The Forest and the Trees

Recently, the team at Inbox and I were perplexed during the creative development of an email promotion for a client. Well… “stuck” is the word that really comes to mind.

This client had a variety of mandatory inclusions, and at first glance during the briefing session, they didn’t seem too elaborate or numerous or out of the ordinary. He wanted to promote a special “Grand Opening” offer (a special savings coupon) and wanted to include a bit of verbiage about the party and another special offer associated with the grand opening.

The stumbling block reared its ugly head when we put the copy that we developed (including the client’s “must-haves”) into design. Round after round we went. Rework the placement of this graphic. Add this. Delete that. Move this here.

Why was this one so tough?

Believe me, we’ve been doing this long enough that within a couple of days, we can usually come up with a good, solid draft that we feel comfortable handing off to the client for comments or approval.

But this thing had us flummoxed — it was eight days from the onset of the project, and we still didn’t have creative that we felt was worthy of showing. And the grand opening that the entire piece was wrapped around was looming… what were we to do?

Hold the phone. We realized at this point that it was time to step back and re-evaluate the situation. Let’s take a look at those aforementioned mandatory inclusions, we said. Is it really necessary for all of them to go into the promotion? Could one or two of them move over to the landing page, also currently in development?

The answers to the above (in order) were no and yes. We realized that the reason the design wasn’t working was that too many things were extraneous to the heart of the promotion — the main offer. No wonder we couldn’t come up with a design we were happy with!

Of course, this brought us back to those good old direct-mail days, to an “ancient” principle: Focus the prospect/recipient on the main offer at hand with the text and the design — and keep it simple in order to do just that.

Because we were so focused on those details, as well as on making sure the client remained happy, we neglected to see the proverbial forest — the big picture — for the trees. We temporarily lost sight of an elementary rule of thumb. We were taking the client’s “mandatory” inclusions and attempting to spin them all in the promotion — the “Part 1” of the campaign.

Upon reflection, we realized that we could, in fact, include all of the client’s requests within the campaign, but we had to move all of these “necessities” over to the details section of Part 2 — the landing page/microsite that housed the form and the downloadable coupon that was the crux of the main offer.

So, to summarize (in very simple terms) what we did, the email (Part 1) consisted of the following:

  • Headline/grabber
  • Top offer
  • Benefits of offer, in brief
  • Quick bite of secondary offer
  • Call to action

The multiple-page landing page consisted of the following:

  • Recap of main offer
  • Sign-up form
  • Downloadable coupon
  • Service-guarantee verbiage
  • More details on secondary offer

By taking this tack, we would ensure that the focus of the promo would be on the main offer; doing so would not only create a cleaner design but also drive home the call to action, hence giving us the added benefit of boosting response.

So if you ever find yourself in a quandary with respect to the creative development of a particular campaign, try going back to your roots. And take a look at the entire forest rather than each individual tree.

And what about the results for this particular campaign, you ask? Well, hopefully, by next week I’ll have some concrete results to share.

Speaking of next week, gang, I wanted to give you a preliminary heads-up…

Although the Email Marketing column will continue in grand style, I will soon be leaving it to move on to other things. Next week’s article will be my last here at ClickZ, I’m sorry to say. However, I will probably contribute spot articles from time to time.

Please email me if you want to keep in touch. It has truly been a blast.

Stay tuned for next week’s farewell.

Related reading