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Andrew loves making things. After 10 years making websites and growing his business Brown Box, he now manages some of Australia's biggest corporations as they communicate with their customers through email through Oracle Marketing Cloud. Twitter | LinkedIn | Google +

Interesting Emails: January 2017

As far as well developed welcome series go, I haven’t seen many in the travel and tourism sector. Most businesses focus on getting straight to the specials, and discounts rather than introducing subscribers to the value of having subscribed, or the benefits of subscribing.

As such, it was quite a change to see this very simple 4 email welcome series from Club Carlson – the global hotel rewards program from Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

Club Carlson Welcome Series

Now you might be thinking what I initially thought when I saw these, ‘What’s going on with those subject lines? They look like they written by children.’ And to be honest initially I had the same reaction. But here’s another perspective – they provide a context and anchor for the reader, and without being tricky tell you where you’re up to and what to expect in the future.

There’s no emoji, there’s no ALL CAPS SUBJECTS, you’re not teased or baited – you just know what to expect inside the email.

Personally I would have chosen something a little more subtle, or crafted – but amongst the throng of emails received on those days, these subject lines actually stood out.

What do you think? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Welcome 2 of 3: Ways to earn Gold Points

The content of the emails themselves is a methodical example of how to introduce someone to your brand, the benefits of being subscribed (or in a club), and what to do next. They’re clean, straight forward and explain in three simple emails, what you likely want to hear about having just joined their club.

Club Carlson welcome email 2 of 3

The Carlson Club is a loyalty club and so of course it has loyalty points. But they don’t leave you to work out how the points work and how to get them.

  • You know from the top of the email what account you’re reading for, and how many points you have
  • There’s a clear explanation of the mechanism that helps you accumulate points, it’s clear and easy to understand.
  • You can earn more points by purchasing, or downloading their app
  • You know what the next goal is because you can ‘build towards Elite status’

In a very simple email, it’s quite clear how Club Carlson wants you to behave and interact with them.

Overall this is the flow of their emails. With four well timed, simple introductory emails, you should be well familiar with the brand by the time you’re all the way through (or at least have seen the email subject lines).

This is a rare example of an onboarding process looking like it has had thought put into it. While there may be stylistic changes, and alterations once email results come in – at least from the perspective of the customer this is a strong piece.

Values Driven Marketing – Intrepid Travel

I love that Intrepid Travel put their values up front with this email. They’re a travel company, they’re not pretending to be anything else. But this has a real and powerful note from their MD James Thornton.

Intrepid Travel Email

On their landing page James has the full story about what they stand for, along with this assurance.

Intrepid stands against any policy that closes borders, separates families, discriminates against religion or demonises the less fortunate. As global travellers, as people with a conscience, this isn’t something we can sit and watch. Not in silence.

It’s refreshing to see a company engaging thoughtfully their customers & subscribers on a matter that is pertinent to their business and customer needs.

We’ll be doing everything we can to help travellers and passengers affected by the current changes.  But in the meantime, we strongly urge all governments to treat foreign visitors – whoever they may be –  with tolerance, compassion and an open mind.

There Is No Fold

Marketers are great at coming up with reasons that their work won’t perform. Of the many and various reasons that things won’t work, the most frustrating is that headlines, calls to action, or some special stock photo need to be ‘above the fold’ and if they aren’t, then people won’t buy a product or service.

The old ‘above the fold’ trick often appeals to a weakness, a single metric often obsessed over – clicks. In email, opens and clicks can become a master of marketers. Dominating design decisions like they’re the only measurements that have ever mattered. The focus on opens and clicks can be so big that people forget that they’re actually there to point people towards a purchase.

So when marketers are threatened with something not being immediately clickable, or maybe taking some time to get to (like making someone read to understand what an offer is) then this can be a big red flag.

Stop fearing – there’s evidence to show that longer pages or emails can actually benefit you. Here’s a few reasons you might want to take to your boss or colleague about long emails:

  • People really do scroll in email marketing
  • There are so many screen sizes – which will you pick to be the fold?
  • Longer pages actually convert higher.
  • Tests show that on websites, having calls to action at the top can reduce clicks rather than increase them.

