How to Write Executive E-mails Your Audience Will Actually Read

Last week I received a blast email message from the CEO of one of my favorite discount couture shopping websites. Since I'm used to receiving frequent emails updating me on the latest sales promotions, I opened the message right away. However, I was disappointed to instead be greeted by a long, text-heavy letter that was a dense thicket of information.

Truth be told, if I weren't always critiquing these types of messages for my own professional development purposes, I wouldn't have been able to muster the energy to read more than the first paragraph. In fact, I suspect the majority of recipients hit the delete button as soon as they opened the email.

I've provided a copy of the email message below -- exactly as I received it -- including no spacing between the bullets. The only thing I've changed is the name of the company to protect "the guilty."

Unfortunately, this type of customer email message is all too common -- and it's such a shame because I know from experience just how much time and effort goes into writing one.

With that said, here are five ways the company could have done it better:

1. May I have your attention please?! The first goal of an email, memo or any other communication is always to grab the audience's attention and the best way to do that is with a catchy headline that appeals to a need, desire or fear. Instead of, "ABC Launches Redesigned Website," how about "10 Things You'll Love About Our New Site" or "Shop Faster, Save More!"

2. It's all about ME! Explain new features in terms of how they'll benefit ME. For example, instead of "Improved Shopping Cart Functionality," tell me what value that provides, such as "Shop All Designers in One Cart."

3. Can I have the short version, please? Instead of providing all the detail about each and every improvement, start by being selective. Or, even better, just list the benefits and provide a link where I can learn more if I want to.

4. Give me a break. Bullets were a good start, but there was no spacing between each bullet item, nor was the lead phrase in bold. As a result, the e-mail was one very long solid block of text. Readers need plenty of white space so their eyes have a place "to rest."

5. Show me. Don't tell me. Instead of making me read through all the benefits, the email could have included snapshots of what the new features look like.

As an aside, I did take the CEO up on his offer that "he'd love to know what I think about the new site." I gave him kudos for the site improvements but not for the launch email. Not surprisingly, I received no response -- not even an automated message thanking me for my feedback.

Looks like my favorite shopping site has a ways to go with its customer communications strategy!

Subject: ABC Launches Redesigned Website

Dear Members,

Since ABC website launched in December of 2007, we've always tried to listen very closely to members like you. Until now, we have been able to accommodate much of your feedback into our existing website, but what became apparent over time is that to truly address many of the features you were requesting, we needed to do more. Today, I'm excited to announce the redesigned ABC website. Improvements include:

* Improved Shopping Cart Functionality: You can now purchase items from multiple sales in a single cart experience (we heard about this one a lot). In addition, we are excited to let you know that for the next 30 days you will only pay shipping on items you order from one sale. The shipping for items from additional sales in the same shopping cart is free.
* Streamlined Shopping Cart Experience: Simply add an item to your cart from a sale and continue shopping. No longer do you have to go to the shopping cart and then back to the sale. You only go to the shopping cart when you're ready to check out.
* Larger and Better Quality Photos: We've significantly increased the size and quality of our photographs so that you'll be able to see all the details of the items on sale.
* Easier to Find Size and Color Information: You can now see which sizes and colors are available for an item at a single glance.
* Easier to Use Style, Price and Size Filters: We have added item attribute filters, allowing you to quickly filter items by size, price and color and/or any combination of the three.
* More Customizable Experience: We have introduced member preferences. You can now tell us which categories (women's, men's, kids and home) you would like to hear about and which ones you would rather not.
* Category Tabs: There are now tabs to let you quickly move between categories of interest - women's, men's, kids and home.
* More Informative Order Status Information: The My Account functionality has been improved so you can see the status of your order. When you check your order status, you'll be able to see if the inventory has left the brand, arrived in our warehouse or shipped to you.
* Simplified Return Functionality: A separate tab in the My Account section has been created specifically for returns. The "My Returns" section will show you which items are eligible for return and walk you through an easy three step return process.
* Enhanced Referral Process: It is now much easier to tell your friends about ABC, allowing you to more easily rack up those $10 credits every time someone you refer makes their first ABC purchase. Our referral program is now integrated with all the major e-mail providers as well as Facebook and Twitter. We've also introduced unique referral links that you can imbed in e-mails and blogs.

There are countless other changes, but I tried to highlight the more significant ones. While the new site may take some time to get used to, I think you'll like it. I would love to hear your feedback so please let me know what you think of the new site by sending me an e-mail at Name@ABC.com.

Thanks again for being an ABC member and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
"Joe Smith", CEO

Reprinted from The Corporate Communicator, a free e-zine dedicated to helping professionals communicate more effectively with employees, customers and the media. To get the latest industry news, research and best practices at your fingertips, register for a FREE subscription at http://www.thecorporatecommunicator.net


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