Following up sales leads by email – Mistake or smart move?

followupI recently read a post on bmmagazine.com. Although I tend to agree with much of the stuff I read around internet marketing; in this case, not so much! The basic premise of the post is this: If you are sending emails to keep in touch with a prospective customer, DON’T! You should call them.  If you want to read the full post it is here The fundamental issue I have is that the post is looking at the subject from the salesman’s point of view (what is the best solution for him) rather than the customer’s perspective. Although I agree that simply using email as a way to move follow ups out of your inbox is not a good scenario, neither is going through your list of leads and blindly calling them. I feel the post is misguided on 2 points:

  1. It assumes that it is the salesman’s job alone to turn prospects into customers
  2. It suggests that the process is a seamless pipeline with leads going in at one end, being processed and coming out the other end as customers

In my opinion, neither of these is true! These days customers are much more inclined to buy from suppliers they know and trust. They will also buy when they are ready.  The idea of a sales person calling a prospect on their own schedule and picking up business there and then is much less likely than it used to be. The process of generating leads and turning them into customers is a team effort including everyone in the organisation, and one in which both email and the sales team have valuable parts to play – not to mention marketing, customer service etc, etc. If this process is working well, a new prospect would start to receive regular appropriate, joined-up communications that build the profile of your organisation & enhance  its value in the eyes of your potential customer. Hopefully they will see this value and when they are ready to buy, you should be at the top of their list of potential suppliers. In some instances this communication will be low cost (to both you and the customer), and will generate a ‘platform of awareness‘ that ensures that the prospect does not forget you, and builds your reputation (email newsletters are a great example of this). At other times, where appropriate, contact will be the high cost, high value intervention of a salesperson. Coming back to the scenario in the article, and the question “should a salesperson use email to communicate with prospects”?  The answer in my opinion is “Sometimes YES/Sometimes NO”. Salesmen are targeted on delivering sales and their organisation should ensure that they have the tools to deliver this. Company Managers should understand the business development process of which they are a part. In this context, salesmen should be able to look at a prospect and decide whether to pick up the phone, send a personalised email, or simply drop the lead back into the system for on going low level communication. This way they can ensure that their skills are being are being used as effectively and efficiently as possible to deliver best value for both the organisation and the prospect. No professional salesperson who rally understands the business development process, would simply send an email when there is value for all parties in a phone call or visit. But they need to know that when this value is not there in the short term, that there are process to ensure that the prospect does not get forgotten.

Is your WordPress site secure from a cyber attack?

wordpress-security-copyUnless you follow the tech news, you may be unaware that there is currently a global attack under way on WordPress sites. The aim of the attack seems to be simple; Use low powered computers to gain access to low security WordPress sites, and through these to hack the powerful servers on which they are hosted. Thus providing a much more powerful platform to attack higher security sites in the future. “So what” I hear you say, “has this got to do with me?” The fact is that WordPress is used to power over 60 million sites worldwide, and there is a fair chance that it also powers yours! At this point I should stress that you don’t need to panic. If set up correctly, and properly secured, WordPress is a VERY secure platform and is unlikely to be vulnerable to the current attacks. What’s more securing your site is a simple process (one which has been applied to ALL the sites that we manage). The steps to securing your site are as follows:

  1. Ensure that the core WordPress files and all plugins are fully up to date.WordPress is constantly evolving, and any security loopholes that are identified tend to get plugged very quickly, so keeping your site updated will go a long way to keeping it secure. 
  2. Install a security plugin like WP Better SecurityThis type of plugin will manage the process of securing your site, and will allow you to implement various levels of security. As a minimum you should use this to make sure you are not using the default “admin” username as a login (this one simple step will pretty much protect you 100% from the current attacks).Other things that are worth considering (all of which can be handled via WP Better Security) are :
    1. Change the URL for accessing the admin system from the default /wp-admin/
    2. Force admin logins to use a strong password
    3. Change the prefix for the WordPress database tables from the default (wp_)
  3. Back up your site regularlyDo this, and in the unlikely event that you do fall foul of a hack (No site can be 100% secure) you will have a simply process to recover from it. Again, the back up process can be handled by a plugin. Two we use are WP Back up to dropbox (Great if you use dropbox) and BackWpup, which is a little more flexible & allows backup to a number of locations including email.

Follow these simple steps and the chances are you will be safe from this and any other cyber attack. If you would like advice on the security of your WordPress site get in touch.    

Email Marketing List Quality – The forgotten factor?

Email marketing list quality is a vital element of the email marketing triangleIn a recent survey carried out by e-consultancy, 50% of respondents cited email marketing list quality as the number 1 headache in sending email campaigns. – Things never change! Back in the day when direct marketing consisted of telephone & mail contact, individual communications were relatively expensive so managing the data was a priority and seen as a core element of the whole process.

Emails are free, aren’t they?

