Getting Going with Email Marketing
We can all learn from another company's experience and benefit
from the email marketing knowledge they have gained through
their own trial and error. Our friend and customer
relationship management expert, Chris Selland, tells his story
and gives us some practical advice on email marketing.
Getting Going with Email Marketing
Selland, Founder & President of
In October 2001, I decided to test the old dictum "a down
economy is the best time to start a new company" and
launched Reservoir Partners, a Marketing & Customer
Relationship Management (CRM) Strategy consultancy based in
Almost immediately, I made one of my first management
decisions - and far and away one of my best. I decided to
get started with email marketing. I'm proud to say that our
first campaign went out before our business cards were even
printed! Admittedly, that first email campaign was quite
simple - creating a holiday card in late 2001 to wish people
well and let them know that we were in business - but it was
also inexpensive, (literally) done in 5 minutes, and most
After that, it wasn't long before we started getting more
creative. As a content company who primarily works in the
realm of ideas, we thought that a newsletter held promise -
and we titled it 'Reservoir Reflections' - the first issue
produced in February 2002. We've been publishing
'Reflections' for nearly a year now and have built our
readership to several thousand subscribers. I'm extremely
proud to say that we regularly achieve double-digit click
through rates - some in excess of 30%!
What we've found is that there is simply no more
cost-effective (or effective - period) way to market our
business - and despite the fact that 2002 was one of the
most challenging years on record, we've grown, are
profitable and I believe we are extremely well-positioned
for much more success in 2003 and beyond.
what have we learned?
It's never too early.
We often consult to companies who aspire to reach many of
the same goals we've achieved with email - regular
communications, and enhanced relationships. Amazingly,
many of these companies are considerably larger than us -
but yet object on the grounds that they 'aren't ready.'
Baloney! Email marketing is incredibly easy to get started
- and in my opinion it is most effective when it is done
with a philosophy of simplicity
Constant contacts are key.
Email marketing does not work as well for a one-time quick
hit marketing strategy. Email allows you to build a
regular, ongoing dialogue with your best clients and
prospects. And that becomes self-selecting - those who
most wish to do business with you will appreciate the
regular communications. Those who do not can opt-out. It
truly is a win-win.
One of the real keys to success is how frequently (or not)
you communicate. We occasionally provide special alerts
(for instance, if we are speaking at an industry
conference) but generally, for us, once a month is plenty
often to communicate. I firmly believe - and our results
have confirmed - that regular but respectful communication
Content is King.
Ultimately, for professional service firms like ours it is
ideas that build relationships - and ideas are driven and
supported by content. I strongly recommend the creation of
a regular communications vehicle - whether an e-Newsletter
or other vehicle. It has worked for us and it works for a
number of our clients.
We also have found that is is critical to keep the content
out of the newsletter. While this may seem to be a
contradiction to the previous point, it is not. You should
let people know about your ideas, but not force them down
their throats. Use the newsletter to point to your content
(on your site or elsewhere) but don't try to cram it all
in. It shouldn't take someone 10 minutes to decide if your
newsletter is worth a read. An overly long, dense,
hard-to-read newsletter simply wastes people's time. In
addition, by keeping the content external, you can use
clickthrough analytics to see who is really interested in
what content - and tailor your follow-up appropriately.
Keep it entertaining.
Some may disagree (after all, a consulting business like
ours is supposed to be serious) but I'm still shocked by
the number of dry, boring newsletters that clog my inbox.
I subscribe to those to keep up on my competitors, but I
read those that keep me entertained.
The flip side of the coin is when we see companies who
feel as though they need to close business in every
sentence. Email marketing is about relationship building,
and it is something you're doing for the long-term - not a
quick revenue hit. Even for consumer-oriented retailers,
this fact still holds true- customer relationships are
profitable when they are long-term, so your marketing
efforts need to be oriented that way.
Mix it up.
Don't get 'locked in' on a particular topic. Reflections
addresses various topics - from Customer Relationship
Management (CRM) strategies (our primary business), to
Marketing Best Practices, Venture Capital (we work
extensively with startups), Economic Commentary, and
various other topics we believe will be of interest. We,
of course, are constantly checking to see what people read
- and often find that it is the 'off the wall' topics that
get the best response. For instance - the most frequently
read piece we ever have had was a story from the New York
Post on baseball and how the number of triples has
declined due to the fact that most batters no longer run
hard to first.
In closing, we've been absolutely thrilled with the
results we've gained - but we'll never be satisfied. The
greatest compliments we receive are when we hear things like
"I actually look forward to receiving your newsletter every
month" - and our goal is to continue to do better. The best
learning any company can gain, ours or yours, comes from
experience. And the best way to learn is to get started
I'm a big believer that in the business-to-business market,
your success as a company is determined by your
relationships. Relationship Management is what Reservoir
Partners is all about. We hope we've given you some insight
into how we do things - and invite you to contact us if we
can be of any help. Good luck in building your business in
2003 - now get going!
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