Wednesday, 12 November 2014

What is Need-based Selling?

Recently, some of my friends in the sales fraternity have asked me what is need-based selling, as selling is already selling, which is to meet the needs of the customer.  Let me explain.

Many sales organizations have found a needs based selling method to be highly effective in increasing sales and improving customer satisfaction. The sales representatives who employ this approach will usually see improvement in their job performance and in the ease of closing accounts. They are able to distinguish themselves as sales professionals who are valuable consultants for their clients.

Here are the steps to successfully using a needs based selling approach on a sales call:

1. SET THE AGENDA. It is essential that any sales call begin with an agenda. Whether it is an existing client or a potential new one, the sales professional should state an agenda. A good standard opening is, "Mr. customer, what I'd like to do today is to first talk about you - ask a few questions about your business and find out what is happening with you, then tell you about me and what is happening at my company, and then we can determine whether we have a reason to work together. How does that sound?" The key here is to get agreement from the customer to continue the sales call. Once they agree, the next step is the needs analysis or questioning stage.

2. NEEDS ANALYSIS. Asking questions about the client's business should be a conversation where the client gets to talk more than the sales person. Good listening skills are very important in any sales call, but especially in this process where the customer is revealing information about themselves and their business. It is critical that the sales person NOT TRY TO SELL during the needs analysis. Resisting the urge to sell may be difficult for some sales people, but the order that was set at the beginning must be followed, and here we are letting the customer tell us about them. The goal is to uncover problems, concerns,or issues that the customer is having. Again, no selling should occur before the client's needs are uncovered. When needs or concerns are identified, the next step is to qualify or determine how important or critical the issue is to the customer. Ask the customer what it would mean to the business if the situation they identified could be corrected. If they respond with emotion or with great interest in how that could be accomplished, the sales person who can provide a solution will most likely get the sale. If the issue is not that important or if the customer is not seeing the situation as a pressing issue, then it does not qualify as a need and should not be pursued. Once the pressing need or needs are identified, a good question to ask the customer is, "can you and I agree to work together on finding a solution to this (or these) concerns?" The answer to this question will determine the level of buy in and interest from the customer.

3. Summarize. When the customer is finished telling about themselves, there should be one or more needs that have been uncovered. By recapping or summarizing what those needs were, the client will know that they were listened to and will give the sales person more credibility because they heard and understood what was said. Also, by gaining agreement from the client that these needs exist, the sales person can begin to plan a recommendation to answer the needs or solve the problem.

4. Transition. After the needs are revealed and agreed upon by the customer, the sales professional should set the table for the recommendation step. If this will involve a second sales call, set up the next appointment where specific plans to solve the concerns will be revealed and a recommendation made. An easy way to do this is to say, "if I had a way to help your business resolve this issue, would you be interested in hearing about it?" If the client says yes, you are on the way to a sale!

5. Recommendation. Based on the needs that were uncovered, the recommendation can be prepared and delivered. If the customer has agreed that the need is there, and if your product or service will solve the issue, then closing the sale will be much more of a probability.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Overseas Courier Service attending the Strategic Marketing Planning orientation program

Just me and the staff of Overseas Courier Service, from the recently concluded "Strategic Marketing Planning" Orientation program held at the Kinta Riverfront Hotel in Ipoh on August 12 2014. Standing on my left is the General Manager of Overseas Courier Service (S) Pte Ltd, Ms Chan Suat Kheng.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

How successful ads are prepared. It's in the copy writing .... a humour

Hassan and Habib are beggars who beg in different areas of Toronto .
Habib begs just as long as Hassan but only collects $2 or $3 a day.
Hassan brings home suitcases FULL of $20 bills, drives a Mercedes and lives in a mortgage-free house.
Habib said to Hassan, 'I beg just as long and hard as you do and I can't understand how you manage to bring home suitcases full of money every day?'
Hassan said, 'Take a look at your sign, what does it say?'
Habib's sign read; 'I have no work, a wife and 6 children to support'.
Hassan said, 'No wonder you get so little.'
Habib asked... 'So what does your sign say?'
Hassan showed Habib his sign....
It read: 'I only need another $20 to move back to Pakistan !'

