Selling Stuff

  |  May 4, 2006   |  Comments

Forget more testing! Get out there and experiment with new e-mail marketing strategies.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve crisscrossed the world, visiting customers, speaking at seminars, and talking with my employees. When I wasn’t speaking or conducting a meeting or session, I listened to customers, experts, and colleagues discuss their issues around building better customer relationships in a highly competitive marketplace.

All the traveling allowed me to reflect on the work we do, the tasks involved, and the impact and relevance of our work on others. I plead guilty to too often using marketing-speak to explain what is, and should be, a very basic marketing concept: we sell stuff.

The other day, I listened to a seminar conducted by management guru and best-selling author Tom Peters. At 63, Peters is just as passionate and driven to redefine corporate America as he was when he wrote "In Search Of Excellence" with Bob Waterman in 1982. He spent the better part of his 90-minute session in front of a hushed crowd of top-tier marketers debunking the current obsession with overanalyzing what we as marketers really do: sell stuff.

His indictment of interactive and email marketing hits very close to home. We’re all in sales, says Peters. The exasperation shows on his face as he recounts story after story of companies that have allowed themselves to become distracted from their primary purpose of selling stuff to their customers and prospects. If you work in an organization and haven’t figured out what your role is in creating incremental revenues and profits within your company, the time to get going is yesterday.

I share Peters’ frustration. E-mail communications is still in its infancy, but its role in our integrated marketing will undoubtedly grow in the years ahead. So why haven’t you been evangelical and passionately obsessed with creating cool ways to leverage email’s power to create competitive advantage? The success stories that will be told in the decades ahead won’t be about organizations that lagged in their email use. Companies that waited until email was safe or mature won’t be remembered.

We’ll remember the organizations that were bold, creative, enthusiastic, passionate, and willing to risk failure to break away from the pack. Companies that don’t fear making a mistake trying to achieve excellence through innovative thinking, methods, or practice will win. They may make mistakes, but they’ll learn instead of waiting on the sidelines until everyone else in the market has completed their "testing."

Frankly, I’m a little tired of the analysis paralysis that is gripping our industry. We debate and argue over small issues that waste a tremendous amount of time when we should spend time on the real subject matter: what can we marketers, do to better leverage the power of this incredible email channel?

Instead, we run lengthy RFP (define) processes and tie up dozens of people spending six to eight months determining the most appropriate email service provider (ESP). During that time, status quo is maintained and the organization is frozen in lackluster performance. If you think this activity is rationalized by the excuse, "E-mail is working. I just want to see if it can be done better with another provider," think again.

Spend a couple of those months with the same team designing an innovate, cutting-edge email strategy. Heck, design multiple strategies for ways you can leverage what you know about customers’ needs to sell more stuff. This is a much better use of your time. You will make mistakes. Get over it.

Better yet, embrace those mistakes and learn from them. Start using that data to build more relevant email dialogues with your customers today. Timeliness and relevance allow you to enhance your position with your customers and increase sales potential. Forget further testing! Your competitors already did the testing for you. Study what they’re doing. If you see something, don’t just talk about it. Do something.

I’ve heard remarkable stories over the past few weeks about the impact of relevance on brand communication efforts. Want to start slowly? Try email personalization on the name level. A marketer told me making that one change lifted his campaign’s performance nearly 30 percent. In the financial services sector, spending a little more time understanding customer needs and matching them with the most appropriate offer has generated a remarkable 250 percent lift in service up-sell revenues.

How can you sit idly by and ignore the opportunity to dramatically change the financial assumptions within your customer base? You and your team, armed with knowledge of your customers, have the power to ring the cash register. You have an obligation as leaders within your organization to innovate and grow to reach new levels of success for your company.

If you’re worried about how folks will react to changes in marketing and strategy in an effort to sell more stuff, you may want to consider a new occupation. In an evolving, competitive marketplace, there’s no other option. Unless you take control of this new medium, test boldly and fearlessly (note I didn’t say "stupidly"), and explore all possibilities to better communicate with customers, you’ll be forgotten.

We need mavericks. We need fighters. We need people who truly want to challenge the status quo and who are destined to lead the new organizations in the years ahead. We need individuals who can cut through the malarkey and bureaucratic mess that bogs down an organization. We need people who put their passion to work and demonstrate bold thinking in the email arena can work.

We have access to one of the most powerful and profound communication mediums ever created: email. Tom Peters, 63 years old, with a pacemaker in his chest going strong, is fired up and still passionate about what he is doing, despite his frustration with marketers’ inability to leverage this medium and to execute with excellence. What’s your excuse?

Until next time,

Al D.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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