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How to Make Promotional Emails Compelling

February 23, 2013

First a business must get its emails read

A business must get its customers to read its promotional emails before they have the chance to compel the customers to act. To avoid having its digital campaigns being tossed out into the trash bins, a business must seek to construct its promotional emails with the right etiquettes. 

In the digital market, the followings are considered good practices in cyberspace, and promotional emails must meet most, if not all, of these virtues to avoid entering the digital waste baskets before they are read:

  • Obtain customer opt-ins before sending them emails
  • Provide customers clear and easy opt-out mechanism in their emails
  • Use short and crisp subject line
  • Use short message body because it must grab attention in less than 10 seconds
  • Send between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays or on weekends in customer time zones
  • Do not send more frequently than bi-weekly
  • Personalize the emails
  • Use double opt-in wisely to let in willful opt-ins and keep out accidentals
  • Send correlated emails in a coherent and adequately paced manner
  • Use graphics to enhance appeal, but do not overdo it

Whatever a business does, the first thing is to get its email campaigns read rather than discarded or spammed. Only those emails that are read have the chance to compel the customers. Thus promotional emails must be created with the right web etiquette.

Then these emails must entice the customers to act favorably 

Now what? After getting read, the emails themselves have to strongly appeal to the customers’ senses to enchant them to act. If the customers are not compelled to act as the business desires, then the campaign emails will hit the trash basket very soon. The same business with emails consistently failing to trigger customers to act favorably will sooner or later be filtered out, and this means it will potentially lose those customers for good. Therefore a business must realize that it is not no-harm-done when customers read but do not act. It has to strive very hard to create compelling emails to win. If its emails repeatedly fail to entice desirable actions out of the customers, it will end up in a worse situation than when it started because its customers might opt out, or might block its future emails. Remember, customers not predisposed are opportunities, irritated ones are losses. Therefore a business must make its promotions compelling.

A business can apply the CUESTA principle to make promotional emails enticing 

Below are six winning attributes which I called CUESTA that emails need to possess to captivate the customers. Incidentally cuesta is a Spanish word that means a ridge which is steep on one side and gentle on the other. For a business to get its read emails acted upon favorably is like climbing a ridge from the steep side, but once the ridge is conquered, the descend on the gentle slope will be very rewarding and enjoyable. These six winning attributes, CUESTA, are:

  • Compelling: The offer must compel the customers to act favorably
  • Unique: The offer must be unique in a certain way
  • Exclusive: The offer must be exclusive to the customers, not just anybody
  • Sensational: The offer must positively excite the customers’ senses
  • Timely: The offer must be well timed, with short duration, and preferably against a significant event or day like birthday, or Christmas for example
  • Affiliated: The customers must feel the affinity strongly

Thus campaign emails must score high on the CUESTA scale to stimulate customers to act favorably.

Let’s review a couple of recent promotional emails on the CUESTA scale

The first promotional email was from Ryan’s and it was almost CUESTA because it had four out of the six winning characteristics. This offer did not compel the offeree to act because it was not unique, and did not make the offeree feel the affinity. But it was still strong enough to entice the offeree to consider the offer. If Ryan’s had had offered to custom make a dinner complete with three main courses, a cup of soup, an appetizer, a dessert, and a cup of coffee all at the offeree’s choice, the offer would have been unique and upped the compelling score at the same time. And it might sway the offeree enough to take the bait.

The second promotional email was from Kohl’s. The offeree trashed it because it did not compel. Five out of the six CUESTA elements are missing from this offer, and it’s no coincidence that it was tossed into the digital garbage pail:

  • Compelling: The offer is hardly compelling when many department stores offer 20% or even higher discounts
  • Unique: The offer is not unique at all and in fact Kohl’s has been doing this frequently
  • Exclusive: The offer is not exclusive because it is for everybody and anybody
  • Sensational: The graphics and the message are clear, but not sensational
  • Timely: This is the only CUESTA element that this offer contains
  • Affiliated: The offeree did not feel any strong affinity to this offer

Compelling is the most important of the CUESTA principles 

It may be hard for any business to come up with promotions that meet high standards of CUESTA. But if a business can do only one out of the six virtues right, then it better be “compelling”. Let’s take an additional look at the first example offer. The offer of a buy one get one free dinner buffet is not compelling enough because many restaurants offer the same thing. What if Ryan’s had had upped the ante by adding a small birthday cake with the offeree’s name and the words “happy birthday” inscribed on top, would it score the unique and affiliated virtues? Would it also enhance its compelling factor?

Author: Chi-Pong Wong (All Rights Reserved by the author)
Source: Original Text (based upon first hand knowledge)
Image: © michaeljung –
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