I remember my exact thought the first time I ever saw a sales letter: What a crock.
I was working with an old-school marketing consultant who was brought on board to work with me on a long-term campaign designed to grow the company in an aggressively short period of time.
We performed all sorts of fancy SWOT analyses, re-worked the company’s brand positioning, re-designed the company’s core messaging, devised our plan of attack, and began rolling it out…when it happened.
I was instructed to develop a direct mail letter campaign.
A direct mail letter campaign that followed a very old school, archaic, formulaic approach, including an opening line that began with, “Did you know that ________________________?”
I choked on my Lean Cuisine. (It was 2006, after all.)
Judging by the name of this blog, you can probably tell that “old school, “archaic,” and “formulaic” are three of my longest-standing arch nemeses.
How could I write such a thing in good faith!? Didn’t they know what they were asking me to do!? BETRAY the scared saint of creativity in the name of….cliché and hackneyed? How would I explain my actions to the good people of……okay, well, there were no good people to explain my actions to. But, whatever. I was on a roll.
Alas, my creative genes came accompanied by a set of obedient ones, and so, I had no choice but to obey. BUT—not before I convinced the team to let me perform a series of split tests, where I would rewrite a second variation of the same letter, essentially saying the same thing, but in a new way. An Ashified way. (As it would later become known).
I had a theory: data should inform what you say, not necessarily how you say it.
A lot of marketing content ends up sounding hyper stale and eye-rolley because everyone’s using the same exact formulas…and the same exact words. (”Burning questions,” anyone?)
Turns out, the company I worked for had this problem: it’s why I was hired.
Their marketing had became constrained. Limited. Stunted. And, consequently, their results were, too.
Which is why I was THRILLED when my variation— *fans self*—whooped the control. And ever since, this theory—that the data should inform what you say, not necessarily how you say it—has underlined my work as a whole, where fresh & original is the #1 requirement of anything that leaves my desk.
Later, when I opened my creative writing agency, I was hired to review the email marketing strategy for a national company whose target market was brides. They had purchased email lists from places like David’s Bridal and The Knot ( DID YOU KNOW THAT WAS A THING?!), and were sending out some real cliché cheese. 🧀
But cliché cheese is worse than moldy cheese: if yo’ email is cheesy, it’s literally invisible. (And tastes like a whole lotta “didn’t even notice that was in my mouth!”)
It's a form of ad blindness: you know how you completely and mercilessly ignore banner ads on websites? (I don’t even know how these are still in existence, honestly. Who do you know that clicks on those?!) The same thing happens to cliché cheese: people filter you right out of their mind. Especially when you use certain words that scream, in a large baritone voice:
THIS PERSON IS AN INTERNET SCUZZ FROM THE DEPTHS OF EARTH WHO THINKS I’M A FOOL & DOESN’T RESPECT MY TIME, TAMMY.
Talk about an impression none of us want to make. 🤣
Back when I was crusading to freshen up our direct mail approach, the world's eyes were already glazing over with yet another piece of exactly identical, sales hypey piece of horse dung being flung in their face from every which way. Driveway mail boxes jammed full of horse dung. And yet, so many companies aspired to fling some more horse dung. Everybody’s flinging horse dung—this must be what you do! Let’s fling some horse dung, everybody!
But, of course, when everybody’s flinging horse dung, you start identifying everything that looks like horse dung and smells like horse dung…as horse dung. Even when it’s a perfectly delicious chocolate mousse. (For the record, I actually think chocolate mousse is a mediocre stepchild dessert who really needs to rebel and JUST BECOME PUDDING, ALREADY. Then again, it was originally named “mayonnaise de chocolat” so maybe this was an upgrade.)
So, what’s next for email marketing?
Well, anyone who wants to build a remote business they can run from anywhere in the world needs to understand something important:
You need to do email. But you can’t do dung.
Your income as a creator is directly correlated with your ability to write fresh, original content that perks up people’s butts and makes ‘em fall in love. You can pay for all the clicks you want: none of it matters if you can’t find the cli….ahem. 😇
Remember: People will pay attention when there’s something worth paying attention to.
Is mental spam.
And just like all spam?
It gets filtered out.
Need Help With This, Darling? ⬇️
- I’m Hosting a Summer Writing Club ✨ 🎉
This is a fun summer writing mentorship for those who drastically want to improve their writing and make people fall in love with them through their newsletters, their online content, their personal essays, and the articles they write for the web.
Instead of focusing on messaging and copywriting, like I do in The Magic Message Bootcamp, or creative writing techniques, like I teach in The Creative Writing Class, this is alllllllllll about the art and pleasure of writing well as a thought leader online: with authority, courage, flair…and a fascinating voice.
I’ll send you more info this week! (Subscribe to the blog to get notified.)
- My Colleague is Running a Series of SEXY Email Marketing Workshops
This series of workshops* is all about selling with email. It’s all about how to set up an unstoppable welcome sequence, nurture new subscribers the right way, and figure out which metrics to track and which benchmarks to set. She also talks about the importance of storytelling in your emails, and I know from being behind the scenes with her that she’s sold many hundreds of thousands of dollars through hers. (Plus, she's a playful weirdo like me!)
The series starts tomorrow, from May 26th to June 7th. ✨ Go grab a seat for strategic email marketing smarts!
- My Favorite Email Software is Still…
ConvertKit*, mothers. Thank smokey bones for these guys, who figured out that people sending newsletters every day want it to be: (a) Easy; (b) Pretty; (c) Powerful. If you’re gonna build an email list (and you need to), then I can’t recommend them enough. 🤌🏻
That’s it for today!
A WHOLE DAY OF EMAIL MARKETING TALK.
Until Friday, when Ash finally figures out that Loom does not play well with her professional mic, and she needs to unplug it for better audio for her Middle Finger Friday videos. 😉 Whoops?
P.S. “Come get your burning questions answered!” throws me into a brief coma anytime I see it in any subject line. I know I’m a perfectionist, but I hope this line gets eaten by an angry internet beaver.