January 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

Omit needless words

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To promote multi-channel shopping and appeal to customers with other shoe sizes, Jones also included copy on stores near them that carried Easy Spirit shoes and a reminder that EasySpirit.com always carries the largest selection of Easy Spirit. All together, the e-mail content contained fewer than 100 words of copy, but offered nine different actions or promotions. “This particular campaign was very relevant to customers with narrow feet,” Binford says. “By adding language such as ‘Having trouble finding your size?’, we made the message very interactive and provided the type of details that Easy Spirit customers tell us they want to have.”

Understand the market

Many retailers and direct marketers fail to produce effective e-mail marketing copy because they don’t take enough time and trouble to truly understand the market they are addressing with their latest promotion or new product pitch. A good e-mail marketing message should be personalized, tell a complete story in even a limited number of words and include bullet points or short paragraphs that prompt readers and shoppers to take a specific action, such as clicking on a link that takes them to more product and educational content on, say, selecting and purchasing a big screen television.

Young staffers

“Writing for the web and for e-mail is entirely different than writing a traditional print marketing piece because the web is all about one-on-one marketing and building a very personalized relationship,” says Bryan Eisenberg, co-founder of web marketing services firm Future Now Inc. and author of “Persuasive Online Copywriting.” “Good e-mail marketing copy, whether it’s a newsletter or a promotion, sets up the reader and invites the reader to take action at several points. Good web copy is an interactive dialogue that makes the reader want to follow through and shop online or read more product information that interests them.”

Many web retailers combine longer content and frequent offers in their electronic newsletters. Effective electronic newsletter copy is also written in the same style and language as the audience a web retailer is trying to address. For instance, the primary customers who shop Newegg.com, an online retailer of personal computers, accessories and consumer electronics, are younger “do-it-yourself” information technology, web development and computer workers. Each month in its online newsletter, which is written and distributed to an opt-in list of more than 500,000 names, Newegg lists several offers and promotions in conjunction with longer product education articles.

But the content is written by younger staffers who are about the same age as Newegg’s core IT customer, hold the same interests and write in a language that younger tech-savvy online shoppers can relate to. A recent newsletter focused on the fact that Newegg.com now carries the latest online games and gaming equipment such as the new Microsoft Xbox. But the newsletter also included more product information on higher-end equipment such as a new PC or server with a pitch for buying the latest hardware to power a just-released game. “It’s very important to write in a language that our customers understand,” says Howard Tong, vice president of marketing. “By knowing how younger gamers and tech-savvy IT and computer workers converse, we can educate them in ways that convert more sales.”

In a typical month, Newegg’s e-newsletter creates a click-through rate of more than 20%, which in turn generates sales conversions that average between 7% and 10%, Tong says. “Good copy is a critical part of e-mail marketing that delivers results,” Tong says. “If we send out a new promotion on a new central processing unit, we are also going to include direct language and links that tell shoppers what they need to do now to upgrade and accessorize.”

Build brand recognition

Good e-mail marketing copy helps instill a sense of urgency that makes shoppers want to take instant action, Tong says. “We get wording such as ‘limited time offer’ and ‘act now’ high up in the copy to grab a customer’s attention,” he says.

In conjunction with delivering a very direct message, good e-mail marketing copy can also be used to help build brand recognition and create longer-term customer relationships. America’s Collectibles Network Inc., which operates Jewelry Television and JewelryTelevision.com, sells to an audience that’s 90% female and over 50 with annual household income of more than $65,000. In most of its e-mail copy, Jewelry Television tries to combine copy that includes timely promotions, but also content that features the latest line-up of jewelry and gemstones and “how to” articles on topics such as recognizing the color and clarity of diamonds or the history of a gemstone such as Tanzanite.

In a recent Christmas e-mail campaign, Jewelry TV took only about 100 words to convey the offer of free shipping during the holidays and list several new styles of Tanzanite available online as well as cleaning and maintenance tips. “The copy was short and concise, but the wording and phrases talked to our long-time customers who are very knowledgeable about jewelry,” says Craig Shields, director of e-commerce for Jewelry Television. “The message conveyed an offer, but it also extended our brand because the wording informed readers in multiple ways on a particular kind of gemstone they are passionate about. They see us as their authority on jewelry and expect to read e-mails with good content that informs and educates them.”

Tell the story

With the right combination of offers and educational content, Jewelry Television’s average open and click-through rates on its e-mail campaigns are very good, Shields says. Jewelry Television prefers to write its e-mail copy in a conversational tone and balance the text with words and phrases that prompt the reader to take an action.

E-mail copy can also be subtle and produce results that generate more than just sales. ShoeBuy ends each of its e-mail messages with language that reminds readers to “share this great offer with your friends.” By adding just one simple sentence to each of its e-mail campaigns, ShoeBuy has expanded its opt-in list with as many as 10,000 new names. “Using the right mix of words and phrases that tell a story and prompt the reader to become a shopper can generate multiple returns,” Copley says. “If we keep our messages short, focused and don’t waste our customers’ precious time, they will give us their business and keep coming back.”


Click Here for the Internet Retailer Guide to Providers of E-Mail Marketing Products and Services

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