Are you a winner?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Be mindful of the big boys!

Did you know, only a handful of companies produce and distribute the many products we buy.

For example - the Pepsi/Revive people, brought us Wonda Coffee....

The Nescafe people, also own Kiehl's and Garnier.

We now hear the giant international coffee brands are very worried about the new local brands (Ali Cafe/ Ah Huat / Chek Hup / Kopiko) eating into their market share and are trying all ways to hamper the smaller players.

So be mindful of the big boys!

Read more here.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Being innovative in negotiation

A father left 17 camels as asset for his 3 sons. When the father passed away, his sons opened up the will which stated that the eldest son should get 1/2, the middle son to get 1/3 and the youngest son to get 1/9. The sons started to fight with each other since it was not possible to divide 17 by 2, 3 or 9.

So, they decided to go to a wise man. The wise man listened carefully. After giving this a thought, he brought 1 of his own camel and added the same to the 17 which increased the total to 18 camels. With that, he gave 9 camels to the eldest son, 6 camels to the middle son and 2 camels to the youngest son. Now, add this up: 9+6+2=17. This leaves 1 camel, which the wise man took back. All the 3 sons were happy and the wise man also got back his camel.

 The moral of the story: The attitude of negotiation and problem solving is to find the 18th camel, ie the common ground. Once a person is able to find the common ground, the issue is resolved. It is difficult at times. However, to reach a solution, the first is to believe that there is a solution. If we think that there is no solution, we won't be able to reach any solution.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Food for thoughts ...

Using the Communication Model as an example, this shows the importance of encoding and encoding messages.

So, are you working hard, or working smart?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Retail Job

The 6 Most Powerful Words in Networking

Hey, did you hear Mark Zuckerberg announced an update to Facebook's privacy settings?
In May.
Because people have complained for a long time the settings are too confusing. So the company made a change.
Now, new users of the site will have privacy settings default to "Friends," instead of "Public," which had been the case for many years.
You ask a lot of questions, don't you?
"Ha, yeah. I guess I do."
Want to be a great networker? Learn to love WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW.
The six words demonstrate maturity, selflessness, and a natural curiosity. They prove you can set yourself aside and be genuinely interested in another person's life. You know, authenticity. And perhaps through all your questions, you'll find new ways to connect or advance your career.
"Curiosity is more important than knowledge." ― Albert Einstein
WHO should I talk to like this?
Anyone. A stranger at happy hour, someone you ask to meet for coffee, or a person you sit next to on a plane. Everyone else knows something you don't. Why spend the entire time talking? What will you learn? 
Sample question: Who are some of your clients?
WHAT do I talk about?
You talk about what the other person wants to talk about. Let that person guide the conversation. If that person says, "I like my job, but it can be tough at times," then you come right back with, "What makes it tough?"
Sample question: What kind of projects are you working on?
WHEN is the most appropriate time?
Anytime. People love to talk about themselves. In fact, they'll probably give you as much info as you can handle. They think: "You're curious about what I do for a living? Of course I'll blab about it!"
Sample question: When did you decide to focus on that aspect of your career?
WHERE are the best places?
Anywhere, but specifically situations where you could aid your career. Networking events, work conferences, and job interviews are great places to give these words a whirl.
Sample question: Where do you go most often for work? Do you travel?
WHY is it such an effective strategy?
With each questionyou take the conversation deeper and build trust. Plus, if you two find a way to network further, the person is more likely to help because that person likes you — and all you did was let that person ramble on about themselves!
Sample question: Why did you decide to pursue a master's degree?
HOW do I keep up all the questions?
You listen intently. You stay in the moment, absorb what the person has to say, and come back with a thoughtful response.
Sample question: How did you start your own business? What was the process?
In conversation, our instinct is to dive right in and say, "Well, I ... "
But you … you're smarter than that. You understand the power of WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, and HOW.
Those six words allow you to forge relationships, broaden your knowledge, and create new career opportunities.
When you focus on others, the world starts to shift in your favor.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Six mistakes young managers make

The great thing about being in my twenties was that I looked young, felt indestructible and was ready to take on the world. However it was this blind enthusiasm that would pitch me one of my earliest, and curliest, career curveballs.

