Notes From the E-Mail Field

In this week’s column, I’m going to share a number of somewhat unrelated observations from my experience writing business-to-business (B2B) e-mail.

Writing to BlackBerry Users

When a client asks me to write an e-mail, I used to assumed I was writing to someone viewing the e-mail from a desktop. I realized the error of my ways the other day, when I heard a salesperson say he’d received 274 out-of-office replies to an e-mail sent on his behalf to IT vendors!

This tells me e-mail written to salespeople (or anyone who travels) better be able to render well on a BlackBerry — or it’s history.

That salesman also mentioned getting 10 calls from potential clients in response to the e-mail. Half were from prospects he’d spoken with in the past. This tells me e-mail’s value as a reminder to people who may be thinking of buying your product but just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Also keep in mind, as I’ve written before, with so little of the subject line appearing on a BlackBerry, you must make those first 15 characters count. My sense is the more businesslike those first few words, the better. Try using subject lines such as “Action Item,” “Reminder,” and “Comments Due” to catch the attention of an on-the-go BlackBerry user.

Thinking Horizontally

Here’s a little copywriting tidbit to keep in mind next time you write a list of bullet points in an e-mail message. If you’re writing one- or two-word bullet points, rather than listing them vertically, string them horizontally like this:

Services: •Copywriting •Concepts •Coaching •Training

This helps keep more key points on the first screen of the e-mail. Make points quickly. Readers usually won’t read a long message.

Searching for the Urgency

I’ve made this point before, but I can see from the e-mail copy I review not everyone’s picking up on it. For example, many event e-mail messages now attach a PDF of a brochure that’s also being sent by mail. This is a great way to create an integrated marketing campaign. Afterwards, when the brochure arrives by mail, the recipient is more likely to recognize it from the e-mail message.

You can take this one step further to instill a sense of urgency. Since the brochure PDF is usually available long before the physical brochure is actually printed and mailed, you can tell the reader, “Preview the brochure now before everyone gets it by mail… and the event sells out.”

In another case, while promoting one-on-one sessions for a conference, I happened to look at the Web site and saw these sought-after sessions were only offered on a first-come, first-serve basis two weeks before the event. You had to register early to attend the best sessions, then book your face-to-face session before everyone else.

This didn’t come out in the client briefing; it took some digging around to find it. I only looked for it because I know urgency sells, so I make a point of searching for it. Do the same. You’ll probably increase response rates.

Not Everyone Reads E-Mail

From viewing my own e-newsletter’s reports, I can see exactly which respondents have never read a single issue. Since many of these people are clients or prospects, I realize I need to come up with another approach to stay in touch, perhaps by sending newsletters by mail or by picking up the phone.

Conversely, when I’ve sent postal mailings to the same list, I find people who never responded to a single e-mail call me with work when they get my direct mail piece.

Integrated campaigns are the way to go; you can’t forgo one medium for another. A multipronged approach is necessary to succeed.

What’s working for you in B2B e-mail? Send your case studies to Karen to be included in future columns.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

Karen is off this week. Today’s column ran earlier on ClickZ.

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