Driving Sales on a Budget — Part 1

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If you’re still stuck, another option is to “borrow" relevant content from other sources. In this case, I suggest writing a brief opinion on why the article is worth reading and link to the article. Though less desirable than content you created, this kind of message is still valuable because it shows that you are not only keeping on top of industry trends and information, but that you’re looking out for your customer and prospect base by sharing the information with them. Be sure you clearly cite the source of the information and make it clear that it’s not your own language. It’s OK to quote from the story in your introduction, but don’t copy and paste the text into your email. Linking to it is the best and easiest way to go.

Formatting Content

After you’ve gotten over the hurdle of creating content, how do you make it look professional and distribute it without breaking the bank? This is another hurdle that often prevents companies from implementing email campaigns: It’s too expensive and difficult to get it to look good. Thankfully, this simply isn’t the case. There are a slew of low-cost, easy-to-use email management systems. Constant Contact is one example. (Note: I don’t use Constant Contact or have any interest in promoting the product.) It has many professional, prebuilt templates you can copy and paste your content into; no design or formatting expertise is needed. It also is inexpensive — Constant Contact charges $30 per month for up to 2,500 individuals on your distribution list. There are many other providers out there with similar models and pricing, so finding one shouldn’t be a challenge.

Setting Expectations

So what results can you expect from instituting email marketing as a component of your continuous contact campaign? Enhanced customer loyalty, increased prospect engagement, better attendance for your events and even sales. Yes, it’s possible that your emails may lead directly to sales. In fact, it’s almost inevitable that emails will lead to sales over time.

Let me temper your excitement a little bit though. If your sole purpose for engaging in email marketing is to increase sales, you’ll probably be disappointed — at least at first. There are hundreds of studies that show that people need anywhere from five to 10 “touches" before they become stimulated into taking action. In addition, if you’re relying on email as the sole source of contact, you’re setting yourself up to fail. It takes a comprehensive effort, as well as sales integration, to make email marketing effective as a lead- and sales-generating tool.

That said, let me share one real-life example of how email marketing created sales for ETA during a recent Lunch & Learn event we hosted about the differences between hosted, on-premises and virtualized VoIP business phone systems. Following the presentation, I sat down and ate a sandwich with one of the attendees. After chit-chatting for a bit, he  told me the only reason he came to the event is that he had been reading ETA's emails for a year and half and finally was ready to put in a new system. Music to a marketer's ears, right? Well, of course I immediately introduced him to one of our senior sales reps, and long story short, that conversation turned into a $50,000 sale!  Not bad ROI, huh? It may be worth putting some effort into creating that content that seems so challenging, after all.

In the next article, I’ll explain how social media fits into the continuous contact equation and why you don’t have to be a recent college grad to be successful doing it.

Christopher Aldred is marketing programs manager for Expert Technology Associates , a full-service business communications provider serving more than 1,800 customers throughout the United States and abroad. ETA designs, implements and manages voice and data communications solutions, including premises-based virtualized and hosted IP business telephone systems, voice and data services from more than 50 carriers, audio and Web conferencing, unified communications applications, tools that enable mobility and collaboration, call center management systems, managed business continuity and network security services, and more.

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