What Do Your Subscribers Want?

  • What did you promise me when I subscribed?
  • Do you have any ways of doing business that I don’t know about?
  • What’s something newsworthy?
  • What value will my wife get from your service?
  • How are you different from the other guy?
  • Tell me a story without a price tag at the end.
  • Where have I been on your website?
  • What did I recently click on or open?
  • Lend me some of your expertise.
  • Does this work with other products?
  • What’s the next obvious step for me?

Playing with a plain text play.

Dear Brands,

Have you tried sending some emails with a very simple plain text approach? It could work.

I’ve done it a bunch of times – in fact, I send plain text every day and my recipients love it.

  • I give them a straight forward subject line, nothing tricky so they know what’s inside the email.
  • Then I write in an honest and open way so they know exactly what I’m talking about.
  • It is a very familiar approach, because they receive a lot of emails in plain text.
  • They sometimes even answer me, because I’m sending from a real person.

The best thing of all? They read it – and communication has occurred.



Different Ways to Use Behavioural Data

Use behavioural data in email to create segments without asking for preferences.

A few years ago I heard a tale of a record label that used behavioural data inside email to segment their audience. This particular label had a whole load of subscribers who were just plain old boring no-data-given-and-had-no-conversation-with, subscribers.

The label had been sending emails that had content about all of their artists. But to make more of their list, they wanted to get  in depth and be more specific with each of the artists.

The usual way to do this is to do a survey, or create a preference center where people would click a button and show their interest in something. But this isn’t a great way of getting action. Let’s admit it – surveys are boring and nobody wants to fill one out unless they’re getting something for it.

So they devised a plan to find out what subscribers wanted to hear about, and how to take them on a journey without asking for more specific information.

Using Clicks To Infer Preferences

The best way they could think of to understand true preferences was to watch people. Not in some sort of creepy ‘behind the bushes’ watching – but the way marketers do it. They stalked them using data. Specifically they tracked subscriber click behaviour.

Firstly they sent out emails that were general in nature – lots of artists in a single email. Depending on what a subscriber clicked on, they then used that data to infer that the artist the subscriber clicked on was the artist the subscriber was interested in. Makes sense.

Taking that data, each artist was then assigned a segment of people who had clicked on information about them.

Getting Deeper with Preferences

Getting deeper in, they would then send more specific news to each artist’s segment. The subscriber would only receive information about that particular artist and be encouraged to take an action – be it downloading a song, buying tickets, or something else that further showed their interest in the artist.

This was repeated several times.

Each time an email requesting action was sent, the list of subscribers in each segment would be segmented.

Those who showed most interest in a particular artist would then be filtered out to a smaller, yet more active group. From here, the label would invite the most active subscribers to be a part of their street teams. Street teams were a select group of people who had the most amount of buy-in.

The label had created a group of subscribers that much more highly motivated to share the artist’s latest news, promote events and gigs, and generally be ambassadors of that particular artist.

A rare success

The promise of big data seems to be that you can do anything you want with it. While this is possible it seems only some of the largest organisations have the resources to use these vast amounts of data to their best extent.

But for many others using data in simple ways and thinking in more creative fashion about existing can help push forward your lists, grow your engagement, and get those successes you’re after.

Why Collect Emails?

I’ve been telling people lately that I’m on a journey to sign up to at least 500 travel and tourism related email lists – and for those who aren’t in email marketing, the question often comes back, ‘But what are you going to do with that?’ Unfortunately the question comes back from people within the industry too.

Here’s a few reasons I’m collecting emails, and what I think it can help with.

I’m easily bored.

My trip in to work each day takes anywhere up to about 45 minutes. I’ve got to do something on the bus. I couldn’t imagine sitting on the bus staring out the window not being productive for that time – because it’s prime time. 45 minutes twice a day means I have a bit of time where I can do admin, hobbies, and other things on the second laptop I carry. I want to stay occupied and keep my mind sharp, so doing something on the bus is a big reason. I previously started a micro business on the bus.