Influencing for many is a complex and ambiguous art. For some, the skill is developed slowly through multiple experiences, whereas for others, it is a totally instinctive process. This latter group, in their early years at least, are at great personal risk, because their influencing capacity is far more developed than their personal maturity. This was me. I was blind to the implications of the mysterious trajectory my career was about to take.

As a young employee, I worked in an organisation that was habitual in its behaviours and intensely hierarchical in its structure. Consequently, the workplace culture was stifling and aggressive towards anything or anyone who was different. Communication at the best of times was inadequate and, when present, long-winded.

Within these confines, I did what I do naturally: I spoke with people, built relationships and attended most events that the organisation held. In a short time, the relationships I developed spanned the entire organisation and, before I knew it, I was appointed to the business’ most senior committee where I candidly shared my views about the organisation, and how it might improve, with its most senior executives. And they listened. Suddenly I wielded an influence that exceeded my rank.

This is something I should look back on with pleasure, right? Well, there is an element of pleasure, but it comes from the lessons I would eventually learn from the curveball my influence on the committee triggered.

Here is the play-by-play of how I misread it, and what to do to ensure your curveball does not end in a career strike out:

Play 1: I overlooked my managers
On the committee, I was now amongst the senior influencers. I had a value proposition – I knew the business on the ground level and I was honest with my thoughts. I was playing the big game – it was intoxicating. The implication on middle management, who weren’t ‘senior’ enough to be invited to the table, was lost on me (sometimes youth is wasted on the young!). In essence, I was privy to high-level information and conversations that my bosses were not.

Play 2: I got distracted
I found it harder to concentrate on the role I was employed and paid to do. I had tasted the flavour of influencing and because I was now privy to conversations about the whole business and its future, my role in context seemed so inconsequential. My focus was split.

Play 3: I provoked a negative backlash
My appointment to the senior committee incited a reaction in middle management that really began to take voice. They clearly struggled with my rapid trajectory so their reaction was, in hindsight, predictable. They added additional responsibilities to my role, required more regular reporting, and changed the way they treated me.

Play 4: I went to war
I reacted to these behaviours by doing what comes naturally to me. I sought alliances with colleagues, used my influence to push back on the additional requests and, effectively, drew the battlelines. What began as an inherently organic and curious journey spiraled into a contest that was impossible to win. I was still too immature to realise it – I was sure I was indestructible.

Play 5: I overestimated the strength of my influence
I became isolated. This was my battle. Realistically, neither level of management was going to support me. My colleagues did not want to get involved. All of a sudden, the well-meaning influencer found himself alone.

Play 6: I learnt some big lessons
Then the moment of truth arrived. My manager called me in and gave me two options: to come off the committee, go back to my job and toe the line, or, option two, as he put it, “shake hands and leave like a gentleman.” To this day I am proud of how I responded to this. I told him I had made some errors of judgement, which I had learnt from. I noted that I had learnt about people – the good and the not so good things about them. So I thought it best to leave and absorb the lessons, turn them into positives and start again somewhere new.

Now, as a chief executive, I recognise young people who like me possess that raw ability to influence. So I spend time with them, nurture and encourage them while providing a context of realism to the mix. During my experience, I did not have a mentor, no one to step forward and alert me to the consequences of my behaviours. This would have been a great help at the time as my actions were not driven by malice; I was simply oblivious to the circus they would create.

So now I am a battle-wary leader. I have earned my stripes the hard way and feel an obligation to help those who I believe need it.

Raw instinct is in some ways a gift, but when it comes to influencing, I would swap it for a more staged development based on exposure to the trials and tribulations of the workplace. Learning how to influence effectively, without inciting a riot, is one of the most important aspects of the leadership journey. Whenever I see my colleagues mobilising to a vision we share, I am quietly grateful for the pain of my curveball because it taught me so much. Once you have the skills to pick the curveball, you can hit it out of the park, so if you are currently in a state of professional pain, focus on what you are learning and how this will make you better.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Niche Marketing and Internet Marketing

User targeting strategies

Niche marketing is perhaps one of the most fundamental things that you should do in marketing, may it be as a product vendor or as an affiliate. Many people are looking to find products that are worth spending their money on investing to Adwords and outsourcing services, especially on advertising solutions that will involve a lot of manual work. Although you can always promote products without spending too much on it, it’s always wiser to treat Internet Marketing like a real business.

