Longtime subscriber Andy is a jeweler with his own store.
He recently told me he's going to start writing regular emails to his list of several thousand past customers.
I warned him that I might have to critique some of his emails, but he went ahead anyway.
After his first email went out, he confessed to me that he was mostly mortified to go back and read it.
Is it really that bad?
Let's find out…
Andy's email is below. Comments to follow.
Subject: From Me to You…
A personal email…from me, Andy…to you, awesome client.
Small business owners are a crazy, dedicated bunch, and I swear almost every conversation we have has to do with “the business.”
Owning a business is the best and worst job in the world, but at the end of the day…it's my preferred way to live…and I feel lucky to have this chance.
I was talking to my wife the other day about our business, and as usual I touched on the “why” of our jewelry story.
I repeat it often to the people I know on the “inside”: my staff, our vendors, fellow jewelry store owners, and local entrepreneurs just like me.
But it occurred to me that I've never really shared it with you…our customers, friends, and family.
And so today I'd like to let you in on my personal motivation for continuing the legacy that was started long ago by my grandfather. (He started as a watch maker's apprentice in the early 1900's. More on that in a future post.)
The “Why” of Our Jewelry Store
For me, I feel that my unending job is to create a physical space that is welcoming to people who are in the market for meaningful tokens of affection and powerful symbols of commitment. That is my self-imposed job description, and I take it seriously.
When it works, and you are happy because of what we do for and with you, I am proud. We have succeeded.
If we fail…it's another story. I become the distraught artist who knows he could have done better…and I sit and think and plot as I try to find ways to get back on track to create something that will inspire and please his audience. (It's never really good enough…or so a true artist believes.)
I suppose that sounds a bit lofty…but it's true. This business…like all small business's…is both numbers and art. It's head and heart.
Of course this “why” extends beyond what I want. Small business owners know that if and when we do our jobs well, then our staff has a safe place to spread their own wings and make a living doing something exciting and fulfilling.
I can tell you that happens when they feel like they've helped you get that much closer to living the life you dream about. Whether it's finding the perfect ring to say, “Will you marry me?” or a diamond necklace that quietly whispers, “It's been a tough year, honey. But we're still here…and I'm ready to carry on together.”
Those are the small segments of time that mark big moments in your life…and we get that. We laugh and cry and cheer with you, and I am honored when you trust us enough to include us at these times in your life.
It's a big deal to me, and in the end, it's why our store exists in its present form. It's why we pour our heart and soul and time and money into it. Day after day…year after year. It's because of you.
Thank you a thousand times for including us in the big and small moments of your life. It means everything to us.
PS-I love hearing from you! Please feel free to comment by clicking here: Reply to Andy
First of all, hitting “Send” is TOUGH. Takes serious guts.
Andy deserves tons of praise for getting this put together and sending it out.
And this was a pretty good first effort.
Here are a few highlights:
- Hinting at the story behind his business—it started with his grandfather as a watchmaker's apprentice more than 100 years ago. I want to know more!
- The paragraph about what it feels like to help a customer find the perfect ring or necklace hit an emotional chord. Do more of this.
- The overall theme of small businesses and entrepreneurs also resonated with me. If Andy's customer base includes a lot of small biz owners, this gives them a chance to bond around common values and shared experience.
- Inviting action—a click and a reply—is a great move. You're getting them used to taking some action, and they'll be more receptive when you tell them to come into the store.
Now, two areas for improvement:
- In an email, the first sentence is SUPER critical. You have to grab the reader immediately.
Andy's first sentence is short—which is good. But it falls flat.
Just deleting that sentence makes the email stronger.
In fact, he could even whack the first 3 paragraphs and just start with “I was talking to my wife the other day…”
- Overall the email focuses too much on Andy and his biz and not enough on the subscribers and their questions and problems.
It's OK to send an email like this occasionally, one that talks about your business and values and shows heartfelt appreciation for your customers.
But it's better to weave that information into interesting stories.
Rather than telling the reader “here's who we are,” show them by way of the stories you tell.
For example, the backstory about Andy's grandfather, if told appropriately, will reveal a LOT about how Andy runs his business today.
And the section about the perfect ring and diamond necklace would pack even more emotional wallop if told through the eyes of a nervous bachelor who wanted to make sure he made his beloved's girlhood dreams come true…
Here's the biggest lesson in all of this:
There are two sides to good writing…
What you say, and how you say it.
Most people get really hung up on the “how you say it” part of the equation.
It's true that lyrical writing can have a big impact.
But it's far more important to focus on the “what you say” part.
If you get this right, you can have the writing ability of a junior high dropout and still move people in powerful ways.
Do that, and over time the “how you say it” will come more and more naturally.