business-or-casualAs time has progressed, two distinct camps have developed when it comes to business communication.

There’s the business-speak crew. They’ll say stuff like ‘why don’t we romance this two-way relationship’ and mention ‘running flags up poles’ a lot. Generally speaking, they can be quite irritating and incredibly difficult to understand. What do they mean? Why should we care? Why don’t they just speak like humans?

Then there’s the colloquial crew. As business and tech has developed, the ways in which businesses communicate with their customers has changed dramatically. It’s suddenly acceptable to be a little more personable and free with your choice of language. Avoiding the potential tendency to become ‘wacky’ (i.e. irritating), it’s possible to speak to customers entirely on their level, almost as if you share a common bond.

Email marketing is the ideal battle ground for these two crews. Take a look at your inbox. How many of the messages are talking to you in robotic business speak? Compare them with the emails which have a whiff of humour and a more tongue-in-cheek carefree attitude. I can guarantee you’ll connect quicker with the latter.

Contrary to popular belief, it really doesn’t matter which industry you operate in, either. Whether you’re selling retro confectionary or industrial dust removers, email gives you the unique opportunity to be a little more light-hearted. And we’re not talking about putting business to one side; light-hearted often grabs the biggest slice of the revenue pie (oops – sorry).

Remember, the tone and style of your emails is just as important as your offline dealings with customers.

I believe a good mix of the business-speak and colloquial is what’s needed. But, how much? Read on…

The casual approach

When is it ok to send emails which offer a more personal approach? This post would be nothing without an example, so, here goes:

Casual email

You don’t get much more personal than commenting on a  recent fitness activity, but the above email approaches it with just the right tone. There’s not a whiff of sales or business speak; in a couple of paragraphs they make me feel good and offer something of real benefit.

The key, as always, is to know your audience. RunKeeper clearly know theirs and can pitch their marketing messages perfectly. Any more personal and it would have been too much.

It’s all about the words you use. If you think you’re in danger of insulting or being too jovial to be considered professional, pull it back a bit.

The serious approach

Ok, so you’ve got something to say and you don’t feel there’s time for any festivities. There’s a message you want to send your subscribers and you want it to be taken seriously. How do you do that without plunging to the depths of flag poles and ‘thinking outside of the box’?

Here’s an example of it done right:

Serious email


I’ve deliberately picked another fitness-related message for comparison purposes. In this case, the pre-event pack is an essential read for all riders, therefore there’s no time to be distracted with light-hearted banter. One paragraph does the job and is supported by some well-designed imagery.

In conclusion

Find what works for your campaigns. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, depending on what needs to be sent. If it’s a message which is as important as the above, you can be more direct and to-the-point. If you’re looking to further develop your relationship with subscribers, drop your guard a bit. It’ll work – I promise!


Main image courtesy of imagery majestic /


Mark is one of mailingmanager's email experts. His contributions to this blog openly share the tricks, tips and best practices he's learned while running multiple e-marketing campaigns.

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