Email Marketing Archives

Beware of the popularity trap

It turns out Martha Stewart is an inspiration for a lot of the tattooed 20-something hipster crowd who are entrepreneurs. Who knew?

Apparently she has street cred among them because of the time she served in prison. It adds some edge to the Suzy Homemaker image that would normally be a put off.

Traffic to her website among the 18-34 set has skyrocketed and this age group frequently hosts Meet Ups about crafting the Martha way and blog about her books and some even have tattoos of her. Everything an online marketer would want, right?

Yet even though she is popular, her company is in financial trouble.

As the analyst in the article puts it, “Who cares if she’s popular if you can’t monetize it?”

Somewhat ironically, Oprah’s popularity has dropped since she left her TV talk show and she’s trying to boost her popularity by seeking a younger audience for her magazine, which currently only attracts older readers.  But such a tactic hasn’t worked for Martha.

It’s easy for non-celebrity types to fall into the popularity trap too in this social media age, but beware and remember: who cares if you’re popular if you can’t monetize it?

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I am NOT a San Francisco 49ers fan (I’m a Packers fan, even though they are losing big to the Giants as I type this) but I couldn’t help reading about this past week’s brouhaha over their back up quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Their starter, Alex Smith, has played almost perfectly this year yet Kaepernick started for the second week in a row and the 49ers won both games.

Since last Sunday he’s been given a nickname (“Kap”), generated a lot of chatter on sports talk radio and social media, and his jerseys are flying off shelves.

But why, considering Smith was having the best season of his career?

Apparently one big reason is because Kap played with swagger and excitement, which got the fans fired up in ways Smith’s workmanlike style fails to do.

I guess it’s not enough to play well and look almost perfect on paper. The intangibles are important as well.

Plus, Kap has an interesting story: he was 6’5″ and 170 pounds in high school and more suited for baseball. He was a star pitcher with a ton of offers to play professional baseball yet chose to pursue football even though he was only offered one football scholarship.

49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh caught a lot of heat for deciding to start Kap again this week, yet there are two lessons here:

Just because you’re doing well doesn’t mean your customers (i.e. fans) are going to stick with you no matter what.  Insecurity is your best security.

And as a business owner (i.e. coach), are you always going to stick with what’s working no matter what, because you put so much time in developing it and because most people think you should?  Or do you take the risk and try something new that could be even better?

P. S.  Because of Black Friday and Cyber Monday and whatnot, I’ll go ahead and add a deal of my own:

Order one series of 7 emails and I’ll include a second series at no charge.  I can only offer this to one client before the holidays – MAYBE two, if you’re flexible about the time frame.  Email me at anitaashland@gmail.com. The offer expires after Christmas. It’s good for both repeat and new clients.
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Bring on the information overload

Do you ever hold back on sending out email for fear of information overload?

Then I recommend this article in The Atlantic, (which reminded me I need to reread the book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen).

If you are feeling overwhelmed, or don’t want to give your customers information overload, then consider this:

Information overload is not the issue. If it were, you’d walk into the library and die. As soon as you connected to the Web, you’d just explode.

In fact, the most information-rich place in the world is the most relaxing: it’s called nature. It has more varied horizons, more detail, more input of all sorts. As a matter of fact, if you want to go crazy, get rid of all your information: it’s called sensory depravation.

The thing about nature is, it’s information rich, but the meaningful things in nature are relatively few—berries, bears and snakes, thunderstorms, maybe poison oak. There are only a few things in nature that force me to change behavior or make a decision. The problem with e-mail is that it’s not just information; it’s the need for potential action. It’s the berries and snakes and bears, but they’re embedded, and you don’t know what’s in each one.

Not only that, but e-mail has a trait that fits the core of addictive behavior, which is random positive reinforcement.

What’s that?

So you get an e-mail from your mom, or you get an e-mail from your boss—they contain snakes or berries or bears, but they’re not self-evident until you look. Now, some part of you, subliminally, is constantly going, That could be meaningful, that could be meaningful, that could change what I’m doing, that might be something I don’t want to decide about … You multiply that by the hundreds, if not thousands, of items sitting there.

All those things you’re not deciding about wear you down, and decision-making functions just like a muscle. If you’ve had half a day of a lot of decisions to make, you don’t have much willpower left the rest of the day. So then we walk around with what I call the GSA of life—the Gnawing Sense of Anxiety that something out there might be more important than what you’re currently doing.

They key with email marketing and copywriting is to make your berries, bears and snakes, thunderstorms, and poison oak self-evident and decisive so that your customers don’t have to wonder if your email is important or relevant.  Either they delete it or click on the link in it. That way you aren’t adding to their Gnawing Sense of Anxiety.

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The E. F. Hutton approach to marketing

Remember the E.F. Hutton commercials in the 1970s and 80s?

If you’re a young whippersnapper and don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a video of one of the commercials.

The tagline of each commercial was, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”

I thought of this when I read online somewhere a description of billionaire Mark Cuban as the E. F. Hutton of the business world.

