Making Your Copy Call for Action

Hello, email marketing readers!

In Lynne’s last article, she mentioned an Inbox Interactive client that uses our email services but that uses a traditional offline advertising agency for all of its other marketing creative. Throughout last year, we had worked to integrate the message and look/feel between the offline and online campaigns. I will refrain from mentioning the company directly as you can understand these concepts without my naming names.

We recently met with this client to review last year’s campaigns and results as well as to plan for the coming year’s marketing events. We spent some time talking about integrating the creative efforts while ensuring that the offer and copy were effective for direct response (and email, of course). The basic points of our discussion focused on two key areas:

  • The fact that email involves direct response marketing and specific calls to action, as opposed to traditional advertising’s brand-awareness approach to marketing. 
  • The need to maintain consistency between the offline creative (designs and copy) and the online creative. How do we remain consistent while applying direct response theory and tactics to offline mass advertising (billboards, newspaper ads, etc)?

Let me give you a bit of background. For several campaigns last year, we were given a headline and sometimes an image from the offline agency that we would use to create an effective email offer. Generally, the creative we were provided with was for a billboard or newspaper campaign. We would use the offline agency’s copy and concept to create a headline, then weave that theme throughout the offer copy. The offers were designed to drive traffic to retail stores, so they needed to be trackable — a dead giveaway that we’re talking about direct response. As you can imagine, the offline campaign somewhat drove the theme or seasonality of the creative, but the offers were driving the specifics of the copy and the calls to action.

The last promotion we created in December was an offer for a gift certificate. Due to the client’s increasing desire to be consistent between its offline branding and its email direct response efforts, the decision makers required us to use the agency’s copy and design for this campaign. We attempted to counter this, because we wanted to make the campaign as strong as it could be… that’s our job, after all. However, in the end, we followed the company’s wishes and put that copy and other creative elements into the basic design template used in its prior campaigns.

So what’s the rub? We did not feel the copy had a clear call to action. (Of course, there were references to “click here,” but the call was just not as strong as we would liked.)

Take a look at headlines in traditional advertisements and compare them to what you see in direct mail or email with a direct response component. You will notice that the direct response creative uses more forceful and directive verbs. Rather than just being informed about something, you are “directed” to act. The copy uses action-oriented verb phrases: “shop,” “save,” “buy now,” “call today,” and so on. And, consistent with email principles, the copy is extremely succinct, utilizing short sentencing and phrasing structures, and there is plenty of white space between very tight paragraphs. Bulleted benefits and other highlighted items are often components of successful campaigns. In a nutshell, the copy should be easy to read and the call to action crystal clear, whether the recipient is on- or offline. Unfortunately, these same principles don’t always apply to a typical branding print ad.

In fairness, the powers that be directing this campaign wanted to offer gift certificates as well as an “enter to win” call to action. This additional call to action also seems to have had an effect on the overall effectiveness of the campaign, but, as we had this type of dual purpose in at least one other campaign, we feel copy had more impact in the equation.

As Lynne mentioned last week, results were less than stellar. Our open rates stayed in the range of prior campaigns — 25 percent, which is even better than the campaign that had gone in November. This indicated that the interest in the email content was definitely there. However, click-through rates (CTRs) plummeted to 6.18 percent overall and 5.19 percent for unique clicks. These numbers are in stark contrast to the overall average the prior campaigns: 22.46 percent overall CTR and 11.2 percent unique clicks.

One problem was that the offer was a bit conflicting. One last “best practice principle” to apply in direct response is to make the offer clear and as simple as possible. Don’t force customers to choose where to focus or how and what to respond to. Once the person clicks through, you can sometimes still be successful with secondary offers, but in your email message you should be clear about what you want recipients to do, where they should do it, and when (NOW!).

“So what now?” you ask. Well, never fear, we are creative people working with other creatives, so we devised a plan going forward. Here is what we are looking to do differently this year:

  1. We will work directly with our client to come up with a strong offer that relates to the event and the themes that may be in development for the offline efforts. 
  2. We will then take that offer and work with the offline agency to create a consistent message in both copy and design. 
  3. The first piece of creative the client sees will be a collaboration between the agency and us.

This last point is as important as the first two, as our client has been somewhat frustrated by the time it was taking to produce acceptable creative. The underlying reason for that was the inconsistency between the efforts. We hope to see an improvement for all of us in the process, but, more important, we hope for stronger opens, CTRs, and conversions (onsite redemption of coupons and such).

That about wraps it up for me this week. Until the 12th!

— Jackie G.

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