MacLeod: E-mail 'lacks credibility' but makes a great sidekick

Publish Date: 
Feb 19, 2011

E-mail ain’t what it used to be. What once was the primary source of communicating with people online, e-mail is now the Internet’s dinosaur, being pushed aside by social networking — the new way to reach friends, family and associates.

“Understand that there’s a generation behind [us] that doesn’t use e-mail that much,” said Cat MacLeod in a Learning Experience seminar held Saturday. “They text back and forth and use Facebook.”

To reach this generation, you turn to social-networking marketing, but that doesn’t mean you should trash your e-mail marketing efforts. “Social media isn’t killing e-mail, but it is changing how it’s being used,” MacLeod said. Here are some key points about e-mail from MacLeod’s session:

Use e-mail as a companion. Again, if e-mail is your primary source of communicating with your customers, you need to change your strategy. “E-mail lacks credibility because it’s so cheap,” MacLeod said. But it does have its strengths, when used smartly. “It’s great at engaging people, and getting them to attend events,” MacLeod said. “It’s a great sidekick.”

Use an e-mail client. When e-mailing your customers, choose e-mail marketing service providers like iContact, Benchmark Vertical Response or Mail Chimp over Hotmail or Yahoo. If you use the latter, you run the risk of getting blacklisted, and not being able to send any e-mails at all.

Be wary of buying e-mail lists. “The people who are selling these e-mail lists don’t know the industry as well as you do,” MacLeod said. “They aren’t that effective.” You can build your own by asking your customers to sign up for your e-mail list while they’re in your store. “I always encourage dealers to put computers at counters,” MacLeod said. “If they trust you enough to buy a bike from you, they probably trust you enough to give you their e-mail address.”

Follow up. When customers are first signing up to your list, make sure to tell them to check their junk e-mail filters as soon as you can. Also, if you notice that certain people aren’t even opening your e-mails (you can easily check this by looking at your metrics), send them a reminder. “If they haven’t opened the e-mail in six months, give them a chance to re-subscribe,” MacLeod said. “If they don’t, delete that e-mail address.”

Make it appealing. “What something looks like on the [screen] is more important than what it says,” MacLeod said. “If it doesn’t look good, people won’t read it.” Less is more, so don’t crowd your e-mails with tons of information. “If you have 20 different things in your e-mail, it’s too much.”

Let your customers do some of the work for you. MacLeod suggested a “Lonely Machines” feature in your e-mails, highlighting what machines you have available that need homes. Customers can forward your e-mails to their friends who may be interested in them. “E-mail should be a bunch of hooks to get people to read more content,” MacLeod said.

– Cynthia Furey