I’ve subscribed to his blog for some time and he rarely posts.  But when he does I am sure to read it because he always has something interesting and substantive to say.

Sure, one could say he doesn’t have to post a lot because he’s successful. But a lot of entrepreneurs who have made it big often just end up using guest bloggers or let their blog die completely. They aren’t E. F. Huttons.

Anyway, a lot of people think it’s important to be active on social media and hammer their lists constantly and all that.  But how many people actually listen?

I’ve been a copywriter for five years now and more and more I’ve come to realize that the E. F. Hutton approach to marketing is the way to go.

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An email copywriting lesson from Netflix

Copywriters put a lot of effort into subject lines, but there’s a field that’s even more important… the from field.

Get that wrong and your subject line and email won’t get read at all.

Let’s take this email I got from the Netflix CEO today as an example:

Like most people, I quickly glance at the from column in my inbox first.

I noticed “Reed Hastings, Co-Founder” and didn’t know who the heck that was. I almost trashed it but gave it a second chance because of the subject line.

It turns out Reed Hastings is the CEO of Netflix. Who knew? I didn’t, even though I’ve been a customer for several years. I probably don’t know the names of the CEOs of any of the companies I pay bills to every month.

The from field should have read, “Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO & Co-Founder.” Then “Reed Hastings, Netflix” would have appeared in the from field of my inbox and I would have opened it without almost accidentally deleting it.

If you’re a copywriter, always ask a client what they intend to put in the from field and advise them accordingly. It might seem like a trivial detail but it’s not.

By the way, I like the rest of the Netflix email. I always admire it when someone has the courage to open an email with “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.” Plus, I’m a happy instant streaming customer, and hate messing with DVDs, so I’m not in a snit over their new biz model.

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How a rescued cockatiel can rescue your sales

So I recently found myself standing at a busy intersection, whistling like a mad woman.

I drew WTF looks from drivers but I didn’t care.

There was a cockatiel in a tree and I was determined to rescue it.

I knew I had my work cut out for me, however, because I was a stranger to the bird and didn’t know his name.

Cockatiels are friendly birds but won’t fly to the shoulder of just anyone.

He was cheeping the way cockatiels cheep when they are anxious or calling out to a cockatiel buddy.

I imitated that cheep as best as I could and made eye contact with him. He calmed down.

He wasn’t budging, though, so I walked to the other side of the tree and started whistling songs cockatiels usually know: the wolf whistle, the Adams Family and Andy Griffith theme songs.

He kept staring at me and gradually felt safe enough to fly to a lower branch.

I wanted to close the deal, however, especially when the waiter at a nearby Mexican restaurant… the guy who made me aware of the cockatiel’s presence in the first place… said sadly, “If you don’t rescue him, he’ll die, won’t he.”

Pressure.

Stress.

Plus, cockatiels are nomadic creatures when in the wild, so I knew I had to close the deal now or never.

This anxiety was making it hard for me to continue to whistle, so I switched tactics and started saying words a cockatiel might know:

“Food.” “Water.” “Step up.” “Pretty bird.”

I used a sing song-y voice in a higher register than my normal speaking voice because cockatiels like higher pitches.

Those words really got his attention and he kept dropping down to lower branches one at a time until he was on the lowest branch.

Suddenly there was a flurry of feathers but I remained still.

He landed on my head.

I ever so carefully walked to my car and slid into the front seat.

He insisted on remaining on my shoulder so I let him stay there during the drive home so as to maintain my bond of trust with him.

Sometimes he hopped onto my head, which probably drew more WTF looks from drivers, but I didn’t care.

The moment I put him into the bird cage at home (we have a small aviary of parakeets and cockatiels at home) he wagged his tail from side to side vigorously, the way cockatiels do when they are happy.

Then he ate and drank for 30 minutes straight.

Which brings us to the “La-Di-Frickin’-Da, what does this have to do with my business” part of the post.

First, there isn’t any one thing that closes the deal when selling to a customer.

Sure, I could conclude that my using words like “food” were what closed the deal, and that I should just launch straight into that if I ever happen upon a cockatiel in the wild again.

Just like some marketers think their fancy-pants sales page is what closes the deal and they fixate on that and neglect their email list.

But it was a large sales funnel, so to speak, beginning with his previous owner, who, based on what I now know of his temperament, clearly had a loving bond with this bird, enabling him to give me the time of day in the first place.

She probably cried and kicked herself for days afterwards when he escaped during a half second of inattention, but her care for him the years beforehand played a huge role in my being able to save him.

The other parts of the funnel:

I spoke/whistled in his language.

I very clearly communicated I had something he desperately needed – food.

I focused completely on him and drew upon the very specific knowledge I have about cockatiels so I could build trust. I didn’t focus on myself at all.

I didn’t rush or push for the sale.

See?

Marketing really is for the birds. ;-)

Talk soon.

