Making emotion work for your e-mail efforts

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Emotion works in TV advertising: Hallmark capitalized on it for years—and still does;’s “When I Grow Up” campaign, circa 1999, reminded all of us why we hate some jobs. Simply put, emotions can humanize a company, and help the target audience identify with it and its services.

Emotion works well in e-mail marketing, too, said Shannon Carreiro, communications manager at Internet marketing firm Interactivate Inc., and Sara Ezrin, director of client services at e-mail service provider CheetahMail. Carreiro and Ezrin provide these tips to help you pump up your campaign’s emotion without going over the top.

  1. Talk to readers as you would a friend. Too many marketers still use e-mail marketing as a way to hit readers over the head with their messages, Carreiro said. Unfortunately, the only emotions this evokes are anger and distrust. “Emotional pleas are great,” she said. “Hype is not. People don’t want to be marketed to or talked at. Readers want to feel like they are in control.”
  2. Play to your reader’s ego. Take a look at your last e-mail. Count how many times you said “you” or “yours” and compare those numbers to the number of times you said “we” or “us.” If you used “we” more, you have a problem, Carreiro said. People don’t care about why you feel your company is great; they care about how your product is going to help them in their daily lives. Your e-mails should stress your product’s or service’s benefit to the person you’re pitching, Carreiro said. “People want to know how your product is going to make them the company hero,” she said.
  3. Make them feel loved and appreciated. Always provide a heartfelt thank you for a first purchase or customer interaction, Ezrin said. You can also thank people for their continued use of your product, especially after the customer contacts customer service or sales, she said.
  4. Work with the calendar. “There are definitely events—especially holidays—where emotions can be used and not seem intrusive,” Ezrin said. “I’ve seen people thanking their customers at Thanksgiving for being loyal customers. I’ve seen people using the December holidays as an emotional strategy. We really recommend using emotional strategies in subject lines where it’s relevant to the customer and at the same time makes sense.”
  5. Let color and images set the mood. People identify with people who have the same characteristics as they do, Ezrin said. Even more important, they trust them. That said, if you’re using photographs of people or products, make sure the images reflect your audience. Race or sex doesn’t matter, but images should reflect your customer or prospect’s lifestyle, Ezrin said.
  6. Play the trust card. How often do you acknowledge your customer or prospect’s business problem or the fact that your company isn’t the only one that can solve it for them? If the answer is never, you’re missing out, Carreiro said. “It all comes down to transparency; being honest and being credible,” she said. “You want to show customers you trust them enough to make the right decision for their companies, so giving them the tools to make the decision—even if those tools might lead them to a competitor—and leaving it in their hands is a good move.”
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