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ChatGPT beyond the hype: How to use AI models for better email marketing

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30-second summary: ChatGPT has gone from “What is it?” to “It will kill copywriter jobs” in less than six months

Hype aside, ChatGPT, and natural language processing models like it, is a tool a marketer can use to make the process of building meaningful relationships with customers more fruitful

ChatGPT won’t replicate your marketing skills, your unique understanding of your brand’s equity, or your copywriting skills, nor can it spit out a strategic plan based on a few keywords – but it could free you up to focus more time on things that matter

Using ChatGPT is free for now, so try it out and build your prompting skills for the most effective use of it

The hype cycle for ChatGPT has swung into hyperdrive. We’ve gone from “What is ChatGPT?” to “ChatGPT will save marketing” to “ChatGPT will kill copywriter jobs” in less than six months. That’s quite a feat, even by today’s accelerated technology adoption standards.

With more than a million registered users now, ChatGPT is the best-known of the AI-driven natural language models. Some marketers say ChatGPT and its cousin, DALL-E for generating images will create content faster and more accurately than human creators.

Others have vowed not to go near ChatGPT, insisting that AL language models are just the latest shiny new toy for marketers and will never replicate the human touch that elevates great marketing from persuasion to engagement.

Who’s right? Everybody, and nobody.

ChatGPT: finally, a tool just for copywriters…

Every other marketing function has tools to help them succeed. Until now, copywriters had nothing but their brains and some tools they borrowed from other channels, like keyword generators for search marketers.

ChatGPT is a tool for creating conversations and copy. Just as keyword generators didn’t replace search marketers, natural language models like ChatGPT can’t replace skilled copywriters.

But, as with any tool, whether it’s a digital assistant or a hammer, or a food processor, your success comes from how well you use it. And that is a product of your skills, knowledge, and experience. In inexperienced hands, ChatGPT could go rogue quickly, producing irrelevant, confusing, ineffective, or even offensive copy.

Marketing executives who think they can fill the gap with ChatGPT and an intern are selling their marketing teams and programs short.

…A tool for generating good first drafts, that is

Copywriters call on many sources to produce effective messaging for email. Here are three:

Numbers: Customer and subscriber data, web and journey behavior and testing results that both succeeded and failed

Customer and subscriber data, web and journey behavior and testing results that both succeeded and failed Intuitive knowledge: The brand’s unique voice and equity, the unique foibles of their customers and market, and where the intended recipients are in the sales funnel or on the customer journey with your brand

The brand’s unique voice and equity, the unique foibles of their customers and market, and where the intended recipients are in the sales funnel or on the customer journey with your brand Strategic impact: What you want that email to accomplish or what you want your subscribers to do with it.

The foundation of this mountain of knowledge is the ultimate goal of every email you send. To persuade the subscriber to click from the email through your website.

This is a fine point that many marketers don’t understand. That’s why you can’t just pull copy from your website and plop it into an email. Or load a couple of prompts into the ChatGPT interface and wait while it generates copy before your very eyes.

But what you can do is give ChatGPT enough information in a carefully written prompt so it can deliver a good-enough first draft that you can then revise, refine, augment, and test.

That’s where ChatGPT can save time, energy, and brainpower. Even the best copywriters know the terror of the blank white paper or screen. Instead of waiting for inspiration to strike, or wasting time on one false start after another, let ChatGPT do the grunt work for you.

Don’t expect originality or personality

That’s why I emphasize that ChatGPT could give you a decent first draft, sort of like an extended search result, and not a polished final version that’s ready to go out for approvals.

As an AI language model, ChatGPT doesn’t do original thinking. What you get is the result of millions of connections based on how the model was constructed, what others have searched for and what content the model, like a giant search engine, can discover.

I love Lauren Goode’s definition in Wired: “Ask Jeeves for the modern era.”

ChatGPT can give you original arrangements of words, but they might be out of content or, worse, wrong. I discovered that when I asked ChatGPT to explain the concept of holistic email marketing.

