The Forward Value of Emails

By Lorenzo Gabba on 2004/06/29

It's five past lunchtime and you've just put the phone down to yet another customer. You lean back in your chair and whip out your lunch. If you're anything like me, you'll go straight to your email inbox to catch up on missed messages.

Aah, great, you think. Your dad has sent you an email, and it's the first one to catch your eye. You'd never ignore it, because, well, it's from your dad, and the subject line is, "Online order special: Apocalypse Now Redux DVD".

Fantastic! You've been looking for that DVD everywhere, and now it's just a few clicks away - with a promotional discount to boot! I love you Dad...

You move your pointer over the email, your eyes widening in anticipation...

But before you get the chance, your email client's auto send/receive function does a number on you and a company newsletter you opted to receive displaces your dad's on the list in your inbox.


Dear Firstname,

Welcome to this month's issue of blah, blah, blah...

"SON OF A B*TCH!" you scream through clenched teeth and hit the delete key so hard it makes your index finger go white. Okay, so maybe you have a better grip on your temper than I do, but you get my point.

Eventually, you manage to get back to the original email sent by your Dad - the one that first caught your eye. And why did it catch your eye? Because you knew who it was from, and you liked the look of the subject line.

When you send a newsletter to your subscribers, you're competing for their limited time and attention with other emails sent to them from family and friends. Those emails carry a value, a 'Forward Value' if you will, that is born from the familiarity of friendship and the desire to gain favour by passing on a positive influence.

The most common type of forward value is humour. Most of us will almost always open a joke email sent by a friend. And on that note, don't you find that the closer your friend, the funnier the joke in the email they send?

When composing your next newsletter, ask yourself this: "Does this message carry 'Forward Value' for at least some the people who will be receiving it?" In other words, will people want to send my email on to their friends, because it's funny, or interesting, or both? If that's the case, then you could be looking at the beginnings of a viral marketing campaign.

Bear this in mind when sending out an offer or news about your company to your database of subscribers. Try and work into the email an element of forward value - whether its humour, originality or an offer that is irresistably tantalising - so that your subscribers simply can't help but hit that 'Forward' button.