It’s ironic that we now have the capability to mass-produce one letter and deliver it to millions of people, yet we crave things that are customized and personalized.
We don’t want to hear what businesses are offering; we want to hear what they can offer to us. Check your inbox, and you’ll see emails that convey this, as well as emails that don’t.
Thanks to automation, you can choose when to send emails and to whom. Yet too many marketers are still sending flat, impersonal, generic messages to large audiences in the hope that something sticks.
Let’s take a look at two emails and see why one template works and the other doesn’t.
How not to write an email
People get dozens and sometimes hundreds of emails every day, so your email has to be really great to stand above the noise. Last April, we did a Mother’s Day promotion for one of our clients, Ceramcor. They were offering a great group discount on a huge set of their ceramic cookware for influential bloggers to share with their readers. The email below, targeted to food, home, and eco-friendly bloggers, doesn’t achieve this in any respect.
Take this subject line:
Ceramcor Mothers’ Day Promotion
What is Ceramcor, and why should I care? This subject line might work with existing customers, but new customers aren’t looking to make new friends. The holiday promotion doesn’t help, either; every other company is doing the same, so this email doesn’t stand out in any way.
Here’s the rest of the message:
My name is Adrienne, and I work with Ceramcor’s web promotions team. I came across your blog and wanted to see if you were interested in sharing one of our promotions with your readers!
Our site, Ceramcor.com, provides green cookware solutions that are 100% eco-friendly and healthy, as they don’t release dangerous toxins into the food you eat. Your emphasis on the same ideals inspired us to reach out to you!
This is one of our biggest promotions ever! Here’s the gist:
Ceramcor is dropping a one-time and all-time low price for our 25-piece ceramic cookware set. For a limited time, the set is available for $299, instead of the regular retail price of $530. That’s $230 in savings!
Your followers are going to love this special offer! Please let me know if you need any more details about this promotion in order to help share it with your readers.
A pitch like this one needs a killer opening, and this email just doesn’t have it. For one thing, the first sentence doesn’t explain what Ceramcor is, so the affiliation means nothing. What’s more, this person from an unknown company is asking for a favor from the recipient without even addressing him or her by name. You wouldn’t do a big favor for someone you just met. Why would you do it for some company you’ve never heard of?
This second paragraph finally connects Ceramcor to the recipient, but they’ve probably already lost interest and pressed delete. There are other problems with the copy, but moving this explanation up to the beginning would at least establish a connection up front and make the favor less intrusive.
When it comes to the actual pitch, it’s a great offer, but it takes a long time to get to it. It’s wordy and awkward, and the price is so buried in the text that it practically disappears. Your pitch should stand out, not blend in with the rest of your message.
The closing is also far too self-serving. It doesn’t ask, “How can we help you?” It asks, “How can we help you help us?”
From top to bottom, this email is flat and way too wordy, and it reads more like a generic request for a big favor than an offer the recipient might actually find valuable. It’s a wonder anyone would respond to it at all, though we did get a few replies.
Solving your template woes
There are a few reasons that the template above just won’t make for a wildly successful promotion. First and foremost, it just sounds generic; it sounds like an email blast to a thousand people, not a promotion especially suited to a particular blogger’s audience. By being so open-ended that it could be an email to anyone, you effectively make it appeal to no one.
That email misses the mark in another way: It sounds as though it was written by a robot. It introduces the sender by name, but doesn’t make any connection. A better way to approach this situation is to put yourself in the same boat as the recipient. What pains do you feel together? What connection do you have? What enthusiasms do you share? People are drawn to others who are like them, so portray yourself as a kindred spirit.
Finally, the focus has to change. Yes, this is Ceramcor’s promotion, but the email should be all about the blogger. How can you make their life easier? Bloggers are always looking for more ways to excite their readership and connect with this audience, and if you have a solution to that problem, play it up.
A template makeover
That template simply wouldn’t do, so I changed some things. First, I decided that we needed to be far more targeted about whom we were pitching; food blogs seemed most appropriate, and this is the audience I kept in mind when I wrote the new email. I wanted to make it a little briefer and a lot more exciting for the recipient. Here’s what I came up with:
Subject: We want to makeover your readers’ kitchen essentials!
Here at Ceramcor, we’re huge fans of PUBLICATIONNAME. Seriously, we’re always drooling over your recipes (and the gorgeous photos that go with them!), especially the one for RECIPENAME. Anyway, we’ve just cooked up an exciting promotion that we were hoping you’d be able to pass along to your readers.
With Mothers’ Day coming up fast, some of your readers might be wondering what to get for the mothers in their life, or even what to request for themselves. We’ve got the perfect solution!
For a limited time, we’re dropping the price of our 25-piece ceramic cookware set to the lowest it has ever been! Here are the details:
Regular price: $530
Promotional price: $299
That’s $230 of savings!
Please let me know if you need any more details. I hope you’ll share this awesome special offer with your readers!
This subject line goes right into the offer or, more accurately, how the offer will benefit the recipient and their readers. Before the email even begins, it piques their interest and leaves the reader wanting to know more.
As you probably noticed, the email now has obvious places to add personalization. This could be done using a mail merge and a huge Excel spreadsheet, but I prefer to just send individual emails, especially for a smaller promotion like this one. Leaving spots to change out my favorite recipe from the site I’m writing to gives the message a layer of familiarity that the other template completely lacked.
The second paragraph sets the stage, pointing out that a holiday is coming up, and people are scrambling for gifts. Luckily, you’re here to help the blogger address this need. Every successful email should take the time to define a problem and offer a solution. Remember, you’re not writing to help you—you’re writing to help them.
The pitch itself is the same information found in the first email, but it’s easier to follow, takes less time to read, and highlights the most important part of the offer with boldface.
Whereas the earlier closing read like an assumption of support, this time around it is a little less presumptuous. In restating the value of the offer, it’s not nearly as pushy. You don’t want to be pushy when you’re asking busy people for a favor.
Email is a great marketing tool, but there’s a right way-and wrong way-to use it. Craft emails that sound as though they were written in the spur of the moment and from a kindred spirit, and you are well on your way to a successful promotion.
Adrienne Erin is an outreach specialist at WebpageFX who has sent pitch emails to thousands of bloggers and journalists. Catch up with her on Twitter to see more of her work, or check out her blog, Pongra.