Email Applied: 6 Ways to Increase Engagement
While marketers are in business to sell products, a continued hard sell in email after email doesn't do much to engage readers. Innovative marketers try to find ways to keep their email recipients opening and clicking. They attempt to delight and amaze their readers, and connect with them. Consider occasionally including value-added content that creates an experience. There are many ways to accomplish this; here are six ideas to spur your thinking:
1. Intriguing Subject Lines
From time to time, mix up your subject lines. There are just so many ways to promote a sale or an offer of free or reduced shipping.
Brooks Brothers. The apparel and accessories retailer broke up heavy promotional subject lines with value-added content that employs a subtle sell. One featured "The Art of the Knot." There were two distinct sections to the email: first, it featured "The Story of Our Ties," which linked to interesting historical commentary on neckties. Second, there was a callout on how to tie a necktie that linked to step-by-step instructions for six different classic men's knots.
Gaiam. The health and wellness products provider used the subject line: "Fall asleep faster: the one yoga pose you need to know." The lead email feature showed a picture of a simple yoga pose, and explained that yoga can help you sleep more soundly. The article linked to Gaiam's blog and provided detailed instructions.
Barnes & Noble. The bookseller had a timely subject line that caught my eye: "Eat, Pray, Love is in Theaters Today. Save 45% on the Hit Memoir!" The lead item was particularly relevant to me, since I'd purchased the book online. The opening copy said: "Based upon your previous purchases, we thought you'd be interested in the newly released movie tie-in edition of Elizabeth Gilbert's hit memoir."
2. Tips and Hints
Include interesting tips and facts that help involve your readers further with your products.
Philosophy. The cosmetics supplier developed a distinctive look and feel to its emails through the use of cute, old-fashioned retouched photos. In a recent email about lip glosses, the company also included makeup tips for fabulous lips.
Allen Brothers. This meat retailer has some of the best food photography around. Every time it features steaks in its emails, it's mouth-watering. And from time to time it includes additional information such as the story behind Kobe and Waygu beef.
Steve Spangler Science. The cross-channnel seller of scientific toys and games sends up to three emails a week. One of these features Steve's experiment of the week for kids and teachers to try. They're wacky and entertaining. The email showcases a still video shot with a link to the video that explains how to conduct the project.
People love the chance to win, but keep in mind that you don't have to have a huge prize like the following examples. The prize could be as simple as a $250 shopping spree on your e-commerce site.
Design Within Reach. This furniture retailer struck a partnership with the AMC television network and its hit show "Mad Men." The two companies developed a sweepstakes where one winner would receive all the furniture necessary to create a room inspired by the award-winning show.
Hewlett-Packard. The computer and accessories company recently promoted a contest with the subject line: "HP's Summer of Music - win VIP tickets, view concerts & more." The contest is housed on HP's Facebook page. To enter, visitors had to click the "Like" icon at the top of the page to unlock the sweepstakes.
4. Build Community and Participation
Give your readers the chance to tell you more about themselves. Create the opportunity for dialog.
Talbots. The women's clothing and accessories retailer often runs contests around holiday themes designed to build participation and community. For Mother's Day, readers could enter their most embarrassing moment with mom. The winner received a trip to New York. During July and August, it encouraged recipients to enter their favorite summer reads.
B&H Photo Video. The electronics supplier usually features multiple products in its emails. Next to each item is an icon that says "Read & Discuss." On its B&H Insights microsite, the retailer provides extensive detail on each product and encourages comments and questions about the items. Most questions are answered within a few hours.
You have to get the tone just right to pull it off, but this could inject some fun into your email program.
Moosejaw Mountaineering. The retailer of outdoor clothing and gear has a wonderfully irreverent copy style that makes each email a must-read. For example, the company's rewards program offered bonus points for any purchase in a recent email. A portion of the copy read: "We're offering the same, plain old Double Rewards points on anything you get this week. Same deal as usual, no surprises. We've found that Double Rewards are so good that we're not doing anything to mess it up."
Golfballs.com. The purveyor of golf equipment occasionally features the ability to personalize golf balls. It's fun to peruse examples. One recent email showcased a ball that read: "Hey, JIM, hit the ball and not the grass!"
Despair.com. This seller of demotivational products also uses a tongue-in-cheek approach to copy and product offerings. Its email program is called "The Wailing List," and most emails are written in first person. To announce a recent sale, a portion of the copy read: "I'm keeping this one short. You know the drill. Twice-a-year, Despair does a big purge of slower-selling items so we can write-off inventory, clear-up warehouse space, and basically squeeze one last bit of cash out of some underperforming assets before we set them on fire. This is that sale."
6. Alternating Promotional Emails With Newsletters
This technique requires additional internal resources, but it does serve to engender loyalty.
Geeks.com. This computer retailer sends daily email deals. But about once a week, it supplements its promotions with a tech-tips newsletter that provides timely advice on different topics. A recent newsletter discussed how to protect oneself from malware, including what to do if something bad does get through.
Drs. Foster & Smith. This pet supplies retailer supplements promotional emails with two different newsletters. About every other month it sends Pet Tails - Stories from our Clinic, which deals with issues faced by pet owners such as flea infestation or lumbar injuries. The marketer also sends a bimonthly edition of its e-letter Pet Care Today, customized to the type of pet owned by the recipient, in which it provides information on topics such as vaccinations and more.
Wine Enthusiast. This wine accessories merchant sends about three promotional emails a week, and a Wine Enthusiast Magazine newsletter once a week. This e-zine includes reviews of wines with the best ratings, recipes and news from the authority in wine. There's no direct selling in the e-zine, just loads of content for wine connoisseurs.
These are just a few ideas. You might also include customer ratings and reviews, testimonials, how-to animated images, or video links. And, if you can identify customers on your email list, be sure to support your catalog mailings with an email that prominently features your catalog cover.