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Email business strategy
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I don't like absolute statements, but I think I'm safe if the following sounds like it: "every company that sells anything on the web has an email strategy." Having an email strategy can mean many things: from just publishing an address on a website, to actually selling a product via email.

I have an email strategy: I try to reply to most legitimate emails I receive (try it, ask me anything). So I find it distressful when companies do not take advantage of one more selling opportunity. For example, over the last two days I have been trying to get information on two different products, each from a different vendor. I'm a repeat customer for both companies, and I purposely tried to contact them via email to see how they were doing.

In both cases I got no reply--it has been 48 hours and nothing. What's distressing about it, as a consumer, is that these vendors in fact encourage their web visitors to use their email address to get in contact with them. I know there are issues with spam; however, why advertise their email address and encourage their customer to use it and not have a plan to handle legitimate requests?

I know I'm only one customer, but what these unresponsive organizations don't realize is that with a strong Canadian dollar buying products from the US is cheaper--the web-retail environment is more competitive than it was last year and Christmas is coming. By not capitalizing on answering emails promptly, these companies are loosing money. Again, the revenue lost by not servicing Jose Sandoval (software developer and self appointed business critic) is small; but add many of me and losses can mean a smaller end-of-year bonus for all.

With everything you read/hear/watch about Canadians buying products from the US because we are overpaying here in Canada, I still wanted to contribute to out local economy: I emailed these two particular vendors; I waited for the information I requested; I got no reply; unfortunately, for them, I opted to import from the US.

Regardless of how small your organization is or how much spam you get, if you sell anything using the web, don't ignore legitimate customers requests. There are currently countless of US retailers that want our Canadian dollars, and ignoring customers is a big incentive for consumers to buy US products.

(Right now it's a very attractive proposition to buy anything from the US: you can get almost anything from 30% to 50% cheaper, depending where you look. Add to that no sales tax and free shipping, and ignoring a sale is bad news.)

Some things you can do:
  1. Check that your published email address is correct and is pointing to an actual salesperson.

  2. If you get too much spam, install a spam filter.

  3. If you get too many legitimate requests and have no time to answer them all, hire someone to reply to emails, or at least set up a robot to reply with a standard message, e.g., "Thanks for your email. We will get back to you."

    Trust me, getting something is better than getting nothing, even if it's coming from a bot. Of course, you should redirect the email to an actual salesperson at some point, but the immediate contact can ultimately generate a sale.

  4. If you have no resources to hire more sales staff, redistribute emails among your existing staff and inculcate an "immediate response" culture.

    Note that this may go against the typical "email overload" world we live in, but I already suggested to filter the legitimate requests before sending them to someone who can take action (see number 3 above).
Obviously, not every situation is the same so your strategy may vary, but this short list is a good start.

11:55 PM | 0 comment(s) |


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