Marketing emails… Evil? Or useful?


Good vs Evil

I recently participated in a lively discussion with several people on LinkedIn regarding marketing emails, and whether customers should only be added to marketing email lists via the “opt-in method,” or whether “easy unsubscribe” is sufficient.

The opinions on both approaches are strong indeed.

Firstly, I agree – we all get too many emails today. One of the participants reported well over 200 each day, and mentioned how long it takes him to process each of those emails, and what he could be doing with that time instead. Good points made there. 

This customer viewpoint

The opinions held by the customer advocates in the discussion seemed to rally around the “don’t put me on your distribution list unless I specifically say you can.” The opt-in method. There’s value in that, by all means.

The salesperson’s perspective

The opinions by the majority of the sales advocates were just as strong, but all seemed to agree that any real (respectable) company would make unsubscribing very easy for the prospect.

How did we get here?

Here is how it all started – a customer advocate mentioned that he submitted answers on a webform for a price quote on a vendor’s website. He was immediately added to their marketing list, even though no one called to discuss his question with him regarding his level of interest, and to see whether their product really does do what he felt it would do for him.

Wrong approach.

Here’s why. Being a salesperson myself, I offered that his request for pricing is considered a very strong buying signal to a company. I mentioned that the first thing he should have heard (within hours of his request for pricing) was his phone ringing, with an inside salesperson on the other end, helping him qualify the opportunity further. He said he did not receive any such call, but that he did start to receive a few marketing emails from that company, and almost immediately. And a lot of them.

Bad idea.

Old telephone

That was his entire point – and I believe he is totally correct – I might add. Someone in a sales role should have called him first.

Because… the internet

Customers today have many options for the investigation and purchase of products. This fundamentally changes the role of the professional salesperson.

What I mean is, the internet can be a wonderful place, and Google, Bing and their search-engine rivals have made product research very easy (assuming the companies in the space have purchased the right adwords, that is) these days.

E-Z Unsubscribe thoughts

I mentioned two other (I believe to be) salient points though.

First iPodNumber one is, there are times when a product whose entire category has yet to be created, is announced. I used Apple’s iPod introduction in 2001 as my example. There was no product out there at the time (play along with me here – assume that Google was around then, OK? I know it wasn’t…), so therefore, no set of adwords to search for to find it, and to subsequently opt-in to the marketing lit.

Secondly, how in the world can we as salespeople know what you’re thinking/wanting/needing at any specific point in time? How can I possibly know that you are looking for an iPod at this moment (now of course, you’d want some sort of an iPhone), and therefore, hope you ask to put yourself on my marketing mailing list? And once you buy an iPhone, how will I know when it’s OK to reach out to you again, to see if you’d like to add an iPad to your collection? Or an iWatch? Or a new MacBook Pro? Or some new piece of software that really will save you some money/time/frustration?

I recently blogged about sales, and how nothing happens until something gets sold. Think about it – if your company doesn’t sell anything, you don’t have a job (even if you’re not in a sales role).

But I’m talking about enterprise stuff here

Obviously, those are consumer-level products. Now do the math with the number of people inside companies today that are on the decision team for an enterprise piece of software. Without knowing who is on the committee (not all will be members of the IT organization, by the way), how will I be able to hit each one at just the right moment? How do I know when it’s your budget season? How will I know which of you is the “User Buyer,” the “Technical Buyer,” or the “Economic Buyer?” How do I know which of my product’s many features will appeal to which of these buyers? Usually each of them has their own agenda, and sometimes they do not intersect.

My product may be the exact right one for your company, but the User Buyer may not understand why, and their best friend’s girlfriend works for my competitor (I know this is a stretch, but stranger things have happened). After all, we’re all human. We usually purchase things due to an emotional response to them, and then find logic to back up our decision.

Maybe an email with true benefits would hit that entire team at just the right moment, and we move things ahead together.

Another (minor) thought – I attended a program at my local library about genealogy around 3 years ago. Since then, I’ve received emails from them about once a month asking whether I’d like to attend other sessions about history, sewing, and a veritable range of other topics – some related to history and genealogy, but many did not. Had I not been on their mailing list, I never would have known about these other programs. Because of one of those mailings, I just attended another session about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. It was quite interesting, and I’m glad I went.

So, what to do?

I’m not asking you to take every call from every salesperson out there, because then you’d never get anything else done, but when a good salesperson calls, with a good reason for calling (which (s)he should be able to tell you way up front in the call), please do take the time to answer the questions. If you say no, and you have good reasons, then any respectable salesperson will take you off their call list. If not, you don’t want to buy from them anyway.

Today, good salespeople do research on your company and they try to find the correct titles of the appropriate folks they should target. And they should know at least a probable set of needs you’re likely to have before they call you. If there’s not a good fit, the final analysisthey will probably not call you in the first place.

So I submit then, that, in the absence of answers on the phone, marketing emails may be the only method of contacting you – and contacting you on your schedule.

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