Some Thoughts on Promotional Emails
Lots of photographers — and I assume lots of you who read this blog — use emails to keep your audience apprised of your photographic goings on. Personally, I love the way I can stay connected by opting in to various emails of my choosing. I remember — not with fondness — the sense of isolation I felt in my photographic life back in the 1980s before the digital age. Emails and websites are a perfect to keep informed about my favorite photographers and organizations.
There is, however, a strategy that is worth knowing about with regards to emails and newsletters. This came up in an email exchange with a photographer the other day, so I thought I'd share my feedback to him about effective email promotions. I've (literally) written a book about this, so can only touch on the highlights here, but hopefully you'll see the main points.
Early in my business career, Fred Meyer himself [ninth largest retailer in the US at the time I was the consumer electronics buyer for the chain] taught us underlings that most folks don't understand the purpose of advertising. He explained that — contrary to conventional misconceptions — the true purpose of advertising is not to motivate people to buy the products they see in the ad, but rather to motivate them to come to the store. Only in the store could they buy, and only when they were in the store could they see all the other wonderful stuff we had to sell them. I still find this logic a guiding line of thought.
Even now here at LensWork, whenever we send out a promotional email, the first question I ask is: Are we providing enough motivation to read further, download more content, or click to the website for more information? If we fail on this level, all the work we put into the downloadable content or the linked web pages goes for naught.
In my book* Retailing to Win!, I proposed that there are specific questions that can help. (They are part of what I call The Five Buying Questions.) Customers must subconsciously ask and answer: How is this product going to make my life happier, healthier, wiser, more fulfilling, more fun, more complete, or more secure? (There are others, but this is enough to start the process.) When it comes to reading an email newsletter, I still use these questions.
So, when I see an email like yours (or ours), I reflexively go into my RTW! mode and look for the part of the email that tells me how I will be rewarded by taking the time to download and read the content. Before you can sell me the print or the book or the workshop, you have to sell me on the value of reading your newsletter — and that is the job of the email. To paraphrase Mr. Meyer, the purpose of the email to get us to download your newsletter. It's all about motivations. How will my life be happier, healthier, wiser, more fulfilling, more fun, more complete, or more secure when I read your newsletter? What will I find inside that will benefit me? I instinctively know it will benefit you when I read your newsletter, but benefitting you is not much of a motivation for me. Back to the old "wiifm" maxim — What's In It For Me?
Even when the email does provide incentives to take the next step, be sure these primary motivations are not buried at the bottom in the small type. I tend to lead with the benefits of the next step so the email recipients don't miss the benefits and motivations. It would be a shame for them to miss the good stuff simply because the campaign stumbles over the email out of the gate.
* Before we started LensWork, for a dozen years I had a management consulting company helping small retailers compete against the larger chain stores. Because I had worked in management at such a large retail giant, I could share what I'd learned with these smaller retailers and help them grow their businesses. As part of my consulting efforts, I wrote Retailing to Win! which was the backbone of my speaking tours and consulting projects. It's this background in business that has formed the core foundation of my work in marketing both my photography and the various offering we publish here at LensWork.