direct e-mail: stand up, stand out and be counted

I have a direct e-mail pet hate – I simply get too many.  And that’s just the ones I subscribe to!  So I started a project.  Instead of hitting delete out of principle, before reading what the e-mail actually says, or hitting unsubscribe out of principle, before reading what the e-mail actually says; I decided to read each one and see how effective they are.

What happened to quality over quantity?

One week in, I have created two categories in my project:

B2B.  E-mails from other businesses, that I usually haven’t subscribed to (but sometimes have), often didn’t ask for and that are the most repetitive, uninspiring e-mails I’ve read.  The sheer volume makes the ones I do actually want to read overshadowed by the activity of the ones that I don’t.  So I don’t really read any of them.

B2C:  Retailers and products that I usually use, want and have subscribed to (normally when I buy something online).  Interestingly, I have often not ticked the subscribe box, yet somehow they have managed to subscribe me along the way.  Cheeky.

One thing they all seem to have in common is that they’re too busy competing with each other to realise that collectively, this isn’t a sustainable way to communicate.  After a busy day at work and reading your many blog posts, tweets and getting up to date on Facebook and Linked in, (where of course you are further bombarded with direct marketing), how many people really want to read the thirty direct e-mails in their inbox?    Stress levels are high, people aren’t machines and our pre-historic systems can’t cope.  Why are businesses overloading people, when they could be helping them.  The customer is switched off.

How to stand out from the direct e-mail crowd

I’m not arguing that direct e-mails serve a purpose.  If they didn’t work, then we wouldn’t send them at all.  But we need to be smarter about content and timing.  They are designed to be scan-read, taking into account that people don’t have time and won’t read the whole thing.  I don’t even get that far, I just hit delete.  The question is, how do we make them work better?  My project  helped me structure my thoughts on this, so here are my top tips towards more sustainable direct e-mail communication.

If they didn’t ask, for it, don’t send it!  Lesson number one.  Stop subscribing people or making opt-in boxes look like opt-out boxes!  Nobody likes being taken for a fool and most people would like the respect that comes with understanding that we generally know exactly what we want, when we want it.  And we don’t need someone to convince us that we need something we don’t.  Mass-consumerism is not cool.

Show, don’t tell.  I love this concept.  Like a nice dress, you need to leave a little to the imagination.  Make it clear what your key message is, but don’t harp on about why people need it or lots of details.  Just show them through your brand and messaging, how it relates to them.  As long as you chose the right way to communicate and people are interested,  they’ll click to find out more.

Tailor-made is best.  There’s nothing worse than thinking you’re just a number in a mass-communication lottery.  If you have a focused brand message and product or service, then you’ll have a focused target audience.  And within that audience, there’ll be sub-audiences.  Foe example, you have an online fashion shop. Your target audience is eighteen to thirty-five year-old women.  Why would you communicate to them all in the same way?  It makes complete sense to know your market inside out and then communicate to them in the way that matters to them.   If I read an e-mail titile ‘Like all thing you love, we’re always here waiting’……’ as opposed to ‘15% off for our favourite customers today!’ , I’d open it.  I don’t want to be sold to everyday, it’s tiring.  My twenty-one year old sister however, would love it!

Build a love relationship, not a hate one.  Less is more.  You don’t need to send a direct e-mail every time you have something to say, you’ll build more trust with your customers when you respect their space, show them quality information and build a relationship with them in a sustainable way.  As I said before, if you they like what they see, they’ll go to your site/blog and read more.  Think of the long-term gains, not the short-term.  People are social animals, they need to know who they can trust and then they’ll come back.  As long as they know that you’re always there.

It’s all part of the bigger pictureThere’d no point sending great direct e-mails, if the rest of your communications or content doesn’t stack up.  Back to the basic principle of great communication – be consistent.  Make sure your website is clear, concise and builds on your message.  Make sure your blog is on the same level, and you’re not tweeting new posts or articles every five minutes and driving people crazy.  It’s about integrated communication and content, all designed with the most important thing in mind; your customers.

If you’d like to find out more about communication strategy and great copywriting, you can reach me via Twitter @lifeinzuri.  You might also like who are your audience  and tweet-itis (have you got symptoms?).

If you have your own thoughts or comments on direct e-mails, let me know by leaving a comment.

If you would like to be notified of new posts, you can also follow by e-mail below (weekly digest available) or link to my rss feed by using the url

About lifeinzuri
Thirty-something Englanderin copywriter and business owner in Zurich ... Blogging about life, love, language barriers and small business on the best journey of my life :)

2 Responses to direct e-mail: stand up, stand out and be counted

  1. Pingback: smallbiz communication in the age of 4G « communication for our generation

  2. Pingback: your customers’ real needs « communication for our generation

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