[Email of the Week #54]: Surfshark

By John Holt

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Every single email you ever send to your list is a touchpoint that influences how people feel about your company. My friend Jimmy Parent once said that a brand isn’t a logo or a color scheme on your website… it’s the collection of all the interactions a customer has had with your company and how they feel about you.

That’s a powerful idea.

And it’s a big part of the reason why I think paying attention to EVERY email your company sends out is such a good idea.

Even the boring emails.

For today’s email of the week, we’re going to take a look at one of those ‘boring’ emails every company has to send at some time or another.

But watch how Surfshark used this as an opportunity to delight their customers with some fun, lighthearted copy.

This week’s email breakdown was done by another one of the writers at my agency, John Holt. He’s a cheeky chap from across the pond. [insert other British slang phrases/stereotypes here]

Let’s check out John’s awesome breakdown of Surfshark’s email.

Take it away, John…

..

.

The Rules For Email Of The Week

Each week, I go out into the wild to find a super-effective e-commerce marketing email… and I break down what made it work. My goal is for you to tune in each week, so I can teach you strategies and best practices YOU can use to make your own emails better.

I find these emails in my inbox, but I also accept suggestions from readers who have a remarkable email they’d like to share.

If you recently received an email that was so awesome it made your jaw drop, I wanna see it.

Forward it to me (chris at theemailcopywriter dot com) with a brief message about what you liked about it. If I choose to do a breakdown of the email you sent, I’ll give you a shout out and link to your site.

The only rule is… you can’t pick yourself.

Now then, let’s check out the Email of the Week!

Bayyyyyy beeeeee SHARK DO DO… DO DO DO DO!!!!

As soon as this email landed in my inbox, I thought ‘Man this would make for a great “Email of the Week!”’

It’s from Surfshark, the VPN provider. 

MY VPN provider, in fact.

I’d like to tell you that I joined Surfshark because I have a big ol’ stash of Bitcoin and want to keep my digital wallet safe, or that I value my family’s safety online, but…

… I got it because UK Netflix is a bit shit.

Swishing through titles gives me horrible flashbacks of rooting through the bargain bin in Blockbuster…

“This looks goo… oh wait, it’s got David Hasselhoff in it…”

Anyway, I’d been with Surfshark a few months when I got an email letting me know about a change in their T&C’s.

I don’t know about you but, whenever I get one of these “we’ve updated our policy” emails, I like to pour myself a nice glass of scotch, fire up some Mantovani on the gramophone, and stoke the fire, so I can sit down and really enjoy the experience.

Of course not, I do the same as you do when stuff like this hits my inbox – hit delete and pray they didn’t add a sneaky “we get first dibs on your liver” clause in there somewhere.

T&C emails are all the same, but that’s GOOD NEWS.

You see, these kinds of emails remind me of something I learned when I was a magician:

“There’s no such thing as ‘dead time’ – just an opportunity for some interaction”

I know that sounds kinda Zen, but I can tell you – after years of doing card tricks for drunk people, you learn how important it is to keep the fun and laughter going.

The last thing you need is a sozzled Gavin from accounts feeling brave and filling in the lulls blanks with his collection of racy limericks.

“There once was a man from Madras…”

Routine emails like this can be boring, “dead time” emails that get deleted, sight unseen, or…

… you can have a little fun with them and make ‘em memorable, as Surfshark has done.

First off though, we gotta talk about the subject line…

Subject line: We updated our terms of service

For an email that does a damn fine job of standing out from the crowd, the subject line could do with a little work.

I mean, gimme something – ANYTHING – to let me know that, while this email is talking about something as interesting as watching Ned Flanders’s beige paint dry…

… it’s still worth opening, cos it’s going to be a little different.

“We’ve updated our terms of… WAIT! DON’T DELETE ME YET!”

“Yawn – we’ve updated our T&Cs – EXCITING TIMES!”

“OMFG – ANOTHER T&C’s email???”

“Barry in Legal told me I HAD to send you this, John…”

Now we’ve got the “could do better” part out of the way, let’s have a look at the rest of the email, as there’s a lot of good stuff here, starting with the first line:

Even though there’s nothing outright hilarious here, what they’ve done is tap into that rich vein of comedy:

Calling out the moment.

Truth is, most folks hate getting these kinds of emails, so straight out the gate SurfShark’s joining the “oh my god, I hate these emails…” conversation the reader is having in their head…

… while also letting you know that, “yeah, we know these aren’t the most interesting emails in the world, but since we gotta send it, we might as well have some fun…”

Also: it’s worth noting that while it SEEMS like they’re taking the piss out of lawyers…

… they’re not.

