An Email Marketing Case In Point, Part 2

Wow.

In my previous article, I asked for your opinions about an email marketing message from Outpost.com that reader Madigan Pratt forwarded along to me. I asked for your thoughts on personalization, tone, length, the subject line, and more — and got more than 70 responses.

Now, please keep in mind that this is not a “survey”; it’s really just a way to generate discussion on this topic. But I’ve chosen to publish a few of the comments that resonate, demonstrate consensus, or otherwise just make for good reading.

So here’s a look at some of your thoughts.

Personalization

Very interesting… Conventional wisdom is that addressing recipients by name is the way to go. As you may recall, the Outpost.com message was addressed to “Dear Outpost.com customer,” and Pratt described that lack of personalization in the salutation as shameful.

Well, about a third of you who commented on this thought the same. Many of those comments follow this one by Kinnari Saraiya: “It’s so true. As we’re bombarded with emails, we as consumers look for more than just an advertisement or a mass-mailed promotion. We need to feel that we’re being reached out to as individuals, not as a list!”

And there’s this comment from a marketer’s point of view (Aimee LaBrake of Responsys Inc.): “In tests that we have done, especially to the retail/e-tail and catalog segments, personalization always offers an increase in response and decrease in unsubscribe rates. By letting your customers know that you ’know’ who they are, they are more likely to remain loyal to you and in turn purchase more.”

But more of you — almost half of those who addressed this issue — thought that being addressed by name is overrated.

Sam Gibson had this to say: “I think personalization in respect to this type of email marketing is severely overrated. They are a business. They know it. You know it. So why bother to try and butter you up by having software that can input each person’s name? At least by saying ’Dear Outpost.com customer’ they are being true to what they offer and true to what the ’customer’ wants.”

And this from Neil Schwartzman of Pete Moss Publications: “I think that nonpersonalization is more honest. Dropping my name in is (a) familiar, perhaps too much so, and (b) fake — it takes a few more minutes of programming and does not make me feel any warmer and fuzzier.”

And others thought it didn’t matter. So what did matter? Many of you who wrote in talked about the information and how it was presented.

Content, Tone, Style, and Length

The overwhelming consensus was that the message was too long. And many of you thought that the way the content was presented should have focused more on the consumer, not the company.

Here’s what Michael Robinson had to say:

    How does he know that Outpost.com is every customer’s favorite company? Why is the “best part” that Mr. Peck doesn’t have to move? It all comes across as Peck talking about what HE feels about the news, rather than empathizing with what the customer feels… I’m sure everyone can understand how Mr. Peck is excited that his company has been saved, but it is likely (although I may be doing him a disservice as I don’t know the company or its reputation) that his customers are more concerned about any impact on their next orders. He briefly mentions faster order fulfillment and makes some vague promises about “entertaining” his shoppers, but these issues should be given more substance and emphasis.

Several readers suggested the mailing offer something of value. Discount coupons and a down-played offer of free shipping headed the list.

As for tone and style, many readers liked the Outpost.com approach and thought it worked well for this company. Sure, some disagreed (and it would be impossible to please everyone), but quite a few echoed comments made by Theresa Malm: “Really, the essence of the message comes through loud and clear… Outpost.com cares enough to write a nice, humorous note to its customers to advise them of an important event like a takeover.”

And I can’t get away without mentioning a key component of the email message: the “gerbil” aspect.

We had one vote for naming the gerbil “Mikey” (good luck, Danny Decker!), and Dick Smith of Direct4Results said, “I like these people and their company. They deliver what they promise, on time, at a good price. They don’t take themselves too seriously, and I wish them great success! I will continue to shop with them. (Well, unless I find a gerbil in the packing material.)”

And last, several of you noticed that the message did not contain the option to unsubscribe. Because the message was forwarded along to me, I’m not sure whether it did; it’s possible that there was an option to unsubscribe after the link to visit the site, which was just after the signature. And, yes, I agree that it’s essential to include a way to unsubscribe.

Thanks to everyone for reading this column and sending such great comments my way. I wish I could have included them all.

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