Before you start promoting something, you actually need to start validating your idea. Although many people sell what interests them, not all of your interests may become worth promoting. You need to look at how interested the people in your market are in buying your product, see if it’s worth its price and value, then check if you will have a fair competition in that niche. If you’re looking to gain sales online through organic search results, the last factor should be seriously taken into consideration.

Most of the time, huge businesses and blogs use niche marketing. Even businesses who are trying to market offline use this strategy. A computer company may advertise an all-in-one printer with scanner and photocopying features while at the same time looking for ways to sell a similar product which will complement the main product as an accessory. This doesn’t have to be totally manufactured by them the same way with their main product, but because they know that they have a hot market who are really interested in buying their accessories, they have made a valuable step in their marketing.

The most important thing that makes niche marketing valuable to sellers is that advertising budgets will soon get a good return of investment. It will cost less to promote products in a very targeted niche, especially because you know that they are interested in your product and they somehow have the will to purchase what you’re promoting.

Niche marketing methods are designed to meet targeted needs and interests of targeted audience. You don’t want to sell your product to a huge audience, because some people are not interested in buying them, making you lose tons of money on non-targeted advertising. You must completely tailor-fit your product to the needs and interest of your target market. If you are a writer who wants to teach people how to do blog marketing online then you should only target those who are either interested in marketing, Blogs or Blog marketing. Spending tons of money doing otherwise may just be a waste of both time and money.

The most successful Internet Marketers always start with successful niche marketing methods. Always try to look at both competition and demand of product and if you see that the price of the product is worth paying for its value, then you’ve got a jackpot. A good niche marketing method will gain you more leads, more e-mail options, more likes in your social networking sites and probably more sales in the future.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

How to Execute a 15-Word Strategy Statement

There is no shortage of stories and anecdotes to illustrate how the best strategies can nearly always be reduced down to a brief but powerful statement and even more ink has been spilled describing the dangers of strategy statements that read like detailed action plans.

But how do you go about actually crafting — and using — a 15-word strategy statement?

My approach is based on narrative techniques. I begin by working with clients to write a story based on this template:

Once upon a time there was (insert a name who exemplifies your target customer/consumer) …. . Every day he/she (insert here his/her frustration or job to be done) …. . One day we developed (insert here the product/solution and what are actually the 2-3 things we offer or not) … . Until finally (insert here the end result for the customer/consumer compared to competition) … .

A few years ago, I facilitated a strategic innovation workshop for a swimwear manufacturer. We were trying to put together a value proposition for very occasional swimmers who don’t like to practice the sport in a pool, and whose water experience is essentially little more than paddling in the sea or sitting in a small private pool.

We started by watching videos of these swimmers, from smartphone footage taken by sales people visiting public pools around the world that had then been posted on an internal collaboration platform, along with observations from the people taking the shots about what the swimmers seemed to find most difficult.

The workshop participants clustered the individual swimmers’ pain points into a number of categories, which they ranked along two metrics. The first metric was a product of the degree of the pain and how many swimmers experienced it and the second was a measure of actionability: could a new product or service feature resolve the problem?

With this information we designed a value proposition together, using the Blue Ocean Strategy canvas approach, on which value propositions can be compared in terms of their features. The canvas had two lines, one for the company’s proposition and one for the industry standard, so that we could see how we would differ from the competition.

With a better understanding of the pain-points of the targeted occasional swimmers and the kind of value proposition that could tempt them into the water, the workshop participants were able to build a storyline. They came up with the following narrative:

Once upon a time there was a woman called Rosemary, who had learned and practiced only the basic swimming techniques to float and make short moves in the water. Every single time she visited a pool, she felt unease due to a perception of breathing water risk, immediate physical fatigue due to incorrect stroke movements and inconvenience related to the pool check in and out process. One day, our company developed a set of products and services that offered Rosemary all she needed to enjoy her pool experience. Finally, someone had brought joy to Rosemary’s pool experience and she moved from the gym to the water for her winter exercise.

