By Harvey Silverman, Silverback Golf Marketing
Email has been a big part of my working career for the last 20 years. I want to think I've done and seen it all, but email and the marketing science behind it are ever-evolving.
I have on my silverbackgolfmarketing.com website a button for "Bad Golf Emails." I've had as many as 1239 "hits" on the various bad emails I've displayed accompanied by some often-times snarky commentary. I try to make it fun, but some are so bad I almost have to cry. The all-time worst is the one that had "discount" in the subject line but forgot the "o." Oooops! (Yes, I added the "o" here.)
Here's another recent nasty email, received as I was composing this article. It's addressed:
To: John Doe
Titleist and Cleveland Demo Day.
I'm not John Doe! And the subject line begs the question: "So?" Would you like me to come, and if so, when? Far better is, "You're invited this Saturday - Titleist and Cleveland Demo Day."
I've argued with plenty of people who maintain that "it's all about the message." That grammar, spelling, sentence construction, composition, and readability don't matter. My philosophy is always, why risk losing your next best customer by looking like an idiot? How many people might think that if you cannot spell and use simple words correctly, you might also be lax in running your business or building your product?
When you misuse "there, they're, and their" – you look like an idiot. Same with "your and you're" – maybe the most common mistake I see. If you were on "Jeopardy," the question would be, "What is a homophone?" Spellcheck will not catch these errors.
And apostrophes? Obviously, many in the golf industry missed the fourth-grade class discussing plural and possessive and the proper use and apostrophe placement. It's, its', and its seems like a foreign language to lots of people. How about "Driver's are included at ABC's Need for Speed Week!" It got the first apostrophe wrong but recovered with proper placement of the second. (By the way, this is a passive voice sentence. Remove "are" makes it an active voice. It's subtle, but research shows an active voice is more powerful.)
This one couldn't quite figure out the proper apostrophe placement, and it started with a weird subject line: Presidents' Day Weekend 🇺🇸.. ... Huh?
The body of the text revealed the apostrophe catastrophe:
Four Score and Seven Holes Ago... Celebrate President's Day weekend at XYZ Golf Course! Did you know that golf is a popular pastime for many U.S. Presidents? Sixteen of the last nineteen presidents played.
Both President's and Presidents' can be correct based upon the context. "President's Day" uses the singular possessive, so you would likely use this form if you want to refer to a holiday celebrating one president, like Washington. "Presidents' Day," in the plural possessive, is the form recommended by The Chicago Manual of Style and indicates a holiday celebrating Washington and at least one other president. The AP Stylebook recommends "Presidents Day," referencing a day to celebrate all presidents. So now you know – just be consistent.
I use a couple of services to test and improve my writing. Subjectline.com is a free service offered by Worldata. You can insert a subject line and have it scored with suggested changes to help it achieve better. Worldata is an excellent company to follow. Its regular webinars update what I referenced earlier – the ever-evolving science of email. Worldata processes millions of emails a year for clients, tracking trends in opens, click-throughs, and conversions.
I've heard far too often that sending too many emails will annoy customers, and they'll unsubscribe. This Worldata recording reveals that more frequent emails get a much higher percentage of opens. Four times a week? The highest open rates happen when you send 17 or 18 a month! Will unsubscribes increase too? Probably, but generally, unsubscribers are people who won't buy from you no matter what. If you're sending to 10,000 people and the average open rate is 19%, and increased frequency ups the average to 23%, you have 400 more people reading what you want them to read. And in the meantime, if the unsubscribe rate jumps from 0.07% to 0.12%, you've lost five people. The math screams to increase your email frequency!
I pay for Grammarly Premium, but you can get some value from the basic program. Grammarly will catch the mistakes detailed above and many, many more than spellcheck. It keeps me honest when writing articles, emails, and text on websites. I don't always agree with some of its stylistic suggestions, which I can choose to accept or not. But it's the best defense against looking like an idiot.
Creativity is subjective. I like to find ways to add a bit of humor if applicable to the subject matter. Getting people to smile is a robust selling tool. Being a bit edgy is good as long as it doesn't offend.
Writing correctly and effectively is a talent, but not a chore. Help is readily available from people like me or easy-to-use tools found across the web. My standard practice is to have the client review first. Remember, you're writing to a broad spectrum of demographics – age, gender, and nationalities. Have other eyes you trust review your email before hitting the irrevocable "Send," and looking like you missed too many English classes.