dave feb 2010If I can’t get the people I work with to read my emails, what chance does your marketing email have?

I love to write long emails.  The problem is, no one likes to read them.  Now, I’m not talking about marketing emails sent to a list of customers…I’m talking about one-to-one emails to my boss or to my coworkers.  Maybe even to a client.  Whenever I have a brilliant idea (and trust me, I have plenty of them) I am not the least bit shy about writing those ideas down in great detail – with step by step execution plans, cost and benefits – and firing them off to everyone who I’m sure will be as excited about it as I am.  So how come I hear groans emanating from their offices when they get the email?  And rarely get a response?

Your marketing emails face at least the same challenges.

Believe it or not, it’s not the content.  When I follow up with them in person, most of the time they found my idea was well worth reading, even if they don’t agree.  It’s not even that they are poorly written (Heaven forefend!)  It’s just the wrong venue.  Email is great for transmitting a quick message and asking for a follow-up.  But, folks today get a LOT of email, so they just don’t have time to slog through a long email at the moment I feel like sending it.  I have sort of learned, when I have a brilliant idea, that it is more effective to send an email that says “Hey!  I have a brilliant idea!  When can we get together to discuss it?”, than to lay out the entire idea in an email.   Maybe I’ll even attach a document that the recipient can read at their leisure.  I find I’m much more likely to get a response this way.

Your marketing email is not all that different, and you may not have the advantage of close familiarity (and an endless fountain of brilliant ideas.)  Your email may be short or long, but if it’s long make sure there is a very good reason.  And short or long, make sure that your email has a clear objective and that your recipient gets a clear message of what you want them to do.  In most cases, particularly in B-to-B marketing, you are not really trying to sell your product in the email.  You are trying to get them to take the next step – to learn more about your product.  Generally you are trying to get them to click to a landing page where they can learn product details and hopefully request a sales call, or at least more information.  Effectively you are asking them for a meeting to discuss your product, and that landing page is your “meeting”.  In most cases if your email gets them to click to a landing page, it has done its job.

With that objective in mind, use restraint in what you include in the email.  If you give too many product details you may take away their incentive to click, if they think they know all they need to know about your product from the email.   So your task is to whet their appetite.  If your product can boost their profits by 20%, maybe that’s enough to say in your email.  OK, maybe throw in that it’s easy to do, too, but that’s enough.  Make them click to find out the exciting details.

Oh, and if your objective is to get them to click, don’t confuse the issue by offering a lot of other options in the email – signing up for your newsletter, reading your blog, four other products you have on sale – all good stuff, perhaps, but don’t let them interfere with your primary objective.  And if you don’t know your primary objective, don’t send an email until you do.  I mean, what’s the point?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just got another great idea I need to send to the boss.  I’m confident he’ll be thrilled.

Dave Lewis is head of strategic marketing for Real Magnet. Dave has been an entrepreneur in direct marketing for years, with a focus on brand building and direct mail. He was the co-founder and president of trackmymail.com.