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Why should I care about your email?

18/01/2012

There are hundreds if not thousands of people online offering technical and content advice on email marketing for business as well as for fundraising or campaigning.  I’m not a technical expert so can’t pretend to understand detailed coding or firewall issues but I do know a thing or two about content and about engaging readers.

Why do we want to engage readers?  Because engaged readers are much more likely to do what you’re asking them to do!  Note the implication in that last sentence… you have to have a clear and compelling ‘ASK’ in every email whether it’s for funds, to buy something, to sign-up to a campaign, to share with a friend or just to get further information – include an action.

I received a well-intentioned and polite email earlier this week from someone telling me about a schools reading project in Wales.  Here’s how it broke down:

  • Laid out the context and need for the project – good
  • Provided hard evidence of the need – good
  • Linked the project’s work to real-world outcomes for its beneficiaries – good
  • Didn’t address at all why I had been sent this email – bad
  • Didn’t speak to me as an individual, using my info@ address – not always possible to get personalised addresses but we should always try
  • 25 paragraphs – debatable
  • over 1700 words – very bad in 2012 and probably a show-stopper for the majority of readers
  • Formatting issues – sometimes forgivable but should be tested
  • Didn’t ask me for anything other than “support if you can” – major missed opportunity (and it was right at the end of 1700 words)

I might have been very engaged with the cause but the email didn’t give readers the opportunity to be engaged.  Too much copy, no clear actions outlined, no addressing of why the cause is or should be important to the reader, no sense that the charity was writing to me as opposed to everyone else on their bought-in list.

We need to remember that perception is nine-tenths of reality so if readers feel that this is the case, then this is the case!

Conclusions: because I do what I do for a living, I bothered to read it all to find the positive points listed above.  I’d bet a sizeable amount that I’m in the minority and that all anyone else will take from this email is ‘too much stuff… not reading it’.  That’s if they get past the formatting issues in their preview pane…

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