This post first appeared in my weekly-ish newsletter about building awesome software.
Email is a really powerful tool for delighting your users, but I find that tons of apps are failing to take advantage of it. Sure, you probably don't want to get cute with your Password Reset instructions, but there are so many missed opportunities to create a great user experience.
Here is an email I got a week ago from Netflix.
Subject: Congratulations to House of Cards!
Uh, what? This email does nothing for me (except make me consider hitting the unsubscribe button). It is like an internal Netflix company e-card accidentally got sent to all 29 million subscribers. Yikes.
Netflix, you are better than this!
This was a great opportunity for Netflix to earn some brownie points in my book. Instead of that self-congratulatory email above, why not something like:
Congrats to House of Cards on three Emmys. To celebrate, we've made the first episode free to stream this month — share it with your friends!
Cool — now I'll tweet out a link because I freakin' loved that show and I want all my friends to watch it. And I get to feel cool for linking people to neat things.
Don't like that version? How about this instead:
House of Cards won three Emmys, thanks so much for your support. We couldn't have done it without great fans like you watching the show and telling your friends, so here is a free month off your bill.
Offer that to anyone that watched all the episodes of House of Cards (you've got that data Netflix). Boom, instant brand zealots.
Okay, maybe that is too costly. One more idea: since Netflix knows I watched all of House of Cards and that, in the past, I rented all of The Wire on DVD and I've streamed a few seasons of Mad Men — they can probably infer that I like critically acclaimed TV dramas. Why not craft an email like:
Congrats to House of Cards on three Emmys (though you probably already knew that since you have great taste in TV shows)!
Thanks to your support, Netflix will continue it's commitment to producing great original content that we know you'll love.
Why yes, I do have great tastes, don't I?
Netflix — you have the data, use it! Make me feel special, give me something, help me become a bad-ass user!
Don't treat the emails you send like throwaway communications. It makes me sad :(