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You’ve Got Mail: Secrets to Writing a Blockbuster Email

January 19, 2016

This morning, I woke up to 78 emails, of which 67 were of a promotional nature. It’s a not very busy number I admit, but plentiful for someone of an associate cadre.

The gush of emails never quite stops. Every morning there will be a fresh batch of yet another 50 something emails waiting to greet me, and unless I cap this flood in a timely fashion every day, by the end of the week I just mark all my emails as read without actually having done so, thus achieving a very short-lived yet real pseudo-sense of victory over it all.

On rare occasions I do end up opening a lucky few emails. It’s my own little version of a lucky draw you may say, this act of choosing emails which do end up revealing themselves to me. Pardon my pious banter, but this is the only time I get to feel powerful over any form of email whatsoever.

If I analyze the kind of emails that do get opened I can make out very clear patterns in the way I maneuver about my inbox. In the last few years my attention has consistently been seized rather victoriously by brand newsletters over any other emails. 5 out every 7 email I open contain a link, to a website or a blog, or a sale landing page. The links I do end up clicking are usually about taking me to an offer page or a blog post with a seemingly engaging content. If I put a number to all this, that’s a 12% open rate for all the emails I come across on a daily basis, which falls somewhere in the middle range of what marketers would consider a “good number”.

Looking again at all the emails that I did end up consuming, a couple of things stood out strongly:

  • They all have impeccably written, meaty headlines that get my attention at once

How do you not open emails which have headlines like “How National Geographic beat BuzzFeed in content” (Contently) or “The Problem with Facts is…” (gapingvoid). Now, I am a content geek and it’s not just my day job to seek and produce great pieces of content. One of things that have happened as a result of my day job is that I have become increasingly better at “choosing” good quality content from an entire pile of schlock. A punch-line worthy headline (like the ones above) most often gives away the clear winners from the lot and that’s a marker I always look out for nowadays.

They all have me at “hello”.
  • Their content is dependable and not pushy at all

After a point, the sale references stop appealing to you. It’s like that friend who will only call upon you when they have a hidden motive to fulfill; in this case, brand trying to meet their sale numbers. At this point let me admit that I subscribe to every kind of newsletter in this world, and the ones that I have come to really enjoy are the ones that talk about a ‘human truth’. It’s one thing to create a sale-sy content that clearly hints you to buy something and another thing to create content that delivers substantial value — in terms of the things it chooses to talk to me about — and leaves the choice of subsequent action to me. That’s my kind of brand communication — one that asks my permission and requests an action instead of enforcing one.

In their content I trust.
  • They are all mention-in-a-social-circle worthy

There are emails that you consume and forget about and those that you end up internalizing and even quoting from every now and then. Which do you think has been the more successful in communicating with me?

A great email makes you ‘curious’. It stimulates your hunger for new information and sucks you into a conversation that hopefully stays with you. Look closely and you will notice that brands with the best kind of emails tap into the element of diversity. They talk about a lot of things within the locus of their brand’s focus and that’s what keeps it all interesting. The more you learn through a brand, the more you trust it and the more likely you are to keep at it. I have tweeted gapingvoid’s emails almost every other week and that’s because the subject matter in question so good that it needs to be ‘out there’.

They make me want to be a better (wo)man.

Let’s admit. Emails have always been cool. Somewhere between early 2000s and now it became a lot more than just a conduit to send chain mails and hallmark cards. And frankly speaking, emails as a brand communication channel has only now hit its real potential. It was all so crude and blasé up until very recently, and transactional at that. But with the content renaissance I am happy that email has had a chance to really prove its merit.

Now it’s up to content marketers like us to take this forward. The legacy has already been put in motion by amazing brands pioneering a wholesome, value-worthy content, publishing them in more better ways than my limited experience can talk about. And the only way we can achieve any real success through email marketing — economic or emotional — is if we see emails for it really is — a sacred means to privately get in touch with consumers and talk to them one-on-one. Let the key take away be the word “talk” and not “content” from this blog post.


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