How do you write e-mail copy about the same B2B product over and over -- without redundancy or boredom?
Lately, I've been writing for (and conducting training sessions at) a number of companies that specialize in business-to-business (B2B) conferences. Not only do these companies produce a high volume of conferences, they also produce a high volume of e-mail to promote the events, at least five to six e-mail efforts for each six-month campaign.
That brings up a challenge many copywriters and marketing people face: how can you write e-mails about the same B2B product over and over -- without being redundant or losing your mind from boredom?
Here are some ideas I use.
Plan Your E-Mail Campaign in Advance
Back in July, I discussed the need for an e-mail calendar and outlined a typical conference e-mail campaign. There are other ways to map out your messages. For example, you can write out a list of key benefits, featuring one benefit in each message.
You can also think of where prospects are in the buying cycle and use your e-mail to move them through the sales pipeline from awareness to action.
To keep things interesting, vary the way you talk to your audience. Although you should have one consistent brand voice, there are a number of different people who can speak it.
Besides writing traditional marketing copy, for example, you can write a note from the president. Clients can provide testimonials. You can enlist a celebrity to speak for you. You can do an interview with your top product designer who explains the care that goes into the creation of your product.
Use a Variety of Approaches
Mix up your use of the medium by varying the types of messages you send. Try letters, notes, ads, press releases, surveys, quizzes, e-newsletters, audio clips, videos, and Flash. Not everything will get through everyone's spam filter (that's a given). But different approaches resonate with different people. Some people respond better to exciting graphics, others prefer to read. Some love to listen to audio clips, still others like to analyze charts. Each medium requires a different writing approach, which will keep your brain synapses from going into a deep freeze.
Keep a Library of E-Mail Samples for Inspiration
Whenever an interesting e-mail pops into my inbox, I move it into an Outlook file for handy reference. This has saved my butt on a number of occasions when I needed a new idea.
Skip the Intro
When you're in a high-volume writing situation, you don't have time for writer's block. To avoid this, don't labor over that first paragraph, which is always the toughest one to write because it needs to be compelling enough to catch the reader's attention. If something doesn't come to mind immediately, skip the intro and plunge right into the rest of the copy. By the time you're done, your brain will be warmed up, and a good intro will probably suggest itself.
A good place to look for that great opening line is the end of your message. You probably wrote a terrific closing. Just bring that up to the top, and you're done. (I shared this tip with my 10 year old who was having trouble writing fifth-grade essays. It worked for him!)
Maintain a Company Archive of Successful E-Mail Approaches
In direct mail, a successful package that pulls a great response is called the control. It's continually reused, tweaked, and tested against.
In e-mail, though, people usually feel once they've sent a message, it must be jettisoned into the void of cyberspace, never to be used again or otherwise risk offending e-mail readers who actually remember your message (pretty unlikely!).
This is a waste of a valuable creative asset. If you've invested your time and effort into creating a successful e-mail control, use it and reuse it. You can test different subject lines or move text and graphics around to make it look new. Just don't relegate it to the recycle bin.
I recommend that my clients create an archive of successful approaches for their internal marketing staff and agency and that they hold creative review sessions to share effective techniques.
E-mail is also a great testing ground for your offline campaigns. If you conduct an A/B test of a subject line, you can use the winner as a teaser for your direct mail package.
As a high-volume writer on the subject of B2B e-mail marketing, I'm always looking for new ideas myself. Share your best B2B copywriting techniques for a future column.
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Karen Gedney, an award-winning creative director and copywriter, shared her insights as a ClickZ Experts contributor from 2000 through 2009. She was known for her successful track record of achieving high e-mail response rates for Fortune 1000 companies and leading organizations. She died Nov. 16, 2010.
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