Don't be afraid to tinker with your From line

I happen to belong to something call Groupon, an online, email driven business that harnesses the power of collective purchasing to offer money-saving coupons on anything from fish pedicures (no time to explain) to car valeting and even holidays. Groupon is a play on words – well word actually: “coupon.” Geddit?

But a puff for Groupon is not the point of this quick post. I was clearing out old Groupon emails from my inbox and noticed how they have progressed the From line in their emails over time – I’ve been a member for about 6,8 months.

Take a look below. The top line on both images shows the most recent email. The bottom line, the oldest.

Obviously this isn’t all the emails I received from them in that time period shown. But I hadn’t spotted how they had slowly modified their From line from:

  • being benefit led and explanatory – “MyCityDeal – Groupon” (bottom)
  • to leading with the brand name but supporting with the benefit – “Groupon – MyCityDeal” (middle)
  • to simply – Groupon (top/most recent).

The brand has grown enormously in this time and you’d have to live in outer space to have not heard of them. Every time I look the value being placed on the company and the list of prospective buyers seems to increase. Way to go coupon people!

But the point of this post is – don’t be afraid to fiddle with your From line in emails.

We allk now that people delete emails faster and faster and that the From line is very important when deciding what to open. We all angst over Subject lines. Let’s start angsting that From line progression. If it’s good enough for a business most recently valued at $15 billion, it’s good enough for me.

Highly effective email tactics

I lurve MarketingSherpa and have been a fan for years. I particularly wanted to share this chart from them on various email tactics, such as delivering content relevant to segment, email to house lists, email to rented lists… were rated as 2highly effective” by B2B and B2C marketers.

effective email tactics

( I know the copyright says 2009 but it’s just landed in my email inbox from them.)

Both B2B and B2C rate delivery of relevant content to segment as highly effective. The percentage of B2B marketings saying this is slightly higher. In their analysis of this difference MarketingSherpa point out that the business-buying process is usually longer and more complex than that for consumer purchases. “Delivering content that is not only relevant to the recipient’s business segment but relevant to their current stage in the buying process is critical.”

I’m less swayed by this argument. Timely contact in the buying process is important in both markets. With consumers, the buying process can be as complex and involve a journey across multiple channels – a newspaper advertisement, something on television, a poster in a shopping mall as well as email. There’s also a proportion of consumers who will make selection processes online but still go in store to buy. By contrast the business buying process is more focused and may have less distractions (competitors), particularly at the high end (capital purchase).

But the real kicker in my book is the statistically significant percentage of marketers who rated event-triggered autoresponder emails as highly effective – way above  third part ads and rented lists, among other things.

When was the last time you reviewed your autoresponder emails? Yeah, yeah… I know – you’re just about to take a look.

» This chart on the MarketingSherpa site (it won’t be available for long)

Are we all becoming users?

One of the most important  things us lab rats do (when starting to work with a client) is getting them to ‘think like users’. Instead of thinking about what they want to say they must be totally absorbed in what their users want to do.

This means organisations have to get inside the psyche of users, whether that’s visitors to websites, ‘target segments’ opening emails, or less controllable interaction via social media. “Who are these user people and want do they want?” “Can’t we just sell them stuff?”

But I think I’m currently caught up in a profound and seismic shift ,which is turning us all into users (businesses and individuals alike). As a business, do I still need to engage in a time-hungry project of Borgian magnitude to construct a website, or do I download WordPress? Is my next budget demand a massive add campaign or an imaginative poke on Facebook? Is it all about build and cost or is it all about visualisation and imagination?

Don’t get me wrong, businesses who too-eagerly embrace social media,  with no clear idea of what they will bring the millions of social mediators they seek to interact with, do so at their peril.

But it strikes me that if businesses, organisations and other coporate collectives can engage with social content generation tools wisely and thoughfully, it will bring them one step closer to being users instead of simply mimicking users in order to turn a buck.

That brings a smile to my lips.

Why men look twice at prospective mothers-in-law

It’s an old, very old and rather chauvinist gag, but the idea is that you should always look at the mother of the woman you plan to marry because that’s what your wife will look like in 25 years time. I suspect that if women looked at their prospective fathers-in-law the same way marriage would have died out some time ago. But let me get to the point…

Sometimes you really need to take the long view. If your plan is to have and to hold until death do you part then take a 25-year perspective.

But, if you looking at digital platforms and functionality – how far ahead should you future proof?

  • What do you need to send out an email campaign for your business right now, or in a year’s time?
  • What functionality does your web platform need for it to support your business right now – or in 2 year’s time?
  • What length of contract are you (or should you be) signing? What’s the deal if you break it?

Apparently marriages don’t last as long as they did, so maybe the mother-in-law test is no longer valid. It certainly doesn’t make sense if you’re doing digital. Why think even 5 years if you know you’re going to want to change in 3?

The beauty of the digital arena is the speed and fludity of it all. New advances are being made and new insights are being gleaned every day. Stay light on your feet, so you can take advantage.

Instead of getting married to the delivery platform, think instead about the conversation you want to have and who you want to have that conversation with. Don’t be boring and only think of customers… or prospects. Think about knowledge seekers, detractors, distractors, advocates… Heck, if you find the right sweet words you can get married to them all.

Armageddon language – you're doomed if you use it online

‘Doomed’ may sound a little overdramatic, but in the first post on this blog I raised the spectre of how long it would take for doom-laden rhetoric, being used by the media to describe the current economic situation, to find itself into everyday scenarios and then into web and email copywriting. If the headline seems a little overdramatic, well, I’m trying to make a point here.

Below is a visual from my email inbox. Like many people, I prioritise what emails I open and deal with, marking less important emails as unread, to be dealt with later. When I went back to deal with a bunch of these, I came across the visual juxtaposition shown here.

It makes my point well. Retail pharma group, Boots, is using ‘the clock is ticking’ reference in the Subject line to get me to use a time-limited offer relating to their photo printing service. Hemscott, a financial information company, is talking about how to make money in the current market conditions.

The end result is rather than thinking happy snaps when I view the Boots offer, I’m reminded of a ticking bomb, thanks to Hemscott. The Boots email Subject line just makes me feel that any investment at this stage is liable to blow up in my face. They both lose.

The way we read online means we are more likely to make these subliminal connections. The way we interact with online content is a constant facination for the CDA Content Lab and an area where we are currently carrying out some interesting tests, which we hope to share with you shortly.

In the meantime, beware Armageddon language.