I received two very different emails in the last week, both trying to flog me some wine to enjoy over Christmas. Both are from companies that I've bought from in the past and it's fair to say that both emails break every rule in the book. Not that there is a book or, indeed, any rules at all when it comes to email marketing. But you know what I mean - the "best practice" guidelines that are produced by email service providers and others who are associated one way or another with cluttering up your inbox.
In reality, of course, the unorthodox sometimes works and actually cuts through that clutter in an unexpected way. So we're left with just two types of emails: those that achieve the objectives you set out for them and those that don't. So whilst both these examples "break the rules", I strongly suspect that one of them will have achieved what it was supposed to and one won't.
First up was an email from Naked Wines founder Rowan Gormley. The subject was simply Thank you...
Now this is a tactic that they've used before. The from address and display name is Rowan's, so it looks like a personal email rather than a marketing effort. One benefit of this approach was that it was in my primary tab in my Gmail box rather than filed under promotions. And on opening, the first line reads
For once I am not writing to sell you anything. I am writing to thank you.
OK, go on Rowan. Just what kind of reverse psychology trickery are you up to?
He tells me how he got fired 5 years ago and how he and some of his team decided to start a wine business and why they've tried to do things differently. It was such engaging copy that I read through to the end. A genuine story and a genuinely interesting read, even if the narrative is a touch sentimental. There is a link near the end to a case of wine that they've put together, but even that is inserted in an almost apologetic way.
If you'd have stuck to "best practice", you'd never even consider approaching an email in this way. The best part of a thousand words, no images, no calls to action and one small link to their ecommerce site? I obviously don't know how effective it was at selling wine, but its objective was probably not that anyway. It was to make the reader feel good about having supported Naked Wines in the past and be more receptive to a series of emails that have followed from some of the winemakers who Naked have supported over the years. Whatever, it did the trick for me and I have duly placed my order.
Now for the ugly. The very next day I received an email from recently-rescued Slurp. This time a very singled-minded message with the subject Save on Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc. I'm rather partial to a drop of Kiwi Sauv so I took note. What first struck me as odd was the pre-header text - it read Save 40% on Pinot Noir from New Zealand. That seemed to be a very mixed message displaying in my inbox. Is this about Sauvignon or Pinot Noir? On opening, there's a laughably out of focus image of the bottle on a white background that's been set against a blue background. It looks like the sort of image I find on my laptop when my kids have been playing with MS Paint. Only less professional.
Scroll down a bit and I'm addressed as Dear ,
Nice touch. You can't beat a bit of personalisation. Some interesting use of apostrophes and homonyms later and we eventually scroll down to the product itself, which is now displaying as a much clearer image with the awesome call to action button of SHOP NOW. There's no price or hint of what that saving was that I was promised in the subject. In short, nothing that makes me want to click through to the site.
And to finish off this journey through the craptacular, there are some uninspiring social links at the bottom. The Facebook one doesn't go to the Slurp Facebook page though. Oh no. It goes to the personal page of an employee of Slurp's new owners! Using work emails to try and get more friends on Facebook are we Tim?
See the Slurp mail in all its glory here.
I think it's fair to say that my preference was definitely for the Naked Wines email in this instance. And in homage, I've decided to make this an excessively wordy and image-free post.