Does Your Email Program Need Some 'White Space'?

I'm not talking about the design concept that breaks up masses of content with strategically placed open spaces, although that's an excellent idea. Instead, "white space" is my term for breaking up a continual flood of promotional emails with an occasional message that says more than "Buy-buy-buy."

Let's be honest about your email program for a moment. Suppose you are a retailer who sends out three to four broadcast promotional emails a week, and perhaps double that cadence during the holiday season. That's plus or minus 200 broadcast emails a year. But your typical customer might buy only once or twice a year. No wonder so many subscribers tune out after a while, likely driving your inactives to 40% or 50% or more of your database.

Cutting back on frequency for some less-engaged subscriber segments can work, but also may be a tough sell internally. Every email you send delivers more sales but can also drive up list churn and disengagement.

How can you get people to pay greater attention and maintain a similar high-touch cadence? By changing the message.



Find a new way to engage with the customer. Tell behind-the-scenes stories about your people or products. Offer advice to help your customers buy with confidence or use the product successfully. Connect with some humor, like outdoor retailer Moosejaw and its famous "fridge cam."

My Recent 'White Space' Moment

A major retailer, whose emails I've subscribed to for years but had pretty much tuned out, caught my attention recently. The message focused on men's jeans, but, instead of just trying to sell me a pair, the copy explained the five different kinds of style and fit: boot cut, skinny, classic, etc.

The email featured five product photos, each illustrating a different cut or fit and linking to jeans in that style at the retailer's website. The sales message was still there -- but subtly. Like many men, I am a bit confused by all of the jeans cut, so I found this helpful.

This email was a simple way to connect and engage with subscribers through education and to take some pain out of the purchase process. If I ever order jeans online, I'll be much more likely to order the right pair.

That particular email might not have driven an immediate sale, but it did engage me as none had before it. This "white space" email combined simple gender segmentation with an educational focus to break through the clutter. Now, I'm more likely to open emails from this brand -- and, ultimately, to purchase.

What's in That White Space?

If you're a B2B marketer, you know that "white space" emails figure prominently in content marketing, the customer nurturing and education that are so important in industries with long sales cycles and complex paths to purchase. (More on this concept in my Email Insider column, "What B2B and B2C Marketers Can Learn from Each Other.")

B2C marketers are probably shaking their heads and saying, "Okay, Loren, where's this great content coming from?"

Simple: You've already got much of this helpful content somewhere, either in how-to videos, FAQs and customer forums on your site, Q&As with customers on Twitter or Facebook, in scripts used by your customer service people, training manuals and other off-site resources.

Just spending an hour with a call-center rep can give you plenty of insight into what customers want to know.

The Calming Effect of White Space

Just as white space in an email message relaxes the eye and makes the individual elements stand out more clearly, a "white space" email gives your customers a break from your regular email routine, offering new and different ways to engage and stay top of mind.

Have you seen examples of great "white space" emails or experimented with them in your email program? Let me know the details in the comments space.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

Next story loading loading..