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In our day-to-day gigs, we are tasked with making our organizations better through the decisions we make… or don't make. In a business society with so many of us offering nearly the same product and so many looking for the most bang for the business buck, there's no better time than now to try a different approach to marketing to the masses.

Cue screeching tires.

Going into unchartered territory can be difficult for marketers because of that fear of the unknown, the unpredictability that surrounds what the results could be and the fear of failing.

Think about that train of thought. It's kind of backward, right? We'd rather try what others have attempted and make tweaks to attempt our version of success, rather than blaze our own trail and find something new that others would want to replicate.

The same old, same old is boring, less than innovative, and vanilla.

Cue email marketing and the greatest asset you're not using: click-throughs—the cookies and cream to your vanilla blues.

In every email campaign, you should have direct links to specific pages on your website, helping you gauge and track what's moving the meter in your emails. If you're using a proper email service provider (ESP), you should be able to easily see in real time who clicked on those links at what time and on what day.

To recap:

  • You have a marketing tool at your disposal that can show you in real time who is taking the effort to click on something of interest in an email.
  • Based on the data you originally imported (basic contact information, telephone), you have a ready-made exportable contact list for your sales representatives that is better than any bland/vague list they are using now.
  • That capability is baked into an application you're already using and paying for.

Wow. Why aren't you using this information to follow up?

The only real deterrent that I can see is a fear of Big Brother: When you call on prospects, they might fell very uncomfortable about your ability to track their activity when they open up your email. It's a valid argument, but it can be easily overcome by understanding how the sales process works from a manager's and worker's standpoint.

For several years, I played both roles for a professional hockey team, compiling contact lists then making the actual calls (ugh!). When assembling lists, we had two targets of attack for season tickets and other packages: area businesses on the one hand and, on the other, those who subscribed to our mini-plans, group leaders, and individual buyers.

The latter were much easier to contact and deal with than the former because they had sampled the product, so there was an immediate connection. But cold-calling businesses and trying to sell them on minor league hockey? Not so much fun, even in a hot market such as New England.

Allow me to make a hockey analogy: Think of following up on those people who have clicked as if they had attended a game. They have purchased the tickets (signed up for the list), walked through the turnstiles (opened the email), and then bought some merchandise (the link click). The recipient is interested in something within your email, so why not go for it?

Of course, how you approach the clicker is important. If you say, "We were checking up on your account and saw you clicked this link at a specific time," that might turn people off. However, if you say, "We recently sent out an email about Product X and got a link-click report that showed you might have some interest in the product," that's a bit less abrasive and opens the possibility to some dialogue.

In general, anything is better than making a call and asking whether the prospect got a brochure. Most prospects don't want to talk and so will say they didn't get it, the reps will say they'll send it again, and the dance with no conclusion will continue. Stop wasting everyone's time, and demand results based on data that's got some teeth—not based on a list you bought from someone.

Of course, there are different ways you can use the link clicks if you're not comfortable with the above approach. Maybe you send out a follow-up email based on specific link clicks or set up an autoresponder when someone clicks.

Regardless of what you do, the point is that you should do something. Just looking at numbers and being disappointed isn't good enough and is a waste of your email-marketing efforts.

You have a list, you have engaged customers, and you have a record of their actions with your campaign. Use them!

What are you waiting for? In the spirit of this summer's Star Trek movie, go boldly where no marketer has gone before! Your revenue numbers will thank you for it.

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Josh Nason is the inbound marketing manager at Dyn Inc., an infrastructure-as-a-service company that specializes in enterprise DNS and email services. Follow him at @joshnason, @dyninc, and @sendlabs.