To understand what people are doing

I want to know what other people in marketing are doing because marketing is about testing, trying new ideas, and learning from those ideas. Email marketing is so easy to conduct primary research on – from the point of view of being able to just sign up and away you go.

There’s also habits and flows over time. As I can see across the industry, I’m able to see what people do over time, and really understand what the overall behaviours are of marketers.

It’s not my normal industry

I usually manage clients that are telcos, banks, and retail. Getting a different view of marketing from an industry I’m not usually working in means there’s new ideas, new perspectives, and potentially new things to take in to my existing clients. At the same time I’m an outsider, so being able to see the patterns of behaviour over time, and thinking through ways that we are doing marketing means I can generate new ideas of my own. It’s great for stimulating the brain.

I like travel and tourism. It has so much potential to be interesting, and actually when I started I thought the content would be far more interesting than it is. There are so many more opportunities to do interesting things and be interesting to customers. The travel/tourism emails are largely oriented towards discounts and events – and I get that, because travelling cheap is almost everyone’s #1 priority (okay, travelling with good value is probably).

How to Introduce The Person Sending Your Emails

Instead of sending emails from Brand X, some businesses send marketing emails using the from as a person’s name. In the pursuit of higher open rates and higher click throughs, this can help to appear more friendly, personal, and encourage consistent reading and opening.

It can be a really effective method of communicating – after all, people want to know there is a human behind the interactions with your business. They want to know that if they respond then their email won’t just fly off into the vacuum of unchecked email where it will be forever lodged between a viagra spam mail and a desperate prince of Nigeria offering you millions of pounds for just a little help.

But there can be a problem with sending these ‘personal’ emails from a person. They can actually come across as more impersonal, more transparently not actually from a person if they’re not done well.

Still – it may be something you want to try and do, so I’m going to outline the minimum you need to successfully introduce and continue using a person as the email sender.

What you need to get started

Here’s what you’re going to need if you want to send from a person:

  1. A real person.
  2. An introduction to this person.
  3. A different way of thinking about email.
  4. A way of interacting with this person beyond just email marketing.

1. A real person

This may sound silly but having a real person, a person who works within your business, is actually something that shows transparency and that there can be a ‘relationship’ between the reader and the sender.

So before you start sending emails as Grace or Greg, make sure that person exists.

Make sure also that this person has a hand in writing the emails, and is involved in the process. If you’re going to be sending on their behalf or if they’re going to be the person sending then their voice is important. Their voice lends authenticity to the interaction. A voice that isn’t theirs can come off as fake, and disingenuous.

2. An Introduction

Just like a normal conversation, if you’re going to have a conversation with a subscriber you need to introduce yourself.

It can be really simple – just like a pilot does on an aircraft, “Good morning everyone I’m Captain Smith, I’m going to be your pilot today”.

It’s not hard to introduce people with a quick little hello, and by way of introduction let the subscriber know that they can interact, talk back, and what place this person plays in the whole business.

“Hi, I’m Grace the customer experience officer at Brand X – I’ll have a hand in each email you receive, and at any time you have questions please don’t hesitate to just reply directly to the email – I’ll get it, read it, and respond as necessary.”

Now it’s not an amazingly hard email to write, and it isn’t in very ‘marketing’ language but it is an introduction. If you’re going for authenticity then this is a way you can be more authentic.

Once you’ve made your introduction it’s possible for you to start sending emails from that person.

But what are you going to send?

3. A different way of thinking about email

Batch and blast is dead. Long live batch and blast!

Whatever you call it – sending an email that’s just impersonal, a list of images and links without personality, or sales sales sales emails, is not a part of sending authentic email from a person. That’s why it might be that you need to sit and think again about the way you’re putting emails together.

Fundamentally, if an email is coming from an individual to an individual, then you should be able to do more than just ‘catalogue’ emails.

