Who Else Wants to Write Better Email Copy?

VR Retention Marketing Specialist, Amber Ricchetti, recently attended a DMA copywriting seminar in NYC. She came back with a ton of great insight, ideas and tips on how to improve ouremail and online copy. They’re too good to be kept secret, so I wanted to pass them along to you, too.

Here are Amber’s top 13 picks from the seminar to help you instantly improve your email copy:

  1. Ask the 4 Key Questions: Before you begin to write, ask yourself these four key questions.
    • What am I selling (at emotional level)?
    • To whom am I selling?
    • Why am I selling this now (will it make sense to the customer)?
    • What do I want my reader to do (Calls to Action)?
  2. Consider Your Font Style: Sans-serif fonts, such as Arial, Verdana and Helvetica, are easier to read online than serif. If people find it difficult to read your copy, they won’t!
  3. Read Your Copy Out Loud: This will help you hear what your readers hear.
  4. Cut the Clutter: William Zinsser wrote that “clutter is the disease of American writing.” The quickest way to improve your copy is by removing any unnecessary words such as “that”or “to.”
  5. Use the Rhythm of 3: List your examples in groups of three. The Rhythm gives a great cadence to your copy.
  6. Use Bucket Brigade Words: Bucket brigade words help you move your copy forward. They include remember, and, but, consider, however, for example..and more!
  7. Vary Sentence Length: It is important to vary your sentence length to hold your reader’s attention. And don’t be afraid to use sentence fragments – this isn’t your college English class!
  8. Differentiate Between Features vs. Benefits: Features are what the product has. Benefits are what it will provide the customers. The customer will always ask, “What’s in it for me?” Be sure you tell them.
  9. Write In the Second Person: Focus on one person (you/your) rather than a group (our customers). This makes your reader feel special and highlights how the product can benefit them.
  10. Write Less Copy: People read 25% slower online than offline, so you need to write less copy so they will read it.
  11. Don’t Hide Your Key Points: Keep your most important points at the beginning of paragraphs, bullets and lists.
  12. Keep Paragraphs Short: Make sure your paragraphs are no more than 3 lines long. Otherwise you might lose your reader’s attention.
  13. Remember Odd vs. Even: Odd numbers are easier to remember than even, so use an odd number whenever possible.

What makes an idea viral?

For an idea to spread, it needs to be sent and received.

No one “sends” an idea unless:
a. they understand it
b. they want it to spread
c. they believe that spreading it will enhance their power (reputation, income, friendships) or their peace of mind
d. the effort necessary to send the idea is less than the benefits

No one “gets” an idea unless:
a. the first impression demands further investigation
b. they already understand the foundation ideas necessary to get the new idea
c. they trust or respect the sender enough to invest the time

This explains why online ideas spread so fast but why they’re often shallow. Nietzsche is hard to understand and risky to spread, so it moves slowly among people willing to invest the time. Numa Numa, on the other hand, spread like a toxic waste spill because it was so transparent, reasonably funny and easy to share.

Notice that ideas never spread because they are important to the originator.

Notice too that a key dynamic in the spread of the idea is the capsule that contains it. If it’s easy to swallow, tempting and complete, it’s a lot more likely to get a good start.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s no role for mystery or ideas that unfold over time. In fact, the unmeasurable variable here is style. Howard Dean’s ideas spread at the beginning–not because of the economic ramifications of his immigration policy, but because of the factors above. The way they were presented fit into the worldview of those that spread them.

A key element in the spread of ideas is their visual element. iPods and visual styles spread faster in the real world than ephemeral concepts. Pictures and short jokes spread faster online because the investment necessary to figure out if they’re worth spreading is so tiny.

And of course, plenty of bad ideas spread. Panic, for instance, is a superbad idea at all times, but it spreads faster than most. That’s because spreading an idea is rarely a thoughtful, voluntary act. Instead, it is near the core of who we are, and we often do it without thinking much about the implications.

Life lessons from big cats

Beverly + Dereck Joubert live in the bush, filming and photographing lions and leopards in their natural habitat. With stunning footage (some never before seen), they discuss their personal relationships with these majestic animals — and their quest to save the big cats from human threats.

Travel Marketing

Travel marketing – sink or swim…

This is an updated post following on from my original published back in September 2010. I’ve been seriously humbled by the traffic and chatter the post has generated. Obviously there’s some awesome agency operators out there thirsty for knowledge.

So considering how fast the travel marketing landscape is constantly changing and evolving, here’s some fresh ideas.

Take a good look at your website…or build one!