Once we reached agreement on the strategy story, we were then able to distill from it a 15-word statement that identified the job the company had to do and for whom: “We aim to bring joy to the pool experience cycle of every swimmer, nobody excluded.”

Guided by this statement the company designed and developed a number of add-on product features, including most notably a pair of plastic fins that could be fixed on to most goggles to facilitate breathing, a big problem for most beginners. The plastic fins make it easier to breathe into the air pocket by the swimmer’s head by enhancing the bow wave from the head, thus protecting the swimmer’s mouth and nose from splashes and water drops. Because the swimmer struggles less to breathe, she can concentrate on her stroke and swim better, and generally have a more comfortable pool experience.

The narrative exercise of creating a clear strategy statement had helped the workshop understand what kind of value proposition the company needed to create in order to attract a new class of customers and resulted in a clear strategy statement that both coordinated people internally and positioned the company attractively in the market.

(Source : Alessandro Di Fiore,  Harvard Business Review)

The new form of retail marketing - TESCO Homeplus, Korea

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Age should not be a barrier to learning.

Former Radio Malaysia broadcaster Elisabeth Kirkby became Australia’s oldest graduate in Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) when she received her degree from the University of Sydney at age 93 recently.

Her thesis was a comparative study of the Great Depression and the Global Financial Crisis, both of which she lived through.
The former Member of Parliament for the Democrats, who was born in Lancashire, England, in 1921, has a diverse and varied career, including as soapy star “Lucy Sutcliffe” in the risque 1970s hit TV show, Number 96, a sheep and wheat farmer, and a journalist.

The great grandmother had worked as broadcaster in Malaya/Malaysia  and Singapore for 15 years after World War 2 before arriving in Sydney in 1965 and joining ABC as an on-air presenter.

In an interview with The Australian newspaper recently, she said: “A love of learning is essential.

“I say that to people, that you really have to have an enthusiasm or passion for something. You can’t believe that when you retire, you just play golf or bowl or sit round with your mates.

“You always have to do something,” said the wife of 1970s feminist health warrior and gynaecologist Derek Llewellyn-Jones, who authored the book Everywoman.
This is certainly inspiring. To excel in one's pursuit is certainly gratifying but to do it at 93 years of age, is far out awesome! 

Believe it or not, age is no barrier to learning.  I have been a part-time lecturer for many years and on two occasions, there was one intake which has a student who was the sales manager of a drink company and he was 52 years. He later went on to obtain his MBA from an UK university. 

At another intake, there was this student, aged 55 years and was the sales manager of a tyre company. He obtained the degree I was lecturing in and subsequently, went on to pursue his MBA. 

I guess the learning process does not cease when one reaches 55. It is on-going till the day we draw our last breath.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Personal Data Protection Act 2010

For many of you who are in Marketing, Sales, Customer Service and Telemarketing, please take note of the following which was announced last November.

The Communication and Multimedia Ministry today announced that the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 came into force on Nov 15.

The act was introduced specifically for the purpose of preventing the misuse of people's personal data for commercial purposes, said Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek.

Those categorised as users of data had until Feb 15 2014 to register with the Personal Data Protection Department, he said, adding that it was an offence to disclose personal data to third parties without the consent of the owner.

Ahmad Shabery said the act ensured information security, network reliability and integrity of data protection in the country.

He said Malaysia was the first country among the Asean nations which had enforced such an act, and thus would make a reality of the objective of the transformation of Malaysia into a developed country.

"Protecting personal data is a huge social responsibility as the Big Data industry in Malaysia is growing rapidly, and it also encompasses the question of personal data and other important information of an organisation," he told a news conference at the ministry.

Shabery said he estimated that 25,000 institutions in the country were categorised as data users and had to be registered under the act.

Answering a question about the seriousness of problems related to leakage of personal data, he said he learned that every month Cyber Security received 800 to 1,000 complaints of personal information being distributed to those who were not supposed to get it.

