A few months ago I received an email from a bank. It told me that I can and should “Simplify my loans”.
I don’t have any, and this landed in the spam folder, but regardless I grew curious about the campaign – this is an occupational hazard for copywriters I guess, we love to dissect bad marketing campaigns and ads.
In the email I received there was a picture of some chess figure with this message. But when I clicked on the link, I was taken to an entirely different place, or so I perceived it.
First, the colors, fonts and the overall look of the landing page I arrived on had nothing to do with the visuals of the email.
Second, the headline on that page told me to “Get a preliminary assessment now!” and asked for my phone number immediately.
What happened to loans? What will you assess? Why are you asking for my number right away without offering me anything of value?
Also: don’t you know that most people don’t even like to be called today?
This is a great example of how a message is ruined. You click on a promising offer and you are taken somewhere where you can’t even find an offer resembling that. You get confused, lose trust and likely turn back right at that instant, because you feel the whole thing is suspicious.
This article is the third piece in our Email Copywriting series. You can find a list of other articles below.
Why you must match your messages
Simply, because of trust. Besides common sense, several studies have confirmed that trust is basically the most important factor in e-commerce.
This study by the Brawijaya University examined how trust is built in e-commerce. One of the deciding factors is integrity, and one of their main suggestions toward e-marketeres is to “deliver what was promised”.
Now it would be easy to think of this only in terms of products: if the customer pays for dog food, don’t send them hair gel. But the first transaction happens much earlier.
The first time your potential customer pays you is when they open your email and then when they click on your CTA. They invest their valuable time because you promise them equally or more valuable results with your headlines, copy and CTA. Now, if I really want to “simplify my loans” for example and you take me to a page where you immediately ask for my phone number, I will suspect that you want something else, possible for me to talk to one of your salesmen who will try to sell me a bunch of things.
It is also a well-known phenomena that people tend to see familiar things as more aesthetic, trustworthy and so on. Google called this prototypicality in their 2012 study.
What they discovered is that the more a website looks like it is expected from that certain category of websites the more beautiful we see them (if they are not too complex).
In short: the first interaction is already based on a promise by you. Expectations are set, and if you don’t deliver, your promise is broken and trust suffers.
Avoid cognitive dissonance
This might be obvious, but on the long run it is easy to loose track of some of your messages.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when the person you are targeting with your message is pursued to accept an opinion, a point of view which conflicts their current one. In your campaign this can be problematic if you advocate different things in campaigns or emails following each other, or in your email and on your landing page.
Let’s say I first wanted to sell you an email marketing training, and than a landing page creation training (because I really do these things). My first message may very well be centered around how all your online marketing misses is email marketing. That I will teach you how to write direct response emails and than your marketing will be finally perfect. (I wouldn’t really write this, but lets just roll with it for now.)
It makes sense to sell a landing page training to the same audience: the two topics complement each other perfectly and those who come to the first training will know what to expect and will likely be easier to sell to.
But if for the second training my message is that your online marketing is all but worthless about landing pages – well, than I am contradicting my earlier message. I will seem desperate and dishonest, while my audience will experience cognitive dissonance, if my previous message was effective and they have accepted it.
Avoiding this is a basic in influencing people. This is why you never tell a potential customer that their previous choice of product or service is bad – because you would be saying they did something wrong. No, you communicate that what they are doing is OK, but it could also be great.
This is how it works:
Now, let’s get to the topic of creating matching messages.
Identify and clarify your main message
First, you must align the copy of your email and landing page. If either one is ready, then you should have no problem with identifying the main message, as you have already written the headline/subject line and CTAs.
Messages should also match inside the email – the copy and the subject line should work together. Take a newsletter I received from Skyword’s The Content Standard. This was the subject line:
Daniel, is your audience sick of fast food media?
And this is how the copy started:
Your audience is hungry. But somewhere along the line, between fake news stories, rapid-fire social media responses, and entire series of television that can be consumed in a weekend, instant gratification became too insubstantial for their tastes.
Not only it is a nice allegory, it plays out perfectly.
Then comes the the question of your CTA and landing page headline. Also from my inbox is this email from ion interactive. This is how the email looked when I opened it:
And this is the landing page to which the “Get the PDF” CTA brought me:
See, message match is mostly about emphasizing your main keywords. In this case it was “case study”, but others are also there – “interactive content”, “PDF” and the “story”–“content experience” pair.
