DJ Waldow

Email Marketing: One Trick will Boost Engagement

By: DJ Waldow | May 13, 2013 | 

Email Marketing: One Trick Will Boost EngagementAre you ready for the one thing – the one trick – to get more engagement with your email marketing campaigns?

Unlike Curly, I’m actually going to share it with you now.

The one thing to boost email marketing engagement is to be human.

At this point, it’s quite possible you are now standing up … shouting something like the following: “What? Really? That’s it? That’s the one thing? Be human? Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

While I agree “to be human” is obvious, it’s not something I see too many marketers practicing. When it comes to email marketing, or any marketing these days, much of the voice is still corporate: Cold, boring, and dull.

Who Talks Like This?

Much of today’s mail marketing copy reads something like this:

Corporate email

Who this email is from is not important. But take a look at the language. Nothing stands out. It’s all about them: “…world’s finest news site” and “award-winning news, opinions …” Who cares?

Now, contrast that with this email from Ann Handley at MarketingProfs:

Ann Handley Email

Other than the “Dear Colleague” salutation, this email BLEEDS human. My favorite part?

“Just think of what that extra money could go toward instead—half of an iPad2, a new business casual outfit for Boston, or a round of top-shelf drinks at the hotel bar (oh wait, I guess I’d be the one to benefit from that).”

I happen to know Ann Handley – she’s a colleague (get it? ha!) and good friend. She’s also an amazing writer. I’m pretty sure she wrote this “human” copy. On top of the copy being unique and witty, it’s also a nice way to remind folks to register for the event – always a tough email to write. Instead of saying “REGISTER NOW!” the copy is more subtle, yet it still has three calls to action – all pointing subscribers back to the main registration page.

Human. Well done.

Not Just For Business

But human does not have to be limited to B2B emails (or B2C for that matter). Any email newsletter can be human. Take this example from Chris Brogan. A recent Sunday newsletter of his started off this way:

Chris Brogan Email

While I know that this is Chris’s weekly email that goes out to thousands, it sure does feel like he’s talking directly to me. And it works. In speaking with Chris, his open rates are more than 40 percent – well above industry averages.

To top that off, tons of folks reply back to Chris.

Bonus: If you reply, there is a pretty good chance he will reply back again. How’s that for human?

You can grab Chris’s Sunday (human) email newsletter here. Even his opt-in landing page is human. I just LOVE that video.

Three Tips to Writing More Human Email Marketing Copy

While there really is no silver bullet to writing more human email marketing copy, below are a few tips that may help you get started.

1. Earn trust first. What makes both the MarketingProfs and Chris Brogan emails effective is they both built their tribes first. They provided value. They earned trust. This process enabled them to be more personal with their respective communities. Similar to the any relationship, you typically don’t lead off being overly personal. It takes time – and trust.

2. Ask for feedback. As you start to sprinkle your emails with “human,” check in with your subscribers and ask them if it resonates with them. Every so often in my weekly email newsletter, I’ll plant little nuggets like the one below, asking for a reply.

Waldow Social Weekly bottom

When a subscriber clicks on the “If so, tell me!” link, it pre-populates a tweet, that looks likes this:

Instant feedback!

3. Be yourself. It’s easy to spot fake human (and fake humans, for that matter). If humor is not your strength, don’t force it. It reminds me of high school when we used to grab a thesaurus (think: BEFORE they were online), and replace common words with ones that made us sound smarter. Most of the time, it was obvious and the output was not good. Be yourself.

While it may seem silly, remember this: You are human. Your readers are human. Write your email marketing copy with those two facts in mind and I promise you’ll boost your engagement!

What are your thoughts, fellow humans? Is ‘being human’ not suitable for more corporate organizations? Have you changed up your writing style and seen engagement improve?

About DJ Waldow

DJ Waldow is an email marketing consultant, writer, blogger, speaker, and co-author of The Rebel’s Guide to Email Marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Waldow Social, a company that helps make email marketing go from boring to WOW. DJ has spent nearly 8 years advising clients on how to optimize their email marketing campaigns and--on occasion--break some of the “best practice” rules. Find him on most social networks under the handle “djwaldow” or by searching “DJ Waldow.” DJ is an alumnus of the University of Michigan (Go Blue), a knowledge craver, a sponge, & a lover of beer, coffee & people.

  • susancellura

    Love this post!! If people would stop worrying about how they look, per say, think how many more engaging conversations businesses could have – both internally and externally!

    • susancellura AMEN! Wait. Can I say “Amen” on this blog? Ha. Seriously though… totally agree.

  • A great post, DJ. And a great complement to your appearance on Stelzner’s podcast last week (which I recommend). As a newcomer to email marketing, I’ve found you very helpful. Being human is the easy part for me, but you give such other fine advice elsewhere that I’m always happy to read your work.

    • maxchristianhansen Appreciate your kind words. That Stelzner podcast was a fun one to do too. For sure. Wow. Re-reading your comment now. You are too kind!

