February  2011

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Category: Marketing and Business Development
The Lost Art of the Sales Email

Manny Mandrusiak

Manny Mandrusiak

Managing Creative Consultant,
4 Bravo Marketing

Contributing Editor

Everyday millions of people around the world do the exact same thing- they send email.  Sales professionals and marketers especially send emails. They send emails to communicate, to fill events, to purchase supplies, but above all they send emails for one purpose – to sell.  This article will examine some of the best practices for sending customers an email about a product.

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Not everyone thinks of that when they start writing an email, but anyone in sales thinks that way.  They know that an email is the first step toward getting a phone call from a perspective customer.  The part that is often forgotten is just how many emails the average perspective customer receives per day.  According to the Answers.com website, the average person in North America has three email accounts and receives approximately 25-50 emails per day to each account. That means each perspective customer receives approximately 150 emails per day. (That does not include all of the messages from friends on Facebook, colleagues on Linkedin, or Twitter and RSS feeds)  The question then becomes how an email stands out of those 150 emails?  This article will examine some of the best practices for sending customers an email about a product.

The Subject line: Sometimes saying less is better

Every Email Marketer will have their own thoughts about what passes muster for a suitable subject line, but there is one theme that is emerging and that is “put yourself in your recipients’’ shoes”.  Inboxes are flooded with emails and spam, and time is a precious commodity for everyone these days.  An important fact to remember is that people do not like to have their time wasted. When it comes to subject lines, don’t sell what’s inside the email.  Intrigue and tell what’s inside.
The general rule of thumb in email marketing is to keep the subject line short.  Limit it to fifty characters or less.  People receiving these emails are potentially looking at them on mobile devices.  Short and to the point generally gets the click.

Don’t forget the From line.  The From line can be as important as the subject line.  It should clearly communicate exactly who the sender is.  People enjoy relating to other people, not anonymous robots or spammers.  Save the info@yourcompany.com and sales@yourcompany.com email addresses for campaigns such as opt-in newsletters.  

Email Appearance

Emails can take a variety of appearances.  HTML, embedded images, plain text, they all have their uses.   This section will examine some of the best practices for sending a text based sales email.

  1. If possible use the customer’s name in the subject line or in the greeting.  People like to deal with people, and not email generating robots.
  2. Use a readable font.  Select a clear 10 pt font for the email.  Stay away from extremely stylish or artistic fonts as the email could be considered spam when viewed in a preview pane and deleted.
  3. Stick to a black Font Color for text.  Generally colors like blue are used for hyperlinks, and red is used for prices and opt-out information.  The use of flamboyant colors like greens and blues will make your email start to resemble spam, and your email will most likely be deleted without being read.
  4. Be brief with the salutation or greeting.  One to two sentences max. 
  5. Body of the email will be a description of the product, or service.  Ensure to include a link to the product on your website, and make sure that links directly to the product page – not the homepage.  Making your customer work too hard to find your product, and they will find another vendor.
  6. The call to action in the closing line should be brief and ensure to ask the customer to call you for more information. 
  7. Grammar, punctuation and spelling must be correct. Write the email in Microsoft Word before slamming it into Outlook.  Your email could be fantastic, but if it contains spelling mistake then it comes across as unprofessional.  Attention to detail.  Write twice and hit send once.
Sell in every Email!

When constructing an email to the customer three things are being sold: the product, your corporate brand, and yourself.  Sometimes when sales reps send emails they get caught up in the pitch of the product and forget to highlight that they, and the company, are there to support the customer through the sales experience.  Ensure to appeal to what the customer wants, and not what you want the customer to want. 

Be specific – Use content tailored to your audience (not form email)

Not everyone has the same wants and needs.  An engineer in a manufacturing plant will have different needs in a product than someone in commercial building construction.  Knowing your audience is important.  More important is product knowledge.  Consider the reader of your email reading your email and wondering how the product benefits them.  Tell the customer why they will like the product and how it will improve their process, lifestyle, or bottom line.

Photos and Attachments

Fight the urge to attach a photo or product brochure.  The email could be filtered as spam and end up in a junk folder and deleted.  Viruses are also a huge concern for IT departments so attaching a copy of the product brochure will be a red flag and your email could be quarantined.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]Lastly the list

The email is composed and checked and ready to hit the streets, now there are just two additional factors that can hamper the success of the email. Both are difficult to track but can have a huge impact on the open rate of your email.  These factors are list quality and frequency. 

There is any number of different ways to obtain email lists.  They can be purchased from list brokers or third party companies, or they can be created as a house list using an opt-in method of subscription.  Typically house lists tend to be high-quality and have the best open rates mainly because readers have opted to receive information from your company. The trick with a house list is the number of new contacts versus number of bad emails and opt-outs.  People change jobs and more often than not do not change all of their email subscriptions.  The house list that your company holds may have 65,000 names and emails on it, but how many are current or even active.  Proper list management is truly an art.  The list needs to be kept clean and as current as possible for sales to be able to effectively use it.  There is also the matter of attrition.  People will use the unsubscribe link and opt-out of your mailing list for any variety of reasons.  List managers need to ensure that these names are removed or they risk getting their company IP address blacklisted by being labeled as a Spammer. List managers also need to ensure that new contacts are being added to the house list.  This can be achieved through any number of marketing activities, training classes, or trade shows.  The minimum number of new contacts should be at least 10% per year of the entire list number to keep the list of high quality.

Purchased lists are unproven and typically have lower open rates because the recipients of the emails have not opted to receive your information. Your email will have to be creative and eye catching to avoid the delete key.  That is where a lot of the best practices listed above come into play.  Do not dismiss purchased lists.  They can be a gold mine.  The trick to properly utilizing them is the skill of the miner.

Frequency is the second factor that impacts open rates.  You can start with a fantastic list but send emails too frequently, or at the wrong time of the week, and open rates drop dramatically.  Everyone knows someone who bangs the hell out of an email list in the attempt to achieve sales.  Sending the same message to the same people too frequently will result in people deciding  to opt-out or ignore your mailings. The value of future messages will simply be ignored or considered spam and will actually hurt the reputation of your company. 

Email responsibility earns respect

Email is a fantastic tool for sales and marketing professionals to sell products, and improve brand awareness, but it is also one of the fastest ways to lose customers.  Sending sales emails should be done with creativity and respect for the person receiving them.  Done correctly they are one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to cultivate new customers, and sell new products and services to existing ones.  In an age of information overload there is always an advantage to utilizing email to sell products and services with a personal touch.


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