5/09/2021

GetRiver.com & Colibri: Less is Less

This recent email for river by Colibri IO is a textbook Fail for Creative.

GetRiver.com sales email
Email with Call to Action to buy something now



Lesson: Include in your marketing emails elements missing here:

  1. Explanation of the product or service
  2. Explanation of what the reader is supposed to buy
  3. Offer expiration date -- specifically, when does the coupon code expire
  4. At least some information about the cost
  5. A live Facebook presence when including a link to a Facebook page
  6. Content on your Twitter page from less than three years ago when including a link to Twitter.

5/02/2021

Freshly: How Do I Share My Code?

This email from Freshly merits a Fail for Creative.

Freshly referral / share email
Freshly email to customers inviting them to share


Freshly is a meal subscription service. It offers reasonably healthy, pretty fresh refridgerated meals that can be prepared in the microwave in about three minutes. Personally, during the pandemic lockdown, it helped me have several quick, tasty lunches between Zoom meetings. They've offered a referral program since as long as I've been a customer (at least I think so -- during the lockdown, one business day sometimes faded into the next). 

This offer is a bit different. The email recipient, a current customer, is given a "share code" to send a Freshly Freebie to someone who can get a free week of meals. Nice; however, there is no explanation of how to share. The email lacks an explanation of what I or that special someone needs to do to use that share code and enjoy that free food. This lack of explanation puts traction in the customer process of sharing, which reduces the likelihood of customer action.

The offer was sent on April 29 and expires May 6. This means the offer expires only a week after sending. The offer window is appropriately sized for an emailed offer; however, because the expiration date is mentioned only in the disclosure, the attribute of immediacy in the Call to Action is lost. The expiration date should be communicated in body copy, e.g. "Your share code is valid only through May 6, 2021, so be sure to share your Freebie today!"

Lessons:

  1. Your Call to Action should clearly describe the steps required for the customer to take advantage of your offer.
  2. Do not bury your offer expiration date in your fine print. 


4/15/2021

Norton Lifelock: Renewal Email Reminds Me of Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller had a show than ran for eight seasons: “Penn & Teller: Bulls---!” According to Penn Jillette

If we said it was all scams we could also be in trouble, but 'bulls---,' oddly, is safe. So forgive all the 'bulls--- language', but we're trying to talk about the truth without spending the rest of our lives in court."

This leads to a recent email I received from Norton. IMHO, it goes beyond merely a Fail for Creative

Norton Antivirus Renewal Notice

The email offers the customer an opportunity to review their virus protection for $39.99, with an asterisk mentioning that this is the price for just the first year. That asterisk references a Disclosure rendering in 4.5-point font size:

I'll enlarge the fine print to a readable font size:

You are enrolling in an automatically renewing subscription that begins when your purchase is completed online (or otherwise, when your offline payment is received). Please download and install on each device, up to the specified number of devices, to get protection. Price shown is valid for the first term only. After that, your subscription will renew each year at the applicable annual renewal price here. You can cancel your subscription at my.norton.com or by contacting Member Services & Support. For more details, please visit the Refund Policy. Your subscription includes product, service and/or protection updates and new features as available during the subscription term, subject to acceptance of the License and Services Agreement. Features may be added, modified or removed during the subscription term.


So, to find out what the second-year price might be, I have to search through literal mouseprint to find the correct link to learn that the actual long-term price is currently expected to be* 50% greater than the advertised price.

Why isn’t Norton upfront about this in the email? Is it perhaps that Norton believes customers will not look for it now and just accept the higher price in a year?

I understand the subscription business model. Norton is offering me software as a service. So does Microsoft, but they don’t obfuscate the fact that I pay $70 a year to use Microsoft Office. Other companies offer introductory prices, but I rarely see the long-term subscription price this hidden.

An honest yet persuasive approach would be to explain the subscription option and offer $20 savings off the first year. The people at Norton know this -- they use this approach as landing pages from PPC ads.

When companies hide relevant information from customers, they might get sales but they’ll also earn distrust. If I can’t trust Norton to be forthcoming about its subscription price, can I trust it to protect my computer? That's why I believe Norton's approach to disclosing prices to customers like this is bulls---.

Lesson: Your relationship with your customers goes beyond one transaction. Honesty is the best policy for long-term customer retention.


* The header of the pricing landing page reads: "Our renewal prices for standalone and add-on subscriptions are listed below. They may change, but we will always send you a notification email prior to billing." In other words, the actual second year price in 12 months could be substantially greater than the price shown today. 

