H.O.P.P.A. - The 5 Rules of Promotional Mailings

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I am often asked for advice on writing promotional mailings - targeted emails to be specific. I have long thought that there must be some simple formula to refer people to, and for such purposes, I have come up with the following H.O.P.P.A. acronym:



H = Hook


This is really your email subject or title, and should consist of an appealing offer or contain a promise of some degree of enlightenment if the recipient reads further. Many professional people receive 100’s of emails each day, so you have to project something which stands out and seems worthy of their time.


O = Occasion


With hundreds of emails received, they obviously need to be prioritised in some fashion - messages with near due dates usually take priority. Which is why it’s important to include some degree of urgency / time limit / immediacy into your body copy, frame it as an event - or else the email may never be prioritised to be read or dealt with.


P = Personalisation


I pretty much delete immediately anything which is not addressed to me personally. ’Dear Stefan’ or ’Hello Stefan’ is the absolute minimum. If I see ’Dear Member’ or similar - it’s straight in the bin. It’s also best practice to have the email be signed off by a real person - it’s much friendlier to know who you are dealing with, and being able to look them up on LinkedIn or other social media sites.


P = Persuasion


Once you’ve hooked someone in with an enticing offer, you need to back up that offer with sound rationale - it needs to contain just the pertinent details and be quick to the point (inverted pyramid) ... naturally drawing the reader towards the actionable part of the mailing. Too little text looks insubstantial, and too much simply won’t be read - normally 2-3 short paragraphs are optimal.


A = Action


All proper marketing assets must have an actionable function - that is to say a singular call-to-action. Even if it is just ’contact me personally for further insights and information’. You should offer multiple contact options so that the recipients can get back you via their preferred means. As I mentioned above, some sort of event / briefing with a near due date increases the importance of your mailing. The more singular your purpose, the more likely the uptake.



Proviso 1 - all of the above is founded on the assumption that you know your audience and are targeting them with absolutely relevant and relatable content. If your message is not sufficiently strong, several recipients will either unsubscribe or make a mental note to ignore your future communications.


Proviso 2 - regular mailings are generally favourable, but need to remain wholly pertinent and of high quality, too much frequency with not enough quality is a path to failure. Frequency builds up momentum and impact, but that only works if the messages continue to be relevant and valuable to the target audience.


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