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Case Study: An Amusement Park E-mail Misses the Mark

  |  July 13, 2009   |  Comments

Think big companies are better at effective e-mail marketing? Think again.

I'm not just an e-mail marketing consultant. I'm also a private e-mail consumer. Whenever something comes to my inbox, I evaluate its effectiveness -- even if I have no business relationship with the sender.

Today, we'll look at a company that has the budget and resources to do e-mail right, but still misses the mark. Some things about this e-mail are done well. But the mistakes are basic, and no matter what your budget, you should be able to avoid them.

I love roller coasters. So I signed up to receive e-mail from the Six Flags amusement park near my home. But the message I received last month with its "2009 Fun Schedule" left a lot to be desired:

six flags 2009 fun schedule
click to enlarge

The biggest problem: there are only three links in the body, and none of them drive you to the primary call to action.

The first link in the e-mail appears at the top right, enabling me to forward this message to a friend. This isn't the best place for it because it pushes the body of the e-mail down. So the only thing that's visible in the preview pane is the "View online" link at the very top, the logo, and this. Not a lot to engage a reader.

Based on the preview pane view, no one has a reason to forward this e-mail. Also, forward-to-a-friend links are rarely used. E-mail insiders agree that it's good to include, but they don't deserve a prominent location. Better to include it in the right column.

The second link is the logo at the top left. Here, Six Flags was smart. They know I'm in Washington, D.C., so the landing page is for the park near my home, not the company's general landing page. This is a good use of segmentation and targeting:

six flags washington dc page
click to enlarge

The copy in the e-mail is also targeted to the park I'm most likely to visit, which is a best practice. It includes events taking place at my local park, along with the dates.

But what if I'm interested in seeing Drake Bell on July 14? What time does the concert start? Do I need to buy a separate ticket to attend the show? There's no link to learn more. This is the primary call to action ("attend an event"), yet there's no easy way for me to take advantage of it.

The final link is in the right column. It sends me to the company's corporate investor relations page:

six flags corporate investor relations page
click to enlarge

The company overview isn't bad, but it probably won't drive me to the park. The recent financial news at the bottom is even less entertaining. The company's had some issues lately, so the news is about its bankruptcy and restructuring (full disclosure: I'm a stockholder). Nothing says "summer fun" like bankruptcy and restructuring, right?

How is this link supporting the call to action of getting people out to the park? It's not. So why is it featured prominently in the right column of the e-mail? Why is it here at all?

To make much better use of this space, Six Flags should include a bulleted list of upcoming events, with dates and links to learn more. There's actually a lot going on at the park, as I found out when I proactively searched for and found the site's events page. But Six Flags made me do all the legwork to get here. And I only did so to write this column.

six flags events page
click to enlarge

Another bit of information that isn't mentioned in this e-mail, but should be: see the "2009 Play Pass" featured in the second image? You pay once and get unlimited use of the park all season, which is great for regular visitors (and roller coaster lovers). It's also great for the company; it gets the revenue as soon as the pass is purchased. They should include a link to learn more and buy the passes in every e-mail they send. It's a quick, easy tactic that should boost every send's ROI (define).

E-mail should be fun -- and profitable for your company. None of the changes mentioned here will cost Six Flags anything to implement. By thinking through each effort you send from start to finish, including links and landing pages, you can make your own e-mail marketing efforts more effective.

Until next time,


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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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