Purple Cow Email Marketing

What’s a Purple Cow?
Seth Godin wrote a book about them.  A purple cow is something remarkable.  People like these kinds of things and they will talk about them and buy them.

What is Email Marketing?
I am talking about legitimate emails from marketing folks in real companies that allow you to unsubscribe.  Not spam in Russian that you can’t get rid of.  Specifically, I am talking about the kind of emails you can send with an Email Marketing Automation system.

Current State of the typical Marketing Email
For a few years now I have become convinced that email blasts are the least effective form of marketing.  Think about the emails you receive from legit sources.

  1. They usually get flagged as spam.
  2. They usually have a ton of text that I don’t read.
  3. They never have interesting ideas or offers.
  4. Click-through rates are abysmal.

Quick Note about Lead Tracking
In Marketo (although I imagine all of the vendors work this way), there are a few ways to convert an anonymous lead into a known lead.  One of them is getting the lead to click a link in an email that I send them.  The problem is coming up with a compelling link that people want to click on.

What is an Anonymous Lead?
When someone visits your website, Marketo (although I imagine all of the vendors work this way) tracks that person as a potential lead.  It collects their IP, referrer, web activity and even figure out what company/state/country they are likely from by analyzing their IP address.  It’s good stuff, but it’s important to tie this “potential lead” to an actual lead or contact in your CRM system.  This allows your sales rep to know if the person is actively engaged and visiting the website.  They should call while the iron is hot!

Making this connection requires that the lead clicks on a link in an email or fills out a form.


Is tracking evil?
I truly believe the answer is no, and I am very sensitive to this issue. These kinds of systems don’t track where you go on your own time, but if you visit my website, I want to know who you are.  A Las Vegas casino has cameras on every single person all the time.  It’s their right and as long as no cameras are in the bathroom, I have no problem with it.  Check out Seth Godin’s Riff on The problem with anonymous.

Note to self:  I need to blog about how I think Seth is a fantastic User Experience Designer.

I put my User Experience Design hat on and this is the email I came up with which I think would be much better.

Hello {firstname},

We are a happy company.
We are so happy that we want to give away an iPod every month.
Free, for no reason.  We believe it’s good karma.

Every drawing is on the first of the month.  Next one is August 1.

No strings, no calls from sales reps.  Nothing.  Just an iPod a month to a lucky person.

Sure, I’ll try this month

No thanks, please don’t email me again
(We respect people’s privacy.)

If you want to forward this to a friend, feel free.
They can try to win each month too.

Thanks and good luck,

Name of someone specific (This is for personal communication and accountability)
Your Company

Think about the purpose of the email.

  1. A high click-through rate.
  2. More cookied/known leads that you can track through your site.
    Whether they click Yes or No thanks, it doesn’t matter.  Either click will cookie them.  Even if they say No thanks, you are cleaning your database and only emailing people who want to be in a conversation with you.
  3. A remarkable email.  It doesn’t say how great your product is.  It’s got personality and a compelling offer.  It is something (maybe) worth sending to a friend.  You have to think: What is the point of sending out an email?  Is it to get them to read your copy and love you?  Or could it be to get them engaged with you and cookie them!

The link should go to a landing page showing the previous winners with (if you can get it) a youtube video of the winner saying “Thanks, look at my new ipod!”.

Cost:  $50-200 a month for the prize (depending on the kind of iPod)
Benefit:  Cookied, engaged, opt-in leads plus an offer worth emailing a friend
Effort to set up: You could get it up and running in a day with the right marketing automation system.

Hopefully, this spurred you to have some ideas.

Please share your thoughts on ways of getting a high click-through rate and cookie those leads.

5 replies on “Purple Cow Email Marketing”

I may have missed this point but how did you get the email address in the first place? If the user already engaged with you on the site to give you an email address, shouldn’t you already have gotten them cooked & connected? Or are you sending these emails to people who have not previously visited your site?

Imagine you have a business using salesforce. You had gotten the leads in the system via multiple channels. Examples:
1. typing them in manually because you got someone’s business card.
2. salesforce web-to-lead forms.
3. Import from a list of people who attened your booth at a trade show.

Those methods don’t track people. They just get their names into a system. However, my point is Sending these people email is not a good idea to make more sales. You have to engage with them. Give them a reason to talk to you and know about you. Sending out a newsletter is the wrong tack.

Also, tracking people with an automation system means that sending out emails has a purpose beyond just “eyeballs”.

OK, so you’re talking about people with at least some basic level of interest in your product. Seems to me that you’re doing the product a disservice by trying to drive traffic with an offer that’s completely unrelated to the product. You’ll drive click-throughs by giving away an iPod but will it be the kind of click-throughs you really want?

Offer something valuable but more relevant. How about buying distribution rights to a good research report from one of the big guns (Forrester, Marketing Profs, etc) and giving that away instead? Many of the people in your target market don’t have accounts with those shops but would really appreciate the access to something that normally costs them $$.

You get what you incent. Train people that they get free stuff from you and all you’ll get is people coming to you for free stuff. Train people that you’re a source of relevant, useful business information, they’ll come to you when they want to do business.

Email marketing is my preferred way of selling products coming from the affiliate programs that i have signed up with. it just takes time to get a good mailing list

Whatya think?