Of course in this example the design already shows strong connection since the visuals correspond perfectly. But if you use less design, colors, images, the copy becomes even more important.
(Also, notice how my information is already filled in – that wasn’t me, this is how the automatically generated link, containing my info, opened the landing page for me. This is what great personalization looks like.)
Focusing your message also means that you only offer on your landing page the same thing that you offer in your email.
If you present one service or product in which I am interested in (and by clicking through, I am definitely expressing that interest), don’t hit me with a dozen other things.
I actually had to search for a bad example for this one as at this time I didn’t find an English one in my spam folder (thankfully). So, here is a really bad solution which ConversionXL found:
This is usually a practice of sites selling coupons and vouchers: they send out a barely (or not at all) segmented offer and drive traffic to a page with dozens of different offers.
A much better strategy is to create different, traffic source specific landing pages for all your campaigns. Create one for your newsletter, one for Facebook, one for AdWords and so on.
Include only one offer and write the copy accordingly.
Don’t be redundant
Matching your messages doesn’t mean that you should repeat everything that you wrote in your email on your landing page.
First, you have to know how recipients usually treat your email. Do those who really click through read what is in it or just skim and skip to the CTA?
If they do read the email, than you should include most of your marketing copy there. With features and benefits, social proof and all. If they don’t, than logically the place where you have to concentrate is your landing page.
Im most cases I prefer to write extensive copy both for the email and landing page. But certain elements are always at least a little different.
Benefits for example. In the email I usually include one or two of the main benefits and reinforce them properly to get recipients go click on the CTA.
Than on the landing page I am asking more from them (subscription or even a purchase), so I must offer more. I briefly mention of course what was in the email, but further benefits are much more detailed here.
Let’s look at social proof. In the email I usually include one or two short quotes from satisfied clients. The landing page features much more, but different ones – and if possible also other elements, like a counter how many have already accepted the offer.
Keep the brand consistent
Message match should also be preserved on a higher level. Throughout you campaign and on a brand level too.
Your ongoing newsletter for example should have a tone that does not change radically. Your audience is used to a certain style and if you have decently low unsubscribe rates, they are happy with it. So don’t try to be original by suddenly changing that.
For a good example see how Steve Roller (a great copywriter by the way) sends out his emails:
Those subject lines are consistent. They are personal, to-the-point, short and they make readers curious.
My advice is to plan ahead: create a content calendar for all your campaigns.
If you plan to use storytelling, draw up the arc of the story that you will tell.
If you are going to promote your products, make sure to build your offer from the ground up. Your calendar should look something like this (this exact one is from BrightIdeas):
Let’s see an example. If you are selling some kind of subscription service or product, you can build an entire sequence of emails for your leads. In these emails, you can tell a story of an active subscriber, even write the emails from their point of view. (As long as it is consistent with your overall communication, but a little originality and change of tone will not hurt.)
In this case you can draw up the sequence like this:
- First email: Introduction, how I found the service, why I decided to subscribe
- Second email: How I used the service to improve my business
- Third email: Tips how you can use the service + special limited offer
You get the idea.
How your email should look and feel
I try to avoid crossing to the design territory in these articles because these are mainly about copywriting. Also, as a copywriter I regularly have to explain that design follows the copy, and not the other way. (Try selling something in person while wearing your best suit but not saying a word.)
If you want to create a newsletter or any kind of sales email that feels like it does have integrity, we should discuss how you should edit it.
First of all, don’t use more than 3 different fonts. This is also good advice because most email clients and platforms won’t recognize a great majority of available fonts, but right now that is not my main point.
One font for the headline, the main message. One for the sub-headlines. One for the copy. This should be more than enough for you. And perfect for the reader, because it makes identifying certain parts of the email easier, without confusing them with a dozen different fonts.
Now you may only use plain text like, very minimal HTML emails as we have discussed briefly in our previous article. But in this case you can still play around with font sizes, colors, bullet points and basic editing.
Try to keep these consistent – don’t use a bunch of different colors and copy with similar purpose should have the same font size – and so on like this.
Without message match your campaign is pointless
I can’t elaborate this further: always keep consistency on every level of your brand and your campaigns, from the overall style of your marketing communication down to the sub-headlines.
If you are not sure that you have kept the match, show the email (and landing page) to some people before sending out. Test it, ask them if they feel the consistency, the smoothness you are aiming for.
And if they tell you they don’t, follow this guide above to perfect your copy.