Since I make my living as a writer, I send out a lot of e-mails, using those as my main marketing tool; it's convenient and inexpensive. I just have to pay the Internet service provider and can avoid hiring anyone else to tout my skills. I can do it myself.
But am I getting anyone's attention?
That's the question I was asking myself this week, the last week of an eight-week query contest. In really great moments of marketing productivity (usually when I'm participating in a FreelanceSuccess.com query contest), I will send out something like 20 letters of introduction and as many as 30 or more ideas to potential clients (generally, editors) in a given week--for eight weeks. Overall, that adds up to a lot of e-mails. I'm doing that, as well as answering the 100 or so I get on a daily basis and the 100 or so responses I'm sending right back out. And we haven't even discussed social media, or the assignments I'm working on in any given day! This seems like a normal pace of activity for most writers I know, less the heavy duty marketing.
Basically, in my highly productive marketing moments...
I get my name out there!
But how effective am I? That's another question I asked myself this week, after realizing how busy I was deleting a bunch of e-mails I had no intention of reading. Why? Why wasn't I reading this one or that one? What was it about them that led me to an immediate rejection of what the senders' wanted to tell me. I didn't even take a quick peek, or if I did, I still instantly knew I could let that one go, or this one, and that one, too. I didn't worry that I'd missed anything important, though I very well could have.
What are these folks doing wrong? Because THEY'RE NOT GETTING MY ATTENTION!
That serious thought gave me pause to consider my own marketing efforts. For all the e-mails I send out, for all the research that entails, for all the creativity involved in crafting what I hope to be the perfect idea for that particular editor, my response rate doesn't merit the time it takes, necessarily.
When I opened my eyes, I started paying more attention to the e-mails I'd been deleting, even undeleting a few so I could see for myself what wasn't doing it for me. In the process of rethinking, I collected a few tips I shared with a women's breakfast group I met with this morning. On my way back to the office, and in light of my focus on being my Best self, I decided you might get something out of what I learned as well.
So, if you want to be more effective in your e-mail marketing efforts, you might consider the following before you hit the SEND key next time:
1) SHORTEN YOUR MESSAGE
If you write a message that's too long, and I'm in a hurry, I'm likely to delete it without even a glance. I bet the people I'm writing to feel the same, unless they're expecting something from me.
2) USE THE SUBJECT LINE
You can often capture my attention by what you write in the subject line of your e-mail. If it seems like you just want me to buy something, I'm more apt to delete your message. If it sounds like you're here to help, I'm probably going to perk up. So, either be clear or be funny. Seriously. Don't you prefer humor over hubris?
3) GO LONG WITH BULLETS OR BOLDFACE
If you're going to write a long message, if you need to include all those details, then use bullets or a boldface font to make your points stand out. That way, your readers can quickly scan through your message (just like they might in a blog post) and see for themselves if what you have to say merits their attention.
4) FOLLOW UP
Once you've sent your message, don't forget to follow up. Oh sure, you expect the reader to respond to your request. That's why you sent it, right? You need something from them, or you wouldn't have asked. But so do a hundred other folks. Yours is not the only e-mail anyone gets in any one day. Keep that in mind, and do what we do in the Query Contests--we schedule Follow-Up Fridays. Every Friday, we make it a practice to follow up on all the queries, ideas and letters of introduction we've sent out. We don't wait for someone to respond. We take action. That is what gets results. Plus, a follow-up e-mail gives you another opportunity to shorten your message, to be concise, and open the door to a response.
5) COLOR YOUR WORLD
After opening up so many black and white e-mails, when the ones with color show up in my in-box, they're such a pleasant surprise. It's usually a newsletter, such as Sandra Beckwith's BUILD BOOK BUZZ newsletter, and hers always includes a splash of color. I don't always read it, but I always notice it. And I don't delete it. I save it to read later, when I have time. So maybe you can add a line of color in your e-mails as well. See what happens.
Now it's your turn. This week, take time to think about the e-mails you're opening up and those you're simply deleting from the start. Take note of the things that really capture your attention, like the lady on the bike in the picture above. I had to blow it up, and she may be a bit blurry. But on her bike, she'd placed a bunch of crazy attention-getting things (lots of colorful streamers and bows, for example) and caught my eye while I was driving home this morning. She's the perfect example of what stands out: color, boldness, a good message. If you hit her on the road, you certainly would not be able to claim you didn't see her--She stands out!
Like the lady on the bike, what can you do to stand out the next time you put yourself in front of a potential customer? If you see something in the e-mails that appear in your in-box that really appeals to you, take note of it, and don't be too timid. Borrow the idea for yourself.
If you come up with any new ideas to expand on this list, please come back and share your tips with us. I'd love to know what's working for you. Maybe it will work for us, too.