‘How’s It Goin’, Eh?’ And Other Salutation Dilemmas

After I opened three emails in a row that started with “Hey there,” I realized that my surprised reaction could be attributed to my Canadian/British upbringing. But still, in a B-to-B communication, is it appropriate to open the dialogue with “Hey there”?

While it’s proven that a personalized salutation (“Dear <<First Name>>”) out-performs the more generic (“Dear Friend”) in direct mail for charitable asks, and a 2013 Email Marketing Study from Experian claims that personalized emails deliver six-times higher transaction rates, then why is the trend changing?

Like most of you, I get hundreds of business emails in my inbox every single day. Some are well written, informative and chock full of interesting and useful information — others not so much. I admit that when the email from someone I am not familiar with starts with “Dear Carolyn,” I take an extra second to scan the content because I think I may know them … and this is a marketer’s dream.

But don’t just take my focus group of one as gospel. Marketing Experiments did a head-to-head test to determine if letter-style emails were still effective, and they were able to get a 181 percent lift in conversion when a more formal/traditional style of communication was used. Why?

As Flint M. points out:

  • An email message is not a monologue; it’s a dialogue. People buy from people.
  • If the marketer can learn to participate with the prospect’s conversation, they can guide it with messaging towards your desired conclusion (clicks/purchase).
  • Effective email messaging requires one key skill: Empathy (the ability to discern the nature or being of the customer).

The bottom line is that in order for B-to-B emails to be most effective, marketers must set aside their own self-interests to fundamentally understand the interests or “pain” of their target audience — and it does NOT start by addressing me as “Hey there.”

Secretly, I suspect that this new trend is coming from a few millennials tasked with email marketing for their companies and their lack of formality is because they themselves aren’t comfortable with the traditions of a more seasoned decision maker. Perhaps I’m wrong.

According to Mail Chimp, the June 2015 stats of email open and click thru rates continue to fall, and in some vertical industries they’ve fallen further than in others. If your company is falling behind the norm, I’d like to suggest taking a hard look at your email message starting with the salutation.

Don’t get me wrong. Simply slugging in “Dear <<First Name>>,” at the top of your existing email is not what I’m suggesting.

Instead, spend some time either educating yourself on best practices (just Google the terms and you’ll find hundreds of links to lots of great tips of what works and what doesn’t), or hire somebody who already knows this stuff by heart. Because if you do a good job of building a prospecting lead base or finding an appropriate cold prospecting list that can be segmented by vertical industry (a hands-down best practice!), and you match your email messaging/content to that segment with useful information that empathizes with your target and can solve one of their pain points, your open and click through rates should improve dramatically.

And leave the “Hey there” salutation for the uninformed.

Season’s Greetings!

Perhaps like me, you love summer and all it entails: longer days, outdoor play, flip-flop casualness, patio grilling, hummingbirds, wildflowers and a beachy attitude (even here in the midst of the Rocky Mountains). As a greeting card from artist Renee Reese playfully reminded me, the summer season is nearing its end. Rather than bemoan its passing, why not spend some time with your brand leaders reflecting on these questions.

Perhaps like me, you love summer and all it entails: longer days, outdoor play, flip-flop casualness, patio grilling, hummingbirds, wildflowers and a beachy attitude (even here in the midst of the Rocky Mountains). As a greeting card from artist Renee Reese playfully reminded me, the summer season is nearing its end. Rather than bemoan its passing, why not spend some time with your brand leaders reflecting on these questions:

Has your brand taken full advantage of this season’s learnings? For companies like Ben & Jerry’s, these 100 days from Memorial Day to Labor Day are the company’s prime ice cream selling days. For back-to-school retailers like Bed, Bath and Beyond and Staples, the late summer proves to be a mini-Christmas. Nordstrom’s annual Anniversary Sale in July/August is highly anticipated by its customers and gives the company a retail boost that most of their competitors won’t see until the fourth quarter. Even if your peak selling seasons don’t fall in this timeframe and your brand braces itself for the dog days of summer, it still can be a quietly productive time of the year. What did your brand do differently these past 100 days to help strengthen your customer engagement for the next 100? What more did you learn about your customers’ lives and pain points that will enhance your service levels and enrich your product development efforts?

If indeed this is a quieter season for your brand, why not literally get out of your office, away from your devices and take your leaders on a Brand Vacation day to explore and learn from what other companies in noncompetitive industries are doing? Go to a gardening center and see how the owners entice their customers to keep coming back for more plants and flowers all summer long. Go to a new restaurant in your town and see just what the trendy new chef is cooking up to lure patrons to this establishment. Go to a store in the midst of back-to-school madness and see how it organizes and promotes each school’s necessities for the kids and parents. Go to any enthusiast-specific retailer (camping, cooking, beauty, hardware) and see what impulse items they are selling to their brand fans. Gather back together and relax over a summer cocktail and talk about these field trip learnings and their potential impact and inspiration for your brand.

For many of my clients, taking time to pause, to play and to embrace a different pace—if even for an afternoon—is something that falls off the urgency-driven to do list. However, as Stephen Covey reminds us, it is just this kind of important time that refreshes and reenergizes your team and prompts new thinking.

After reflecting on these questions with your team, why not construct your own summer season greeting card to tuck away for next year as a reminder to embrace these 100 days fully?

PS If you’d like to order this handmade card, you can find it here on Etsy.