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Do you still regard emails as having no downside because they’re free?

There are two types of marketing manager at the moment: those who worry that the response to email is falling, and those who don’t measure the response at all. That doesn’t mean that email is a dead (or even dying) medium, but that it has to be done smartly. Quite frankly, sending an unsolicited, one-off email to a list of names you bought from some opportunistic publisher is the online equivalent to setting fire to a ten pound note, although the sort of people who still do this are those who never measure the response, so maybe they get what they deserve.

Some people say: “Well, I’ve got 500 email addresses here which I’ve collected over the past few years, so it seems like a waste not to make up a company newsletter from time to time and send it to them. Last time I got a couple of email enquiries back, so what’s wrong with that?”

To see what’s wrong with that, you need to pretend you’re a periodical publisher (which, in a way, you are). Having run a magazine myself, I can tell you that it would be much more profitable to publish at irregular intervals, only when there was enough advertising (and indeed news) to justify it. But we all know that audiences prefer predictability. It would also be cheaper to just fling the magazine out to any old name and job title, rather than cultivate a loyal readership who are known to actually appreciate the magazine.

This is not just an analogy to marketing emails, it’s the same principle. Don’t send to 20 people thinking: “I know 19 of them won’t even look at it, but it’s not cost me anything”. Think: “I’ve just sent something unwanted to as many as 19 people, and some of them might now associate my company with irritating them”. And don’t think: “I haven’t sent emails out for a few months, let’s try that for something to do”. Think: “Why don’t I send out a regular, expected email to people who’ve actually agreed specifically to receive it and who I actually stand a chance of getting into a sales conversation with?”

2 thoughts on “Do you still regard emails as having no downside because they’re free?”

  1. You ask them. Nobody minds getting an email asking them if they want something. I have 1,500 people who’ve asked to receive my daily emails, all of who signed themselves up. It’s taken four years to get that far, but it’s worth it. A small transducer supplier who we support, set up a highly technical weekly blog, sent a sample to their customer base, and got 10% of them immediately to sign themselves up to receive it. Knowing that 50-60 customers genuinely want to receive this stuff makes it worth writing each week. Sending it to 500 people who didn’t ask for it and probably don’t want it wouldn’t have made them nearly as enthusiastic about the effort, or confident that it would be worthwhile.

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