7 “What To Expect”s When You Are Expecting: Getting Real About Your First Email Campaign
Unfortunately, there are a lot of preconceptions about email marketing, some truth and some dirty rumours, too. When used properly, email marketing is a fantastic way to supplement other forms of direct marketing, including direct (snail) mail and telemarketing. It is not a miracle drug to cure revenue loss and isn’t a replacement for your sales team, either.
After 20 years of direct marketing for my own businesses as well as for many customers, I have learned to get very realistic about my expectations. A 3% direct mail campaign can be a celebration if conducted with a pure prospect database, but an utter failure if it is an upsell/cross sell campaign to your customer base. How about a 3% response using email for prospects? Don’t count on it! Try .3% on your first wave, unless you have the only stock of umbrellas during the rainy season.
OK, you are still reading and not discouraged by that number – excellent! Let’s talk about how you can make your first foray into email marketing a success:
- Know your target audience – Remember marketing 101 from your University days? More importantly, do you remember your ABCs? That A is for Audience and it is where you must start. If you haven’t done an analysis of your customer base, or at least not recently, you will likely find some pleasant and unpleasant surprises in there. The proper way to conduct this analysis is to first have your file cleaned and enhanced by a reputable source (feel free to email me for ideas, this isn’t an ad). This will help you determine the industries, sizes, geographies and for a little more, the financial weaknesses of your customers. It will also give you the firmographics of those customers who are your best - the ones that buy the most, are the lowest cost to service, pay their bills on time and buy multiple products.
- Be relevant – You know who these customers are, but why do they really buy from you? Surely you have competitors, but for some reason, your customers are loyal to your brand. You need to understand why, and you need to distill those reasons into your marketing message. Is it your stellar service? Are you the best value around? Do you have key benefits from killer tech that put you ahead of the rest in your space? Be creative, but weave these buying messages into the copy, then make an .html and a plain text version of the message. Some servers will not accept .html, so make sure you have copy that works without graphics and images.
- Get what you paid for – If you are marketing to your own customers, then it is easy to send out your file for an email append. The provider can also de-dupe and clean it up for you, helping to identify changed addresses and phone numbers, too. If prospecting, the choices are broader, but you will miss more often than hit. Research your sources, and don’t get lured in by the $99 all-you-can-eat lists. These are rife with problems and are likely quite old, having been compiled from multiple sources or scraped from the web. Reputable sources will return a list that is 98-99% deliverable. Just don’t expect one provider to have everything. Most lists for B2B are only in the several million range, so you might need to multisource the project. A few top-notch providers can construct email addresses for you – they have mapped the domains for the companies already. I won’t explain the tech here, but suffice it to say, it is game-changing. If you aren’t sure of what to expect, ask for a guarantee, most good firms will do that for you.
- Ride the Wild Surf – There are a few good rules of thumb in marketing – which is about the most highly opinionated field after politics. One is that it takes 3 impressions to make an impression. In other words, don’t expect the phones to ring off the hook or the website to be flooded with new Unique Visitors on your first wave of the campaign - you will need multiple waves with different mediums. Things need time to sink in, and if your brand is unknown, reduce your expectations by at least 75%. Another important one is that it is often the 6th or 7th call that gets the appointment from a busy executive. The best campaigns use email as a supplement, where after the 3rd wave, you intersperse calls from your sales team with continued emails to get the best lift.
- Don’t take prisoners – You MUST allow people, even customers, to opt-out of your marketing efforts. Even an opt-in list must allow people to opt-out from your list. It’s a running joke that everyone by now has opted-in somewhere – but you still need to manage this process closely and let them out. This is particularly important with prospects who aren’t expecting your message. In this case, you need to run a Can-Spam compliant opt-out permission pass message before you market to them.
- Call to Arms – The targets are acquired, the marketing machine is prepared to deliver the goods, you are Can-Spam aware and compliant, what’s left? Your most expensive resource – the sales team - still needs to be ready. It is a great idea to provide a high level marketing overview of upcoming campaigns regularly, as well as to conduct Just-In-Time training right before launch. But reps forget the details of campaigns a month out, so a perfect time to hold a launch meeting is on the morning the phase of the campaign turns from email to calling from sales. Show them the marketing email message, explain the targets, and share your goal expectations with this team. They need to understand the desired outcome and what comprises the offer. Align with sales leadership on the timing, as end of quarter and end of month campaigns are ill-timed.
- Celebrate! – You need to celebrate – you just incorporated an ultra low cost and effective new medium into your marketing mix. Back to the start of this blog, you need to have realistic expectations, whether you are big brand everyone knows, or a new incredible technology that everyone will know about soon will impact your open rates, clickthroughs and the number of leads generated for sales.