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The Three Voices of E-mail

  |  March 15, 2010   |  Comments

Whether you like it or not, your e-mail marketing message is being evaluated in three ways.

You may not know it, but your e-mail marketing team and customer service reps are actually honorary members of your PR team. Are they ready for this role? They need to be, because whether you like it or not, every e-mail you send is being evaluated in three ways: as a service statement, a marketing message, and a PR statement about your company.

Every e-mail sent to your customers is actually a lifelong statement about your brand. For this reason, words and phrases in your e-mail must be chosen carefully. Even more so, timing is critical.

In the last hour, I searched for "top email marketing news." Surprisingly, the top result wasn't news about an e-mail service provider, ISP, or even a services company that showed up. Instead, it was a link to an e-mail from a technology company advising customers that a product they ordered was being delayed until summer.

Normally, product delay e-mails are a standard part of business and not many make it to a "top news" type of story categorization on Google. However, in this case, a few outside factors moved this e-mail into the spotlight. These factors included:

  • This is the third time the product has been delayed over a year.

  • This time, pre-orders were already taken, and expected shipment was less than a month from now.

  • A semi-competitive product is coming out into market in the next three weeks with no delays.

These factors took a service oriented e-mail and turned it into a potential PR scandal. After reading this e-mail, people are asking: Will the product ever come out? What is the cause for the delays? Should I give up and go get a competitor's product in a few weeks? Buzz growing around this product delay is fast and furious. And it all started from a simple service oriented e-mail.

Copy points in the e-mail included:

  • A subject line titled "shipping update"

  • A signature from the company's CEO

  • A message saying delays are due to a decision to "fine tune" features

  • A promise to send another e-mail in another month with more info

  • A waiver of shipping charges on pre-orders

  • A statement that reads, "We are sorry for the delay"

Looking at this e-mail in each of the three ways mentioned above will give you a very interesting perspective. From a customer service standpoint, you would expect to get this e-mail from a customer service rep that you'd speak to with general product dissatisfaction, not the CEO.

From a marketing standpoint, this e-mail fails to reinforce the brand's benefits. Nor does this e-mail reinforce the customers' "good choice" in choosing to be one of the first customers of the product.

And, from a PR standpoint, this e-mail opens up the door for tremendous speculation on what's going wrong with this company.

If you have not done so yet, review a recent e-mail your company sent to your customers. Read it from these three perspectives. Does it communicate the message and intent you really are trying to convey? If not, try some basic copy changes and see if it impacts results. You might just be surprised to see what happens to your company's bottom line.


Jeanniey Mullen

Jeanniey Mullen is the vice president of marketing at NOOK by Barnes and Noble, focused on business growth and customer acquisition. 

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