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Email Triage: How to Create An Effective Price Increase Email

In business, the use of the word triage usually means assessing the nature and urgency of the problems being experienced and sorting out the priority of which issues will be addressed and in what …

Suzanne Bird-Harris

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Client Management

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In business, the use of the word triage usually means assessing the nature and urgency of the problems being experienced and sorting out the priority of which issues will be addressed and in what order. I’ve used this word to describe a service I have provided over the years for my clients with regard to their email marketing.

Writing your own email copy can be hard. Why? Your emotions get in the way. You almost always feel some type of way about the subject matter, especially with the more emotionally charged situations like price increase, launch, and sales emails, to name just a few. 

More often than not, these emotions sneak their way into your copy. And the most frustrating part is that you can be aware of this, do your very best to avoid it, and STILL end up with an email that just feels “off” somehow.

Email triage, as I define it, is where I assess the nature and urgency of the problems present in an email and address them in order of importance, all the while maintaining the original author’s voice in the final result. And it’s one of my most favorite things to do!

I had been brainstorming some topics for a guest post and asked Kyle to help me cull my list. When I mentioned ‘email triage’, he asked me what I meant by that, so I filled him in. 

Turns out, he was dealing with that very problem in an email he was trying to write for a price increase. So, I suggested using his email as a case study for a post. That way, instead of just explaining email triage, I could show how it works with a real-world example.

Kyle sent me his email in a Google doc and I did my thing. I commented the bejeezus out of his original email and then commented on my rewrite the same way. I wanted him to understand what needed to change about his email and why, as well as why I wrote my rewrite the way I did. (I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up…can you tell? Ha ha!)

Read through the two versions below and see the difference Email Triage can make.

Kyle's Version

Hello, [name]

I hope you are doing well and you and yours are staying safe and healthy!

It seems impossible, but I’m already making plans for the new year (where does time go??). 

Over the past year I’ve been able to invest a lot into infrastructure for you as part of my Website Management services:

  • Upgraded servers for faster load times
  • Automated testing to ensure successful software updates
  • A new firewall for improved security
  • Daily malware scans to ensure your website is safe from any viruses
  • Malware removal services in case your website gets infected or hacked

I realize those are all nerdy-sounding bullet points that might not make sense, but they’ve amounted to thousands of dollars in software and hardware investments that ensure your website has everything it needs to thrive in today’s environment. 

These improvements have resulted in a slight restructuring of my Website Management packages, which will affect you — but not necessarily change your price.

Starting January 1, 2022 you’ll need to be swapped over to one of my new plans. Here’s the major differences between the two:

  • The Basics ($75/mo) – This plan would keep your monthly invoice at the same price, but would not include my time in doing any content changes to your website.
  • Business Class ($99/mo) – This plan would include everything in The Basics, but also comes with 3 “Thirty-Minute Tasks” per month (Thirty-Minute Tasks are content edits, updates, or changes that can be completed in 30-minutes or less).

You can read about each plan in more detail here.

What this means for you

If you expect to request updates / changes to your website at least 5 times over the next 12 months, then upgrading to the Business Class plan will end up being more cost efficient in the long run.

However, if you don’t expect to request at least 5 changes over the next year, you’d be better off staying with the $75/mo plan and just paying for any content edits on an as-needed basis (your discounted price for a one-off thirty-minute task is $60).

Based on your previous change/update request rate, and assuming you expect to keep the same pace going forward, then I [would/would not] recommend upgrading to the Business Class plan.

You can reply back to this email letting me know which direction you want to go. Of course, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to hit reply and ask. I’ll be glad to answer those via email or schedule a Zoom call so we can go over everything in real-time.

Thank you so much for trusting me with your website management, and I’m looking forward to another great year working together!

Suzanne's Re-Write

Hello, [name]

I hope you are doing well and you and yours are staying safe and healthy!

As you know, I am committed to keeping your website healthy and successful while you focus on running your business. Over the past year, I’ve made significant improvements to the website management service packages I offer and the plan you are currently on will end December 31, 2021.

