This, Not This...

The past two weeks in North Texas have been among the coldest, like ever. The first week of February our offices were closed 4 out of 5 days due to ice and snow. The next week wasn't much better. Another storm rolled through shutting down schools and businesses again.

So what does that have to do with anything related to marketing? Well, actually quite a bit.

During that cold snap, I received two emails that I think represent the best and worst in terms of relevant messaging. So I figured I'd attempt to channel one of my heroes, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin, CEO of MECLABS, and do a heads up comparison of these two emails using his legendary "This, Not This" bit.

Below is a copy of the first email I received that came from The Creative Circle which is a local talent placement agency.

Now, granted the message envelope isn't that great. The subject line is "Talent Update" which is the same subject line for every email I receive from them. But because my email system displays the first two lines of the email through a desktop notification, I was drawn immediately to the highly relevant comment about the weather:

"Brrrrrrrrrrr! Did you make it to work today?"

Actually, no, I didn't-- our offices were closed. I read on:

"If you didn't, I bet the work is just piling up, and that is where the Creative Circle comes in..."

Brilliant. The value proposition is established and tied to a very relevant need I have.

He's right. Work is piling up. Maybe I do need to reevaluate my department's staff plan.

From there the email goes on a little bit of a rabbit trail. True, the Super Bowl was in town. Yes, I get the connection to needing a [marketing] "champion". But perhaps that could have been saved for a completely different email. Maybe after the Super Bowl?

Anyway, aside from that the email did a great job of using external relevance-- things that are happening in the world around us-- to create a message that resonated very strongly with me.

Now, for the "Not This" example.

A couple of days later I was still home, our offices were still closed, and it was still the coldest it has ever been since I've lived in North Texas. But now the news channels were reporting that this wasn't just a North Texas cold snap, the winter storms were hitting the entire country!

It was at that point I received the following email:

Okay, so right off the bat this thing is whack. In the message envelope, the sender is "Cool-Off." What? I know that this is the name of your company—but dude—seriously? Do you think anyone is looking to cool off?

This same ridiculousness is repeated in the subject line, "Limited Time Offer from Cool-Off.com.”

Because I do this stuff for a living, I just had to open the message and find out what they would say next, but if I didn't I would have trashed this thing instantly. When I did open it, it just kept getting better (and by better I mean worse—much worse). There was a big hero shot with a pool and palm trees, and a big momma-gamma misting fan. Ha!

But then I spotted the headline:

"Summer is Right Around the Corner..."

Um, what?

Then the first sentence (which was one giant hyperlink): "Beat the Heat" and Save (25-30% OFF) on all Patio Misters..."

Is this a joke?

Then I scanned the "In This Issue" (apparently this is a newsletter) and there were three "Quick Links:"

  • Register Now - For what exactly? What a silly thing to have at the top of your "Quick Links." Register Now for more bad emails, or to access your site, or for more irrelevant offers???

  • News - Sorry, not interested in any news. I get that from Fox.

  • More About Us - Well I guess it is all about you, huh? Obviously sales are down being it's FRIGGIN FREEZING everywhere in the country and you guys want to try to get a boost. Well, I'm sorry 'friend.' If you want to do business with me in the future, you may want to think about me, my needs, my problems, and then begin a relevant conversation with me that makes sense. I'm not stupid. I'm not going to buy a mister hose just because it is on sale. You need to think before you hit the send button next time.

Alright, enough with the rant. The key takeaways here are simply this:

1. Every time you send an email you are initiating a mental conversation with the recipients of that message. Make sure you don’t start a conversation that makes you look stupid, insensitive, or out-of-touch. No one wants to do business with people like this.

2. Relevancy is the key to good email communication—in fact, it is the key to good communication in general. Howard Gossage, an old ad mogul once said, “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”

3. Beware of sending the wrong message to the wrong person at the wrong time. Social media changes the game in a lot of ways, and bad marketing can take on a life of its own. I wrote another post about that called, The Wrong Message to the Wrong Person at the Wrong Time.