Friday, November 29, 2013

Gene Marks: Email Marketing Thoughts

A guest post by Gene Marks

Every month my company sends out five newsletters and another five to ten mass emails to other groups.  We've been doing this for ten years.  And it works.  Most of the time.  We've had a ton of failures.  But mostly success.  So what have I learned?  Lots.  Let me at least share these three things.

1.  Have many lists.  No one does email “blasts” anymore. Today, you're sending targeted messages.  The size of your list really doesn't matter.  It's the quality.  What good are 1,000 people on an email list when only 20 actually read your newsletter?  Look at your database and then segment, segment, segment.  Ask yourself, what do these people want to hear about?  A specific product or service?  Issues affecting their industry?  Don't just blast out an email to everyone.  Blast out ten emails to ten different groups who have ten different interests.  And schedule your emails depending on the group.  The suspects who gave you their business cards at tradeshows might want to hear from you three or four times a year.  You're A-list customers should be getting messages from you at least once a month. The prospects who showed some interest in your products or services and may be interested again someday should be getting information from you every couple of months.   Your lists will be ever changing.

2.  Educate, don't sell.  No one wants to get emails with sales pitches jammed down their throats.  Instead, come up with two or three pieces of advice you want to give to your audience.  They may be specifically or indirectly related to your product or service.  They may have something to do with your industry or region. You're an expert.  You can come up with these topics.  Help your readers get smarter.  Sure you can plug your products somewhere on the sidebar or bottom of your message, as long as it's done unobtrusively.  But your first goal is to educate your reader.  Give them some food for thought.  Elicit some action, like a click to a more detailed article on your blog, a request for a whitepaper, a sign up for a seminar or webinar.  Establish your company as a thought leader in your field.  Use your email messages to show how good you are and justify why the reader should be comfortable doing business with you.  Don't like to write?  Then come up with an idea and hire someone who can.  Which brings me to my last item…

3.  Invest and commit.  This is not a campaign.  It's a long term commitment. An email service may be relatively inexpensive but it's really just a fraction of the overall cost.  To really get results you have to do this for a long, long time.  You have to build a devoted readership.  People will be drawn to your emails if they're getting useful information in a reliable and consistent manner.  You don't have the time to do this yourself.  You're going to have to hire or contract someone to help you.  This person will have a lot to do:  maintain and update your database, craft the messages, administer the emails, oversee your “opt-in” process, make sure people who respond get noticed and keep things interesting.  Again and again and again.  This will take time and money.  But doesn't everything in business take time and money?

Just remember:  you can't put a gun to someone's head and tell them to buy from you.  All you can do is stay in their minds just enough so that when there's an interest your company is thought of first.  That's the goal of an effective email marketing process.  Oh, one more thing:  grow a thick skin. Because that guy who opted in two years ago may for some reason be in a bad mood when he gets an email from you and responds with a nasty-gram.  This has happened to me a lot over the years. Oh well.