It's 2AM. I just got an email from a customer:

... we decided to first decide on a particular 'voice' for all of our comms ...

This reminded me that I had meant to blog about this topic, because like various nuanced aspects of marketing, Silicon Valley kind of sucks at this.

What I mean by that is, a company writes a blog post, they send email, they tweet. But that is only the beginning of the battle for this kind of stuff. I read an excitable tweet from you, but then your welcome email is stoic, your blog has an air of professionalism but then has stupid internet memes intertwined, and so on. Please be consistent.


One factoid of how userfox came to be in Y Combinator was that our application had a rather racist joke in it.

I was the cheerleader, and in fact only person that thought this was anything other than an utterly horrendous idea. Everyone — said the same thing: they're going to think you are insane. I somewhat agreed, but I believed that if you could be remembered for being (allegedly) insane, that is much better than being simply forgotten.

And make no mistake: you are forgettable!

For as Path CEO, Dave Morin, said last week:

The human condition is one where we have the capacity to forget things

Forwards to userfox

When you register for userfox, the first email is from the userfox fox. I won't spoil the surprise, but it's kind of playful with a few surprises in it for especially engaged readers. You should check it out by signing up for userfox.

A few days pass, you get a few more emails from other people: myself, cursing the fox, my co-founder: offering integration assistance, the userfox fox pops up again once or twice, and so on. Hell, are you going to notice an email from a freaking Admiral?

Our emails perform really well. We get a ridiculously high open rate, and tons of people reply to them with feedback, praise or suggesting we seek medical attention.

I believe they perform well because they're disarming. Quirky. Interesting. Usually emails from companies are boring. I like to think our userfox emails are fun whilst still being valuable.

In Defence of a Company Vision

Your company voice is closely tied to your company vision. Most peoples visions are boring and confusing, "we're going to be the town square for every family in the United States", "we're going to make affiliate marketing as exhilarating as the Dyson Air Blade", "we're going to create a relational database that uses the CPU Cache" (ok, this one is actually kind of exciting.)

But your company vision should also permeate through your company about how you behave and act. How you respond to support email, tweet and admit screw ups. The userfox vision? well, we want to be liked. In a valley where somehow "companies that care about design" closely correlates with "please please please think I am Steve Jobs" userfox likes to be the friendly co. With pixel perfect design.

Every single post, page or ‹span› I deploy gets a flurry of emails from friends and our stereotypical German designer questioning if "spelunking" is really a good verb to describe email marketing.

Actionable Steps

Enough rambling. Here is what you should do to transform your emails from a bunch of unconnected unrelated emails, into something that feels like it has a purpose.

  • Figure out who sends your emails? Who or what epitomises your vision and brand: VP of Marketing? CEO? Co-Founder?

  • Come up with a few key adjectives to describe their prose. Concise? Rambling? Explicit? Funny? Professional?

  • Write example copy to reflect this voice. How do these emails start? How do they end? How enthusiastic are they? Emoticons? EMOJIS?

  • Read the marketing emails and sequences you send. Do these match the above point? Usually the content is correct, you just need to ensure the tone and word usage is correct. A welcome email is still a welcome email, irrelevant of the voice.

Brainstorm and iterate on these points, and you'll reap rewards.

Why do this

  • Brand trust and recognition increases (no voice? no coherence? no recognition when you email your users.)

  • Illusion of grandeur. Having a sequence of emails with an obvious story and voice oozes thought. Nothing screams crappy like emails with different templates, copy, calls to action and tone.

  • Improved open rates. Once again, to reiterate, once you've created your voice, your emails will perform better because you can write more actionable copy.

PS: Forward me your favourite emails on this topic!