Here’s what popped up:

Holistic email marketing is an approach to email marketing that takes a comprehensive, integrated, and strategic view of email communication. It involves designing and implementing email campaigns that consider the entire customer journey, from the initial contact through to post-purchase follow-up. In holistic email marketing, email campaigns are developed with a focus on delivering value to the customer, building relationships, and driving long-term engagement. This involves using data to segment email lists, crafting personalized and relevant content, and utilizing automation and optimization techniques to ensure that emails are delivered at the right time and with the right frequency. Holistic email marketing also takes into account the role that email plays in the wider marketing mix, integrating email campaigns with other marketing channels to create a cohesive, multi-channel experience for customers. This may involve incorporating social media, mobile, and other digital channels to create a seamless experience that supports the overall marketing strategy. Ultimately, holistic email marketing aims to create a customer-centric approach that goes beyond just sending emails to customers, and instead focuses on building meaningful relationships that lead to increased engagement, loyalty, and ultimately, revenue.

And yes, I had a little fun with my next prompt: “Define holistic email marketing in the style of Taylor Swift.” ChatGPT waggled a digital finger at me but took a valiant stab at answering:

As an AI language model, I cannot know exactly what Taylor Swift’s definition of holistic email marketing is, but I can provide you with an explanation of the term. Holistic email marketing refers to an approach to email marketing that considers the entire customer journey and uses a comprehensive strategy to engage subscribers at every touchpoint. This includes everything from the initial sign-up process to the post-purchase follow-up. … Similar to Taylor Swift’s approach to music, which involves considering all aspects of the songwriting and production process, holistic email marketing seeks to create a cohesive and meaningful experience for the subscriber. By focusing on the customer as a whole and considering all of their needs and preferences, a holistic email marketing strategy can help build long-term relationships with subscribers and improve overall engagement and conversion rates.

I can tell you both are authoritative definitions of holistic email marketing because I came up with the term 20 years ago. Both also use large sections of my work from my website, speeches and presentations and thought-leadership pieces like this one. All of them are easily found on the web. (Good to know my SEO efforts have paid off.)

But these reconstituted versions are missing something. They’re accurate. They’re succinct. But they’re a little dry, too, even the Taylor Swift one. No sly little plays on titles like “Call It What You Want” or even “Shake it Off.”

A little humor goes a long way. This email from the personal-care brand ‘Who Gives A Crap’ shows how to mix generated copy with original content.

Do use it for testing

That’s one area where ChatGPT and models like it can save you hours of prep work for A/B split or multi-variate testing. ChatGPT could generate variations that reflect different emotions (urgency versus scarcity, for example) or a hard-sell direct approach versus an emotional appeal.

If you’re stuck for subject line inspiration, write a detailed prompt that tells ChatGPT to give you 10 suggestions and see if any of those inspire you.

Stay customer-centric and strategic

That rule still applies – maybe even more so because unfettered use of chat models can lead your email copy astray, along with your brand promise and expectations.

ChatGPT’s interface is the most user-friendly one I’ve discovered. Test-drive it yourself to discover the possibilities.

Always remember, however, that ChatGPT and tools like it are just that – tools that you use, calling on your own knowledge and expertise to guide and direct them. You, the marketer, are still the Director of their experience and journey. Keep your focus on your customers. What would motivate them to click? What would build up your brand or be off-putting? How can you save time and effort?

ChatGPT won’t represent the invasion of our robot overlords if you use it wisely. Instead, it could become another R2-D2, a chatty little AI helper doing humdrum tasks and freeing you to save Alderaan – that is, to make your email marketing efforts even more productive.

Kath Pay is an international bestselling author, award winner, keynote speaker & CEO at Holistic Email Marketing. She can be found on Twitter @kathpay.

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GPT’s reaction to this article:

As an AI language model, I do not have personal opinions or biases. However, I can provide a summary of the article. The article discusses the use of ChatGPT, an AI-driven natural language model, as a tool for marketers to create conversations and copy. The author emphasizes that ChatGPT cannot replace skilled copywriters, but can be used to generate good first drafts that can be revised, refined, augmented, and tested. The article also highlights the importance of staying customer-centric and strategic when using ChatGPT and other AI tools. Overall, the article provides insights into the potential benefits and limitations of using ChatGPT in marketing.

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