Your website is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. You can track and trace what’s working and what’s not, and promote new products almost instantly to a global audience. Some agencies argue that they have an older client base with no use for a website. That may ring true now, but how will you service the tech savvy travellers down the track? Sink.

Got a great website with no traffic or a website that needs work but you’re not sure where to start? Start with the foundations and work your way up. Is your site really capturing who you are as a brand? Is there enough content to convert visitors to sales? Is it user friendly?

Think responsive web design! You don’t need to look far to find stats about the increase in website visits from mobile and tablet devices. Is your website optimised for viewing from mobiles and tablets? At OnQ we choose only to build responsive websites for our clients, and it is for good reason. More on that later.

In terms of your website content be sure to offer an enticing reason for people to sign-up to your newsletter. Include a travel blog (discussed below) and social media ‘like’ buttons. Include a promotions page to encourage people to interact with your site. Encourage reviews and return visits.

Assign a staff member to update the site regularly – search engines love fresh content, and keeping it updated can drive your organic search engine ranking up. A little effort will go a long way with your website. Swim.

 Social Media – Get it Right

The number of social media platforms available to travel companies seems to be growing by the day. Choosing the correct social media platform will depend upon your objectives and your  target market.

Each business is different, so too should your social media strategy. The key takeaway is the word ‘strategy.’ A poorly planned and managed social media strategy can hurt your brand and dampen your spirits. So, sit down and compile a strategy or seek advice from an agency before you set about posting, tweeting and pinning.

Learn from some of the successful tourism operators on social media and identify what type of content is being shared. I can tell you right now that photos work a treat so you may want to look at Instagram and Pinterest as potential platforms.


Must read article – Travel Market Report.
Mobile Marketing – Get onto it

EyeforTravel’s consumer research shows that 20% of bookings made today in the USA are made via mobile with this number is set to rise. Other research from PhoCusWright says that by 2014 nearly one in five online travel dollars will be booked via smartphone or tablet. Mobile transactions are becoming mainstream (link to Jac Mobile Blog – coming soon) in the travel industry, so can you afford to ignore this space? Sink.

Did you know that in Australia mobile phone subscriptions surpass our population? 

Smartphone or not, one thing you can be guaranteed is that each and every handset will have SMS capability. Look into SMS marketing and be first to reach your clients with specials deals and updates.

Think video

Reading about travel destinations is one thing, but viewing video brings a destination to life and has the ability to send your business viral. Youtube has a plethora of useful tools that can improve your video popularity. Set up a Youtube channel for your business. Get creative or outlay the funds to brand your videos. Encourage your staff to film snippets of famils, run a video competition through your database and award a prize for best travel video. This exercise does not need to cost you a lot of money, just a little time.

A great example of an agency engaging Youtube as a marketing tool is the STA World Traveller Internship. Do a Youtube search for STA World Traveller Intern and the results speak for themselves. You don’t need to get this fancy, but it’s a great example of how a little creativity can go a long way. Swim.

Blogging –  Share your knowledge

If you’re time poor engage your staff members to blog. Your blog entries need not be long, but need to be interesting. Use this tool at every opportunity to let people know where you staff have been on famil trips, what their recommendations are and destination/travel tips. Run a competition to encourage your clients to blog and then post the winner to your website. Swim.

One of my favourites is www.upgradetravelbetter.com . You also can’t go past inside-digital.blog.lonelyplanet.com and www.travelblog.org .

Reviews and Check-Ins

‘Reputation is revenue’ couldn’t be more apt. Olery reports that 81% of travellers find travel reviews important and 49% won’t book a property without sighting reviews. You can increase sales and maximise revenue with travel reviews, but how?

Encourage your clients to leave reviews on review sites like Trip Advisor and Expedia, on social networking sites and on your blog. This can have a double edged affect – the user generated content can help to boost your website ranking, whilst the review itself can increase confidence in your products and services, and boost conversion rates.

Keep check also on reviews that accompany check-ins on Facebook and Foursquare.

Most importantly – don’t forget to nurture reviews and respond accordingly if the need arises. Swim.

Leverage your suppliers

Nothing new here, but how many of you are not using your suppliers to their full potential? Lock in information nights and ask  your suppliers to present and/or supply marketing material. Push them for exclusive value-ads valid for bookings made within a week of the event. Wheel and deal for giveaways to share with your newsletter subscribers on a monthly basis. Swim.

Choose your battles…

Choose your battles wisely. If you’re niche is discerning travellers with deep pockets then stick to it. Don’t start marketing budget products because monthly sales are down. If you’re a cruise agency, bundle other packages with cruise components to value add and parade your expertise.

Travellers love to share their experiences. Embrace this and reap the rewards. Swim.