Organize Information for E-Mail Marketing

I’ve discussed the importance of starting any email marketing campaign by identifying the most important question the campaign must answer from the prospective buyer’s point of view: What’s in it for me? Second in importance is conducting consumer research to effectively answer that question.

You’ll recall I used our Shark Cordless Sweeper campaign to illustrate how easy it is to develop an ineffective campaign just by assuming we know the answers, instead of going to the target audience to learn them. Had we gone with our assumption, the response to, What’s in it for me? would have been, the most powerful sweeper with features you can’t find in others. Consumer research showed the correct answer is, a light, maneuverable, cordless cleaning machine that picks up a wide variety of things that drop on floors.

Consumer research helped us identify our top-level positioning. But we’re far from finished. Now it’s time to gather and organize all the elements that will ultimately bring this statement to life in an email message. Each component plays its own role while supporting that main message.

Whether you use index cards, spreadsheets, or word-processing documents, organizing this information is an important and necessary next step. Done properly, it paves the way for compelling copy.

Following, the categories of information to collect and prioritize.

The Offer

Aside from the product itself, nothing is more important than the offer. The offer is the “deal,” the promotion surrounding the product. Offers take many forms, including:

  • Free 30-day trial

  • Introductory price
  • Premiums with payment or purchase
  • Split payments
  • Credit card not charged for 30 days
  • Free issues (towards a paid subscription)

No matter how good the product, potential buyers must be motivated. That’s why, in the case of the carpet/floor sweeper email, we combined several of the above, including a risk-free trial, premium, and split payment.


Succinct descriptions of specific parts of your product or service. Features in our sweeper promotion include:

  • 30-minute battery

  • Low-profile motor design
  • Wall-hugging technology
  • No bag


More important than features, benefits are the value or result a consumer gets from the features. Benefits resulting from the above features would be:

  • Clean the whole house on a single battery charge.

  • Sweeper fits easily under chairs and sofas.
  • Wall-hugging technology makes it easy to clean near walls and baseboards without bending.
  • No bags! Easy-remove tray empties in seconds.

The right combination of benefits and features is very important. No one really cares about features; it’s what those features do for them.


Actual, unpaid quotes from real people regarding the effectiveness and superiority of the product or service. Testimonials add credibility. Some guidelines to maximize their impact:

  • Use photos when possible.

  • Use complete name (e.g., not “J.P.” or “Jack F.”).
  • Use complete city and state (not one or the other).
  • Don’t correct misspellings or grammar.
  • Don’t change words.

Five to ten testimonials carry you through an email campaign. Mix them up. For example, using one or more full sentences from one person, but only a few words from another.


Dramatic creative conveys more than words. We wanted to demonstrate just how light the Shark Sweeper is, so we attached balloons and showed the sweeper floating in air. The visual spoke more than words could.

How-It-Works Illustrations

Some products benefit from a demonstration of how they work to help prospective buyers understand the technology or design. Although “wall-hugging technology” sounds great, it was much enhanced by an accompanying illustration of how a rotating brush pushes things away from where wall and floor meet so the main rollers can brush them into the collection tray. Without an illustration, the concept is much more difficult to convey.

Product-Use Illustrations

Streaming video in email makes it possible to show a product in use. We did this with the Shark Sweeper, showing a young girl and a frail senior citizen using the machine with ease.


One of the most critical parts of your message is a strongly worded guarantee. It can’t be vague. The stronger the guarantee, the better:

  • 60 days is better than 30.

  • One year is better than 60 days.
  • Double your money back is better than your money back.

It’s fine to say the guarantee does not cover shipping and handling charges. Phrases such as “ironclad money-back guarantee” and “no questions asked” are recommended.

Payment Options

Provide multiple payment options, such as credit card, check, money order, and PayPal. Make it easy to buy within a personal budget by offering plans, such as four easy payments of $19.95 or a single payment of $79.80.

Ordering Options

Give customers a choice, including toll-free number, postal mail, email, Web site, and fax, for ordering.

Once all this information is organized, you’re ready to construct a truly powerful email marketing message. I’ll address that in another column.

Keep reading.

Don’t miss ClickZ’s Weblog Business Strategies in Boston, June 9-10.

Related reading