If you Google the phrase ‘improve your email marketing’, you get 11,800,000 results.
That’s a lot of content, which suggests a lot of people are looking for help with their emails. And it’s not surprising. Email use worldwide is predicted to top 3 billion users by 2020. Granted, they won’t all be users of your tech, but that’s a lot of potential subscribers.
But have you ever turned to your own inbox for inspiration?
You should because it’s amazing what you’ll start to notice when you browse the subject lines. Incidentally, ‘how to improve your email open rate’ is another popular related search – and by improving that, you’ll naturally improve your email marketing.
Anyway. Let me give you an example and then we’ll look at why it works. Then we’ll look at ways that you can use it to improve your email marketing for your tech company.
Ryanair and classic movies?
I’ve flown with Ryanair a few times over the last six years or so. Like their other passengers, I got hundreds of emails at the height of their ‘problems’ in 2017.
You know, when it felt weird to be getting emails about cheap flights when they had no pilots.
Normally, I delete the emails without opening them. I’m not the type of person to book a flight unless I actually have a holiday planned – so why read their emails in the meantime?
But this one caught my eye. Or, to be specific, the subject line caught my eye.
Whoa. Did Ryanair just reference Casablanca?!
Yes yes, I know. In the movie, the line is “We’ll always have Paris”. But Ryanair made the email specific to me by referencing the last place I flew to with them. Stuttgart.
Being a copywriter, I nodded in approval at their use of ‘disruption’ to get my attention. Disruption usually refers to companies who disrupt a tried-and-tested formula and change the way a whole industry works.
Look at Uber, Deliveroo, or any of the other recent tech companies who changed the way we use taxis or deliver food.
Here, Ryanair disrupted their own brand to stand out. Let’s be honest, Ryanair isn’t the type of brand to usually quote classic movies. My own curiosity prompted me to open the email.
Here’s the email itself. The Casablanca reference pops up again, in the “as time goes by” line.
It’s short and to the point. If you want to improve your email marketing, that’s often the way to go. I know some people advise you write long and personal emails to your subscribers. But let’s be honest. People are busy. Why take 1200 words to say what you can say in 200?
Let’s look at what Ryanair did that was so unexpected.
They looked to the past, instead of the present.
First, the subject line referred to an earlier booking I’d made (last year, in fact). It established a relationship with the company and previous buying behaviour.
No breathless exclamation marks here.
The short subject line didn’t include the usual ‘book now!’ or ‘sale still on!’ desperation tactics I’ve come to expect from Ryanair. That provoked a ‘ooh, what do they want?’ response from me.
They made good use of the email preview to include an extra quote – ‘You must remember this’. So many companies don’t add a preview so the first line of the email appears instead.
The link between a budget airline and a classic film is unusual. Humans like novelty and are drawn to new and shiny things (we’re basically magpies). That novelty prompted my curiosity – and humans can’t abide unresolved issues. To satisfy my curiosity about why they’d referenced Casablanca, I had to open the email.
Awesome use of pronouns
Brands like Ryanair often use ‘you’ to try and snag your attention. Or they ditch pronouns altogether and use subject lines like ‘half price flights now available!’ The use of the word ‘we’, while part of the quote, also builds a sense that we’re somehow in it together. We’re part of a team.
How can you improve your email marketing using the Ryanair example?
So we’ve looked at why the Ryanair example worked. But how can you use it to improve your email marketing?
Let’s go over those points again. Use this as a checklist if you want to try it out.
Make Good Use of Your Subject Lines
You want your subscriber to click on your email. Your subject line is the only real indication of what’s in the email. So use it to grab attention.
Don’t just tell them there’s a sale on, or you have a new piece of software coming out. Refer to your relationship together – even if that’s just a previous email, an earlier purchase, or something else that ties the subscriber to you.
Use segmentation to help you with this. You don’t want to refer to a previous purchase with brand new subscribers who have never bought from you. Send different emails to different segments based on their interactions with you.
Benefits, not Features
This is a maxim of copywriting for a reason. Ryanair’s usual tactic of ‘half price off all seats’ tells me they have a sale on. While the benefit is implied – I’ll save money – they’re still focusing on the feature. Their ‘We’ll always have Stuttgart’ subject line doesn’t have any features but its reminder of a previous flight demonstrates the benefit of their service. Those benefits include the romance and memories of travel.
For tech companies, it’s easy to default to the features of your software or gadgets. Focus instead on what benefits those features have for your users. Think about time-saving, or simplicity.
Use the Email Preview
Ryanair shoehorned in an extra quote using the email preview. That’s valuable real estate in the inbox. Real estate that, in this case, is totally wasted.
So if you’re wondering how to increase your email open rate, experiment with using the preview box. If you’ve got a more leftfield subject line, you could use the preview to be more concrete about the contents of the email.
Or make a game out of using the email preview to showcase classic film and television quotes. Let your subscribers play along. Perhaps you could turn it into a competition.
I’m going to stay something contentious here. I actually think it’s okay to go off-brand every once in a while. It’s an easy way to provoke curiosity that can only be satiated by opening the email.
Do it too often and subscribers will get bored. Or they’ll see it as gimmicky. And if your email subject lines have nothing to do with the email, they’ll get annoyed.
But threading something unexpected through your subject line and email is a great way to remind subscribers that there’s a human being at the other end of that email. People buy from people, not faceless brands.
Invite Subscribers into your World
Do you use the word ‘we’ to refer to your company? Try pivoting to use ‘we’ to encompass your company and your subscribers. Make them feel like they’re part of what you do, or that you’re going through something together.
If in doubt, test, test, test
No one gets email marketing right the first time. But in between devising target audience personas, using swipe files, and becoming a slave to open rates, it’s easy to forget your subscribers are people.
So A/B test your subject lines to find the ones that get the best results. Test out different email previews. Link your subject lines and email content to create a smooth experience for your users. Try using a conversational tone instead of a corporate one. Be unexpected.
And you’ll figure out how to improve your email engagement.
Not sure how to be quirky or unexpected in your emails? Check out my Tremendous Time Saver Package to see if a one-off email to your list (by me, ghostwriting for you) could improve your email marketing.