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Field Notes: Your Audience Isn't Stupid

I don't usually comment on launch emails that pop up in my inbox, mainly because I don't always know the context in which it was sent. For all I know, a strategy that I think makes zero sense might've actually worked really well on one specific audience.

But today I saw something that I haven't really seen done before, and I wanted to chat about it.

Context: The sender is offering people on her list free spots in a program.

A personalized approach is fairly common during launches, and if done correctly, it usually works really well.

One of the first things you'll notice with this email is that it's missing alternate copy for dynamic merge tags, aka alternate copy for instances when someone's first name isn't in the database. Lots of people like to use 'friend' or 'buddy', which don't always sound great, but look a lot better than a floating comma.

As it is right now, that that subject line is an immediate giveaway that this is a marketing email. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely defeats the purpose of a personalized email, and it makes what comes next even more unbelievable.

"I don't have your home address. So I put this letter online as a PDF."

Hun-bun, you don't have my first name either.

When you click the link, what looks like a direct response-style sales letter opens up.

Obviously, since it's a PDF, there's no personalization. It just starts with 'Dear badass' which puts it at odds with the personalized approach that the email tried to accomplish.

This sales letter goes on for a couple of pages. But when you scroll to the bottom, it says this:

In case you can't the copy under my rage scribble, it says:

"This invitation is going out to 25,000+ people today, and there is only so much time available in the schedule."

And that's what really pissed me off.

You cannot pretend that this is a personalized outreach, just to get people to click through to the sales letter, and then switch tactics altogether and try to build scarcity around a limited number of spots that 25,000 people are now going to be duking it out over.

Those are two tactics that are diametrically opposed to each other, trying to use them together, and trying to get the best of both worlds is, frankly, a little insulting to your audience's intelligence.

And while it might get you high open rates or click-through rates, in the long run, these types of strategies ruin your credibility.

Manipulative tactics might bring you quick wins, but they have diminishing returns, and eventually, that loss of credibility is going to be hurting your conversion rates.

So, how could this have been done better?

A simple personalized email that said:

Hey [FIRST NAME] // Pro-tip: Leave off the comma if you don't want to use alt-copy for your merge tag My team and I are launching a really neat program (with a limited number of free spots!) that I think you'd be a great fit for. Let me know if you'd like to see more details. Talk soon, Eman

The email above isn't groundbreaking, and it's a fairly popular approach, but it's popular for a reason. Because it works.

If we got a positive response, I'd follow this up with a split test. One email that pulls in some of the copy from the sales letter into an actual email, and another that tests how a linked PDF performs.

The key is to make sure that you aren't mixing opposing strategies like combining a personalized email (that goes so far as to talk about home addresses) with the scarcity approach by saying that it was sent to 25k people.

On the flip side, if you do want to leverage the urgency and scarcity, open with that. Something like:

" I have 5 spots in my mastermind that I'm opening up for free. I'm opening this offer up to the 25,000 people on my list. 5 lucky women will get x,y,z, the same strategies that our clients use to build million dollar businesses. If you're interested, [FIRST NAME], you need to move now."

And, that's it.

As marketers and launch strategists, we're always looking for new ways to improve conversion, make more sales, and get brag-worthy click-through-rates, but it's so important to think about the bigger picture and the larger context of your strategy: If a quick-win strategy negatively impacts credibility, how does that affect average lifetime customer value? How does that impact your relationship with your list? Does it strengthen your relationship over time or weaken it?

More often than not, the clients we work with aren't marketers, they might not necessarily be aware of the damage strategies like this can do to their relationship with their list, but I think as marketers, it's our job to go beyond the performance of just one email or even one launch, and think about the larger impact our strategies have on our clients' audience.

Thoughts? Have you seen this strategy out in the wild? How do you feel about it?

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