Does Your Email Marketing Suffer From Multiple Personality Disorder?

Having studied psychology in college, I’ve always had a curiosity about the intricacies of the brain. Of all of the possible ways disease can render the human body nonfunctional, to me, mental disorders are the scariest because they take away who you are, not just what you can do.

My interest in psychology probably started when I watched the film Sybil staring Sally Field. The movie is based on the life of Shirley Ardell Mason who suffered from dissociative identity disorder, then referred to as multiple personality disorder, and the treatment by her psychoanalyst Cornelia B. Wilbur. At any given time, Sybil could manifest one of 16 completely different personas.

It’s fascinating stuff, and like many topics in psychology, it has a logical tie-in to marketing. After all, isn’t marketing really the psychology of buying and selling?

A healthy email marketing program can manifest multiple personalities at any given time. Companies that are very successful at email marketing are those that learn to harness, control, and manage these varied and unique personalities in productive ways.

In reality, every human being has multiple personalities. If you asked someone if they behave the same in their different life roles as father, friend, co-worker, spouse, etc., you would most certainly get a similar answer from all. People have different personas depending on with whom they are interacting with at that time. Do you behave the same with your kids as you do your college buddies? I certainly hope not.

What is an email persona? To put it simply, it’s the style, tone, and format of the body of the email.

What are the most common types of email personas employed in B2B marketing?

1. Sales Persona: This is the “buy my stuff because” message. On the surface, most would think the Sales Persona is the least attractive and most prone to being spam-like. However, when done properly and at the right time, it can be very effective. With the growing use of nurture-based email campaigns, marketers are actively creating Sales Persona emails all the time.

  • They are typically triggered deeper in the buy cycle and are personalized to each rep, targeting warm leads with soft-buy messages designed to sell the idea of why purchasing from you is a good idea.
  • This email persona has its roots in a tried-and-true selling methodology known as VITO (very important top officer) Selling. The most common targets for this persona are the decision makers. The most common asset types are case studies, analyst research, and ROI analysis of your solution.

2. Casual/Funny Persona: This is relatively new to B2B email marketing and is also the most dangerous because if done incorrectly, it can make your campaigns look foolish. It’s defined by its use of an informal writing style that mixes humor with self-deprecation. Subject lines in this persona are often short and can even include blatant misdirection for humor’s sake.

  • This year, we produced a funny infographic on zombies and their effect on email campaigns. It was hilarious and was one of the most well-received campaigns we produced all year. In our socially enabled, 140-character world, casual writing is more acceptable than in the past, but should still be implemented with care and caution.
  • Remember, not everyone is a natural comedian and not all industries lend themselves to comedic relief. This persona should be used with social promotions targeting both executives and end-users. Mix in a few Star Trek jokes and they’re just effective for IT.

3. Just the Facts Persona: This persona is formal and to the point. It relies heavily on outside industry facts, trends, charts, and graphics to highlight an industry issue that your solution solves or facts about the financial benefits of your solution.

  • This has been employed for some time and still should be part of your mix when presenting statistics-laden marketing assets (research reports, charts, analyst coverage). This persona should be directed at the C-suite, finance, and IT.

As marketers, we should employ all three personas as part of our overall communication strategy. Remember to be careful and cautious with comedy and casual — of the three, it is the most dangerous of the bunch and most likely to get you into trouble if done wrong. Match the right content with your persona as well. Sales = Case Study; Funny = Social; Just the Facts = Analyst Report. And as always, A/B test to see which persona is resonating best with each segment you’re actively marketing to.

Image via Shutterstock.

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