Holiday season pt2: art of persuasion

After the previous post three weeks ago about the holiday season mentioning crowded inboxes, here’s a followup to that post.  If your goal as email marketer is to persuade people to buy stuff: this is for you. Below are some tips to be able to persuade subscribers in a good and honest way without abusing their trust or holy inbox.

"Holy inbox Batman!"

1. Be creative with subject lines
As noted in the previous holiday season post, inboxes will be filled to the brim in the upcoming weeks. This means you will have to stand out in the inbox itself with your subject line, and if you have many GMail subscribers the snippet as well. How to get creative without going to far off the actual subject inside your email? A simple word play on a product inside the email could be enough, or maybe a teaser suggesting which products, discounts and such will be inside. Another tip for this: make your subject lines not too lengthy, but not too short either. Too long and they’ll be broken on mobile email clients, too short and they’re not taken seriously or don’t contain enough info on the actual content in the email.
2. Invest in design
The art of design is a noble one, and a well designed email campaign shows off: it is pleasing to the eye and people take time to dive into your email. Yaay, 3rd goal met: people actually view your message! (first and second goal are of course delivering the email and getting people to open it, see point 1 for how to persuade people to open it). Take care in making your email(s) visually attractive without overdoing it: a crowded email is overdone, but too much whitespace and it might seem that your designers have been lazy.
3. Be loud and clear in the message: provide cool CTA’s
Want people to buy something? Make it clear what it costs, how to buy it and where. Put prices in your emails instead of on the landing pages: it will provide less of a surprise for the people who click through. You could provide seperate specific buttons for big selling products (buy it now!) or a more general and less pushy ‘visit the shop’ at the bottom of the first row of products.
Also, don’t put your CTA’s way at the bottom of your email: you will have clickthroughs, but probably much less then when you provide in the first half or first third of the email (above the fold). Many people deny the necessity or positive effects of above the fold design: they note that people are used to scrolling these days. I believe in the natural laziness of people: if they don’t need to scroll, they’ll click faster.
4. Timing: when they have the money
This one is on the edge of what I noted earlier: ‘without abusing their trust’ . Many times have I received the question when would be the best day/time to send an email. If I really knew the answer I would be pretty rich and guard my crystal ball quite vigorously: alas, I only have some basic tips to optimize that timing, not the actual answer.
Here goes:
When are people most inclined to buy your product(s)? When they have the money! People feel rich at payday, so that’s when you should send them your email. Conversion and ROI are largest at those days, because people actually have the money (readily) available to buy, to shop, to consume. At the end of the month, right about 23rd ~ 27th most people get their paycheck, so you know what to do.
A special note on bonuses: people receiving their end-of-year bonuses sometimes receive these separate from normal pay, because it’s a one-off payout. Mostly this happens just before the regular pay, sometimes it is at the beginning of the month: so this is a less reliable factor to use in deciding your holiday season send time.
As far as time of day is concerned, the trouble with consumers is that they’re everyone. This means they’ll check their email almost 24/7, with some exceptions and necessities like sleep and work. Late in the afternoon or even early evening (6PM-ish) should put you in top spot upon people getting home from work and checking their personal email: however this may not be for everyone. Test with this before sending the big one out: more on testing at point 8.
5. Don’t overdo it! (frequency)
So you have great subject lines, a beautiful email campaigns and shiny buttons and have decided on when to send. Your guess would be to go in spam-a-lot mode and blast those emails away (sorry Andrew), to maximise the potential of the time of the year and your expensive email designs. However, hammering those inboxes might have a negative effect: people tend to open and/or click less often, or worst case scenario, mark your email as spam. Ouch!
Prepare to consider their inbox your inbox, and how often per week or month you’d like to receive email from you as a specific sender (and don’t say daily!). It might be that you’ll only send about two emails in a month’s time, but those emails could score so good in the sales department that you don’t even need to send more.
6. Go multichannel – spread the word
Email should not be the only channel to be used for spreading the word about your product offers. Use anything viable and available which fits into your marketing mix: be it social media, an extensive website, videos or display advertising. The power of repetition means you get stuck in people’s head, which means you’ll be ‘top of mind’: just the thing your looking for as a marketer. Consuming will follow, simply because people can’t stop thinking about it. If only we would live in Futurama’s age and you could beam your message into a dream (video).
Extra bonus of being top of mind: people will talk to other people about your brand or products. Free marketing! Everyone loves that. I noticed that many people at my company have switched to HTC smartphones from Nokia, iPhones and others after me promoting it endlessly (no, I’m not payed by HTC, just like their products very much). HTC will thank me for that 🙂
7. Make a series
Even though I noted to keep frequency in check at point 5, people love series. They love series in art, series in movies, series in series, series in products. It’s like the Pokemon slogan: gotta catch ‘ em all! When you provide your emails as a series, people actually are eager to ‘read on’ and see what’s next: they are anticipating and expecting your next email. If you provide a cliffhanger in the first one leading up to the next you’ll double that anticipation. You’ll also be able to ‘connect’ products and offers to eachother in the email series too, making it more of a whole campaign instead of separate messages.
8. Test, test, did I say test?
All of the above cannot reach their full potential if you don’t test, and test continuously. Just one single test on subject line or content will not cut it. We are talking holiday season here: it’s worth putting in time and effort in all parts of your email campaigns, including the testing. Before you send out your campaigns, you could test on the following factors and combinations of those factors:

  • timing (time and day of week and month)
  • content placement (layout, colors)
  • target groups (segmentation)
  • subject line(s)
  • from name and reply address
  • branding inside email (with or without brand logos)
  • landing pages
  • clickthrough links and buttons

So that’s it. Probably my longest blog post ever, I hope these tips will help you build and succesful email campaigns this holiday season: let me know if it works, or if you have any additions.
Good luck!

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