14 July 2010

Avoidng the BACN Purge: An E-Newsletter Done Right

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango LLC + Incorrigible BACN Addict

I have few addictions, but I confess to loving me some bacon. I’ve tempered my addiction somewhat by subbing in turkey bacon, but that’s like seeking a buzz off light beer. It’s possible but hardly as satisfying.

Same thing goes for most e-newsletters. I think they’re going to be great, so I subscribe to a whole slew of them. Yet every morning the first thing I do when I check my email is delete almost every single one.

There’s a term for e-newsletters that we subscribe to but never read: “bacn” — which is a step above that other four-letter word, spam.

So what separates e-newsletters we read from bacn we don’t?

The good ones pull a Don Corleone and make us an offer we can’t refuse.

Take the following e-newsletter I just got from The Jared Company, a Blackberry application developer. I just bought my first Blackberry a few weeks ago, because I love being electronically leashed to my clients 24/7. And nowadays, no smartphone is complete without a load of apps on it. So I bought a few. Over the ensuing weeks, other app developers sent me updates and plugs for their other products, but JaredCo did something different: they made me like them.

The e-newsletter arrived with the subject heading, “Tether Your Blackberry: How To Guide.” And, yes, thank you, I would like to know how to hook my Blackberry up to my laptop to get Internet access. So in the midst of one of my early morning bacn purges, I actually stopped and clicked on one to find the following:

So what’s to like? First, there’s no phony attempt to address me by name — as 21st century consumers, we all know such “personalization” is computer generated. However, the newsletter is personal: written in the first person and first-person plural, while signed by an actual human being. Who’s Michael? No idea. His real name could be Akash Ramachandran for all it matters. But the point is that JaredCo knows it’s invading my e-mailbox, so it’s at least making a nod toward being personal. To top that off, Michael solicits feeback. Nice touch.

But all that social hocus-pocus would mean nothing if the newsletter didn’t have value, and this one does: a free PDF full of advice I want. Sure, it’s not a free iPad or chance to win a trip to the Bahamas, but it’s still useful. Better yet, there’s no commitment on my part — I don’t have to sign up for anything, enter a contest, or recommend a friend. I just click. And that click helps JaredCo measure the effectiveness of their campaign beyond a mere “open.” Yes, Michael, you got the attention of your customer and the desired action for your post-campaign analytics.

The PDF guide is also branded, with links back to the JaredCo site — nice integration. My only beef* is that the tethering guide was about PC’s, and I’m a Mac user. I guess they assumed most Apple fanboys have iPhones, but I’m one of those strange consumers who wants a phone with good reception. Go figure.

So after all that, I got left out. Sigh. But I was still impressed enough to blog about this bit of promotion. There’s nothing dazzling about it — this e-newsletter likely won’t hit the cover of AdAge or the pages of Mashable — it’s just smart marketing by a small company. Keep that up, and they’ll soon be a big company bringing home lots of the real good kind of bacon.

Update 7/15/10: I forwarded this blog post to Michael as an fyi, and within a few hours he sent me a link to a third-party article on how to tether my Mac. Nice. (And, yes, Michael is his real name.)


Shameless plug: Want to create a corporate e-newsletter that doesn’t become bacn? Contact us…

*Sorry about all the meat references — it’s almost dinner.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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