2/06/2021

SpotHunter: How to Hunt for Customers

Last week, I received this flyer:

SpotHunter flyer
SpotHunter flyer
1-sided. Copy appears at a bit of a slant

It arrived in a blind envelope addressed to the impersonal "Current Resident." It is obviously marketing mail. IMHO, it has all the makings of low-end j--- mail. (I'm not writing out the word because I avoid inappropriate 4-letter words on this blog.) The envelope appears impersonal, it has no return address, and it includes a spotty-looking postage permit stamp. 

SpotHunter Outer Envelope
Simple Blind Outer Envelope.
No return address.

I opened it because, well, I love direct mail marketing. But would a typical consumer open it? I don't think so. I noticed several of the same pieces -- addressed to "Current Resident" at other units in my building -- placed in a well-named trash receptacle located in the mailroom.

Mailroom Trash Receptacle
(Inappropriate 4-letter word blacked out)

Inside, there is an impersonal flyer for an app called SpotHunter. The headline reads "Have Trouble Finding Open Street-Parking? Let Us Help." In this context, the hyphen between "Street" and "Parking" is improperly placed. Plus, there's no period at the end of the headline's second sentence. These types of errors may appear minor; however, this type of errors often subconsciously distracts readers from the content and reduces confidence in the product itself. That is a minor Fail for Creative.

Overall, the flyer appears to clearly convey a message: Use this app to find parking and help other people find parking spots. 

Is this really going to work? I don't know. What I do know is that in most of New York City, open parking spots are hard to find and disappear quickly. New Yorkers get into fist fights over parking spots. Even if an app yells "There is an open parking spot 3 blocks away!", the spot may not be open when the driver arrives there two minutes later. And let's not forget that touching your mobile phone while driving is illegal in New York. So, if one cannot utilize the app while driving and a driver cannot expect that a spot appearing on the app is truly available, how useful is it? I guess the app needs scale to be useful; however, the more people that use the app to find parking, the more people are going to go after that precious parking spot a few blocks away.

Well, I can't try out the app -- for me, it is currently useless. It is available only on iPhones, and my phone uses the Android operating system. In fact, about half of the mobile phones in use today are using the Android operating system. So, upfront, half the people who received the mail cannot use the product. That's a Fail for Targeting.  

Given that it appears  everyone in my Queens building received the flyer, I assume SpotHunter carpet-bombed the neighborhood. That's another mistake, because many people in Queens do not have cars. They use mass transit to get around. According to NYCEDC, 62% of Queens residents have cars. In my neighborhood, that percentage is closer to 40%. So that means about half of the 40% people receiving the mail cannot use the product, e.g. 80% of the mail is truly j---,  furthering the Fail for Targeting.

If I were responsible for a marketing campaign for SpotHunter, I would first suggest not using direct mail. Consider perhaps a guerrilla marketing campaign such as placing flyers on cars parked in the neighborhood. Annoying, yes, but at least you are reaching people who have cars to park. A highly geotargeted online effort could also be a good use of limited spend. Some social media platforms allow you to target people who self-identify as having cars. Or consider targeting based on attributes likely to be associated with car use. Then segment down to the type of operating system being used. 

If I were required to utilize direct mail without targeting, I would:

  • Create a simple postcard that conveys the sales proposition. One side would include the headline benefit statement with a visual supporting message, while the address side would include supporting benefit statements and the call to action to Download the app for free.
  • Or, create a flat and geographically target homes with residents likely to benefit from the app using the USPS Every Door Direct Mail tool.
  • Drop mail as soon as the app is available for Android.

Lessons:

  1. Make sure your content is free of grammatical errors.
  2. If your app is available only on an iPhone, you are missing half the market.
  3. If your mail has a simple message, consider a postcard rather than a flyer in an envelope.
  4. If you are targeting geographically rather than individually, consider using the Every Door Direct Mail service from the US Postal Service. 

1/31/2021

Amazon Music Unlimited: Improving the Pitch

 This letter from Amazon Music Unlimited merits a Fail for Creative for a combination of mistakes and missed improvement opportunities. 


Some positive elements of the solo letter package:
  • The letter is addressed to an Amazon Prime customer in a closed-face envelope with simple Amazon branding. This approach ensures a high open rate because Amazon and the customer have an ongoing business relationship, meaning the Prime customer will open the letter to see what it is about.
  • The front of the letter is easily scannable. The Johnson Box clearly communicates that the Prime customer would benefit from 3 months of free … something.
  • The sparse use of copy and generous use of white space help call out the benefits of Amazon Music Unlimited.
  • The letter opens with a personal salutation, addressed to the Amazon Prime customer.
  • The Call toAction on the front of the letter is easy to find.
Amazon Music Unlimited Offer Letter
Front of Letter
using Amazon Music Letterhead



However, there are opportunities to improve on this approach.

