Email Breakdown: How to persuade anyone to commit murder
👉 a masterclass from Drayton Bird's team
Drayton Bird is the Dame Judi Dench of direct marketing. A national treasure who thankfully seems intent on never retiring.
David Ogilvy said he knew more about direct marketing than anyone else in the world. And luckily for us, he writes excellent emails we can all learn from. Or in this case his “young bird” Alex did.
This email is in the classic mould of building curiosity, delivering value and then asking you to take action.
The subject line is 100% curiosity:
“How to persuade anyone to commit murder”
Now because the email is from Drayton, you know it’ll be related to marketing. And persuasion is part of marketing of course.
But the idea that an email will teach you how to persuade anyone to commit murder is just so left-field that the primary reason you’ll open it is pure curiosity. Just to find out what on earth it’s going to be about.
And as it happens, it’s about a TV show starring Derren Brown where he persuades ordinary people to commit murder. The email then draws out the lessons you can learn from the show to help your marketing.
It opens with a brilliant hook, harnessing both curiosity and the promise of benefit to get you committed to reading the full email.
Remember, most people will open your emails tentatively and if they don’t see enough in those opening few sentences to convince them they’ll get something useful or interesting in the email they’ll head straight back to their inbox. But I can’t imagine many people abandoning after this hook:
Next, you need to link your opening to the valuable content you’re going to share to get people to start reading it seamlessly. The Transition makes sure your readers slide effortlessly into your content without any jarring or a feeling that you’ve changed tack.
In this case, the transition is simple. It simply confirms that you’re about to learn some of Derren Brown’s persuasion tricks to help you get more buyers.
There’s a subtlety though. By saying “here are a few I spotted” it confirms that you’re about to read the writer’s interpretation of the program. In other words, the person with the insight and expertise in applying persuasion to getting more buyers is them - not Derren.
Next comes the Valuable Content itself where you share the insights and ideas that will both be helpful to your reader and establish you as an expert who can help them.
The key when using a running analogy like this in your email is that each of your points must genuinely be drawn from the thing you’re referring to.
Too often you’ll see something interesting used to grab attention, but the tips and insights given aren’t really related to it. The writer just used it as a launchpad to jump into their standard spiel.
Readers see through that very quickly. They can tell when you’ve done your homework and properly thought through the links you’re highlighting. In this case, each marketing persuasion insight being shared is a direct equivalent of something from the show. And by doing so, the writer’s showing they “get it”.
The final section is your Call To Action - the thing the whole email is leading up to.
There are a couple of clever techniques on display here.
Firstly, by making the final tip in the content about offers, it gives a very natural reason to start talking about your offer.
Secondly, there’s a very clear reason given why the reader might want to take the action recommended - some impressive increases in sales.
And finally, the call to action in the email focuses only on the easy next step of entering your email address rather than any large commitments.
This is the one area of the email I think could be improved though. It’s just not 100% clear to me what “beginning” actually means. Am I making an enquiry? Will I get a sales call? What exactly will happen next?
One of the biggest barriers to people taking the action you want them to is uncertainty. Not knowing what will happen next. Whenever you can, spell out exactly what the next steps will be and allay any fears they might have about them (like a salesperson hassling them, for example).
All in all though, this is one of my favourite examples of a highly effective newsletter-type email. It gives a lot of useful information, but in doing so establishes the credibility of the writer and primes the reader to take the action they want them to take.
And if you want to learn directly from Drayton and amazing speakers like Rory Sutherland (vice chair of Ogilvy and hugely funny), Steve Harrison (winner of more Cannes Lions than any other creative director) and a bunch of other smart people then you might want to join him at his “Final Fling” event in London on July 13th-14th. You’ll learn a lot. Laugh a lot. Meet brilliant people. And probably drink a lot.