The advent of email marketing has meant the actual delivery cost for an individual message has plummeted to the point that some people think it is free (not true!). While this cost reduction has brought undoubted opportunities, particularly for SME businesses, the focus seems to have moved to the content of emails (both design and coding) with the survey suggesting that 3 times as many people spending 2 or more hours on coding (62%) compared to the 19% spending the same amount of time on data management!

The email marketing triangle

3 elements which work together to deliver the best email marketing.

1. Email Content

There is no question that the content of your email is important. It is the content that effectively communicates your message and proposition, encouraging readers to respond. Coding of your email is also important. Email clients are notoriously fickle and getting your email to display properly on your recipient’s PC/tablet/mobile needs to be planned, developed and tested. The results of the survey mentioned earlier suggest that this is where people are spending much of their email marketing resource.

2. Email Marketing List Quality

Although, as the survey would suggests, people do not devote as much resource to this aspect of the process, I would argue that it is equally as important as getting the content/design right. What is the point of carefully designing your email and coding it so it gets past the junk filters if a significant number are simply bouncing or getting through to the wrong in-box! Better email marketing list quality means 2 things:

  1. You know the data is accurate so you aren’t wasting time sending messages that will bounce or, worse still, go to people where your message isn’t relevant.
  2. You have more data on your contact so you can individualise each message to make it even more personal and relevant to the recipient.

It is worth spending time to make sure your data is comprehensive and accurate but you must then maintain this commitment. Keeping data up to date as part of your ongoing marketing process is much easier than allowing the quality to slip and then having a big job to do to sort it all out again!

3. Email Marketing List Size

Some people take the view; forget list quality, if the list is big enough I will get a useable response to my email. These people are called spammers! This is not a valid approach but nevertheless, a bigger database of quality contacts is better than a smaller list. Email marketing is unique in that the cost of sending more messages does not increase as the list gets bigger (at least to a point!). It is not necessary to start your email marketing campaign with the biggest list but considering how you plan to effectively grow your list with well qualified data as the programme develops can yield significant long term benefits.

Joined-up email marketing

Consider as well, how effective it would be if you could integrate your email marketing with your other marketing channels and identify which recipients were following you on (for example) Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, then personalising emails based on this information. If you are running an e-commerce site, personalise your message to customers based on when they last placed an order, or if they spend a lot (or a little!). One of the big issues in reaching this level of integration is the ability to get data systems to communicate effectively. Couple this with the fact that most email marketing providers are design and/or technology driven and it is not surprising that the issue of data quality frustrates many email marketers. At BSA we are different. We acknowledge the value of data and put data management at the heart of the joined-up marketing communication we do for our clients. Take a look at these case studies to see how effective marketing carried out in this way can be:

Want to talk about how to improve the quality of your email marketing list and make the most of your data? give us a call.

Effective email marketing and the benefit of a well-targeted list.

Summary

BSA implements effective email marketing to help a client build a dealer network

Effective email marketing delivers successBackground:

The client, the UK distributor for a global spa brand understands that a key to their success is to develop a strong dealer network across the UK. Having established a core dealer network, they wanted to extend their reach. The aim of this project was to approach carefully selected businesses with the objective of opening dialogue with potential dealers.

Key resources:

Our client has been working in this niche market for a number of years and as such has a good contact list of businesses working in the sector any of whom could be a potential dealer.  A significant majority (over 85%) of the list included contact email addresses The brand that they represent is well respected in the industry, and is recognised as beneficial to a dealer in terms of developing their business (i.e. They have a strong proposition)

Method:

The planned campaign had 2 phases:

  1. An email to those where email addresses were available
  2. A mailing to follow-up the email programme

In phase 1 the email was sent 3 times, each time excluding people who had already opened the message on previous sends. We have established that if you send an email more than once to a list you will increase the overall open rate. Based on previous experience and industry norms, we anticipated we would see around 20% open rate on the first email and this could increase to 30%+ over the 3 sends. The objective was to generate dealership enquiries, and identify those on the list who show an interest in the proposal. The latter being achieved by tracking recipients who reply to the email or click links on the email.

Outcomes

Phase 1 – Emailing:

As a result of the 1st send of the email:

  • 45% of those receiving the email opened it
  • 17% then clicked through to the website from the email

As a result a number of direct enquiries were received, and detailed discussions have taken place with these contacts. As a result of the 2nd and 3rd sends of the email:

  • Overall open rates increased to 60%
  • Less than 1% of people receiving the emails unsubscribed

In addition to people directly responding to the email, a further 30 contacts were identified as having shown interest by clicking through from the email These additional contacts have been followed up by telephone with further qualified opportunities being identified and developed.

Phase 2 – Direct Mailing

Given the success of the emailing programme, the decision was made to cancel the mailing activity – resulting in savings against processing costs, printing, stationery, fulfillment and postage charges.

