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How to make email cost effective

Paul Clapham explains how to make good use of this cost effective promotional tool How to make email cost effective

Email is a wonderful marketing tool. It’s free. You can activate it 24/7. Your contacts can respond immediately with next to no effort. It can be highly personalised. You can measure what messages are most effective and then apply that to the rest of your marketing activity. Marvellous.

The problem is the above combination often encourages overuse, indeed lazy use. Businesses fall into the mindset that goes: “We’ve got an idea, let’s run it up the flagpole, if nobody salutes, nothing’s lost.”

There’s also the view that if 1,000 emails deliver 20 worthwhile contacts, then 10,000 emails will deliver 200. If that arithmetic is correct, why isn’t everybody stinking rich?

That approach is invariably met with negative results because it focuses almost exclusively on the zero cost benefit of emailing. Granted, that is a potent argument, but it misses so much potential. It also ignores the fact that so many emails are treated as spam, however valuable the content might be to the receiver.

Key rule

The key rule is to target your customers in the same way as you would for traditional offline marketing activity.

Email offers the potential to personalise to a far greater extent than almost any other media. For those who are selling business-to-business, you should consciously avoid mass marketing tactics, which essentially aim to deliver one message as cost effectively as possible to millions of potential customers.

Instead, you should aim to have a message that works on a one-to-one basis. Aim to target businesses in sectors where you have experience and knowledge. An email that demonstrates both those strengths is far likelier to generate a response and would create a better reaction to telephone follow up.

Win new clients

You will note that targeting is about giving you the best chance to win new clients. It might look like making a lot more work out of your email marketing activity. I would suggest that it will make it easier, faster and above all more effective.

Fewer and better emails will bring home the bacon far more consistently than a blitz programme. Consider too that if that blitz was very successful, you would never be able to handle all the new opportunities.

I’m a firm believer in ‘the power of one’. Plan to do things one by one, to win new clients one by one, and you achieve more over time. Depending on your business model, it probably takes a certain amount of time to bring a new client on board properly, to learn their needs and for them to learn you.

Frequency of messages

How often do you email? As long as you’re original and creative, you can send a lot of messages - once a day for a month if you’ve got 30 relevant ideas. The last thing you do is send the same email time after time. If it didn’t work the first time, it definitely won’t the 10th time and, yes, I have been on the receiving end of this.

The key virtue in all this is that you’re saying something to a purpose. Most so called selling emails don’t do that.

Because they’re generic, they’re anodyne to the nth degree with the result that the reader can’t see any benefit to themselves. As a result, they stop reading after the first sentence and firmly resolve never to open another email from you: double fail.

I refer above to targeting business sectors where you have knowledge and experience. It would be fair to say that you’ll run out of prospective targets this way, if you are too literal about it, pretty fast. So don’t be literal.

As an example, if you have had success selling to plumbers, re-imagine that as success selling to tradesmen. With some minor variations, what is right for plumbers will be right for carpenters, bricklayers, roofers and other trades on a building site. By ‘right’ I mean the selling message, as well as the product sold.

In the same way, do you have a track record selling to companies that target a particular demographic group? That could be by various combinations of age, gender, family size or level of affluence.

Again, you should be able to apply that experience to other businesses that are targeting those same customers. The message is: we understand your needs because we sell to the same group of people.

I recognise that without asking the target companies in question it will be difficult to know in advance whether the demographic group(s) you know well are relevant - difficult but not impossible. In some cases, businesses tell you on their websites about their customer base, the principle being that it attracts other people with the same tastes and wants.

This is especially relevant where a business has attracted a surprising demographic, eg sports stores with a significant number of 50-plus customers (there are quite a few around the country). I recommend ‘collecting’ these businesses into a new business file.

Target by job title

An important element of email marketing is to target people by their job title. What you send to the sales or marketing manager should be quite different to what you send to the personnel manager, any of which could be the first contact you develop with a larger company.

In my experience, the finance director is unlikely to be an initial contact, but it’s entirely possible that you will have to address his or her issues by email too and each of those people will have a different take, a different set of wants. You might not want to address all of them by email, but your prospective client might insist.

Finally, do you get a specialist to do it for you? As a broad rule of thumb, in marketing I think that produces better results. In this case, I think it’s a waste of money.

The exception is if you don’t have in-house skills to write sharp email copy. But I predict you already know someone who would up your game at a sensible price. Read more like this

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