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How to Use Storytelling to Craft a Successful Email Campaign

Posted by Emily Hegland on August 13, 2020

Storytelling is a successful tool across all marketing channels. In fact, an emotional brand story is key to creating a message that resonates with consumers. And when it comes to email... storytelling can really set your campaign apart.

If you need a primer on how to craft an emotional brand story, check out this blog from last week. If you’re ready to see how to apply those tenets to email, read on.

People go through emails quickly. There’s no time to introduce yourself and share all your accolades and awards. Skip that. Get to the good part: what’s in it for them. Remember: your customer should be the hero of the story... your brand is a supporting character.

Subject lines: Intrigue the reader

Your subject line is an opportunity to make your customer the star. Address them by name. Give them a special offer. Call out where they live. This is like the first line of a great book. It should suck you in and intrigue you enough to keep reading.

There are plenty of approaches. You can go short and mysterious ([First Name], open for a sweet surprise...). You can spell out exactly what’s inside (40% off coupon for [First Name] inside). Use “you” and “your,” not “we” and “our.” Otherwise, you’ll make it clear that the email is about your brand... rather than the person who is clearing out their inbox. Something that puts it in the context of your customer is key: 3 Ways to Spruce Up Your Home Office. The Father's Day gift you haven’t thought of yet. Take this style quiz to find your perfect pair of jeans. It can be fun, informative, or time sensitive. No matter what, make it about the reader.

Hero image: Help the reader imagine their future

Let’s see your product or service in action. It could be a healthy young person jogging in your aerodynamic sneakers. Or an older couple cozied up watching your streaming service on their TV. Or a professional in their home office, using your software to get their job done with ease. These images help the customer see themselves with a healthy... happy... or productive future. All because of your product or service. Who is your target demographic? Do they have kids? Do they live in a busy city or a suburban home? What age range do they fall into? Represent that person in your imagery and you’ll find customers who see themselves in that image.

Body copy: Solve a problem

Stories have a problem and a solution. So, your email should address a specific problem. You should know your customer’s needs and desires... and be able to fulfill them.

This is where research and segmentation can help. If you break up your audience into different groups, you can tell each segment a different story that will resonate with them. Parents may want a car that’s safe and spacious. You can build a story around travelling safely with your most precious cargo. Meanwhile, childless millennial may value freedom. For that audience, you can build your story around travel and adventure on the road.

So first, get your story straight. Then you can talk about features and benefits. When you do this, frame the features around your customer. But don’t just list them out. Follow up with “...so you can ____.” How does your feature help your customer’s story? It’s not just extra storage space... it’s more room for your gear. It’s not just Bluetooth capability... it’s hands-free Bluetooth calling so you can keep your eyes on the road. Help the reader see what their life could be like with your brand in it.

Look at how many reflexive pronouns you use. That’s “us”, “we”, “our”, etc. That’s a waste of time. Instead, structure your copy around “you”, the customer.

Call-to-action: The final domino

Each component in your email is a domino in a line. And the call-to-action is the final piece that will fall into place... if you do everything else right. Your body copy should logically lead to an inevitable conclusion: take action. They should want to click... call... order... or enroll. Make sure your call-to-action is directive; it should tell them exactly what the next step is.

It should start with a strong action verb... like Find your perfect fit today. Call now to get your personalized quote. Use promo code SALE at checkout — but hurry, this offer expires at midnight. If you have an offer, a deadline is a tried-and-true motivator... especially when it’s paired with a simple directive.

Build an email stream: Keep your brand top-of-mind

Exposure over time helps people remember something. So, craft a stream of emails that increases familiarity and inspires your readers in different ways. Spread out deployments so the reader isn’t bombarded by emails and tempted to unsubscribe.

Emails along the stream shouldn’t be the same. They can have reminders... they can reiterate some of the same information... but they should always offer something new, something the reader hasn’t seen before. Use new imagery. Change up the tone. Include an interactive element or a GIF.

If you have a deadline, ratchet up the urgency as the deadline approaches. Use time-sensitive language and bolder colors. Don’t be afraid of including “alarming” words like “FINAL NOTICE” or “LAST CHANCE.” No one wants to experience FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” You can leverage this to get your reader to take action... and take action now.

If you need help crafting a successful email campaign, contact J&C today. As experts in the science and art of customer engagement, J&C has a proven track record of email campaigns that get results. Watch this video to see how J&C crafted an award-winning direct mail and email campaign for a health insurance client:

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Topics: Relationship Marketing, Brand Story

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