Being Negative Can Have a Positive Effect on Your Email Marketing

Being Negative Can Have a Positive Effect on Email Marketing

It has been said that your biggest competitor isn’t your competitor: It’s apathy. That’s because it’s easier to do nothing than to make a change, even if you aren’t happy with your current widget. This willingness to settle for what is rather than try to make things better applies to everything from deodorant to lawn mowers to accounting software. It’s a case of the devil you know vs. the one you don’t: We humans are usually more comfortable with the devil we know.

That’s why it’s okay to sometimes talk about the stuff that hurts in your email copy. Many marketers want to avoid appearing negative in any way in their email content, but that’s actually riskier than being willing to call out pain points.

After all, if you don’t point out that there’s a problem, how can you suggest that there’s a solution? You have to raise a little doubt in the mind of the prospect.

Let’s take deodorant as an example—not because deodorant gets marketed by email (at least not the deodorant I buy), but because the principle applies no matter the product.

So, let’s say we’re going to market this deodorant to males between the ages of 18 and 49. We can go one of two routes in our email marketing:

  • We can extol the virtues of this deodorant, telling them how great it is, how long it lasts, how good it smells, how cheap it is, etc. Anyone who opens this email likely already has a stick of deodorant sitting on his bathroom counter and it works just fine, thank you very much. So why change? Sure, that other brand sounds good, but what a hassle to go buy a new brand when he already has the other one that works “good enough.” We stick with the positive that so many marketers want, but were we effective?
  • Or we can risk being negative. We can use fear, and warn these men of the dangers of inadequate deodorant. For example, we can paint a picture of being on a first date or in an important meeting with a slight stench coming from one’s armpits because his deodorant wasn’t up to the task. We can talk about the poor impression he’ll make on someone if he stinks, and the assumptions people will make about his personal hygiene. Then, we can talk about how our brand of deodorant is X times stronger than the next leading brand and lasts X times longer, suggesting that it’s worth it to buy our brand and not risk the consequences of another.

Yes, it’s negative email copy, but it is designed to plant doubt in the prospect’s mind. When we point out the risks involved with that other deodorant, we switch his thinking from, “My deodorant is good enough,” to, “Is my deodorant good enough?”

Apathy is an issue for just about anyone in marketing, because it’s always going to be easier for someone to stick with what they’re buying than to switch to what you’re selling. Being willing to risk a little negativity in your email content might be just the thing to nudge that prospect a little closer to buying your brand.

I used to drive past a tree-trimming company that advertised their business with a huge banner saying “Are your trees safe?” All of the thousands of us that drove past that business each day were likely all thinking the same thing: Yes, they are.

What the banner should have asked is, “Are your trees dangerous?” Now that’s raising doubt…and it’s a lot more likely to get someone to call and arrange for an assessment of their trees.

Positive vs. negative. Use the one that works.

Thanks for reading!

-Scott

scottScott Hardigree is the Founder of Email Industries, the folks behind Indiemark and BlackBox.

One comment

  1. Scott, thats a great post. I run a company around email too, and we’ve just started taking some steps towards building a good email campaign. (All our our leads are currently inbound). I’ll keep your advice about using negative in mind. Thanks!

    Do check out our product GrexIt when you have a coupe of mins. It lets you share Gmail labels which is great for delegating emails as tasks.

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