at LinkedIn forgot the importance of effective, clear communication when they sent this email (below). Humor me for a minute and read through it.

Gmail: Update about the Tweets application on LinkedIn

Be honest – did it make any sense to you? Read it again if you have to.

I recall reading through the email once and thinking, “Oh. Okay. You can no longer send Tweets through LinkedIn.” I wasn’t exactly sure I understood what they meant, so I read it again. And again. And again. Now I was actually confused. What exactly was LinkedIn trying to communicate in this email? I didn’t really understand and I wanted to learn more.

But I could not. LinkedIn thanked me for my “continued support” and provided me a useless link to their Help Center. That’s it!

I’m guessing they did not read my post from a few weeks ago – Does Every Email Need a Call to Action? 

LinkedIn was sharing some bad news with it’s members – they were eliminating a feature. I’m pretty sure this news upset some of their members. To make matters worse, they sent an update email that was difficult to understand. I bet LinkedIn received a whole mess of “huh?” replies and negative social media mentions.

To their credit, LinkedIn sent a follow up email the very next day with the subject line, “Following up about our Tweets Application email.”

And they did just that. Check out the email below.

Significantly better, right?

LinkedIn did a much better job in this email effectively communicating the feature news. Specifically, they:

  • Led by apologizing and ensuring they would clarify in this email.
  • Told members what this change would mean for them — how it would impact them.
  • Broke up the message into sections using a numbered list.
  • Provided two call to action links that were actually useful.
  • Included a image showing members exactly what they were referring to in the email.

Takeways

Email marketing is a very powerful communication channel. It’s important to treat it as such. If possible, have a person or team review all emails before you hit send. Ask them to not just check for typos and broken links, but also to ensure that the messaging is clear. Finally, if you receive feedback that something was not working as intended or was unclear, consider sending a follow up email like the LinkedIn did in the above example.

Are you using email marketing to communicate with your customers? Have you ever had to send a follow up email like LinkedIn did? I’d love to hear your experiences, thoughts, and comments. Please share below!

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

Breaking the Rules of Email Marketing

Explore Dallas - Social Media Marketing Event

Back in my early days as an email marketing guy, I was a purist. I lived in absolutes. I believed in the idea of best practices … practices that were best for all, no matter what.

In my nearly 7 years of living, breathing, and sometimes dreaming email marketing, I’ve changed my tune a bit. I’m no longer a purist. I no longer believe that best practices are “best” for all. Instead, I think that sometimes, email marketing rules are made to be broken.

On February 17th, I will be talking about breaking the rules of email marketing at Explore Dallas-Fort Worth - a Social Media Explorer event hosted by Jason Falls. We’ll be in the historic Union Station Dallas for an intensive day of learning and networking. The content is designed to help businesses who are trying to move past the tactical minutiae of social to a comfort level more grounded in strategy.

Check out the full agenda. It features some pretty kick ass speakers, including my friends THE Tim Hayden, Tom Webster, Zena Weist, and a buch of other super-smart folks. Bonus: The conference is bookended by an opening keynote by Brian Clark and a closer by Jason Falls.

For a few teaser videos of what you can expect from some of the speakers, check out this post (and video) from Tom Webster. Be sure to watch to the end to see Jason laugh so hard he cries. Also, feel free to watch the video conversation I had with Jason a few weeks ago (below). Another Bonus: You get to see my cute-as-can-be daughter in the last few frames!

Can’t see the video? Try watching directly on Vimeo.

Finally, as most importantly, BUY YOUR TICKET NOW! If you are one of the first 100 registrants, you’ll save $150 and get the full day’s content, breakfast, lunch (by Wolfgang Puck Catering) and a cocktail reception. Reserve your spot now by clicking on the big ‘ol orange “Order Now” button below. See you in Big D on February 17th. This event, as Jason says, “Will rock.” See you there.

Cheers.

DJ Waldow

Does Every Email Need a Call To Action?

I received one comment in particular that jumped out at me from last week’s blog post, Thank you for being one of our best customers!

Alan Belniak wrote:

Over the past four weeks, I saw plenty of holiday-related messages in my inbox, wishing me a happy/healthful holiday season. And the ones I liked were the ones that *didn’t* have a call to action. What about saying ‘thank you’ just to say ‘thank you’? I get that every communication is an opportunity to connect. But I think sometimes we need to beg off a bit on the push, and be meaningful in the thanks. So, I think what Ace did here was perfect. In fact, it got you to comment on it.

Perhaps another way to use email with a call to action could be (if their CRM supports it) a list of the past x things you bought over y months, and then links to how-to videos on those tools, or a discussion forum for people who have done similar projects.

But I’m not a fan or forcing a call to action into a message where it seems unnatural.

