Email Marketing Awards Give Clue to Selling Media

We interrupt this ad sales series for a more timely topic…

We had the privilege recently of participating in the judging for the Email Marketing Awards, brought to you by MessageMedia Inc., the leading provider of strategic messaging solutions and services, and by the ClickZ Network. Working together with an impressive collection of judges (many of whom you already know as ClickZ columnists), we had the opportunity to review more than 150 entries in categories ranging from Best Email Newsletter to Best Online Survey Program to, of course, Best Email Marketer.

The message is timely because the finalists will be announced at a celebratory dinner aboard the “Queen Mary” in Long Beach, CA, during the ClickZ fall conference on B2C Email Strategies just two weeks from now. You can get full information about the conference and the awards program (with information on all the finalists) at the link above, and we encourage you to check it out.

We don’t want to focus on the event (though we hope to see you all there) but instead want to fill you in on what we learned from participating in the judging process. We have long advocated that ad salespeople, which includes email marketing salespeople, and anyone else selling media options for marketing communications, have a great opportunity to better serve this young industry and to better meet and exceed their own sales goals by taking on a consultative selling role. Any regular reader, or anyone attending one of our online sales-training programs, knows that Ryan Whiteman is zealous about the importance of solutions selling — selling with ideas and selling concepts by helping your customers to more fully utilize the medium sold.

While reviewing the hundreds of competition entries, we were struck by how early it is in the growth and maturation cycle of the email marketing business. We saw some great applications of email technology for sales and customer service/support challenges. Many were new, unique, and inspired, with real marketing strategy applied to business communications problems that were solved with creative and tailored email vehicles.

But just as the exception proves the rule, the standout nature of these extraordinary entries made us realize just how few marketers are applying their best efforts to developing original, customer-centric, and marketing-strategy-driven email applications. Instead, we see email marketers who appear to be opportunity-driven: “I have this email list; guess I ought to mail something…”

When any new tool is developed, half the job of selling that tool lies in helping the prospective customer understand the range of its uses so that the customer can use the tool successfully. That’s especially true when the tool could make a significant difference when used to its full potential and when the seller’s position is strengthened by satisfied customers making repeat purchases.

In the case of email as a marketing and sales tool, hundreds of marketers are just learning to utilize the medium, and the effective sales professionals will be those who learn best practices for the widest range of email applications. Great salespeople make their customers successful, and in the sale of marketing solutions, this is best achieved by developing expertise on what makes a marketing program work.

What made the winning entries stand out? An online survey that used as an incentive tailored information about the products the site represents (in this case, location). How’s that for using your market knowledge to get survey participation and customer loyalty? Or an email newsletter that makes the best of the online world available to readers easily and succinctly, while keeping a folksy, friendly, personal touch?

Other great tailored applications included e-marketers who used past purchase behavior to customize email reminders, with an incentive to prior customers and others whose newsletters were personalized to specific customer-identified areas of interest.

How about a local establishment that uses customer lists to drive customers to its establishment on slow days, to remind us that great email is not just for the biggest of companies? Or the leading-edge companies that made the effort to integrate their email strategy into overall corporate branding and response campaigns so that every communication in each medium contributes to the overall impression of the company with its act together.

The first annual Email Marketing Awards produced a range of entries from poor to mediocre to truly outstanding. The winning entries really do represent best-of-class applications and solutions; anyone selling online advertising, email marketing solutions, or web sites will be well served by studying the winners and sharing that information with customers so that you, too, can help your prospects and customers create better, more effective, and more profitable programs that, in turn, result in more sales for you.

The finalists and winners will be online after the winners are announced November 14. We hope you’ll attend the award ceremony or at least check out the results on the web. We think everyone who invests the time to do so will learn something and will become more effective salespeople as a result.

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