  • I think all of these can be applied to DMs too – especially auto DMs.  Being Human always works. Great post.

    • AmyMccTobin Agreed! Being human (should) always work. Thanks for your comment!

  • Thank you, Captain Obvious…umm, I mean DJ! 😉  Sure it may be obvious, but you’re right that too many are too buttoned-up…you are definitely one of the humans!   Great post!

    • lizreusswig Ha! Well played. My wife says that all the time … figured I’d work it into the post!

  • “Dude. Check this out it’s fascinating” also works really well in getting me to click on the link =)

    • JoeCardillo Anything with DUDE in it works for me. Then again, I once gave a 5-minute Ignite talk on the word dude…

      • djwaldow JoeCardillo Ha! Uh, link please? Wait, I mean… link please dude?

        • JoeCardillo – wasn’t sure if dropping links here was kosher.

        • djwaldow JoeCardillo Oh if it’s trouble we can always duck, I hear @GiniDietrich has bad aim

        • JoeCardillo djwaldow I, however, never miss. 😉

        • belllindsay JoeCardillo djwaldow Duly noted. I have a helmet for just that occasion

  • Mr djwaldow after listening to your last live set from Ibiza on RaveRadio I am always amazed that you also have a business career. Hearing the 1000’s of young women screaming your name during the finale how do you have time to blog never mind come to ginidietrich ‘s place with sound advice? 8)
    I used to have a gmail account for personal use but over time signed u for so much email contact I made a new one for people. The same with work I now sign up for all business emails from a separate account (meaning AdAge, Smart Brief etc). I mass delete 98% of emails unread. The subject header is what makes or breaks it. I just deleted 250 emails leaving only 5 of them to read. (B2C btw)
    While I am not in email marketing execution I have written copy for email campaigns. And I tell clients the honest truth that first comes the subject header which will usually impact open rates. But if they open and just see blah blah blah they won’t open again unless you start bribing. And who wants to bribe just to get an email read or responded too?
    This comment was written by Siri. Howie is sleeping.

    • Howie Goldfarb Thanks for your comment. not sure what to make of the first paragraph. Ha!

  • Dear Colleague — Thanks for the shout here! ; )
    Nice post, DJ. Thanks for the kind words. I believe I did write that one — but in true, even the emails that DON’T come from me we hope sound human. Because, well, humans write them. 
    Thanks again — you know I’m a fan…..

    • annhandley Oh. Hi COLLEAGUE. 
      “even the emails that DON’T come from me we hope sound human. Because, well, humans write them.” <—YES!

  • Great post DJ, I love it.  For the first 1000 subscribers on my blog I committed to sending a personal response to everyone that signed up.  To make sure they believed it was personal and not an auto responder I told them the time and what I was doing at the time (e.g. it’s 1 O’clock and I’m sitting at my desk eating lunch!).  I got into so many interesting conversations with people and I got so many responses saying ‘wow’, ‘I can’t believe you responded’ etc etc.  It’s hard to keep this up but why not do it for the first 1,000!!  As you say be human!!


    • iancleary Thanks Ian. Replying to each new subscriber takes time, but it can DEFINITELY pay off. I think of it this way … any relationship takes time to build. Why should email marketing be any different? Love that you shared what you were doing. That could be an eBook!

  • Productivepal

    Yes I agree that being human a good approach.  I think it also useful to start with the benefits  for the reader –  that opens them up for the rest of the message

    • Productivepal Great reminder. Just like any good story, you need to “hook” your readers from the start.

  • Excellent advice, DJ! Though, I expect no less from you. 😉 
    It’s funny – just the other day, I was look at average open rates on MailChimp. They had it sorted by various industries and, somewhat surprisingly, marketing was one of the LOWEST on the list with around 20 percent. Even the legal industry had higher open rates! I think this shows that all too often, we, as marketers, forget that if we want to sell, we need to connect first. Clearly, so many other industries are doing a much better job at that.

    • lauraclick You are too kind, Laura. Thank YOU for the kind words. Interesting data out of Mailchimp. I see a blog post pending. DO IT!

      • djwaldow Yup. I think that’s a blog post just waiting to happen. Thanks for the nudge. And when I DO write it, I’ll be sure to link to this one. 🙂

  • David Hazzard

    Hi DJ
    The advice is great but I would add one extra item to improve the human touch – personalisation. As with this comment and the majority of comments on this blog, they refer to you “DJ”.
    It’s a cool personal touch, and has to be added to your other humanisations of email marketing.

    • David Hazzard YES! Good point … David. Ha. See what I did there?

  • Brilliant post DJ   Shared   Looking forward to that interview with you to talk email marketing for our community 🙂  Chris & Susan

    • chrisandsusan THANKS! Looking forward to it as well.

      • djwaldow chrisandsusan Let us know when is good for you DJ

        • chrisandsusan Please email me! djwaldow gmail

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