email content cliches: stop doing what everyone else is doing
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Post on 08-Feb-2017
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Email Content Cliches: Stop Doing What
Everyone Else is Doing
Kristin Bond My job involves training a lot of people on email marketing in
a specific ESP, and optimizing marketing emails for Girl Scouts at the national level. (And no, I cant get you free cookies. Buy them from a Girl Scout next January.)
My other job involves teaching the basics of email marketing to people who want to start their own companies.
My non-job job involves writing a blog that mocks bad email marketing, and tweeting about life as an email marketer.
Sr. Email Marketing Manager, Girl Scouts of the USA
For my blog, I subscribed to a lot of emails. And I saw a few very common themes
the first to know
youre the first to know
be the first to know
youre the first to know
Are your email subscribers really the first to know?
ALL of them?
Why Its Bad Its not even true.
Almost every single brand does it.
Who cares? Whats the benefit of being first to know for subscribers?
Why are we even welcoming people to receive advertisements from us in the first place?
Do this instead Thank them for subscribing.
Introduce your brand.
Give them something of value, whether its a discount or great content (or both!).
Ask new subscribers to update their preferences or sign up to follow you on social.
Ditch the word Welcome completely. Ask them to update preferences
Why its bad
If your list or offer is exclusive, you will probably have terrible ROI. You know that thing where you see a word too many times and it begins to lose meaning? Thats
whats happening with Exclusive. Why should anyone care that other people may or may not be getting this deal?
Do this instead Stop calling things exclusive.
Get a thesaurus.
Think about whats compelling about your offer, and use that to describe it.
And then theres Exclusives BFF
Just for you I received an email about an upcoming
conference that has more than 120,000 attendees.
The email had information about speakers and sessions, and a countdown - the content was actually pretty good.
But the subject line was not.Subject: Kristin [Conference] News Just for You!
This news was NOT just for me. It was for 119,999 other people too.
A conference logo
Why its bad Again, its usually not true.
Your subscribers arent stupid. Dont insult their intelligence.
Who cares? For something like this, as an attendee, I would want all the other people to know whats going on.
Do this instead With personalization - show, dont tell.
Dont fake personalization.
Instead of blatantly saying how unique the content is, just have unique content that is interesting and relevant to the subscriber. Let them think you can read their minds.
If youre basing recommendations on previous purchases or behavior - its okay to be upfront about it. People prefer honesty over creepiness.
April Fools Day
Subject Line: Thanks For Your Order!
A furniture store
Why Its Bad This one made a lot of people mad, especially if they had ever
experienced identity theft. It went viral. Not in a good way. This one wasnt even funny. It was cheesy.
Do this instead Your April Fools marketing email should be a joke, not a prank.
Ideal reaction: You want to make people do a double take, maybe fool them for a moment, but not upset them.
Be funny and clever.
Do something similar enough to something that your brand would normally do that it throws people off, but make it very clear that its not real.
Involve cute animals in some way. It just works.
This was similar to other emails Uber had sent, like Uber Kittens, so it had that Are they serious?!? moment, but it was obviously not a real thing.
They had a social good element where they donated money to National Geographics Big Cats Initiative. They sent another email later in the day talking about the initiative and showing ways for people to donate.
Warby Parkers Warby Barker This campaign was incredibly detailed:
It had a landing page with an FAQ about dog prescriptions and a video with the co-founders explaining the collection of dog glasses.
It had the same look and feel as the brands other emails and website at the time, right down to the dog head turns on the product pages.
It was cute, and funny.
Bodens Dress Recall This email from Johnnie Boden, a British clothing
retailer, recalled a dress with abeachprint that had tiny people on it because, upon closer inspection, there were naked people on the dress.
The email waswrittenas an apology, and hadinstructionsfor returning it for a refund. If people clicked on the link for more info, they were let in on the joke.
It featured a product that people could actually buy, and people bought it. I bought the skirt in this print because of this email.
Sending an April Fools email with NO JOKE!
Whats worse than sending an April Fools email with a bad joke?
Why Its Bad Youre right - its not a joke. Jokes are funny. This is not funny. Its not clever. Its boring. Stop it.
Do this instead Send something truly clever and original.
Or just send a normal email. Most people dont celebrate or recognize April Fools Day anyway.
Or dont send an email at all. You dont have to send an email every day. Its okay. You deserve a break. You have enough other holidays to worry about.
I DID NOT OPT IN TO THIS AS A MARKETER.
OK NOPE NOPENOPEXX X
We cant seem to agree on consistent, real timing for
these fake holidays.
Spring Black Friday
The blue hardware store
The blue hardware store
The orange hardware store
Why Its Bad The real versions of these holidays are bad enough. These are confusing at best. Customers see right through this. Dont be the brand who cried OMG Lowest prices of the
year!!!! every month.
Do this instead Just dont. Dont do this. Send emails about
literally anything else.
And while were on the subject of holidays that
dont make sense
Cyber Monday"The name Cyber Monday grew out of the observation that millions of otherwise productive working Americans, fresh off a Thanksgiving weekend of window shopping, were returning to high-speed Internet connections at work Monday and buying what they liked.
~The New York Times
Not exactly. At the time, the Monday after Thanksgiving was
nowhere NEAR the highest online sales day - it was more like #12. December 12 was the highest day for online sales in 2005, and December 13 was the highest in 2006. That pattern has continued, more or less.
Cyber Monday sales have increased over the years, but its not the day that most people are shopping.
And now we send Cyber Monday emails as if we didnt all have
devices with high speed internet in our hands at all times.
The other problem with Cyber Monday its not just a day.
Do this instead #StopCyberMonday
If we must do it - lets pick ONE day, okay? Stop extending these fake holidays.
Can we at least change the name? Cyber is a weird and icky word.
Or like, could we move it to Thanksgiving day so people can stay home, and have retail stores go back to being closed on Thanksgiving Day? Everyone wins there. Were the marketers. We control this. SOLIDARITY! #StopCyberMonday
Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday
Eat turkey. Be with family.
Customers can shop online at
More online sales. Or in
store, I guess, but that can go
away too, right?
Push in-store sales
Push in-store sales Nothing
Award Show Emails
I received all of these in the span of a few hours on Oscar Night.
Why Its Bad This is lazy marketing.
These brands are just sending emails with the first subject line that pops into their heads for this occasion.
Instead of sending something relevant to our products, we just try to make our products relevant to whatevers going on, even if it doesnt make sense.
With award shows, and ANY other special occasion: find something that makes sense for your brand, like Food52s #oscarnoms
(This was on Twitter and was a last minute thing, but something like