Digital MarketingEmail MarketingEmail Copy for the Next Economy

Email Copy for the Next Economy

Email that speaks to executives: a five-point checklist.

Let’s say you’ve lined up the perfect list that targets the right job titles. You’ve crafted a can’t-miss offer: an opportunity for prospects to engage in a live, Web-based Q&A with an industry luminary plus a complimentary report by an industry analyst in exchange for the prospect’s registration.

In other words, you’re thinking through your email campaign almost as you would any direct marketing effort.

You’ve settled on the simplest design for the landing page. You’ve even built in a little “structured surprise” for those who actually attend the Q&A session. A complimentary copy of the industry luminary’s new book will be part of a direct mail follow-up piece, giving your sales force a reason to call.

Writing the Email Invitation

It’s time to write the invitation email or, more aptly, turn to someone else to write it.

In addition to covering the basics about the event and some key messaging about your company, write fulsome, thoughtful answers to these five questions before handing the assignment to the writer:

  1. What does the email recipient do for a living? In answering this question, use the first person as if you were the prospect.
  2. What are two key challenges this person face every day? Again, use the first person in your response, such as, “I face two challenges: supply chain visibility and timely order fulfillment.” (Warning: If you use buzzwords, you must then translate them into everyday speech, preferably offering an example.)
  3. Speaking specifically, how will attending this Web-based Q&A session help her address these key challenges?
  4. How are we rewarding this individual for her investment of time? (A sales pitch is not a reward.)
  5. Who will this email come from? It must come from a real person. If it addresses an executive decision maker, it must come from an executive peer.

Armed with the information above, most any skilled copywriter can take it from there. Oh, he’ll probably have a few more questions. But, by and large, you will have given him a running start.

Evaluating the Copy

Now, when it comes to writing, you know what you like and what you don’t. Here’s a quick guide to evaluating the copywriter’s work:

  • A too-mysterious subject line. Lately, I’ve been barraged with a particularly annoying type of spam that features subject lines, basically, from Mars. Examples: “And then I said,” “But, that’s my puppy,” “The pool is closed,” and “Sorry about that.” Aren’t these just the most logical subject lines for a pornography site? I now believe that if the subject line is seemingly irrelevant or random, the content will be even more so. My general suggestion is to play fair with the email recipient. For example, as boring as it may seem to you and a copywriter, I suggest if you’re inviting an executive to a Web or brick-and-mortar event that you use the word “Invitation” somewhere in the subject line.
  • The opening two sentences. If you find nothing surprising or provocative there, you won’t find it anywhere else in the document. Most writers who are familiar with writing email copy have, at least, a tacit understanding that the first couple of lines are the “magic zone.” You can hook, cut, tease, exasperate, or provoke here and almost nowhere else.
  • Email from a real person. If the email doesn’t read like it was written by a real person, don’t be surprised. Most writers are better at writing impersonal, somewhat formal corporate prose than a peer-to-peer communication. But, for example, when a CIO is addressing a fellow CIO, the tone should be entirely different from when a sales director is addressing a manufacturing director. A CIO just doesn’t send another CIO an email ripped straight from the brand messaging and corporate style guide.
  • Two or three paragraphs. Two or three paragraphs (and, no more, unless the copy reads like something from Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, or Walker Percy) should be plenty of room for the writer to make clear what the email’s about. One device I’m particularly fond of is the “I know you’re in a hurry” approach.

    Here’s an example: “You don’t get paid to read email, so here’s the executive summary of why I’m writing you: I’m inviting you to attend an executive Web event (featuring Oracle-ex Ray Lane) that could begin a process to save your company literally millions on the cost of goods and services.” Look carefully at what I just did there. I used the word “executive” because even if the recipient isn’t an executive, I can assure you she wants to be. I dangled the “Oracle-ex Ray Lane” carrot. Feel free to substitute your own luminary. Finally, I laid out a value proposition. Now, you ask, “Where do you go from there?” I’d immediately address the cynicism that will no doubt be summoned by the reference to saving “your company literally millions of dollars.”

  • The closing thought. “Right now, what with the economy the way it is and all the empty promises being made by enterprise software companies, you may be tempted to think this is not the time for innovation or a new initiative. Wrong. It’s the perfect time. Catch your competition while they’re napping or licking their wounds. Prepare your company for the next economy.”

– Chris

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