Truth is, if you’re the kind of person who really does enjoy reading these kinds of documents, you probably WOULD excel in the legal field – so Surfshark’s actually giving you some pretty solid career advice as a free bonus!

Onto the next section…

This is a small thing, but it’s worth noting – they transition into the main part of the email by giving a logical reason for emailing.

Not only that, but it’s a customer-focused reason too – they know you don’t like wading through endless pages of legal docs, so they sent you this email to make your life easier, which is what they’re about to do…

Rather than giving me a link to the new T&Cs and asking me to play “spot the difference”…

… Surfshark demonstrates they value my time by SHOWING the changes in the email.

They’ve made my life easier, but they also go one step further and explain WHY they’ve made the changes…

Surfshark’s turned a simple T&C email into something that not only SHOWS they want to make their customer’s lives easier but also that they’re transparent in how they run their business.

This email is actually BAD NEWS for me and all their customers – now there are fewer opportunities to get a refund – but they’ve presented it cleverly.

It would be real easy for this kind of message to come across as a hard-ass, “we’re sick of being messed around and taken advantage of…” kind of vibe, but Surfshark uses this email to form a bond with you – the trustworthy and decent buyer – as you join the fight against “them” – the not-so-honest guys.

“We want to keep our money-back guarantee open and available for everyone. Still, we have to tighten the security a little bit to filter out anyone who’s simply trying to get Surfshark for free.”

Translation – as long as you’re not trying to screw us over, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Conclusion

Most companies don’t give much thought to routine emails like this.

They do what they’ve gotta do to keep Legal happy and hit SEND.

“Hey, your bill’s going up $100 next month”

“Here’s your invoice…”

“Dear Sir, Just to let you know that our Privacy Policy now allows us to look through your browsing history and rummage through your garbage…”

Of course, they CAN be like that, BUT…

… why not spend the time creating an email that goes the extra mile and reaffirms to the customer why they chose you in the first place?

Why not use these kinds of emails as an opportunity?

If you find writing this kind of email a bit of a challenge, I’ll give you two suggestions:

  1. Get Orzy Media to write it, and all your emails, for you. 

Or…

  1. Eliminate the struggle of doing battle with the blank page by starting with the most basic version of whatever “we gotta send this” email you have to write…

… and add some of these elements to that and go from there.

Surfshark only used 175 words in this email but, as you can see, those 175 words accomplish a hell of a lot.

So, next time Barry from Legal pops his head into your office and tells you you have to send a “boring” email to your customers, whether it’s to alert them to a tiny change in your T&Cs, or that you’ve had to repossess their Gran (again!)…

… look at it as a chance to separate yourself from the competition, demonstrate some of your values, build a bond with your customers, and maybe have a little fun while you’re at it.

Remember – there’s no such thing as dead time…

Takeaways

  1. “Dead-time” emails like this are a great opportunity to separate yourself from the competition and remind your customers why they choose you in the first place.
  2. Enter the conversation the reader is having in their head (“Oh god, not ANOTHER T&Cs email…”)
  3. Use your subject line to let them know that this ain’t no ordinary email…
  4. Don’t just SAY you want to make the reader’s life easier – demonstrate it by SHOWING them!
  5. Look for opportunities to get on the same “side” as your customer, so it’s you and them against the bad guys. You’re the heroes.
  6. Finding it hard? Make your life easier by starting with the “boring” version of the email – the one you HAVE to send… and then add some of these elements to it.

Orzy’s Analysis

Spot on, ‘ol chap!

I thought this one was quite good.

In all seriousness, this was actually a pretty good email. The best copy is so smooth, you don’t even realize you’re reading copy.

The style of this email kind of reminds me of this quote I heard from Mad Men.

Lane Price is breaking the news to Pete about why he didn’t get promoted to Head of Accounts at the agency:

“While you’ve done a very good job making sure our feel like their needs are met… Ken has the rare ability of making clients feel like they haven’t any needs at all.”

Sometimes, good copy is about making your writing so smooth, conversational, simple, and easy to digest… the copy itself gets out of it’s own way. Your reader isn;’t distracted by KILLER HEADLINE HACKS or a lot of this other copy bullshit.

It’s clean, clear, smooth, conversational, fun and REAL copy.

Nicely done Surfshark. And nicely done, John.

Make sure you get on John’s list here – CLICK ME RIGHT NOW!!!!!

What To Do Now

  1. Subscribe to my email list so you can get ALL of the Emails of the Week delivered straight to your inbox, automatically.
  2. Leave a comment for me below and let me know what you liked about this email.
  3. Check out Surfshark. Seems like they’ve got a pretty cool product.

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1 Comment

  1. Faliq on July 4, 2021 at 5:46 am

    This is smooth. In fact, i’m gonna check surfshark right now for their service.

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