Shabery also announced the appointment of the Personal Data Protection Department director-general Abu Hassan Ismail as the first Personal Data Protection Commissioner.

Meanwhile, in a media release, the department defined data users as those who processed personal data or had control over such data or authorised the processing of personal data.

It listed 11 sectors classified as data users, encompassing the communication, banking and financial institutions, insurance, health, tourism and hospitality, transport, education, direct selling, services, real estate and utilities sectors.

It also listed the various offences and penalties under the act, including a fine of up to RM500,000 or a jail term of up to three years for processing personal data without a certificate of registration or after the registration had been revoked.

[Source : Bernama]

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Marketers and sales personnel, please take note

Handshakes you should avoid

During my many sales trainings, there is one item under the module of Sales Presentation where I touched on hand shakes that sales people should avoid should they meet up with the client for the first time.  They are :

1. The Hand Glider
2. The Finger Tip; and
3. The Soft Touch

Anyone of the above handshakes could send off a wrong signal to the prospect of your desire to do business with him/her.

However, besides the three mentioned, there are more for sales people to take notice of.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Nine easy ways to build trust with your sales team

It is important that as a sales manager, it takes a little more effort to be accessible to the entire team. But doing so is vital – it builds trust, helps people do their best work and gives you latitude when you have to ask for hard things or make tough choices. These are a few things I do to stay connected to the team that deliver big impact for minimal time and effort.
1. Call everyone in the company by name
Learn names and use them. With a large team, this may take homework, like using LinkedIn to help match faces with names.
2. Say "hi" first
When walking by a team member, always say hi to them before they say hi to you. Make eye contact, and, of course, use their name!
3. Make time to connect one-on-one
When I was managing sales teams of my own, at least twice a week, I meet for coffee or tea with different members of the sales team to learn about what they’re working on, hear their (often genius!) ideas about their jobs and the company, to learn what I can be doing better, and to get to know them. I really enjoy these chats, both personally and professionally.
4. Respond to emails quickly
Even if you can't read through something right away, acknowledge that you got it and that you'll look at it later. Having been on the other side of it, I know it can be nerve-racking or frustrating when it takes your boss a long time to respond to an email. Our Customer Support team operates by this philosophy of respect, too, and answers customer emails in under 9 minutes!
5. Connect on social media
When someone new starts, try to make sure to add them on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter.
6. Be in the moment during meetings and chats
No iPhone in meetings or one-on-ones! If you do have to check your phone, explain the context and draw the person/people you’re meeting with into the situation with details about what’s going on and why it is time sensitive – and ideally say this ahead of the meeting.
7. Create the company you would have wanted to work at
If your company’s not that fun, make it fun, whether that’s an in-office bar (my personal bias), spontaneous outings or something else you deem cool. I also always thought it was odd to make people pay for coffee (which helps them do their jobs better!) so we offer this for free.
8. Meet everyone on their first day on the job
As long as I’m in town, I meet every new sales team member right when they start. I’m just as excited to have new faces in the office as they are to be joining the team!
9. Be on time
Being late sends a message that you think your time is more valuable than that of the person you’re holding up. I try to show up to meetings a minute early, and make every effort to do calls exactly on time.

Would love to hear the small but impactful changes you’ve made to increase connection and accessibility as a boss – or as a colleague!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Monday, 3 February 2014

How to rid yourself off the pre-presentation stress

Many marketing or sales people who are new to job, or even on the job for already some time, may still not feel comfortable when coming to giving a presentation either before a management team or a group of potential buyers.  They will go through some form of stress resulting in the 'butterflies in the stomach' effect. Some may even experience hand tremor, clammy hands or even perspiration with beads of sweat flowing down from the side of the head.

Here is a slide presentation to help you overcome these pre-presentation experience.

13+1 tips to reduce presentation anxiety by @orsnemes from Orsolya Nemes

Some of the most important rules to observe is to take a deep breath, stay calm and composed.

Friday, 31 January 2014


Here's wishing all my Chinese Malaysian friends a very Happy Chinese New Year and may the Year of the Horse gallops in with much joy and prosperity to you and your family.

