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Serial Storytelling: Permission E-Mail Marketing’s Missing Link
  Serial Storytelling  |  List Selection & Targeting  |  Copywriting & Design  |  E-Mail Analytics  

Permission e-mail marketing works best when you send a series of messages with a common theme that tell an ongoing story about your company and its products. We refer to this approach as “serial storytelling.” Unfortunately, serial storytelling is a best practice that is seldom practiced.

You're Busy. We Can Help.The Flawed Logic of Conventional Wisdom
Conventional wisdom suggests that companies should limit the frequency of their e-mail advertising to prevent list fatigue and spam accusations. Proponents of this philosophy often run just one e-mail advertisement in a given campaign. This strategy places an enormous and unfair burden on that lone e-mail message to perform.

The single e-mail blast grew out of the following flawed logic:

   1.   E-mail marketing is related to traditional direct marketing.
2.   A traditional direct marketing campaign often consists of just one mailing.
3.   Therefore, you can likewise limit an e-mail marketing campaign to just one mailing.

Permission E-Mail Marketing ≠ Traditional Direct Marketing
In the traditional direct marketing world, advertisers often limit a campaign to one mailing because of cost considerations (creative, printing, postage, etc.), and, more importantly, because they can tell a complete story in one mailing. For example, a mailing might consist of a letter from the CEO, a collection of favorable testimonials and press clippings, a feature comparison chart, an order form, and whatever else might help close a sale. Recipients can read all of this material or only some of it, and they can read it out of order in a non-linear fashion.

E-mail advertising works differently. People tend to read e-mail messages from top to bottom in a linear fashion. This linearity actually works to an advertiser's advantage because it provides more control over recipient behavior. However, cramming the material from a traditional direct marketing campaign into one e-mail message results in an overly long message more likely to confuse rather than persuade.

The Power of Serial Storytelling
Advertisers fare much better when they tell an ongoing story with a common theme over a series of e-mail messages (e.g., a letter from the CEO in the first message, favorable testimonials and press clippings in the second message, a feature comparison chart in the third message, and so forth). Serial storytelling is particularly important for complex products and services. The more complex a product or service, the more an advertiser must educate prospects before it can capture leads, close sales, and generate referrals.

In a typical multiple message e-mail campaign, some recipients inevitably respond to the first installment, but many other qualified prospects do not. These fence sitters don't respond for a variety of reasons (e.g., they delete the message because they're busy, they misunderstand what the product or service does, they like what they see, but want to learn more, etc.) By the third or fourth installment of a well-orchestrated campaign, these fence sitters typically begin responding.

Editorial Content: The Secret Ingredient
To prevent list fatigue and wrongful spam accusations, serial storytelling has one additional component—the campaign must balance promotional material with compelling editorial content. Including interesting, helpful,, or entertaining content along with your sales pitch creates a rich contextual framework that facilitates the frequency required by serial storytelling. To express their appreciation for this content, recipients pay more attention to the accompany sales pitches and look forward to future installments.

You're Busy. We Can Help.
Serial storytelling outperforms the single e-mail blast, but it also requires more work. Who better to do this work for you than the people behind the serial storytelling methodology.

Contact us to discuss your next permission e-mail marketing campaign
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