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Driving Better Email Response: What Makes Subscribers Say “YES!” ?

by Karen Talavera

08 31, 2012 | Posted in Digital Marketing, Email Marketing, Response Improvement | 2 comments

Better Email Response

What exactly makes people respond to your email marketing offers? What is it precisely that makes them engage and buy from you? And how does knowing these things help you drive better email response?

It’s the sixty-four-million-dollar question asked of all advertising and marketing. While the fundamentals of what makes us want to transact with a company or say yes to one offer over another remain relatively the same across channels, how marketers employ specific tactics can vary drastically from channel to channel.

(If this is a topic you’re keenly interested in, skip ahead to watch my webinar “The Psychology of Email Response” for free here. Don’t worry – if you still want to read the post you’ll find that link again at the end of the article.)

When it comes to email marketing it’s important to know exactly which approaches lead to trust, engagement, purchase and loyalty and how to translate them into successful email messages and  programs.

Let’s start with that first part – the approach – then move into a specific, tactical process for applying it.

The Basic Psychology of Human Decision-Making

We can pride ourselves all we want on our intellectual superiority over the rest of the species on our planet, but a commonly overlooked fact is that we are as much emotional as intellectual beings – maybe even more emotional than intellectual. Our brains are equipped with reasoning and emotional centers, and both factor into decision making.

In online marketing, making emotional connections is especially important because the digital world can be fast, furious, and impersonal.  There is a built-in immediacy in digital communication channels that often undermines the opportunity to slow down the sale and deepen the consideration process that older, offline channels afforded.

Plus, there is both a considerable amount of skepticism and unfortunately, fraud in the digital world. Allowing people to get to know you online with a relationship-building approach goes a long way toward creating the familiarity, comfort confidence consumers and business people alike need before they’re willing to buy.

It Starts with Creating Emotional Resonance

Despite our immense reasoning power, our instinctive “gut” reactions are older and better honed. From the standpoint of human evolution, we had to develop the ability to make split-second unconscious decisions to survive. This ability survives in us today and kicks-in when we’re faced with any decision – even if it’s not life or death – and often happens before our brains have time to intellectually process facts

That’s why research has proven time and again that people buy from emotion and justify with reason. So it’s essential to know how to emotionally connect with people in your marketing, and in email to do so not just authentically but quickly.

Remember, there’s that built-in immediacy factor with email – people don’t spend as much time with it as print or television. That’s right – with email you have less than three seconds to create emotional resonance.

When you resonate with your subscribers you strike an emotional chord with them. You make a visceral feeling connection.  You both tune into the same “vibe”, and it results in comfort and trust, allowing you to sell in a non-salesy environment.

As in music, your aim is to sing to the same tune as your audience, then harmonize with them by recognizing their needs, pain, challenges and desires and meeting them in that space.

So now that you know we must appeal to both the intellectual and emotional sides of people, how do we do it?

The Five P’s of Profitable Email Response

I recoomend what I call the “Five P’s” process because it not only centers on authenticity, personality and transparency over features and facts, but also honors the intellectual reasoning component of how people make decisions.

The Five P’s of creating emotional resonance and response in email are:

  1. Positioning
  2. Pain
  3. Promise
  4. Proof
  5. Plan (course of action/call to action)

This process can be followed to craft your copy, offers, message design, message sequence, and even overall messaging strategy throughout a quarter or year.  Let’s explore each of these in more detail:

1.   Positioning

Proper positioning acknowledges both who you are and what’s in it for your audience to be in communication with you. Successful positioning boasts excellent clarity – it makes both your identity as the sender of email and your purpose in sending the message immediately apparent. It then goes beyond clarity to create comfort, familiarity and purpose for your audience.

In email there is little time and space for lengthy build-ups and stories – which is why creative/design elements (like graphics, color, and layout) can be more effective than long copy in creating mood, identity and personality.

Consider these tactics for creating solid positioning:

  • Present the “big picture” of what’s possible for your subscribers if they respond to your offer. Show and tell – use both images and words or even video so they can experience that future potential as real.
  • Include a link called “About us” or “Our Story” in your main navigation bar/ template that connects to more background about your company or organization. Don’t make it boring – tell a human story that creates both credibility and vulnerability.
  • Use outcome-driven, enticing language to set the stage for your offer to come.

2.   Pain

Yes, evoking negative as well as positive emotions can entice response (the worst reaction is no reaction at all), but your purpose here isn’t to bring your audience into a place of fear or dread. It is instead to identify and acknowledge their problems, challenges or pain – problems, challenges or pain that you intend to alleviate. Spend just enough effort identifying the pain so your audience knows you understand them, then move on.

It’s tempting to avoid this step in the process. However, in glossing over or skipping it you risk leaving out an important part of the emotional journey for your audience; you also miss a chance to create emotional resonance by helping them feel understood.

3.   Promise

Here’s where you spare no expense getting to the juicy goodness of your message and tying back to your positioning. Effectively creating promise means conveying – again through both words and pictures – the transformational outcome your audience will experience if they say yes to your offer.

Will they be happier? Richer? More beautiful? Healthier? Less-stressed? More successful at work? Better organized?

What are the desired emotions they will feel if they say yes to your offer? Love? Joy? Happiness? Satisfaction? Relief? Peace?

Understanding how your core products/services translate into both emotional and transformational benefits is essential to creating marketing messages that emotionally resonate. If you don’t know how your offerings transform and better people’s lives, you need to learn. If you can’t express the transformational outcomes of your offerings in your marketing, it will fail to connect.

4.   Proof

So far in this process we’ve been heavily in emotional territory. In the proof stage, we accelerate the appeal to reason.

Proof can take several forms both within email messages and on web sites/landing pages. These days the most compelling proof is social proof – as humans we crave a sense of belonging and will often follow the crowd. Who else has experienced the transformational outcome of your offerings and what do they have to say about it? Ideally, you can pull this information directly from your social media pages (assuming you have it there) into your email and website.

If not, include proof in the form of testimonials, quotes, links to case studies, and short success stories. Keep it human! Clinical trials and research studies are factually powerful (and often indisputable) but social proof generates greater credibility. We tend to believe our peers more than scientists or research studies because we can identify more with a peer group.

5.     Plan

Finally, don’t leave people hanging – tell them what you want them to do next and how to do it! Show them where and how to get what you promised.

Otherwise known as your call to action, this step MUST be abundantly clear, concise, literal and logical. While positioning, pain, promise and proof all influence engagement, this final step influences action and actual purchases.  It can be as simple as a text link or a sentence next to a button; or it can involve a short list of steps.

Remember that in email true response is a two-step process beginning with a click from within a message and continuing as a completed call to action (sign-up, content view, purchase, etc.) on a web page. Continue the clarity of your call to action all the way through your landing page and conversion process to avoid abandonment.  After coming this far, you don’t want to lose the valuable connection you’ve created with your responders.

If you’re still curious about how to tactically translate the 5 P’s into email components like subject lines, images, message copy, design, landing pages and cadence and want real-life examples, catch my free webinar, “The Psychology of Email Response” here.


photo by: vernieman
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