Hollywood Can Teach Email Marketers a Few Tricks by Lynn Dalsing @lynndalsing

Hollywood Can Teach Email Marketers a Few Tricks by Lynn Dalsing @lynndalsing

Hollywood Can Teach Email Marketers a Few Tricks

In the run up to the Oscars, lunch-time conversations in the ividence office featured our own Academy Award predictions. It occurred to me that there’s a lot that email marketing can learn from the movies.

Hollywood has long worked to master the art of setting theatergoers’ expectations before a movie’s release. Following the same strategy can help email marketers to set expectations before consumers subscribe to your list, reducing complaints and improving your relationship with subscribers.

  1. Know your audience – A preview for a grisly horror film before a kids’ movie will result in a lot of angry parents, and very few ticket sales. Similarly, promoting emails to the wrong audience will yield few subscribers. Of those subscribers, there’s likely to be a disconnect between what they want and what you offer, which can generate complaints. There are some places it just doesn’t make sense to promote your emails, so think carefully about how and where you direct people to your sign-up page. Some examples:
    • Lots of sites make use of every page to promote their list, which is a great idea. One place you might want to skip the call to action is on a complaints page if you have one. Wait until you’ve addressed their complaint to invite them to subscribe. Word to the Wise has a good post on this topic.
    • If you have multiple lists and different types of content on your site, consider customizing your call to action to reflect the content that the reader is reading. For a health and fitness site, a body building newsletter isn’t likely to be of interest to someone reading about how to have a healthy pregnancy, but a women’s health email might.
  2. It’s all about the preview – Movie previews give viewers a sense of the tone and quality of a film. They should leave the audience wanting more . . . but they also serve a much simpler purpose of providing information: things like who is in the movie, when it comes out, and how they learn more about it.
    Your sign-up page should serve a similar function. Potential subscribers should understand what you offer, how often and when you will email them, and how they subscribe:
    • What: Explain what subscribers receive. If possible, link to a sample email to give a taste of the value you offer.
    • When: Spell out how often and when you send emails. If you allow subscribers to set a preference on how often they are mailed or when they receive emails, let them know their options here as well.
    • How: Make it easy for them to understand what they need to do to subscribe. If they need to activate or confirm their subscription by email, let them know to expect that email and what to do if they don’t receive it.
  3. Make it special – People go to the movies for a lot of reasons: because they like a specific director, to spend time with friends, or just because they like the popcorn. But the best experience is when they’re there for the movie, not the popcorn. In the same way, the best list is made of people who subscribed because they want what you offer, not because they wanted to win a contest or get a coupon. If you use extraneous incentives to encourage people to sign up for your list, consider keeping records 0f who comes in through those methods separate from the rest of your list. That way, you can monitor their response to ensure that you keep them as engaged as the rest of your subscribers.
  4. Make it easy– Movies are all about the watcher experience, and they never let logistics get in the way of immersing you in that experience. Email needs to focus on the user experience, and a registration process must NOT be painful.
    • Do not ask the end-user to fill in hundreds of fields.
    • Do not include too many requirements that prevent your user from filling in the form.
    • Accept +, _, and other special characters in emails.
    • If possible: Just ask for the email. Then come back on a regular basis to get to know them (think of it as a sequel): Tell us more about you. Are you male or female? When is your birthday? End-users are much more willing to successfully register when we ask little at the beginning, and they are willing to share additional personal data when asked in a friendly way after they are part of your list.
  1. Deliver – Once someone has subscribed to your list, it’s important that you meet (or exceed) the expectations you set. People hate to see even a good movie when they expected a great one, and they’re likely to complain about it more than they would about a bad movie that they expected to be terrible. If you do need to make changes from the expectations you set, make changes slowly and monitor the response. Don’t change from monthly emails to daily ones immediately. Instead, slowly increase the frequency. If you see a spike in unsubscribes or complaints, you may need to take other measures before you can increase the frequency further (like re-permissioning the list with new expectations or allowing subscribers to set their frequency in a preference center).

What email marketing tips do you have that are inspired by the silver screen? Tell us in the comments.

Originally posted as Getting Red Carpet Ready: What Email Marketing Can Learn from the Movies

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  • Chief eMail Officer
    March 2, 2012 at 6:32 am

    Great post and love the analogies Lynn. You have now sent me on a hunt to look for emails from movie launches. When you think about the money they spend on the films, all the micro-sites and web work I would have to think that there must be some email component.

    If not, I smell an opportunity.

    Thanks for the great post!


  • Lynn Dalsing
    March 2, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for your comment, Jeff. And great idea about looking at the movie launch emails! I’ll have to toddle over and sign up for The Hunger Games and some others. Fun plans for the weekend.

  • Laura Ashley
    March 12, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    If nothing else, there should be an email forward to a friend option.

    • Lynn Dalsing
      March 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      Interesting point! Movie marketing definitely relies heavily on word of mouth.

      By the same token, you should have sharing buttons in the creative as well. And to make it easy on people, your email should forward well even when people just hit the forward button in their mail client.

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