This article was written by Ed Hatton for the column the Start up Coach and published by the South African edition of Entrepreneur magazine in May 2012 and is posted here by their kind permission.
Getting a response from initial e-mails is a challenge
This entrepreneur started a company to market advertising for digital publications and mobiles. Like most start-ups he has a challenge in making initial sales, and he has identified a weakness in his initial e-mails to generate interest. For instance his e-mails promoting a new product for organisations sending electronic statements has produced no response. He asks what he should include in the e-mail.
This entrepreneur actually faces two challenges: He needs to attract attention from potential customers who do not know his business or his products. To do this he has tried using e-mail as an inexpensive way to communicate his offer, but has been unsuccessful. His second challenge is that he is promoting advertising in the digital world, so his digital communications have to be arresting and effective, he cannot use traditional media to market his products.
E-mail is incredibly efficient at sending messages but this has brought about the major problems of e-mail overload and spam. As a result defences against unwanted mail have been built. Many of this entrepreneur’s e-mails will never be read, victims of spam filters or the delete button. If they are read, it will be a quick scan, so messages which don’t immediately attract attention will be ignored.
This means that the message must be interesting to that reader, and concise. Digital media writing guru Tiffany Markman advises that you have to reduce reading time for the audience, and that you have only 30 words to attract their attention. The message must be about what the product or service can do for the potential buyer, not about the product features. Use “you” a lot more than “our”.
To be able to show what the product can do for the customer the entrepreneur has to understand what the entrepreneur needs. This entrepreneur has a product which sends advertising messages with electronic statements. To interest a company in this service, the entrepreneur must show how the company will benefit from statement advertising, or show better returns than the method they use now. So the task is to understand the potential customer and then design a message that shows how and why the customer could expect better responses with this new method.
Fortunately we all have a wonderful and free guide to effective e-mails, which is the mail we get. Look carefully at the mail that you read – what attracted you to that mail message and not to others? Usually you will find a few key points:
The opposite is the e-mails with bad spelling and grammar, complicated messages, product boasts or wild claims, no relevance to you and other communication horrors.
Target your advertising
Unlike other advertising, the entrepreneur must ask permission to send e-mail or SMS information and offers to the target audience. He also needs to have an unsubscribe facility and to honour requests to unsubscribe. Although these rules are widely disregarded, it is not smart to bypass them, and risk being blacklisted as a spammer. Rather send targeted mail to a few selected prospects initially.
Gaining permission to mail is usually by an initial polite e-mail request which shows a reason why it would be advantageous for the target to receive mail, an effective and interesting web site or a social media page where the entrepreneur collects those who ‘like’ the ideas presented.
There are a large number of highly professional service providers who run e-mail campaigns with pre-screened opt-in lists, automatic list cleaning and response services. There are also professional training courses, including one by the Direct Marketing Association. But start up entrepreneurs will seldom have funds for services like this, so they need to look for the free services. Fortunately there are many, advice blogs, mail templates, guides to direct mail and webinars on the subject.
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