Engaging Content Vs. Hard Sell

Dear Email Diva,

I've been trying to persuade management (and Marketing!) to try out new content that is relevant and engaging to the reader rather than a perpetual hard sell on our services. They always chicken out at the very last minute and we end up with the same hard-sell spiel -- and then wonder why our subscription numbers are falling.

Do you have any hard facts (statistics!) or success stories that prove the way to the readers' hearts is through content that they actually care about, and not what we want to tell them?

C Hibberd

Dear C,

If it's statistics you want, always start with EmailStatCenter.com, a clearinghouse for email metrics. Here are a few that support your theory:

For advertising-oriented lists, 57% of marketers surveyed said that "emailing unique content by segment" produced routinely justifiable results. - MarketingSherpa "Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2008" (2008)

The majority of email marketers are failing to use email as a relevant marketing tool. Research found relevant messages can lead to almost as many sales as free or discounted shipping offers. - Jupiter Research Viice President and ResearchDdirector David Daniels (2006)

Your most persuasive argument, however, will be your own results. Create a test cell, develop the best possible user experience, then see whether your special treatment group delivers better results over time. It may take readers a while to sit up and take notice of the new & improved experience, so you need to be patient. You should still work toward sales but, as you suspect, it should be blended with content readers care about.

Unfortunately, per Email Stat Center:

44% of marketers surveyed believe the biggest challenge in email is providing relevant content. - eMarketer (2006)

Once again the curse of email rears its ugly head. The curse of email is that it's too inexpensive for its own good. From the largest company to the smallest, the email team is chronically understaffed and, as a result, the effort is more tactical than strategic. If you were filming a TV commercial, would you call for the shortest possible time frame with the least possible planning? No, of course not. It's a major expense, so you'd want to make sure you do it right. Given the effectiveness of email --

55 percent of the respondents cite that they expect ROI from email to be higher than any other channel. - Datran Media, "Marketing & Media Survey" (2008)

-- isn't it worth the same care and effort of more expensive media?

Great content is not hard to come by. Writers, sadly, are not the highest paid people in the world. Once you have your brilliant strategy in place (based on consumer preferences gleaned from a) surveys, b) asking those closest to the customer and c) looking at your data), find the right writer to execute your vision. It may be outside the norm and outside your comfort zone, but it's just not that hard to do. Trust me and...

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at mbkrueger@gmail.com. All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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