P. S.  Bottom line: send out a variety of emails to your list. Use a combination of stories and how-to info to gradually build trust.

Eventually one of those emails will finally hit the right hot button and snag the sale, thanks to the funnel that came before it.

It’s a tough thing to do on your own, however, so have a copywriter do it for you.

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I don’t know about you, but when I go to a hardware store, flowers are the last thing on my mind. I’m there to get some boring practical tool to use around the house.

Yet a hardware store here in Madison boosted their customer base this year during tough economic times by using… flowers.

This hardware store has been on the corner of one of the busiest streets in Madison since 1945.

Yet, as it turns out, a lot of local people didn’t know the store was there, even though they vroom past it every day in their cars.

That’s partially because the hardware store’s customer base has gradually shifted from residential to commercial over the years.

When the recession started giving the hardware store a kick in the teeth this past year, the owner decided he couldn’t rely solely on his commercial customers anymore. He started brainstorming ways to lure in residential customers too.

On a whim he put plants and flowers for sale outside his store last spring, making sure they were close enough to the busy street to attract attention.

People driving by would do a double take and go around the block, park, and check out his store.

Inevitably they would buy some of the flowers along with whatever hardware stuff they suddenly realized they needed.

All it took was some flowers to get their attention.

He has also started delivery services to management companies as a way to better serve his bread and butter customer base.

So he’s not dropping the ball on taking care of his long term customers as the shiny new customers come in.

“La-di-frickin’-da, what does this have to do with MY business?” you might be asking.

Well, this hardware store owner says, “I am going out on the road and just trying to gather more business instead of sitting here and letting it come to me.”

So what can you do to stop waiting for business to come to you?

Even if you’ve been in business a long time with established clientele, it’s possible you’ve been invisible to a big group of potential customers who are vrooming right past you each day.

What can you do to start reaching them?

And how can you step up your game in serving your current customers?

The best way I know of to both rake in new customers AND take better care of your current customers is email.

Start sending email more regularly to your list.

To get the job done right, and consistently, hire a copywriter to write the emails for you (hint, hint).

I have more deets on my copywriting services and the best types of emails for new customers and long term customers here.

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On protests and copywriting

As you may know, I live in Wisconsin and there has been significant political turmoil here the past few weeks.

I’m not going to go into the politics of it in this email, but I want to point out a couple of principles that are also pertinent to marketing and copywriting (from Neighbor Against Neighbor in Wisconsin in Books & Culture):

In 21st-century America, 70,000 people do not hit the streets in sub-freezing temperatures for political strategy. Policy does not motivate like that anymore. What does motivate is emotion: anger, joy, fear, loathing, celebration, and so on.

I’ve been a copywriter for almost four years and find I have to regularly remind myself and my clients that what matters most is how you make your clients and prospects feel.  It might seem shallow, but providing how-to content and information, although important, isn’t fully motivating unless the emotions are also engaged.

From the article again:

…this conflict remains at heart a local story. It is about the culture of public spaces and public works in a quirky state. It is about who we are, and who we are becoming.

Most of us in Wisconsin feel part of this larger narrative and have felt compelled to spend some time at the capitol building or other venues to participate in the expression of this story. We sense this is history in the making and being part of it in some tangible way like that is important.

Your business has a story, too, and the more your clients and prospects can be a tangible part of it, even in small ways, such as through Facebook fan pages and writing a customer review of your product, the more they will trust you and become a repeat customer.

Emotions. Story. No good protest or marketing campaign can do without them.

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How Facebook will change your email marketing

As an email copywriter, I’ve always been keenly aware of the possibilty that someday the email platform will change radically or be replaced by something else. After reading this post on the Social Media Examiner blog today, it seems likely that Facebook’s new messaging system will do just that.

A new feature in Facebook’s message system is “groups.” You’ll be able to create private groups among your Facebook friends to help facilitate private conversations:

Instead of sending traditional email blasts, you can send creative messages via Facebook that are more likely to resonate with recipients. It’ll serve as a new and unique platform for receiving marketing messages.

Although it’s too soon to tell if Facebook messages will be the new email, it’s not too soon to suggest that you should already be sending creative messages that resonate with recipients. Start doing that today and no matter what new messaging system emerges in the future, you’ll be ready.

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Check out this video of a baseball playing doing a flip over a catcher to avoid getting tagged:

Of course after watching this I wasn’t content… I wanted to know the player’s story.

Does he have a gymnastics background? Did he hurt himself? What was going through his mind before deciding to do the flip? Where did he grow up?

He’s an ordinary player who plays for a team with a losing record, yet he managed to do something extraordinary. This play happened two days ago and the video has more than a million views already.

The marketing (and life) lesson here is pretty obvious. If it seems for all the world like you’re going to get called out, there’s probably a way you can flip over the catcher too, so to speak.

And when you do, be ready with your story. Nothing makes people want to hear your story more than when you do something remarkable.

If you want more details about this baseball player’s story, click here.

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