Creatively Corporate

Email Marketing: Then and Now

Email Marketing: Then and Now

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It’s Christmas week as I write this, and rather than burn my brain too much (I don’t have much left, after all), I thought I’d just scribe a little about email marketing. I joined the Email Marketing department of QVC in 2000, when this kind of marketing was in its infancy. I can remember clearly how we first approached our content and how it change over the six years I was there.

Here are just a few reflections:

Subject Lines: Obvious vs. Cutesy
Fifteen years ago, the subject line was the first and most important line of attack when, and it still is. Not to sound like Grandpa Reed, but back in my day, we took the approach that it was better to be safe than sorry, which meant we left no doubt what the email was about. Subject lines like, “New Boyds Bears This Week,” or “Get 3 Easy Pays on All KitchenAid Items,” were common.

Eventually, we got more creative and started trying lines that piqued curiosity. When we tested, both types did almost equally well. So eventually it became a judgment call: did the type of product we were selling warrant a more traditional approach (silverware, for example), or a cute, clever delivery (Quacker Factory clothing was perfect for getting cute).

I’ve seen both approaches from emails I get, and it seems to reflect what we eventually came to realize. The philosophy was, and in many markets, still is that of direct marketing – have something on the envelope that made the recipient want to open it. And always test! The customer is king and their responses will always dictate what you should do.

Long Vs. Short Copy
When I began writing email copy, I wrote in a long, traditional style, much as one would write a letter or a direct mail piece. Eventually, we felt that people were getting so many emails, we needed to get to the point quickly – shorter copy and starbursts that gave them the main selling feature (25% off, or 3 Easy Pays, for instance).

Most people nowadays might tell you that shorter is still better, especially in a world of ever-shortening attention spans. But there are still plenty of people having great success with long, direct-mail-style copy. I know one entrepreneur who swears by this approach. He sells higher-end coaching products and says that people making that type of investment prefer storytelling content that makes them feel good  about what and from whom they’re going to purchase.

Again, I think it all comes down to who your audience is and the type of product you’re selling. There’s no right answer. Let the customer tell you whether your approach is the best one.

This is something that has definitely evolved over the years. As graphic design has gotten more refined and dynamic, the need for attention-grabbing graphics when the customer opens the email. For most retail emails, the offer should hit them right in the face and make it obvious why they should read your content.

When I first began in 2000, we included thumbnails of our products and our logo… that was about it. It wasn’t long until we realized we needed to be bigger and bolder – like a billboard someone might drive past. Make them look and make a blatant pitch right away before the drive on; or in the case of emails, delete it.

Call to Action (CTA)
This is definitely one thing that hasn’t changed. As in regular marketing, you need to leave no doubt in the consumer’s mind what they should do after reading your email. Use starbursts, big, bold headlines, or whatever visual element it takes to get the reader to take action. I’ve seen some emails that left me thinking, “OK. Now what?” Not something you want to cross your customers’ minds.

If you’re or ever have been in the email marketing game, let me know some things you’ve seen change or stay the same over the years? Maybe an approach you thought went away for good has experienced a renaissance. Are you using video or any kind of animation? Let everyone know in the comment section.

All I Want For Christmas Is For You to Join My Email List!
Remember, it’s free and will bring me so much joy! So why not fill out the form to the right of your screen and make some lucky boy (me!) happy this Christmas!

Have a fantastic holiday!

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