Kudos to ClickZ readers! I was very impressed by the number and quality of responses I received to last week's request.
As you'll recall, the request was a challenge of sorts. I asked you -- our loyal, savvy readers -- to review our hypothetical offline sales scenario that uses momentum-building tactics and then figure out how those tactics would apply to an email marketing scenario.
The example is a couple going through a decision-making/buying process at a new-homes sales center. It shows you how momentum is built in an offline sales environment, how it can enhance the entire process, and how these same stages can be applied to an email campaign.
How do I know that momentum works? Well, in another life, I was that salesperson. And because my mentor at the time taught me how momentum built through a series of processes can so positively affect the likelihood of a sale, I learned a lesson that translates well to just about any marketing environment.
That lesson encompasses the theory that the act of building momentum, building excitement, within a clearly defined, seamlessly connected series of steps can set the stage for closing the deal.
Since I've left the trenches, I've learned that there are definitely parallels between offline sales and online (and offline) marketing.
So of the respondents who took the challenge and sent in their thoughts, who came closest to translating these real-world, momentum-building stages into virtual-world email marketing best practices?
Actually, I received several fantastic responses, but Chris Charlwood of Charlwood eMarketing got it exactly right. (Well, he saw it exactly as I saw it... meaning he got it exactly right!)
Let's review the stages again, this time giving each an email spin.
Stage 1: Build trust and excitement from the get-go. Just as prospective home purchasers walk in the door with their guards up, so email recipients (especially brand-spanking-new ones) begin their review of a commercial email with at least some trepidation (unless, of course, they are loyal customers of the advertiser/sender). And just as the salesperson in the offline example offered in a very nonthreatening manner to give the prospective homebuyers a quick tour, so the intro in an email campaign can set a similar stage with a clever yet subtle hook (with "no strings," as Charlwood put it) to give email recipients a reason to read further.
Stage 2: Establish involvement devices. When the salesperson says, "This sunroom will make the perfect midafternoon getaway spot," she's creating a visual for the prospective homebuyers that emotionally connects them with the home. Likewise, an email that effectively homes in on the benefits of the promoted product or service can also evoke an emotional response.
It does more than just present a list of great things; by creating a picture in the prospect's mind, it creates -- and strengthens -- desire.
Stage 3: Detail the benefits. In stage 2, you make real for your prospects some of the benefits they could enjoy by taking advantage of your offer. Stage 3 presents credibility and substantiation by listing the features -- along with all the details therein -- that contain those benefits. You can liken this to the landing page (and the promoted product page) on your site because even though you can highlight some of these features in the email itself, it would be difficult for you to do so effectively in great detail.
For instance, if your email is promoting a children's educational software package, the message within it is created to engage interest AND incite a click. The landing page that this click directs folks to contains all the details that your prospects need to know before completing the sale. In other words, it is here that they can "see" what they're getting. This page can also include links to FAQs, product details (such as size, available colors, etc.), and company information. Needless to say, however, the focus should be on the product itself.
Stage 4: Close with a sense of urgency. The prospective purchasers may say, "Hey, the numbers work, but let me think about it." In other words, the price may be right, but often, unless a true need is involved (and timing plays a role here), prospects need to feel a sense of urgency to make the final decision. This is when a limited-time trial or discount, a deadline, or even a limited product availability can help.
Stage 5: Make it easy for your prospects to commit to the purchase. Ease of use can really help seal the deal. By the time prospects get to the purchase page of the site, you have to figure they're really interested. Adding a toll-free number or customer service callback button can help answer those last remaining questions. Additionally, if it's a house-list campaign, a repopulated purchase or sign-up form can boost response tremendously because it's one fewer thing that the customer has to fill out.
One reader thought that the whole sales analogy was a bit too complex to translate into email marketing terms. It needn't be. In fact I would venture to say that a well-thought-out, well-written message utilizing these five stages can be boiled down to an email (and subsequent landing and sign-up pages) that's about as quick and easy as you can get.
Of course the trick is to maintain a seamless flow from stage 1 to stage 5. No glitches. No error messages. No terminally long-to-load site (or email) pages. And, between the email and the Web site, there should be a slow build within the mind of the prospect of "like it... want it... need it... have to have it."
THAT'S momentum, my friends.
Now here's the question for this week: Anyone know of a company out there that does it right? That takes advantage of some of the stages outlined above within its email campaigns? Or at least comes close? Talk to me and tell me how.
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Kim MacPherson is President and Founder of Inbox Interactive, a full-service email marketing agency specializing in promotional copywriting, HTML design, planning, and deployment/tracking solutions. Kim is also the author of "Permission-Based E-mail Marketing That Works!"