voice

Email Blasts: the painful truth

The more I meet people at networking events, the more I get added to people's "contact list," which means that my inbox gets steadily more crowded. Which would be fine with me... if most of them didn't suck. After all, these smart, social professionals probably have some pretty valuable things to say. And they are willing to share their knowledge for free. On top of that, they're willing to reach out to me and share that valuable information so that I can sit on my couch in my pajamas and soak it all in at my leisure. But what happens to most of these convenient, informative, valuable messages? They get deleted. Why?

  1. They are boring. I open them up and there are blocks of plain text with canned messaging and no voice. I don't recognize the shining personality of the author. Instead, my eyes glaze over and I try to skim for important info, but it all blends together and I get overwhelmed and angry that this person made me spend my time skimming their email. I hit delete.
  2. They are not concise. If you want people to open an email and read something important, why bury it? Readers don't have time for an intro paragraph. They don't have time to click on that link that takes them to the tiny flash slideshow which, after text-dissolving slowly for three minutes, invites you to "click here!" for more information. Unless, of course, you've built up a solid reputation and you send an email blast with the heading, "THIS IS MY LAST MESSAGE, GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD."
  3. They aren't special. I know, I know, we can't all possibly be special. So, be honest with yourself: are you special? Think you might be a little special? THEN WRITE LIKE YOU'RE F***ING SPECIAL. If you're irreverent, write irreverently. If you're funny, write funnily. If you're super smart and nerdy, write smartly and nerdy-ly. If you're boring, don't write or hire someone who has a voice/personality. People will appreciate an irreverent, funny, smart voice more than a calm, collected, "professional" one. I'm not saying you aren't special if you happen to be a calm, collected, professional person... just consider what voice you can authentically inhabit and understand that people have a sixth sense for superficialities. Choose authenticity--you are what makes you special.

Here's an email you can send to your email-blasting colleague-friend:

Dear [special professional person who I happen to appreciate],
I've noticed that you've begun sending informative email blasts to, what I assume, a long list of contacts you've accumulated. I was wondering: have you gotten a lot of response from them? I ask because I've been reading these emails and I have a feeling not many other people have been.... And I bet that when they click on that link "Access Your Information," people don't stick around very long.
As your friend, I want to let you know that you're possibly hurting your brand with these sorts of email blasts. For one, people who know you (and obviously like you) might open the first few emails, but when they find the info boring/dry (no offense) and lacking your personality, they will stop opening your emails. And what's worse than being consistent in your messaging is having your messaging associated with "unimportant" or "boring and dry" or, even worse, "annoying." Because then, when you have something really important or valuable to share, people won't pay attention.
So, if you're interested in keeping your brand shiny and potent, my suggestion is to write with a voice, present your info in a more interesting/entertaining way, and make it prettier (graphic design is actually an important consideration for email blasts, especially when you're contacting people who don't know you very well since you'll have to visually attract them to read your content). Or perhaps consider halting further email blasts before it's too late and you lose your audience. Once you lose your audience, it's really hard to win them back.

And so, my friends, think before you send.

Break the Rules: How to Help Your Business Stand Out

Today I gave a presentation at a Chicago Women Entrepreneur Network (CWEN) event. Here's the spiel I shared:

The outfit I like to wear when giving presentations.

The outfit I like to wear when giving presentations.

I started The Magma Lab after I took an internship at a presentation design company. I learned that some businesses succeed more than others only because they are different--they stand out, people notice them, word spreads, and business grows. I guess it's pretty obvious. Think of Apple--iPhones and iPads weren't new technology, but Apple marketed them differently and it caught people's attention. You don’t even have to be great--just different. Think of Lady Gaga--she's not the most talented singer in the world; she's known because she's unusual.

With a business, though, how can you be different? It’s likely that you’re doing the same thing some other company is doing, offering the same product another company offers... Or maybe you do offer something unique, in which case you want to make sure your customers or investors understand that thing that sets you apart. If you want to get noticed, there’s something you should get comfortable with...

Breaking the rules. Part of the reason I love being a freelancer is that there’s no one getting angry at me for breaking the rules. That’s my job: to help you break the rules because breaking the rules helps you stand out. Innovation requires taking a look around for rules that you can intentionally break. That doesn't mean you need to break all the rules--just the bad ones.

Bad Rule #1: Look/sound/feel corporate. How are you supposed to stand out without showcasing your own voice or personality? How are going to get noticed if you hide the things that make you who you are? I help people communicate their stories and voice so that others notice and appreciate them for who they are. It's not very easy to capture your own voice, and sometimes we need help figuring out what really makes us different.

Bad Rule #2: Focus on your customers. What you offer shouldn’t be what everybody wants. It should be what some people want and it should be what you want to offer. If you want to stand out, be specific and focus on what matters to you. You should know why you’re doing what you’re doing; the right people for you will follow.

Bad Rule #3: Trust tradition. Tried and true will only get you so far. If humans evolve and change is inevitable, it’s time to let go of the status quo. Yes, change is hard. So is succeeding. Nothing amazing ever came from playing it safe.

If you are ready to break rules and want to learn what rules you should break, I invite you to come talk to me and grab one of my business cards. We can have fun breaking bad things together.