Friday, 10 January 2014

One for the album - St Gobain Malaysia Sdn Bhd

The sales staff of St Gobain Malaysia Sdn Bhd after the Key Account Management Workshop
at the Holiday Inn Glenmarie (January 6-7 2014)
The blogger with the Area Sales Manager for Singapore, Jennifer Loy

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Marketers, take note. Instangram marketing is the way to go today.

Why marketers should keep sending you e-mails

It’s a postholiday tradition up there with returning unwanted gifts and vowing to exercise more: spending a few hours cleaning out your e-mail inbox. If you’re wondering why marketers seem intent on e-mailing you more and more, there’s a simple explanation: it works. E-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media—nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined (exhibit). That’s because 91 per cent of all US consumers still use e-mail daily, and the rate at which e-mails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 per cent higher.

 Of course, we’re not saying marketers should bombard you with mindless spam. And consumer behavior is shifting: McKinsey’s iConsumer survey reported a 20 per cent decline in e-mail usage between 2008 and 2012 as a share of time spent on communications, with the medium surrendering ground to social networks, instant messaging, and mobile-messaging apps. Investments in these new channels are absolutely necessary for marketers to make increasingly sophisticated use of social networks and other channels to engage with consumers and convert interest to sales. However, marketers shouldn’t be too hasty in shifting budgets away from e-mail—they just need to take a few steps to harness the full power of the inbox.

1. Focus on the journey, not the click

Marketers often obsess over every aspect of every e-mail sent, from the subject line to visuals to copy. And they should—so long as they remember that e-mail is merely the first click (literally) in a consumer’s decision journey. The e-mail is part of a series of interactions with a brand, and marketers should be just as obsessed with where an e-mail sends the user. Why invest so much time in an e-mail only to drop the user onto a generic home page? Customized landing pages—which send the user directly to the item or offer featured in the e-mail—can increase conversion rates by more than 25 per cent. And don’t forget mobile. Nearly 45 per cent of all marketing e-mails today are opened on a mobile device.4 Yet many marketers fail to optimize landing pages for the platform. If you think that’s no big deal, consider this: Google says 61 per cent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing. And, even worse, 40 per cent visit a competitor’s site instead.

2. Share the lessons

The best marketing organizations view every e-mail as an opportunity to learn more about their consumer. They define clear learning objectives for each campaign, capture data, and share it within the marketing group and the rest of the organization. One apparel company that markets through multiple channels recently implemented a monthly review of its e-mail campaigns in which marketers share three “hits” and three “misses.” These reviews are attended by marketers, merchants, and brand teams, with top lessons broadcast on closed-circuit TV screens throughout its corporate campus. “We want our team to share every lesson,” the head of direct marketing said. “If what we’re doing doesn’t work, we should celebrate finding that out.” As a result of this continuous learning process, the company is on course to double e-commerce revenue as a percentage of total sales without increasing its number of e-mail campaigns.

3. Get personal

Standing out certainly has become more difficult. While e-mail usage has declined, the volume of messages continues to rise: the number of marketing e-mails was forecast to reach a record 838 billion in the United States in 2013, according to Forrester. It’s no wonder relevancy should be a priority for every marketer. The best e-mails feel personal—and they are. Flash-sale site Gilt Groupe sends more than 3,000 variations of its daily e-mail, for example, each tailored based on past user click-throughs, browsing history, and purchase history. Of course, building true customization and targeting abilities is a transformative process that requires specific capabilities and supporting infrastructure. Customer information often lives in different parts of the organization and must be aggregated to create a single view of each consumer. A targeting engine must be built to guide the right message to the right person. And operations need to be ready for the change; creating and sending 3,000 e-mails a day is very different from sending one mass e-mail blast. Although it’s a lot of work, it drives real returns: one financial institution increased revenue from target segments by 20 per cent by using life-cycle events to trigger personalized e-mails to existing customers; home-goods retailer Williams-Sonoma reported a tenfold improvement in response rates by adopting personalized e-mail offerings based on individuals’ on-site and catalogue shopping behaviour.