The Demise of Cold Calling

coldcallOne of the most difficult tasks in selling is the cold call. Okay, the training says that every straight ‘no’ is a time saver that enables you more time to talk to customers who may have an interest in what you have to say, but it is nevertheless a soul destroying activity. One of the key drivers behind cold calling was the need to establish or widen your customer database and the catchment area for your business, and to win direct business quickly. But really, cold calling was the spam of yesterday. Cold calling used to be done by a range of people, from industry professionals like I tried to be, calling business-to-business, through to commission-only business-to-consumer appointment fixers who seemed to have a knack of regularly interrupting the first mouthful of my evening meal!

The rise of the internet

The Internet has changed many things, and it has certainly significantly reduced companies’ reliance on cold calling techniques and their associated costs. One email can reach thousands simultaneously that even the most dedicated cold caller could never hope to reach in months. So it follows that an email marketing campaign, properly timed, with good content and impact, can be an extremely cost-effective and efficient route to new business, as well as being a great way to keep key customer groups informed about your products, services, and other activities. This is the story of how email marketing has helped Exportaid to interact better with our customers….

In the beginning…

I started working with BSA Marketing in 2005 on the recommendation of Jan Klin, one of the UK’s most respected authorities on e-commerce. At that time, I needed a company with the right technical expertise who could make work the designs that I wanted for the Exportaid website. Since then, I have occasionally been a BSA guinea pig as they have tried new software products or marketing techniques that they believed would provide wider benefits to their customer base.  They have never disappointed, have always suggested new ideas rather than push them at me, and for some years now have been an essential element in the development of Exportaid’s marketing activities.

Professional persistence…

BSA Marketing is run by brothers David and Duncan Wright, who first made me aware of their views on the potential of email marketing in 2010. I don’t think a meeting went by during that year without one of them pointing out its advantages! In the end my light bulb moment happened after I became more involved in managing social media, both for Exportaid and for several of my clients. I felt at the time that social media had its place, but that it somehow lacked professionalism, depth, impact, and that I needed something more.

And now…

We are now into our second year of email marketing, and our newsletter, Seventh, seems to have been well received. The initial reaction from the first Seventh was very positive, and that encouraged me to continue. Companies were interested to see what Exportaid was up to, and in the concept of receiving an email called Seventh at 7am on 7th of every month. It told them that unless they chose to unsubscribe, they could expect to receive a regular copy. After more than a year, many customers now expect to receive Seventh at that time. I had done something similar with snail mail back in the early 1990’s, when I created a monthly newsletter for my employers, WA Fell & Co of Windermere, to keep customers informed about what we were doing as a company, where we were selling machines to, offers on tooling etc., and it achieved a regular 8% enquiry return. Seventh achieves an average 16% return, and has allowed me to mix Exportaid articles with those from partner companies, company features, advertisements, and news articles that are relevant to international traders, but all within a recognised, and hopefully trusted, format.  Seventh has provided a ‘soft’ method of keeping Exportaid in front of our customers, so they feel they are being kept informed and not sold to. And most importantly, there has been a steady but definite increase in interactivity with customers since Seventh was first launched.

Review and refine…

After several months of running our email marketing campaign, analysis told us that there were some popular sections and others that were less well read. So we restructured the content a little and found that the percentage of general ‘opens’ and ‘links opened’ in each area started to increase. You have to take a long term view, and adapt your regular bulletins to what your customers prefer to read, and that can take time to establish. It is also the case that trends and expectations change, so it is vital to keep your offer fresh, and to provide substance behind the initial impact. So if cold calling was the spam of yesteryear, email marketing can be equated to the daily visit by your postman, something that is anticipated, welcomed, and hopefully of value. I have read several articles recently that have led me to believe that cold calling has lost significant impact as other methods of communication have become more effective in building and maintaining customer relationships. Email marketing is certainly something we would now recommend.