“The Medium is the Message” Redux – The Targeted Sales Email

mailbox-greenYesterday we looked at how the communication medium of the telephone constrains the process and effectiveness of how we make contact on a sales call.

Today I thought we’d briefly follow-up and take a look at one of the other ubiquitous sales communication media—The Targeted Email. Understanding the “message” of the email medium can help reps write better email content, and reach more contacts.

Point one: for marketing emails, data, statistics, and facts carry better than pure emotion—but don’t ignore the emotional impact either.

In spite of the fact that hundreds of millions of them get sent every single day, we occasionally forget that an email is still, in its purest sense, a written document.

This is important, because a written medium carries a much different “sense” than other forms of media. It can be seen, referenced, re-scanned, reinterpreted at will, as long as it is front of the reader. Written text is generally perceived as more formal than other modes of communication. We naturally assume that it carries more weight—as long as it’s worth our time to begin with.

Due to its limitations, however, it’s much harder to convey emotion in writing. When 90+ percent of communication is non-verbal, words on a page often fail to express the context and depth of meaning.

However, because of its more permanent nature, text is very good at conveying factual data and statistics. The numbers don’t disappear from view like they do in a Flash video, or on YouTube.

Does this mean you shouldn’t try to convey emotion? No, just be aware that you’ve got to create the emotion from within the content, not the other way around. Emotion can be used, but it must be conveyed from the material you’re giving the recipient. Specific, concrete word choices can subtly convey underlying emotion without being over-the-top, or inappropriate to a solid B2B marketing email.

Point two: email is different from other written media because of our shared experience with it.

Interestingly, email’s existence as a written document worked in its favor in the early years. Because we have been naturally trained to treat the written word with greater importance, email marketers felt they could quickly, cheaply, and ubiquitously reach a captive audience.

Unfortunately, we have now been trained by 15 years of bad email marketing to treat the stuff in our inbox as one of two things:

Very important (hardly ever), or totally irrelevant (nearly always).

We don’t want to “waste time” with emails, and our finger hovers over the “Delete” every time we check our inbox.

Sadly, the current “message” of the email medium is that 95 percent of it is a waste of time.

So how does a sales rep fight against the “message of the medium”?

Focus on the audience. The reader.

To be read, and to have the impact that it should, every piece of mail you send must have some focus on the reader. Are you delighting them with a story or information? Are you giving them food for thought? Are you warning them about a coming trend, or obstacle?

If the content has no genuine, real application to the reader other than to silently scream, “Hey look over here, I’m selling something!” you’re going to see very little results from your targeted marketing emails.

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