Here’s a few ways that you can send personal, authentic emails:

  • Customise your emails to the behaviour of your subscriber – if you can find something they are interested in you might like to show them you’re aware of who they are.
  • Send plain text emails.
  • If you are able to, devise a series of emails around experiences, or a semi-social interaction.
  • Have an email take-over, where instead of your brand sending it’s an individual for just a period of time.
  • Send small social style updates, an image and short description like Instagram could work. Keep the brand visible but low-key.
  • Answer common questions that people have sent in via email or on social.

4. Interact beyond email

It’s not enough to just have a single way of communicating. If you’re wanting to be authentic and have a way of sending people messages from a person – then let them interact with you beyond just receiving an email from the person who sends.

A few ways you might like to help the authenticity is to:

  • Feature this person in social channels
  • Create a true 1:1 interaction by having account managers be the people who send the emails (with a managed process of course).
  • Give out the person’s contact details

The thrust of having an individual represent you in the From address, is that you want to be more authentic, open, and accessible. If you’re willing to change the way you approach email from a ‘blast’ mentality to a 1:1 relationship mentality, then you can really change the way subscribers interact, and feel about your business.

300 Tourism Subscriptions Later

I’m on a journey to sign up to as many tourism and travel related email lists as possible. Email marketing is an inexact guessing game, and I want to know how other people are guessing. I’ve just passed 300 lists – is not that many in the grand scheme of things, but I thought it was worth putting down a few things that I’ve learnt so far.

As a part of my process I am keeping a log of part of the sign up process, including the frequency/timing of the first two emails. The lists are mainly from Australian tourism/travel businesses as this is my geographical reference point (I live in Sydney).

Here’s a few statistics and feelings I’ve gathered so far:

  • By and large the sign up experience for tourism/travel has been poor.
  • Of businesses surveyed 20% did not have an email list available via their website.
  • Of all businesses with subscription, 57.7% have sent an email since I subscribed.
  • On average the first email comes 6.14 days after subscription.
  • On average the second email comes 10.86 days after the first email.

There’s a lot more to say, but it’ll have to wait for further posts ;)

Become the Customer & Revolutionise Your Emails

Change your customer’s experience with your emails by becoming your customer

Marketers are so caught up in the day to day activity of performing the marketing function for their business, that it seems they rarely take time to experience their own work as a customer. It’s usually not that hard to do so, sometimes it costs money – but it will really change the way you think and act with your emails.

Become The Customer

If you want to do this well, take the following question with you, “Is this step about me as a customer or them as business?”

That question will help you analyse how you experience your own journey, and start refining it to be more about the customer and less about you.

You might like to:

  • Buy your product under a different name or email address
  • Subscribe to every other business in your industry and watch how they treat their customers
  • Subscribe to emails for industries that should be good at customer centric language (non-profits, travel/tourism).
  • Sketch the user journey on paper of what really happens when someone subscribes

Become Subscriber Centric in your Language

Stop talking about yourself or from the point of view of your business and switch up your language to be more about your customer. Helping the subscriber realise it’s about them and not you (though it’s really both) gives them a sense of buy in, or engagement.

Think of changing:

  • ‘We’ to ‘You’
  • ‘Thanks for subscribing’ to ‘You’re in for a treat’
  • ‘Contact us’ to ‘Get in touch’
  • ‘We’re having a sale’ to ‘Grab a bargain’
  • ‘Subscribe now’ to ‘Let’s connect’

Language can be tricky, but making the change and being aware of your customer more may provide you with new and exciting ideas for communicating a message to them.

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Andrew Beeston

Stuff I make up as I go.

Hi, I'm Andrew Beeston - apart from my day job I'm currently thinking about email marketing in the travel and tourism industry.

To help me create new ideas and engage in the practice of my profession, I write something fresh every day about email marketing, and observations of emails in my inbox.

It's an iterative process and I often revise posts after they've been posted. I'd love to hear from you if you have any reaction to anything I post here.


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