Email campaigns – consider your audience and your offer

I am a raving fan of Sony Ericsson mobile phones. Recently I received an email from Sony Ericsson as part of what appears to be a customer retention program. The subject of the email is “More tips and tools for your W380a Phone”. The subject was interesting enough for me to open the email, as I’m always looking for ways to get more value out of the things I buy, especially my tech products. The subject got me in but I was disappointed after that.

Their offer, my expectation

OK, I didn’t expect that SE would provide me with tips and tools to turn my W380a into an iPhone, but I did have an expectation that I might find something useful that would validate my decision to buy a SE phone (and maybe another one in the future).

Sometimes there are hidden features in a technical product that are incredibly useful, but are hidden from plain sight (this is a completely different rant best handled by my colleague Steve Johnson). An email coming from the folks who designed and built the phone with an offer of “More tips and tools for your W380a Phone” got me excited that I would learn something new about my phone and hopefully solve a problem for me.

Another important point is I purchased an unlocked phone directly from SE. That places me in a special group of mobile phone owners in the USA. I can do things with my phone that my carrier might otherwise block. As a persona that puts me in a different buyer category than the person who gets a phone exclusively from his carrier, and SE knows this.

Here’s what I received…

imageThe design is pleasant and the layout is easy to follow. I know that it’s definitely from Sony (good brand support, of course) and I know it’s about my phone (image/text).

But did you notice something? There’s a complete absence of tips or tools in the body of the email. I clicked on the link titled “Assistance and enhancers – go to the W380a Support zone” and this is where I landed…


It was the product support landing page for my phone. I would have had to go hunting for the tips and tools that were promised in the email subject line. You probably guessed I didn’t go any farther than this page. I expected tips and tools, but got hunt and peck.

I want to use this example as a learning tool. It’s not intended to slight SE in any way and I don’t know the context (and associated pressure) for why this communication was created.

This email and landing page is just one example of a pervasive problem. In our haste to do something we run the risk of damaging our brand or breaking the bond of trust we’ve worked so hard to earn with our customers. 

What��s the point?

Most likely this email is part of a customer retention program. The Apple iPhone is selling at a blistering pace and it is wise for SE find ways to keep the customers they have. Unfortunately this approach isn’t it.

The landing page reminds me of the feature-speak approach so many technology companies use. The “spray and pray” method shows every possible feature with the belief that readers will find the answers to their problems their own. That just doesn’t happen.

What should Sony Ericsson have done differently?

A huge opportunity was lost. My guess is that a boilerplate email template was created where customer names and phone models were pulled from a marketing database. There was nothing tailored to me and my phone at all, just generic links that would work regardless of the phone model.

SE had an opportunity to validate my decision to buy an unlocked phone from them. They also had an opportunity to plant a seed about future products and services. Instead they annoyed me. Annoyed customers seek alternatives.

SE should have a better understanding of their user/buyer persona (me). An empathetic understanding of their personas would have provided clear guidance on what the persona would value.

My challenge to you

Sending email to your customers as part of a customer retention program is more than just a “touch” or an item to clear off your checklist. You have a responsibility to make every connection as valuable as possible. Knowing what would be valuable and what isn’t comes through a buyer persona profile – the ability to see through the eyes of the customer.

Are you using buyer persona profiles to get into the heads of your customers?

Did you fulfill the promise of your offer? How do you know?

Is every communication to existing customers based on a goal, an outcome?

Are you doing what Sony Ericsson did? Are you sure?

David Daniels

David Daniels

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