Tuesday December 3, 2013

Email Me Like a Human- An Alternative to Terrible Mass Email Marketing

Oprah Winfrey

Like the rest of you, I just survived the retail black plague. Part of the onslaught was a cascade of email pitches from all kinds of brands, many of whom I’m actually fond of. But I ignored 90% of it. Even Bonobos, a brand I’m fond of,  was part of the racket.

I maybe clicked through a couple of the links, but only lingered long enough to realize it was pretty much a bullshit sale. Same ‘ol, same ‘ol. 

Here’s the flaw- if you’re filling my inbox with 2+ emails a week advertising  20-60% off your stuff [all year], how urgent is your offer? How compelling is your CyberMonday offering? Or are you just hoping I’m one of the patsy’s caught up in the Cyber Monday hysteria? 

Two of the emails I received had the same subject line: “Wanna Cyber?” Are you kidding me? (I get the subtle 90’s/00’s sexual innuendo and it feels a bit awkward.)

This boiler-plate email marketing is the opposite of engaging and personal- entirely devoid of relationship and service. I ignore it, because it doesn’t matter. It’s obviously not for me.   

Contrast that with another recent experience. 

Warm, behavior-based

My friend Clay Hebert recently mentioned a company called Soma (www.drinksoma.com) in a CreativeLive class he did recently. After hearing the case study, I went to their site and checked out their water carafe’s. Cool product. I was a little confused by their pricing though, and eventually lost interest. 

The next day, I get an email from the CEO/Founder of Soma. It read “…It’s looks like you had trouble with your Soma purchase…any way I can help?” Now, I’m a marketer. I know this was an automated followup. But that felt okay. Here’s why:

1) The email address was personalized by someone that matters (even though the domain was intercom.io, a backdesk email marketing and service platform). It was supposedly coming from the CEO/Founder of Soma, and for some reason, subconsciously that feels good.  

2) It was a warm email. I had indeed been looking at his product and was interested. The email was automated, but the trigger for it was my buying behavior

3) When I replied, explaining the confusion I had around one of the price options, someone, from the same email address, replied with personalized answers to my questions. 

That is a perfect example of an effective email appeal. Sure, it’s not the massive email blast one traditionally associates with email marketing. And that’s good. 

Let’s call it trigger-based marketing, or response marketing. Even a new startup like Soma can leverage it. 

Make it for Me

I wrote a post about Bonobos and the growth of retargeting in the retail sector earlier this year. I was looking for a flannel shirt and found one on their site that I liked. I ended up abandoning the order mainly due to price. For the next couple weeks though, I saw that shirt appear in banner ads on various sites I frequent. I’m very fond of retargeting- it’s a warm method- keeping a product I’ve already exhibited buying behavior for, in front of me. 

So back to Cyber Monday- Bonobos may or may not have that shirt in stock anymore, but they inevitably have flannel shirts. What if they took the data they had from that previous interaction, and funneled it into a personalized email campaign? How do you think I might have reacted to an email that  showed a picture of that shirt I liked, along with a gallery of the current flannel shirts they have, and a call to action noting the 40% Cyber Monday discount? They could have done that- the technology is available, especially at the scale that Bonobos is at. 

"I would have become more sensitized to future emails..."

That email would have felt a lot more inline with the brand image I have of Bonobos too. It would have reinforced the relationship I have with them- I would have become more sensitized to future emails, instead of less. 

Do you have some examples of personalized trigger campaigns that you’ve done? Please comment and share below. 


Chris Nordyke is an integrated marketer and strategy consultant. He works with owners and senior business leaders to transform and grow service companies via a unique holistic approach that drives referral business and client retention. Click here to schedule a complimentary consult with Chris.


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