Make E-MAIL your can’t miss salesperson

Jun 01, 2000 9:30 PM  By

If you haven’t been using e-mail selling messages because you’re afraid your customers or clients will think those promotional messages are spam, one of four situations exist: 1.) You’re e-mailing the wrong people. 2.) You’re using the wrong words. 3.) You’re about to lose market share. 4.) All of the above.

I’ve become a dedicated fan of e-mail because even in its embryonic stage – after all, as a marketing medium it’s only five or six years old – e-mail has proved itself to be the easiest, least-expensive medium any smart marketer could exploit. But those are just two facets of its benefits.

Equally valuable is the medium’s ability, without the laying on of hands by arrogant technicians, to change its message on a dime. Within 24 hours…well, make that 48 hours if you want truly definitive numbers…you can tabulate the results of copy tests, price tests, product viability, and your own salesmanship.

Seth Godin in his watershed book Permission Marketing points out the one rock under the diving board: You don’t want to send e-mail messages to people who don’t know you. But even that caveat can be tempered by clever copy. And the astute marketer knows how to gather names without spending a ton of money.

The easy media marriage

Just as the Web positions itself without obsolescing television or radio or print, so does e-mail position itself without obsolescing direct mail. Synergy is as near as the recognition of the strengths and weaknesses of each medium. One rational formula:

- The Web produces mass targets.

- Other media produce selective targets.

- Direct mail penetrates the targets.

- E-mail milks the targets.

Now, obviously we have many thousands of examples, even in the year 2000, in which any one of these, a single medium, carries the entire weight. But this distribution has both power and logic in its corner. E-mail as a “milking” medium has three major force-communications arrows in its quiver:

First, it’s intensely personal. It’s totally one-to-one. Properly structured (and we’ll explore some of the proper word-structures in a moment), it combines the magic of conviviality with the power of rapport.

Second, it’s fast. No aging here. If you’ve ever entered a bid for something on an eBay auction, you see simple technology at its best: You get confirming e-mail within 2 to 10 seconds. And they have your online name.

Third, it’s versatile. What a perfect testing medium! Tests cost next to nothing, and they’re limited only by the size of your imagination and your list.

Build that list!

Whatever you advertise, in any medium, include a means of capturing a prospect’s online address. The easiest means are online discounts (heavy discounts, please, enhanced if you like with printable coupons), contests or sweepstakes, the offer of daily or weekly specials, newsletters, daily jokes, and “freebies.” Contemporary response devices in print ads and direct mail packages include a line for an online address…which, in today’s marketing ambience, can be far more valuable than any other entry.

Once you have names, volunteered by prospects, those individuals become grist for the e-mail mill. Milk them mercilessly.

`Welcome to our world’

The formula is both simple and elegant. The first e-mail message to a newly acquired name should say, “Welcome to our world”…or, more preferable if the assumptive relationship warrants, “Welcome to our family.” But don’t stop there: “As our way of a) saying thanks b) welcoming you c) introducing you to the terrific benefits of doing business with us, we’re able to extend this private offer to you, until midnight Friday.”

Note, please: It isn’t an offer. It’s a private offer. It isn’t “until Friday.” It’s “until midnight Friday.” The Web and its paladin, e-mail, are the epitome of one to one, and they run by the clock, not by the calendar.

Does e-mail pull? Does it ever! The worldwide marketing director of Oracle, in a recent speech, said, “We can send e-mail out and get a 76% response rate. We’ve virtually stopped doing direct marketing in the U.S. We use PR and the Internet.”

Don’t count on a 76% response rate. But do count on being pleasantly surprised if you’re used to typical response percentages from other media.

A bonus exists: customer loyalty, a rare asset in the fickle Age of the Internet.

As sophistication sets in, response and the lock on a customer’s buying pattern both strengthen: “It’s been three months since you ordered Glucosamine Sulfate, and we’re ready to replenish your supply at a hefty personal discount. While you’re at it, click here to discover more about the wonder supplement Sam-E. We know you’ll be interested in being one of the first to know about it.”

(Copy point: It’s “one of the first,” not “among the first.”)

Speaking of word use…

I have a book out, Cybertalk That Sells, which lists a sizable number of words and phrases that seem to work well in e-mail. Here are just a few. You can see the pattern and easily extend the list yourself:

Attention!

Congratulations!

Flash

Hot

Inside

Miracle

Private

Shocking

S.O.S.

Uh-oh!

(Note that “hot” is a prime e-mail word while “warm” has no impact at all.)

Some valuable phrases…

And here are a few phrases to prime the e-mail pump:

After Friday midnight, forget it.

Can you answer this?

Check this out.

Did we make a mistake?

Did you make a mistake?

Don’t bother reading this unless…

Got two minutes?

I’m about to give up on you.

Today is the day.

Too busy? Too bad.

What do I have to do to…?

If you’re looking for mystery or some arcane formula, you’re in the wrong arena. Effective e-mail is basic child psychology, informal and provocative.

Researchers agree with us

Want proof that the most logical and most personal medium is also the hottest medium? The research company e-marketer predicts that e-mail advertising expenditures will skyrocket from the $97 million spent in 1999 to $2 billion by the end of 2003.

More significantly, the researcher estimates that e-mail’s share of online ad spending will rise, during this same period, from 3% to 15%. The mightiness of this leap is hard to comprehend unless one recognizes two factors: 1) how inexpensive e-mail can be, compared with any other medium; 2) the inevitable recognition by marketers, whatever they’re hawking, of e-mail’s many superiorities.