Here on the Sensei blog, we rarely plan or write marketing 101-type instructional content.
There is an audience for “How to Tweet,” “What is Pinterest,” and “How to Maximize Google+ for Business” articles, and there are many bloggers and forums for such content.
We attempt to look at bigger issues facing our customers, which are typically larger clients that have progressed beyond the basics.
Today is different.
Well, at least our version of a 101-instructional post. I’m compelled to write this article in which I’m asking if marketers have been so enthralled with digital and social media communications for the past 5 to 10 years that they’ve forgotten email marketing basics?If so, do we need an e-mail marketing 101 course?
I ask because we’ve been inundated with questionable marketing emails lately, which makes me think that brands are either contracting poor lead generation firms or not educating their own marketing staff properly.
Case in point: A marketing software services firm sent this personalized e-mail to me last week.
It suggested that our business may be left behind so, of course, I paid attention, fearful that we had somehow fallen into a black hole and missed major changes in the marketing world. This marketing firm is telling our marketing firm that they’re “in the know,” and suggesting that left to our own devices, we’re not capable of keeping up.
Thinly veiled insult aside, this email demonstrates the problem with most blind email marketing programs: Laziness.
The acquisition team went to the effort of buying some list that included my personal and business name, and felt that it was all they needed to know to pitch me. Worse, they felt it was enough to make assumptions about me and my business. What they don’t know (but could have easily found out before emailing me):
– Sensei is quite knowledgeable about the “evolution of marketing” given that our principals are published authors on the subject, college professors in advanced digital marketing, and have 20+ years’ experience working with some of the world’s largest brands. – We’re a successful, profitable business with a growing list of international clients. – We provide a very similar service to marketing agencies that they’re offering to sell us. In fact, I’ve consulted with – and delivered marketing technology services to – marketing agencies for the past 15 years.
Mass email lead-acquisition programs are simply lazy. To use this vendor’s own words, they showcase a firm that is being left behind in the evolution of marketing.
What is the Evolution of Marketing?
Where is the marketing industry going? How is it evolving?
Many will quickly jump to “social media” as the answer but that’s not it. Certainly, digital and social technologies – the entire Web in fact – have changed the manner in which people communicate with each other.
In turn, that has dramatically changed the manner in which businesses must communicate with their audience. There’s more to this evolution than technology; it’s the change in the expectations customers in both the B2B and B2C sectors have.
Customers expect more from communications than the inclusion of “Hello Sam” in the e-mail salutation. We’re in the B2B sector ourselves and I can tell you that none of the clients we’ve earned over the past three years have t been acquired through the efforts of sales people or sales tactics such as generic email marketing.
Each opportunity and account earned has been generated through the establishment of relationships with our general audience. And from that community, we’ve connected to prospects, who in many cases have become clients.
While ours is a long-term strategy, we focus on building relationships instead of emails feigning accurate or personalized knowledge of the recipient. We use our corporate web site to share insights and ask questions instead of overt promotion of our work and services.
We develop executive workshops to teach our audience how to improve their customer experiences and strengthen their businesses. In short, we get to know our audiences and allow them to get to know us. From that position of friendship and trust, business relationships are formed and true opportunities arise. That is the true evolution of marketing, regardless of the technology-du-jour.
Is Email Marketing Dead?
So is email marketing dead? Should this firm stop using email to prospect? I would not go that far.
Email and email marketing is not dead; however, if companies wish to prove they’re knowledgeable about the future of their industry, their communication tactics should demonstrate an insight into that future. Email marketing can still be effective if you:
- Personalize. Really personalize.
Do your homework! Don’t rest on <Insert Name Here> tactics. Read the prospect’s blog, understand their point of view, and know something about their company and personalize the message to that. Yes, this takes more effort, but the information is out there and the conversion percentages will increase dramatically.
- Don’t sell; invite discussion.
Instead of selling a product or service, why not ask a question? Invite feedback on a recent event through participation in an online poll, forum, or video chat. Offer to interview the individual you’re targeting. This will allow you to build a relationship and truly get to know the prospect.
- Don’t promote yourself; offer education.
Instead of relying on the traditional “this is why we’re great” marketing strategy, why not offer a free seminar or other event that offers clients educational value? Teach them to do their job better and when they need help, the relationship established will move you to the top of the vendor list.
- Don’t be proactive; be responsive.
Why not react or respond to clients’ news, events, or blog posts? Send a note to congratulate them on a recent award or to offer some thoughts on an article they posted. Instead of proactively sending offers for products or services that might be needed, consider engaging them around topics and events they’re already engaged in.
Is email marketing dead? Or do we simply need another lesson in basic email communications? Join the discussion by sharing your thoughts – pro or con – in the comments below.
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego .
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