Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How Not to Write an Email

Yes, email is less formal than the business letters that many of us grew up with. But just because it's an email doesn't mean that you can throw all decorum to the wind.

This email was forwarded to me. It's from the editor of a trade publication in a small and fairly conservative industry. The recipient received it in response to brief but formally-written request for information about advertising in the publication. Of course, all identifying details have been obscured.

Dear Bill:

I've attached our news about our re-launching Big High Power Buyers newsletter as Big High Power Buyers Magazine, along with our October issue cover (isn't she beautiful?)  I've also attached our Charter Advertiser deal, which is not only a fraction of the price of That Other Book and That Other Other Book ads, but it's also more targeted toward readers who are the [Functional Area] decision-makers [assorted job titles here] of their companies. We may not have tens of thousands of eyeballs, but we have the RIGHT eyeballs that will see your ad. Betty Boop (copied on this e-mail) is our Ad Sales Manager, and she will be happy to iron out a wonderful deal for you to become a Charter Advertiser in our beautiful new Big High Power Buyers Magazine.

Love, Alexandra

The recipient's comment was "Holy f___, what a nut!" Which I am guessing is not how she wants to be seen by someone in a position to buy advertising.

First: it's signed "love." She is not his mom, sibling, or SO.

Second, it's great that she's proud of the new book, but there are better ways to put it.

Third, he tripped over the "eyeballs" terminology. I got it, but I'm a marketing guy, and he's a tech guy who runs marketing at a small, extremely technical company. I'm immersed in this stuff, so it didn't prompt the natural human reaction (putting your first in your mouth to stifle the scream) that he had. (At least she didn't say "monetizing eyeballs.")

Fourth, logical paragraph breaks are your friend; use them.

How about this instead....

Dear Bill,

I've attached information about our relaunch of the Big High Power Buyers newsletter in magazine format. We're very proud of the new publication and we'd love to welcome you as a charter advertiser. In fact, we've designed a special program to make that particularly attractive to you.

I've attached the program details; you'll notice that our rates are much lower than those of  That Other Book and That Other Other Book. We can charge less because our circulation is targeted to the most influential executives -  the ones who make buying decisions for [Functional Area]. While the other publications will give you more readers, we give you the right ones, for a more efficient ad buy. 

I've cc'ed Betty Boop, our ad sales manager, and she'd be glad to run through the circulation details with you and show you how this benefits you, or to revise the charter advertiser program to meet your specific needs.

Thanks so much for your interest in Big High Power Buyers magazine - I hope you'll join us as a charter advertiser!

Best regards,

Alexandra de Editrice

We hear a lot these days about how people want marketers to talk to them in plain, honest language, and it's true. But "plain and honest" doesn't mean "informal." Formality has a purpose; it keeps relationships between people who don't know each other, and who aren't going to know each other outside of a specific range of interactions, going smoothly. It gives the impression of knowledge and expertise.

It's a good thing. You should strive to have a conversation with your customers, not bombard them with pitches that will ring false. But part of that conversation is setting the tone of the relationship you want to have... and if that's two businesspeople working together for mutual benefit, you don't sign your email "Love and kisses!"

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