Why Aren’t Your Emails Getting More Action?

You’re working hard to build your business. You’ve spent time and money building your list — or finding and renting a strong one. Out goes your email campaign, and you wait, and wait, as the replies trickle… in… and… thennnn… stop.

The response rate is tiny — but hey, that’s typical of the medium, isn’t it? So if you want more sales (or subscribers, or opt-ins, or the like), you do it all over again.

But is it really the nature of the medium? What if it’s the way the medium is being used? What if there is a way to use it better?

Or maybe your response rate is much better than average. What if there was a way to do better still?

Remember That Song?

No matter how carefully you’ve crafted your letter, it’s wasted if nobody reads it, right? So you made especially sure you had a killer subject line that cut through the clutter and spam in your prospects’ mailboxes and grabbed their attention. Of course you did, because you followed the guidelines in “RE: Email Subject Lines That Work?,” right?

OK, so you got them to look. You can’t expect to hold their attention, inspire interest in what you’re saying, create a desire to act, and get them to actually take that action if you write whatever grabs you in whatever order you feel like. Yes, it’s AIDAS again (the “s” is for “satisfaction”), which I explained when we discussed creating a home page that sells.

Step by Step

Listen closely: Your email is not a letter. “What?” you wonder. Think about it. Your email campaign has an ultimate goal — more sales, subscribers, referrals, and so on. And it has an immediate goal, probably to get people to visit your Web site. Bottom line: You’re trying to persuade them to take the action you desire. If you’ve been following this column, you immediately understand: Your email is a mini-sale. So, to make it work, you need to use the five steps of successful selling.

Your list already accomplished the first step, prospecting, so your email now must build rapport, then qualify your prospect, present your offer, and close the sale — get prospects to take action. If your email doesn’t perform all of those functions, it’s going to fail most of the time.

The Invisible Man (or Woman)

When you’re selling face to face, only 7 percent of your communication is verbal; a full 93 percent is nonverbal! You assess your customers’ appearance, tone of voice, facial expressions, eye contact, and gestures; and you manage your own. You can extend a pat on the back or a handshake. Perhaps most valuable, you have the opportunity to adjust your presentation based on your prospects’ reactions.

When selling via email, you and your prospect are invisible to each other. All you have are written words. Now you understand why you absolutely must take the time (and use a professional writer if necessary) to make sure your email copy is killer: You have to do 100 percent of the work with only 7 percent of the resources.

Just as in the real world, the tone of your communication is more important than its substance. Focus on your “voice” in the email, paying attention to the nuances of written language — word choice, phrasing, sequencing — that accurately reflect the nuances in conversation and create an experience in the reader’s mind that feels as close as possible to a real-world encounter.

Read The Last Line Again

“Feels” is the key word. We may rationalize our buying decisions based on facts, but we make them based on feelings. Use colorful, flavorful, “feeling-ful” words that stimulate the imagination. You want to make your readers imagine themselves already enjoying the benefits of your product or service. Once they’re doing that, the leap to taking action is that much easier.

The core feeling you’re trying to create is enthusiasm. Sales has been called “a transfer of enthusiasm.” You generate enthusiasm by communicating your enthusiasm. If you’re not excited about your product or service, if your copy is flat, your customers will remain unmoved.

Be aware as you write. Without the “softening” of voice tone, smiles, or friendly gestures, email sounds harsher and colder than conversation. Words you intend as humorous may come across as sarcastic and turn your readers off. Further, humor rarely translates well into other languages, and what’s funny in one culture may be insulting in another. It’s best to avoid humor altogether if your audience is international.

The Long and Short of It

Long copy versus short? There are no hard-and-fast rules. As with every aspect of your sale, you must consider the goal and context, then choose what works best. Your prospects’ time is precious — make every word count. Short and to the point is obviously preferable to long and rambling. But long copy isn’t inherently bad, and in some cases it actually works better.

Either way, your copy must

  • Be compelling
  • Address benefits and not features
  • Succeed in overcoming the lack of nonverbal communication elements
  • Continually engage your readers and provide enough real value that they continue to read
  • Implement AIDAS
  • Follow the five steps of selling
  • Provide a clear call to action
  • Place that call right where it needs to be in the process (see “The ABCs of GTC and POA“)
  • Maximize the number of readers who take that action

So there’s your formula. Now go forth, email better, and prosper!

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