Don’t Let Bureaucrats Write Your Most Important Emails
When someone places an order with you, or donates to your organization, or even just signs up for your newsletter, are they welcomed into the family and made to feel as special as they are? Or simply sent a brief “thanks”?Too many brands overlook such key moments in their audience journey. In today’s episode of Step Up Your Social, we’ll look at one massive failure, and a whole bunch of successes.
Hopefully this episode will inspire you to revisit your own customer or donor journey and edit accordingly!Listen to the full episode here or wherever you stream podcasts. And scroll down for a full episode transcript.
Full Episode Transcript
A friend of mine recently had his outstanding student loans forgiven as part of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives all outstanding student loans for people who have spent 10 years working in public service.
He knew he was getting close, but the program is complicated and he didn’t know exactly when he would cross the ten-year threshold.
Then one morning, the email arrived.
The subject line read “You’re amazing” and when he opened it, it screamed “Congratulations” in 36 point font next to a picture of fireworks.
“Our country couldn’t work without you and the work you do” it continued.
There was a GIF of Jim and Pam from The Office giving each other an air high five.
The email went on: “The United States government thanks you for your dedication to our civil society and we are excited to inform you that all of your remaining student loans have officially been forgiven.”
Then there was a picture of President Joe Biden eating an ice cream cone and a note that read “whether you like ice cream, travel, or just an extra hour in bed, we hope you find a way to celebrate this tremendous achievement. Congratulations. And thank you for your service.”
Of course that is not at all how the email read.
Rather the email’s subject line informed him: “Action Required: View the message in your Paperless Inbox and take action.”
The email itself was a templated form with a green button inviting him to “go to paperless inbox.”
Once there, he found a PDF formatted to look like a letter informing him that his loans had been forgiven.
It did use the word “congratulations,” but everything that followed would have looked more in place from his accountant at tax time than the federal government informing him that his life just got a whole lot better.
Now granted — this is an official correspondence from the US Government.
But here’s the thing — the US government is a brand, just like any other. And, as is all too obvious for anyone who follows even the slightest bit of news, it’s got a massive branding problem.
What an amazing opportunity the government has to recognize the once in a lifetime gravity of this message and take advantage of it to buy itself some massive — and much earned — good will.
The federal government is rewarding people for their hard work and consistent payments with a massive gift. Rather than letting an amazing copywriter draft this life-changing note, they let a loan servicing company do it, where it was promptly outsourced to a bureaucrat.
What a missed opportunity.
So you, the listener, are most certainly not responsible for drafting comms for the federal government. So why are we talking about this on an episode of Step Up Your Social?
Simple. So many brands make the same mistake (if on a much smaller scale).
They worry so much about every tweet and Facebook post and newsletter, but then let bureaucrats write emails that matter so much.
Here’s a test for you — pause this episode and go subscribe to your own newsletter with a new email address. What happens when you do?
Do you knock your own socks off with your welcome, or do you get a simple “thank you for subscribing” and then get added into the standard queue waiting to hear from your brand again… eventually?! There’s probably a decent shot you didn’t even get a confirmation at all, right?
The Hustle is a phenomenal daily email that shares business and technology news right to your inbox.
Their content is amazing and they work hard ensuring their readers enjoy every issue. They definitely understand that a welcome email is a huge part of setting expectations and welcoming users into their community.
Years ago they went viral, not for their reporting or their formatting, but for their confirmation welcome email.
The welcome email informed them that the moment they subscribed, a buzzer went off in their office and now everyone was celebrating with hand shakes, hugs and even shots of tequila.
Silly? Yes. Memorable? Hell yes!
You can find the full email here.
And it’s not just welcome emails that get overlooked.
I’m a paying Canva user. I pay annually.
The typical company would send a note letting me know that my credit card was about to get billed. But Canva is no typical company.
Rather than informing me I owed them money, they wished me a happy anniversary and congratulated me on another great year using their amazing product.
My wife and I have two little kids. We recently bought them each a pair of Keen sandals. A few weeks after buying them, we got an email from Keen asking if “those shoes dirty yet?” chock-full of helpful cleaning tips to keep our kids shoes looking clean and ready to go.
I’ll close this episode with one more example. When CD Baby first launched in the late ’90s, they were shipping physical CDs to people. Weird, I know.
Every order resulted in an automated email, which simply read “Your order has shipped today. Please let us know if it doesn’t arrive. Thank you for your business.”
But one day, Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby, realized that he could do better. So he replaced that bureaucratic drivel with the following:
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD an d polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!
Quite a re-write!
Sivers claims that simple email created “thousands of new customers.”
And I believe him! I know I for sure would be way likelier to tell my friends about it, then a note simply informing me that my CD has shipped.
So here’s your assignment: go through your own customer or donor journey and ask yourself – do your most important communications sound like they were written by a bureaucrat or by someone who actually loves your brand as much as you do.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!