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  • Writer's pictureTony

Beware the tricks

If it looks like a clever way to get people to read your emails, it might well have the opposite effect.

What with having a few days off over Easter I decided to clean out the junk file in my email in-box.

And in doing so what struck me in skimming through the list of highly unlikely offers of products and services I didn’t want but was told I did, was that over 50% of the emails had my first name as part of the subject line.

Put another way, people writing dubious messages have hit on the notion that the way to get their message to me is by making it seem personal, by putting my first name at the start of the message.

In retaliation my email program (which I have long realised has a mind of its own) has classified all such incoming items as junk.

However, warming to my investigation, I discovered that some of these items were not junk at all, but were actual, serious adverts from companies that had obviously been persuaded by whoever sends out their emails that “personalisation” is still all the rage.

In fact it isn’t, and it stopped being a way of raising readership rates quite a few years ago, simply because recipients realised that just because their name was put on top of an email, it did not mean it was from someone they knew.

But that has never stopped the companies that invested money in personalisation software from constantly telling advertisers that they absolutely had to have personalisation to make their promotion work.

Such “you must do this if you want to sell” stories go around all the time. Another recent fad was to write in such a way that it tried to con the reader into thinking this email was part of an ongoing conversation. Thus they might start “Further to my email last week, I wonder if you have had time to…”

All such fake approaches tumble to the ground and generate “unsubscribes” rather than interest, simply because the people to whom you are writing are probably not idiots. We all of us use email all the time and we can all spot a con within half a second.

The only way to make email work as a sales tool is to interest the reader straight off with a headline and then either be genuinely entertaining (a hard trick to pull off unless you have been practising) or talk in an honest and straightforward way.

We have put on our website an example of an advert that works, along with a commentary on how and why it works, and why it looks as it does. If you would like to spend a moment looking through the approach you’ll find both the email text and the commentary are here.

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