What If Email Had A Comments Field?

If you've ever written for a blog with any regularity, you know that comments are golden. Everything we try to measure with email is evidenced in the comments fields of blogs. With just a few responses, authors can be assured of engagement, attentiveness and action, and also know whether or not their content has been targeted and effective. From a handful of comments, you know if the blog you wrote just nailed it. Despite all our metrics and measurements, I'm not wholly convinced the equivalent sensation exists in email marketing. (Debate may ensue: please use the comments field below.)

But what if email did have a comments field? I'm not proposing a technology innovation; rather, a strategic use of imagination. If the emails you write and distribute to your subscriber lists could capture comments as easily as blogs do, what would your subscribers say in them? And what would the comments themselves say about your email marketing program? This is a point worth pondering, I think, since it helps to gauge the impact of an organization's email beyond its measurable metrics. Email is a powerful extension of a brand, and its qualitative aspects are often overlooked in exchange for its quantitative value.

So play along. Which of these best describe the types of comments your emails would generate?

Additive Replies: Would your subscribers share their experiences on the topic of your email, further educating other readers why they should buy this product, attend this conference or book that vacation? Have you built a community quick to chime in and participate, acting as advocates on your behalf?

Clarification Questions: Are your subscribers likely to respond with questions, seeking more information or qualification? Is your brand approachable and inviting?

Chatter: Will the comments start a conversation between your subscribers that's not necessarily about you, even though you may be invited to participate? Is your brand a conduit, enabling peripheral connections between your customers?

Anonymous Sniping: Do you fear negative feedback? Are you over-mailing, or relying too much on metrics-lifting tricks?

Trackbacks and Mentions: Is your content anticipated and inspiring enough to get passed around the blogosphere and twittersphere -- and, um, facebookisphere?

Abundant: Is your subscriber base connected, motivated, engaged?

None: Or is it just a list of people whose email addresses you have?

Much of email purports to be part of a dialogue or conversation. Mountains of click-through and conversion data support this assertion;  "do not reply" sender addresses and auto-responders work to undermine it. If your entire email channel could be transported magically into a social channel, would it flourish or flounder?

In today's digital marketing, conversation is currency. How rich is your email?

Tags: email
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5 comments about "What If Email Had A Comments Field? ".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , April 7, 2010 at 10:51 a.m.

    Then "they" would have to hire people to read, analyze and do something with it.

  2. Frances Dugan from Permanent General Companies, Inc. , April 7, 2010 at 10:59 a.m.

    Great article Mike. I think some would argue that replying to an email loosely equates to leaving a comment on a blog, but this is great food for thought.

    If you're lucky, your subscribers may already be commenting on your emails via social media, surveys, etc. Subscriber feedback should be embraced and analyzed to improve your program or keep up the great job that you're already doing.

  3. Vicki Monti from Kisseo.com , April 7, 2010 at 11:24 a.m.

    To Paula's comment, "they" should be doing this if they truly care about their audiences. It amazes me how much effort companies will go to to find new channels to speak to their audiences on when they already have an email relationship with these people and are blocking dialogue with their "do-not-reply@" email addresses. It might as well say "do-not-do-business-with-us@".

    For my own business and my clients' businesses I make sure all emails we send come from addresses that look friendly enough to reply to and I personally monitor all responses. For emails that go out to 100,000+ consumers, I get about 10 responses. Definitely manageable, and definitely 10 interested consumers we wouldn't want to lose!

  4. Rolv Heggenhougen from WrapMail, Inc. , April 7, 2010 at 12:45 p.m.

    Email Marketing does not have to mean only mass emails.

    Companies invest a great deal in their website which is often the only “store” where they showcase products and services. The challenge is to drive people to the website but as we all know, more people in the store will lead to more sales. Corporate employees send emails every day to clients, prospects, friends and others but these are plain emails that do not generate any traffic to the website.
    WrapMail offers a solution that does not require any installation but that seamlessly adds interactive letterheads (designed by the client) to every outgoing email so that each and every one becomes a promotional piece for the company and when clicked delivers the reader to the website. Furthermore the solution tracks the clicks and reports who is clicking on what and when (also in real time), turning the system into a research tool.
    This “hidden” advertising medium is probably the most viral available and the least costly, WrapMail only charges $5 per user per month.

  5. David Thurman from Aussie Rescue of Illinois , April 8, 2010 at 9:25 a.m.

    We monitor responses when we send mass emails to our subscribers, many respond with great article or respond to our request to contact us via the newsletter. We also use an email address that gets read, unlike so many that are noreply@ type addys.

    Our goal is to make them happy, and not loss our base. Wish our open rate was better then we have (varies 60-70%)