Startups, please write better emails!

tl;dr In the emails you send about your product, take a moment to remind the recipient what you do and what your value proposition is. Many won’t remember otherwise.  Contains examples.

I’ve signed up to lots of startup announcements, mailing lists and beta-queues. I’m not alone in that. That means I get lots of emails announcing a new product or an update to an old one. Shockingly many share the same problem: they don’t tell me what the product does.

Unless you are emailing a frequent user, don’t assume the recipient knows what your product is and what it does. If you have a ‘creative’ name (goes for most of us, that!), assume you have to introduce yourself and what you do again. And definitely, if you are sending an announcement months after a user signed up to your list, you must remind them why you are emailing them and what you’re about.

Otherwise you completely miss your opportunity to communicate with the recipient. I know you think about your startup 24/7. I, however, don’t. Never assume I know anything. Or that I’ll look at your email for longer than 0.5 seconds.

Ruthlessly, I’m taking a recent sampling from my inbox. For the purposes of this post I checked out the sites to suggest a quick one-liner to include in the email.

Cue 

Got this today. Couldn’t remember what they do. Judging by the features they curtly mention, maybe a calendar or a reminder app? And it’s an update? Did they email me by accident? And it comes from a no-reply@. That’s just spelling “f*** off” to me. The big companies do that. Don’t be like that.

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I’d be happier if you started with: “Cue is the best way to know what’s next in your day by giving you an intelligent snapshot of your various services, streams and notifications.” (ok, a bit long, sorry).

Starforce Delta 

Image includes spaceships, thank goodness, wouldn’t know otherwise. Especially since they changed the product’s name. (Ok, these guys I would know since I used to work with them, but unless all recipients are like me, they’ll miss out on a few!).

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Try opening with: “Starforce Delta is a deep space role-playing shoot-them-up in your browser. Enroll now for the first wave!”

Avocado 

Against the odds I know what these guys do, though I haven’t used their product. I remember them because they used the word “boo”. Otherwise, the beginning of the email is vaguely descriptive. “Couples”, “calendars” and “reminders” gives you the idea.

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Maybe improve by opening boldly with the value proposition: “Avocado is the best way to stay connected with the most important person in your life.”

Learnist 

The name puts you in the right frame, but there are no specifics in the message itself. I don’t actually remember what I’m supposed to do with the app, and I’ve downloaded it. It sounds like it’s for learning, but then the first paragraph tells me it’s more about teaching. Hmm.

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How about starting with: “Learnist is the mobile product for curating and following complete learning experiences. Share what you know!”

Medium 

Good and clear. Introduction, and then “new publishing platform”. There’s more to it, but at least I’m in the right frame reading the rest of the message. Medium has the added benefit that they are pretty famous, so they get away with it. I signed up immediately. I won’t attempt copywriting tips to the platform that regularly brings me amazing reading.

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That’s it. Now, how’s your email clickthrough been lately?

Edit: There’s a conversation on Hacker News. And I was planning to go out after I posted this.