Benefits:

  • By using effective email marketing, the cost of the project was kept down, in comparison to undertaking the same project though mailing
  • Significant feedback (enquiries, opens & clicks) was received allowing more accurate targeting of the market in future communications
  • Active discussions with potential new dealers are ongoing with every expectation of success
  • As well as direct opportunities, the emailing programme has further raised the profile of our client in their industry

Content Marketing v SEO

content marketing: a wider perspective for SEOLast month, I wrote a post about content marketing and the need to view SEO activities from a broader perspective; more than simply:

        "What can I do to     get to the top of Google?"

Yesterday I read a post which focuses on Content Marketing for Manufacturers which highlights the point beautifully. On the face of it, the article is talking about writing content for SEO purposes, but it also suggests that the focus should be on a subject likely to be of broader interest to your audience rather than simply content relating tightly to your product or service. One example used is a manufacturer of environmentally friendly PVC tubing; should they maybe focus content on “What kind of PVC is best for schools?” rather than the more traditional SEO keyword approach using “low-VOC materials”.

Good content marketing demonstrates your expertise

By creating and promoting content about wider subjects, you are telling youe readers that you really know what you are talking about, and are there to help them make the best decision. You aren’t simply trying to sell them something. This is a much stronger message in the context of positioning your brand. Taking this approach will help you to build a following who know and value you (which can be nurtured through other channels like email & social media). These contacts are much more likely to respond when you do present them with appropriate offers for your products and services. They are also much more likely to contact you when they have a requirement. All round content marketing is a better solution than a strategy that simply relies on people happening to find you on Google when they have a need. From an SEO perspective, relevant content marketing is far less likely to be impacted negatively by changes in Google’s algorithms, as this high quality content is exactly what Google wants high up in its search listings.

Cost vs Value: Which Drives Your Marketing?

cost_valueThe internet has changed the world of publishing. One of the key changes is the removal of barriers meaning anyone can get involved. Mass communication used to be expensive and available only to the elite few (with big budgets!), but now anyone with an internet connection can broadcast their views to the world. Sounds great, but is it? A recent blog post on econsultancy suggests that this free for all approach has its downsides, and is well worth a read.

How does this relate to marketing?

Marketing is about communication so much of the above is true here too; but in the battle of cost vs value, has the balance in marketing tipped too far in favour of cost? Take 2 examples; Printed Brochures and Direct Mail…

Brochures vs. Websites

Before the internet, printed brochures were expensive to produce, and once printed they could not be updated or changed. This meant that people took care to ensure the message was well presented and engaging, and you would rarely consider doing a brochure design, layout and print entirely in-house. A website is often seen as the internet equivalent of the brochure. They are quick and cheap to deliver, and almost every internet connection comes with free web space, so the cost of creating a website can be pretty much zero, and everyone has a (…. insert relation/friend/colleague here….) who says they can build websites. So now you can have your (online) brochure for free (almost!) But is this approach good business? I would suggest not! Just because you can get a website at minimal cost does not mean that you should. If you put low value on your website, should you even bother having one at all. An effective website that is well designed may not be free, but it offers much greater value to your business. Not least because the layout, marketing messages, content, navigation and updateability should have all been properly considered and built in to give you a marketing tool that can properly reflect your business and evolve with your business.

Direct Mail vs. Email

Before the internet, direct mail was expensive and time consuming. There was the cost of  design, artwork, printing, collating and stationery, not to mention postage costs which were a significant part of the total cost. All of these meant you thought hard about your message & presentation, and ensured that it was carefully targeted because every extra message sent added significantly to the cost. Now there is email marketing. Delivery (aka postage) is virtually free and the size of your list has little effect on cost.

Everything has a cost, even when it is “Free“!

There are free-to-use email marketing services (e.g. Mailchimp) which can be very effective, but bear in mind that while the free version costs nothing to use, you still need to have a strong message well presented so design and layout of a good message can be time consuming but this effort can deliver a great communication tool. Mail chimp (and others) tend to have a branding tag (usually Powered by…) on their free service, which can say to the recipient “I value this message so little, I wasn’t willing to pay for the ‘stamp’!“. But again, if you put minimal value on your message, should you be sending it? In my experience, there is one circumstance where using a DIY approach using a free  email marketing service is appropriate, and that is if your business is time rich & cash poor. In this case, using a free tool to send messages yourself can really benefit your business, and is definitely better than doing nothing at all! But don’t forget, if you are preparing & sending the email yourself, this has a time cost. At the other end of the scale, big companies with marketing departments may well be able to justify a dedicated email marketing resource in-house. But what about the rest of us? There is no doubt that the internet has brought down marketing costs dramatically, and now SMEs can develop and implement a professional and effective marketing strategy on a very limited budget, but should you be doing it yourself? Wouldn’t you be better off doing what you do well (running you business and serving you clients), and let the professionals help you with your email marketing. Outsourcing email marketing to a marketing specialist means you can benefit from a wealth of experience, resources and expertise yet only pay for what you need.

Cost vs Value – Are you making the right business decision?

Just because you can do it at the lowest cost doesn’t mean that that it offers the best value to your business!