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Why Do Sneak Previews for Emails Get Such Powerful Results?

By James Glover

Sneak previews for content can excite and intrigue your customers across a wide variety of sectors from designer apparel to cars to computers—and even in less-obvious verticals like snack food and camping gear. The best example is for films.

I love movies directed by the Coen Brothers. When someone loves a brand (like I love the Coen Brothers), we’re always delighted to hear they’ve got a new project.

Netflix knows this. They see the brand value of the Coen Brothers and know that a segment of their audience is interested in more content. That’s why they added the recent Coen flick The Ballad of Buster Scruggs to their platform to serve it up directly to you. Netflix is keen on keeping its audience’s attention–whether that’s through adding more content that its audience loves or engaging them with sneak previews. Many streaming services regularly tease or promote new content via sneak previews.

And as a marketer, you can use sneak previews to improve how you personalize your content for customers.

It’s not just products that capture customers’ imaginationsit’s the whole experience of hearing from a brand that truly “gets us.”

Like innovative film directors, our favorite brands stay a step ahead of our evolving taste—and they keep surprising us with new variations on the themes we adore. That’s why we stick with them, even when some of their products resonate less than others. We each have a preferred taste for brands—and the combination of different brands that you receive messaging about makes up your shopper’s preferred “diet” of content. If you can identify and match this “diet” with the right content, you’ll not only increase conversions but become a valuable curator of content for your subscribers. Just like Netflix, who serves up Coen Brother films to keep me entertained.

When customers truly love your brand, they can’t wait to see what you come up with nextand they’re excited to tell their friends.

Here’s how to tap into the power of early-access content to build customer excitement for your next product launch.

Early-access emails pay for themselves on product launch day

Many movie fans (myself included) look forward to the preview trailers almost as much as the film itself. It’s so tantalizing to get glimpses of the stars, visuals and concepts in the season’s upcoming releases—and each time we hear the name of a favorite actor or franchise, our excitement intensifies.

Given that movie trailers are “bite-sized” and free, it’s no surprise that their YouTube views often number in the tens of millions, far outranking many movies’ actual ticket sales. But even if just a small percentage of those viewers end up buying tickets, a well-crafted trailer will pay for itself—and then some.

In retail, sneak previews also help build up the hype for a release. In fact, based on my observations of working with North American retailers, I have observed that early access emails may consistently outperform other types of content and even outperform the actual product offer.

Sneak-preview excitement creates a shared world for your customers

Sneak previews provide a feeling of exclusivity, and that’s the really great thing about these types of emails. They make your audience feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. Contrast that with most email offers, which lean heavily towards driving a conversion with a discount or promotion.

A preview screening is like access to a secret little world—a private space into which only select recipients are permitted. Those lucky few who get an invite feel they enjoy a special bond with the brand.

I’d wager that early-access emails outperform so many others due to this exact same feeling of exclusivity—of getting a peek past the velvet rope. Cultivate this sense of a shared world with your customers, and you’ll find they look forward not just to this week’s releases, but to next season’s, too.

A track record of hits builds anticipation for more delightful surprises

One reason I love the Coen Brothers is that I never know where they’re going to take me next. It’s almost hard to believe that the same team who directed The Big Lebowski was also responsible for the bleak thriller No Country for Old Men—or the musical odyssey of O Brother.

Walking into a new Coen Brothers movie, I savor the sense that I’m about to experience something totally new—while at the same time, I know I can expect startling plot twists, crackling dialogue, well-rounded characters, and all the other Coen trademarks. I trust them to make movies that feel like Coen movies, whether they’re nihilistic westerns or screwball comedies.

The more deeply you know and understand your subscribers, the better-equipped you’ll be to transform trust into excitement. Tailor your emails in response to each customer’s tastes and purchase patterns, and you’ll lend much greater credibility to your early-access content. If you were spot-on with your last ten recommendations, today’s sneak preview will feel far more relevant—and worth paying attention to.

Over time, you can even start to guide your customer’s ideal “content diet” to better match what an ideal customer’s content diet looks like, allowing you to gradually increase customer lifetime value simply by providing relevant and meaningful content to each subscriber.

The energy of a product launch can be highly contagious, if you let it flow into your content. Build a rising sense of anticipation in every pre-launch email, and subtly remind subscribers of your previous “hits.” Make every sneak-preview email feel like a top-secret movie trailer, and your premiere will be sure to catch a lot of eyes and get more than few click-throughs and downloads.

Make sure your email is good shape before you send it out with “The Marketer’s Email Checklist.”