According to the Royal Mail the recent price hike in postage is largely due to falling postal volumes, and of course the higher the price goes the more we switch away from the traditional letter! Even at its current level postage charges are very reasonable and compare favourably with other countries but if you are sending our large numbers of invoices, sales leaflets or catalogues the costs soon add up.
There are alternatives to Royal Mail, companies such as TNT and UKMail have offered a service for the business user for a number of years and with sufficient volumes saving of up to 30% are achievable. Royal Mail offers a range of packages including the excellent Door-to-Door service, great value if you want to target postcode zones, rather than named individuals. But the most commonly used alternative is of course email.
When and how you use email will depend on whether you are targeting existing customers/clients or looking for new ones.
Fast – emails can be fast to put together and fast to send out, we’ve worked on projects requiring a 24 hour turn around, something you could never do with traditional mailshots, even when 1st class meant next day, nationwide and ‘Postie’ delivered twice a day.
Cheap (or should I say low cost) If your email is going to work properly, ie get to the right person, be read and then acted upon it has to be properly designed. Someone has to build and manage your database, handle those unsubscribes and deal with irate customer complaints about Spam (more on this later).
If you’re using a third party to send your emails they will charge you for this service. Some offer a free service for small volumes, but if you want any of the really valuable data, such as delivery and open rates, you will have to pay.
Having said emails are ‘fast’, all too often this translates into ‘wrong’ – I’ve lost count of the number of emails I’ve received with typos, bad grammar, missing images and links. When traditional mailshots are printed there are often several people in the approvals process and more doing the fulfilment – extra pairs of eyes that would pick up the problems before they leave the building.
Because it is seen as a low cost activity responsibility for emails is also often relegated to the most junior person in the office and that can be a recipe for disaster.
If you send out emails at some point you will be accused of Spamming. Expect anything from an irate phone call to, in the worst case scenario, having your ISP pull the plug on you (it happens).
So how do we use email effectively to communicate with other businesses?
Make sure your list is accurate and up to date. If you are using it purely for communicating B2B you don’t have to have a ‘double opt-in’ list, merely have the correct details. A good list will reduce the amount of time spent dealing with non-deliverables and the likelihood you will be identified as a potential Spammer by the receiving organisation.
It is not against the rules to purchase an email list and there are some good high quality lists to be had from reputable suppliers (as well as dreadful ones from dodgy outfits) however some ISPs specifically prohibit the use of purchased lists because of quality issues. A good example is 1and1.com.
It is worth mentioning here that most of the UK rules for email marketing (as covered by the Privacy and Electronics Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 – commonly known as PECR) do not apply to B2B communications. But, and it’s a big but, many of the organisations in the delivery chain are not UK companies, they don’t understand the distinction between B2B and B2C, or choose to ignore it. In addition there are organisations like Spam Haus, self-appointed guardians of electronic communications that are trying to stop any and all unsolicited emails irrespective of what the law actually says.
As a general rule of thumb you won’t go wrong if you only send to business email addresses (avoid Hotmail or Gmail accounts) and wherever possible make sure what you are promoting is relevant to that business.
This begins with the subject line – needs to be short and snappy and relevant to the content
The default setting on most email systems is ‘disable images’ so your email should contain plain text version of the content and ideally a link to URL where they can see the email in full in case the recipient can’t enable images. Similarly you should avoid including images or attaching them to your email – because of the size, these have the effect of slowing down the whole process and increasing the chance they will be rejected by the recipient, better to have them hosted.
Keep the email short and to the point – if you need to have lots of information and/or images provide a link from within the email. If you’re sending something like a newsletter only include the briefest detail, perhaps an image and the first sentence or two from each article. Space is at a premium on email windows so put all the important stuff at the top!
Video is a very effective way of engaging with the recipient. A still image from the video, clearly marked as such, will encourage people to read your email and click through to the film. Studies suggest a four-times higher open rate when video is involved.
PECR rules require a clear and easy way to request to be unsubscribed from mailing lists. You must also clearly identify the name of the organisation sending the email, a website and company registration number, if you have one.
Call to Action
How many emails go out with no clear call to action, ie phone this number, email or click here. If you are directing them to a website make sure the link is correct and they go through to a relevant page.
Often difficulties or delays in making changes to a website can slow down the whole project. Consider using a mini/micro website as landing pages or social media.
As I said earlier if you send emails you will sooner, or later, have to deal with complaints, so best be prepared with a simple procedure to register and if necessary escalate issues. You should have a copy of this available to send to the complainant along with your data protection policy.
From experience we have found it counter-productive to argue with complainants about what does, or does not constitute Spam. If they are upset simple apologise and remove them from the list and be careful to make sure they are on an exclusion list for future campaigns.