I have two plans for you to choose from by December 1st. In either plan, you’ll enjoy the following improvements:

  • Upgraded servers for faster load times
  • Automated testing to ensure successful software updates
  • A new firewall for improved website security
  • Daily malware scans to ensure your website is free of malicious software
  • Malware removal services should we find malicious software in a scan

Which plan is best for you depends on your need for my time each month to make changes or content updates.

  • Business Class ($99/mo) – This plan includes all of the services you’ve had plus the improvements, AND up to three 30-minute tasks per month. (Content edits, updates, or changes that can be completed in 30 minutes or less.)
  • The Basics ($75/mo) – This plan includes all of the services you’ve had plus the improvements, without any of my time doing content changes to your website.

You can read about each plan in more detail here.

So which plan should you choose?

  • If you rely on me to make regular content edits, updates, and changes to your site, then I recommend choosing the Business Class plan.
  • If you’re not sure how often you’d make requests or haven’t really made use of this in the past, then I recommend choosing The Basics plan. (Remember, your discounted price for a one-off 30-minute task when you need help is $60.)

Please reply to this email to let me know which plan you choose. Of course, if you have any questions, just let me know and I’ll reply. Or we can schedule a Zoom call to go over everything in real-time.

Thank you for allowing me to support you and your business now and in the future!

The Teardown

Since Email Triage is all about assessing the nature and urgency of the problems present in an email, let’s review.

As you can see, Kyle’s email wasn’t bad, but it did have a few problems. Here they are in order of importance:

  • Emotional bleed-through
  • Wrong point of view
  • Too much preamble
  • Too long, overall

Emotional Bleed-Through

Kyle knew better than to say what he was feeling, which was, “Hey…if you want updates included, you need to pay more now.” That made him “wordy”, indirect, and awkward when he wanted to be concise, direct, and professional. 

This is one of the best reasons to get a professional’s eyes on our important emails. (I have a go-to person, too!) Our emotions bleed through, one way or another, and influence how we write as well as what we write.

Wrong Point of View

Neither of the two main ways to increase your revenue — raise your prices or reduce your deliverables — is fun for your customers. Kyle’s sensitivity to that deepened the emotional bleed-through.

The first part of his email where he outlines all the improvements he’s made is important. But, he positioned them as features rather than benefits. The key question to ask is, “So what? How does this change benefit my customer?” That will help you write from the correct point of view.

Too Much Preamble

There are 135 words in Kyle’s email before he gets to the reason he’s sending the email. That’s a lot of introduction to wade through to get to what’s in it for you. Especially if you don’t understand what’s being conveyed. 

In 33 words, my version greets them genuinely, reminds them why and how Kyle has their backs, conveys what he’s been up to this year to improve his services, and delivers the “bad” news. 

No one likes delivering what might be perceived as bad news, but don’t allow yourself to dilly-dally. Get to it and get it over. Then make their next-step choices clear and call them to action. 

Too Long, Overall

In the case of a price increase announcement, brevity wins the day. The longer the explanation, the more suspect the explanation becomes from your customer’s point of view. 

The Difference

I believe that good communication is open, honest, clear, and direct. Kyle had the open and honest parts nailed. (Of course, he did! That’s who he is!) He just needed help getting the clear and direct parts handled.

This is a fine example of using storytelling principles in your marketing, by the way. When you adopt the role of the guide, it’s easier to see how you’re actually helping the hero (your customer) by delivering the information (“good” or “bad”) that they need to make good decisions for themselves. When you express empathy and authority, you reinforce all the reasons your customer has to trust you. 

It’s when we slip back into thinking we have to be their hero that we get into trouble. They don’t need us to be their hero. They need us to be their guide.

Let me know if you have any tips for overcoming the heartburn of customer communications. I’d love to hear how you approach communicating “bad news” to your customers.

Suzanne Bird-Harris

Marketing via Story

Words matter. Stories engage. A brand strategist and copywriter based in Tulsa, Suzanne helps small businesses and nonprofits grow by marketing via story. Over the past 20 years, she’s helped hundreds of organizations create a crystal clear message and build sales funnels that just plain work.

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