The letterhead is from “Amazon Music,” which is already free with Amazon Prime. The Johnson Box could communicate that the offer is for 3 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for free.

The opening sentence is not grammatically correct. It opens with “As a valued Amazon Prime member, we have a special offer for you:” This is an incorrect use of a dangling modifier. The opening phrase “as a valued Amazon Prime member” describes “you,” the customer -- not “we,” the company. The independent clause that begins with “we” does not match the opening phrase, which lacks a subject. While typical customers reading the letter might not remember grammar rules taught in high school, they might subconsciously notice that the sentence feels clunky, which detracts attention from the message. Keeping the message intact, a better opening would be:

“As a valued Amazon Prime member, you are eligible for a special offer:”
or, perhaps,
“As a valued Amazon Prime member, you can enjoy this special offer:” 

The complete value proposition of the low price is hidden in the Disclosure on the back. I would be forthright and mention upfront that the cost is under $8 a month after the third month.

The letter mentions the feature of being “ad free” a couple times (with varying use of hyphens). This could be brought up a level by messaging the benefit, i.e. “Listen to music non-stop, without interruptions.”

While the letter opens with a personal salutation, the closing is from “Amazon Music Team.” A truly sincere closing would be from Bob Bowen, Worldwide Head of Music, or even Jeff Bezos.

The letter includes supporting messages on the back. The front of the letter could use a message referring to the back of the letter to learn more.

Amazon Music Unlimited Marketing Letter
Back of letter

On the back of the letter, the Call to Action appears twice; however, it is easily lost. In one location, it is almost as small as the Disclosure copy. It could be larger and positioned below the Disclosure without being distracting.

The front of the letter mentions “Limited time only.” It fails to mention how limited the offer is. The offer expiration date is buried in the Disclosure on the back. The problem with this approach is two-fold:

  1. The implied need for immediate action is lost, because the customer doesn’t know by when to take action. In other words, it’s easy for the customer to say, “I’ll take care of this later,” then forget about it.

  2. If the offer truly expires on the offer expiration date, and the customer attempts to sign up after the offer expires, the customer will be unhappy from the experience of missing out on the promotion. That dissatisfied customer would view Amazon less positively -- perhaps taking out their frustration by shopping less or even cancelling their Prime membership.

Simple Envelope


Below is a rewrite of the front of the letter, with a bit more focus on product benefits. If Amazon likes the rewrite, I am willing to accept a personally signed thank-you letter.

Dear <Customer Name>,

Would you like to enjoy access to millions of songs, anytime, without interruption? Then here is an offer for Amazon Prime members like you: 3 months of Amazon Music Unlimited for FREE.

Sign up today to get unlimited access to more than 70 million songs. Listen ad-free from your home or mobile phone anytime with offline listening and unlimited skips. With so many new releases and thousands of playlists and stations available, we are sure to have your favorite tunes ready for your delight. In fact, with Amazon Music Unlimited, you can even control your music hands-free with Alexa, included in the Amazon Music mobile app and Amazon Echo devices.

BENEFITS OF AMAZON MUSIC UNLIMITED

Ö        Unlimited anytime access to more than 70 million tunes

Ö        Listen to music non-stop, without interruptions

Ö        Enjoy music anywhere, online or offline

Ö        Skip as much as you like 

Ö        Hands-free listening with Alexa

I’m so sure you’ll like Amazon Music Unlimited, I’m offering it to you for FREE for 3 months. After that, your subscription will renew for only $7.99 a month. You can cancel anytime.

This is a limited time offer, so visit amazon.com/trynow to sign up today.

Sincerely, 

[signature]

Bob Bowen

Worldwide Head of Music

P.S. This offer is good only through <expiration date>, so be sure to review the information on the back of this letter and visit amazon.com/trynow to sign up for Amazon Music Unlimited today.

Lessons:
  1. Use correct grammar.
  2. Your benefits sell your product, so communicate them.
  3. Ensure that your Call to Action is easy to find.
  4. If your offer has an expiration date, don’t bury it.
  5. A personalized letter should be personally signed.
  6. When your brand covers multiple products in a customer relationship, an experience with one product can impact the entire relationship.
  7. Don’t just ignore the back of the letter -- you can both sides of a page to make your sale.