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The Balancing Act of Email Content and Tone
Posted By Whitney Wilding On November 30, 2010 @ 9:13 am In Copywriting,Customer Experience,Email Marketing,Improving Conversion | 19 Comments
Ever since Brendan Regan’s January post featuring an example of effective use of tone in email marketing , I have paid close attention to the tone of the emails I get from companies. With the holidays upon us, I have had plenty of opportunities to critique email tone. One email I received stood out from the pack, and not in a good way. It was a confirmation for an online order from Moosejaw, a distributor of outdoor sportswear and gear. Its casual tone seemed inappropriate for an order confirmation and caused me to feel disinterested in a message that might otherwise have had success at turning me into a repeat customer, had it been delivered in another email down the road.
So, why did the email miss the mark? Let’s break down its elements to see how it contrasts to Brendan’s good example.
This email has no real salutation, but begins with “Your Order Has Been Placed” – not altogether a problem for an order confirmation, but it has a formal and impersonal tone contrasting sharply to the rest of the copy.
Rather than delivering the information that is relevant to me (my confirmation information), the first paragraph is full of copy about relatively zilch:
“Way to go. You’ve won the best email receipt we’ve sent out all day. We recommend either printing this receipt and framing it in your foyer or using it as a screensaver. It would probably also be nice for you to forward it around to a couple of friends or even an enemy or two.”
I imagine that this copy is intended to create a personal feel with the satirical tone. However, as a consumer flooded with emails, at this point in the conversation I just want to review my order and I am not interested in joking around yet. I’m also not sure it’s particularly humorous to suggest that I forward access to my order details to anyone, particularly an enemy.
By this point in the email, I am really anxious to see my confirmation information, but there is yet another paragraph following the first, with more tongue-in-cheek humor pushing the company’s agenda:
“If you’re bored, check us out on Facebook and on Twitter. Our CFO said that he doesn’t understand why anyone would use Twitter. He also thinks that a narwhal is a made-up animal. Please don’t tell anyone about it.”
Where are my confirmation details? Is this tone even appropriate for a confirmation email?
The offer paragraph also opens up with an attempt at self deprecating humor, in a tone similar to the earlier paragraphs, although I’m not sure how the content relates to the offer they make:
“No chance you’re still reading this but if you are, we’re posting pictures of folks using the products on the product pages at Moosejaw.com.”
While Moosejaw does provide me an incentive of earning reward points, I’m having difficulty seeing how that translates into value for me, and no additional explanation with details is provided. A link to learn about the reward program, sending people back to details on their site, would more than likely benefit them here.
Despite my criticism of this copy, it did manage to grab my attention and set itself apart from other emails I received. It’s not necessarily the tone of the email that is the major offender here; its that copy whose main goal is to set tone pushes the high priority information further down the page. A good marketing optimization program  could salvage this email so it is able to meet both the goal of the customer (confirm and track my order), and the goal of the business (drive more business). After all, I have purchased from them once already, so the chances I’d be interested in ordering again are in this business’s favor. Just don’t alienate me by putting your goals ahead of mine. Give me relevant information up front, and save the funny business for later.
Standing out among the crowd can be a tricky balancing act. Just be sure that you don’t lose site of the needs’ of your customers by focusing too much on trying to grab their attention.
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URL to article: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2010/11/30/the-balancing-act-of-email-content-and-tone/
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 effective use of tone in email marketing: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2010/01/06/how-to-loosen-up-the-tone-of-marketing-emails/
 marketing optimization program: http://www.futurenowinc.com/OnTarget_system.htm?utm_source=grokdotcom&utm_medium=blog&utm_content=link&utm_campaign=Content_Vs_Tone_Nov30
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