Is the content of your emails as cheap as the distribution method?

Yesterday I talked about how to make sure that prospects always consider your company when they’re looking for a product, system or service. Your brand (and what it supplies) needs to be seared into their minds permanently, and/or it needs to be one they’ll come across prominently when they start any research. From what I observe, way too much marketing communications goes on without any fundamental consideration of which approach the company is taking, or if they’re tackling both.

Someone suggested that I might be mistaken in saying that keeping your name in front of prospects was as expensive as ever, because the advent of email in the past 15 years has provided a much cheaper way to go down this route. Well, it’s true that emailing 1,000 prospects isn’t as expensive as sending them paper in envelopes. But it’s dangerous to say that consequently makes the ROI from the exercise a lot better.

Firstly, you need to remember the reason for your mailing, which I believe should be to encourage the prospect to consider you when they eventually need your product. For most companies selling to engineers, scientists or architects, unless the mailing is for a product or service which is being renewed, it’s only going to sell stuff directly by fluke. As we all know, only a low percentage of mailings get read. Multiply that by the even lower percentage of recipients who actually happen to be looking for a supplier of your product or service that day, and you’ll instantly recognise that the prospect of selling something direct from a mailshot might easily be down to a tenth or a hundredth of one percent, or close to zero (especially with email nowadays). That could pay for the mailing, at a pinch, but there are more cost-effective ways of selling stuff directly.

On a per-piece basis, I think postal mailshots have more impact than emails, but that’s because of the investment which goes into them. They’re far more frequently used to send out something which has cost time and money to produce, and which recipients might keep, such as a catalogue, guide or handbook. If recipients keep what you send out, that’s marketing gold.

In comparison, many company emailing exercises are made even more cheap than postal mailshots because the content is, quite frankly, rubbish. Most companies spend significant amounts of time and money preparing the words for a postal mailshot, especially if it’s a brochure or catalogue. It’s far more likely that external copywriters or designers will have been employed. In comparison, most companies spend minutes, rather than days, on the content of emails – so of course they’re going to be a lot cheaper. Why so few sales emails have any real content behind them, I don’t know. Maybe emailing is just a tick-box exercise for many businesses. I must get ninety-nine sales emails which tell me nothing of interest, for every one which actually says: “this email is to introduce you to something which is of genuine value”.

If you’ve sent out a marketing email recently, take a look at it and ask yourself: “even if I was given the stamps and envelopes for free, would I have sent that out by post?” Most of the emails I get would just embarrass the sender if they were sent out on paper, so why is it good enough for emailing?

When you add up the cost of writing a brochure, as well as printing and posting it, the cost might be fifty times more than a typical emailed newsletter. But is the ROI on fifty sales emails going to be any better than one postal mailing to the same prospect list? If you send 100 prospects an uninspiring email every week for a year, is it going to beat the ROI of a single specially-prepared postal mailing to them? Maybe. But it’s something to consider.

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