While it’s always nice to read those comments that say, “I agree!” or “You nailed it!”, ones like the above from Alan – offering another perspective – tend to get me thinking. Alan’s comment is a good reminder that every subscriber, every customer, every client is different. Alan has a good point. Maybe sometimes a simple “thank you” email is effective.

Does Every Email Need a Call To Action?

Shortly after reading Alan’s comment, I downloaded a few reports from Merkle and Return Path. In order to receive the free report, each company required that I provide my email address and some other contact information (Note: Great way to grow your list!). I figured it was a fair trade. However, how each company used my email address was quite different.

The email from Merkle (Subject Line: Thank you) was just that, a simple thank you email with some brief copy, but no call to action. See below:

Merkle Marketing Thank You Email

Sure, they included an email address where I could contact them should I have “any questions that require immediate assistance,” but that was pretty much it. They thanked me. I opened. I read. I deleted. We moved on.

Now, compare that to the email from Return Path (Subject Line: Your Requested Research Study – The 1H11 Global Benchmark Report). See below:

Return Path Thank You Email

Pretty big difference, right? The copy was very specific to the report I had just requested. It included a link to download the report (presumably for future use as I had already downloaded it after providing my contact information). Keep in mind that with proper click-through tracking, Return Path can see whether or not I clicked this link. Valuable data for future use. This email also included a link to a video from their CEO, Matt Blumberg, and a link to follow them on Twitter. Finally, like the Merkle email, they dropped in an email address (and a URL) to contact them to speak with a representative and/or get an assessment. In other words, 3+ clear calls to action.

Which email is more compelling? More interactive? More actionable? Which email are you more likely to read and archive vs. read and ditch?

So I ask again, does every email need a call to action?

Continuing on …

A few days after the “thank you” email from Return Path, I received an email from Jeff Green with the subject line: DJ……Jeff w/ Return Path

The email read:

Hi DJ,

My name is Jeff Green and I am with Return Path. I see that you have had a chance to visit us on Returnpath.net. I wanted to follow up to see if you have any questions about how to interpret the data we provide. Have you experienced any known issues?  I would be happy to visit regarding your email use and how Return Path can optimize your email programs.  When would be a good time to talk?

The next very day, Jeff invited me to connect with him on LinkedIn.

Parting Thoughts

I took a similar action – filled out an email opt-in form in order to download a report – from both Merkle and Return Path. However, their follow up thank you emails were vastly different. Comparing the two examples (as well as the other follow ups), which company would you be more likely to remember? Which company would be more top of mind if/when you needed their services?

Remember though what I wrote above: every subscriber, every customer, every client is different. Maybe some people would prefer the simple “thank you” approach that Merkle took versus the more actionable style of Return Path.

I’d venture to bet that Return Path sees more return – more opens, more clicks, more new business – from their emails than Merkle does.

What do you think?

Cheers.
DJ Waldow

Thank you for being one of our best customers!

Thank You
Nothing quite beats a thank you. I think that it’s one of the sweetest sounds in the world. I’d argue that we don’t thank other people enough. From a business perspective, how often do you thank your customers? Have you ever sent a dedicated email to your subscribers thanking them?

Earlier this week, I received an email from my local Ace Hardware store. The subject line read, “Thank you for being one of our best customers!” It immediately put a smile on my face. Below is a screenshot of the email they sent me:

Thank You Email From Ace HardwareCool, right? Ace sent me a (personalized) thank you email. The message was direct and to the point. They thanked me for being a valuable customer and said they appreciated my business. This email – as well as my experience at my local Ace Hardware store – is very consistent with their tagline “the helpful place.” They really are.

However, one (big) thing is missing from this email. Any guesses?

Where is the call to action? What am I supposed to do with this email? Do I share it with my social network on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn? Do I reply and say “You’re Welcome!”? Do I just delete it?

Every single time you hit the send button on an email campaign, think about your goal. What action do you want your subscribers to take? Open and read? Click a link? Register for an event? Buy something? Read a blog post? Then, once you have your goal in mind, craft the call to action to accordingly.

In the case of this thank you email from Ace, the call to action could have been:

  • A thank you coupon, redeemable only at my local store
  • Some free points added to my Rewards card
  • A free light bulb, box of screws, or something comparable
  • A link to a video, saying thank you
  • A link to a sales page on their website

You get the idea. There was a lot of opportunity to take this thank you email and make it actionable.

Are you using email marketing to thank your customers? Are you including a call to action in every single email you send? As a consumer, have you received thank you emails from other companies? Please share below!

Oh. And thank you for reading this blog post. Please share it with your social network by clicking the Like, +1, and/or Tweet button above. See … that was my call to action!

Cheers.
DJ Waldow