A lesson in the importance of clarity

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I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated when my inbox is loaded with “junk” emails adding no value to my day.

I’m not talking about those SPAM emails trying to hock me Mexican Viagra at $0.79c a pop…

(What a bargain!)

No, I’m talking about emails from sources relevant to my interests, who I’ve handed my email address over to at some point in time.

And, for my troubles, they’ve used that as an excuse to fill my inbox with an endless supply of apparently pointless emails.

At least I know what the guy who sent me the Mexican Viagra email was talking about!

I’m sure you’re in the same boat.

But let’s stop and ask ourselves a question…

Do you think the senders of these emails intend to fill our inboxes with apparently pointless messages?

Or is it a case of their value not being communicated properly?

Do you ever wonder if your emails are seen in the same light?

Well, today I’m going to show you how to avoid falling into this trap.

And we’re going to look at a case study of exactly WHAT NOT TO DO.

This case study is courtesy of the American Marketing Association (AMA), whose emails are so bad I refuse to unsubscribe from them.

That might sound weird, but one thing you should know about me is that I get kicks from reading bad email copy from so-called “experts”.

I get to shake my head and laugh, and secretly feel a bit better about myself.

It’s one of my life’s little twisted pleasures.

Story Click – How to Achieve That Moment of Clarity

So, one of the first things you need to do with EVERY EMAIL is achieve “Story Click”.

Story Click is that moment of clarity where the reader finally understands what’s going on, and where things are going.

It’s that point in a movie where you start to willingly get sucked in because the plot has become clear and you know who’s who…

It’s that part of the book where it starts to “gets good” because things have become clear.

You’re now willingly following the writer into their world, on the journey they’ve laid out just for you.

In everything you write, you need to achieve Story Click with your reader as soon as possible – or you’ll lose people in droves.

The main thing to notice about the email from the AMA is this lack of Story Click.

A lack of clarity.

It’s outstanding.

The email asks me to sign up for membership.

Yet, if you were to show this message to a cold reader, how could they understand what the sender is talking about until the second last paragraph, where the purpose is finally revealed?

Let’s take a look at the actual email, so you can see what I’m talking about…

AMA-email

What baffles is this email probably went through several rounds of corporate approval, yet no one looked at it with “customer logic”.

The people behind sending this only looked at it through the lens of “company logic” …

… and if you look at it from the point of view of the company, I’m sure it all makes perfect sense.

Once you have Story Click, you can go back and piece the intended meaning together.

But this email never gets that far.

It never considered how the reader would “see” this email.

It asks way too much of the reader to stick with it to that point.

And your emails you should never ASK… at least not until you GIVE.

When people read their emails, they’re wondering what they can get. But all most marketers do is ask them for something: attention, time, and money.

Remember: your emails can’t have too much “assumed knowledge”.

This is where the sender thinks the reader is “in the know”.

When in reality, they don’t haven’t a clue.

Now, all of this said, the email isn’t the worst in the world.

When you pull the email apart and look at its component pieces, it’s doing a lot of things marketers would call “right”:

  • Subject line with the objective of getting the email opened
  • Curiosity in the subject line
  • Comes from a “real person”
  • Organization referenced in the envelope
  • Letter style email that’s personal
  • Light HTML touch
  • References a relevant event for why I am receiving this email early on
  • Includes a single call to action
  • Offers an incentive (actually 2 of them, there’s an iPad offer right after the CTA)
  • Gives specific numbers
  • Short personal email that gets to the point and moves the reader out of the inbox and onto a webpage

But here’s the biggest takeaway from this lesson:

Without clarity, all of this is useless.

Remember: Before hitting the send button, get out of your own head and put yourself in the reader’s seat.

Ask yourself:

“How are they going to perceive what I am about to send?”

“Will it makes sense to them?”

“At what point will they get to Story Click?”

Your readers will thank you for it.

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Ross O'Lochlainn
Ross O'Lochlainn
Ross O'Lochlainn is a former engineer, turned online sales expert, known as the Conversion Engineer. His specialty is identifying what makes things unique and effective in the world of direct response marketing. Visit him at http://conversionengineering.co/
Showing 6 comments
  • Mark
    Reply

    Excellent critique Ross…treasures from the trash bin!

    • Ross O'Lochlainn
      Reply

      Thanks, Mark.

      Lots to learn from your so called spam.

      More to come in future so keep an eye out.

  • Scott Ames
    Reply

    That’s a great post. One would think that the AMA would have strong copy. I guess anyone can mess up.

    • Ross O'Lochlainn
      Reply

      Yes, Scott. You would think they would!

      It’s a reminder that even when you have “marketing” in your organization’s DNA, you can’t assume good copy will just happen.

      Another reason I keep myself on their list.

      I don’t think it’s a matter of “screwing up”. That would imply it’s an occasion mistake by the AMA. The reality is their problem is chronic.

      And it stems from them not reviewing their copy with “customer logic”.

      Spotting the weakness is simple when you think to look for it.

      So, as long as anyone makes sure to check things like I suggest, anyone can avoid screwing up.

  • Steve
    Reply

    It talks about a webinar, did you attend the webinar and does this follow on from it?

    Though what confuses me it says about learning from your desk, but then goes on to talk about networking. So from this I’m not sure if it’s a resource library or a networking club.

    Plus you would think there would be at least on success story (in the style of Kevin’s 60 second sales hook!)

    • Ross O'Lochlainn
      Reply

      Hi Steve,

      Yes, I did attend a webinar, but it was a long time ago. My guess is their automation system tagged me as “Attended a webinar” and that was the basis of the conversation they wanted to have.

      When you think about how that conversation would go in real life, you’d probably be asked by the other party for little more detail, right? Always a sign you need to provide more clarity.

      And yes! Even when they do offer details, they are still not enough to provide that moment of Story Click.

      It would make you want to pull your hair out!

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