How to Get People to Read Your Email: The Australia Email Trick

Email used to be an extremely valuable tool for communicating crucial information but has dramatically lost value over the past decade. In a time-poor society with shrinking attention spans, emails have been devalued and are quickly becoming everyday annoyances that are largely ignored.

Sales and marketing professionals are all too aware of this issue, and it serves to make their jobs more difficult with each passing day. This is an issue that affects everyone, as I am sure everyone has experienced the lack of professionalism when they don’t receive a response to an email they have sent. Today I share with you a trick: The Australia Email.

My job as Marketing Manager (it’s a misnomer, I wear many hats) requires me to interact with particularly time-poor individuals — usually business owners and controllers — to discuss the prospect of implementing ERP Software. In almost all cases they have reached out to me, so I am not cold calling, and yet I see a serious lack of professionalism on a daily basis: they just won’t return my emails.

Typically, I will leave a voicemail and send an email, leave a number of days in-between and then repeat the process once or twice. After that point the opportunity is pretty much dead in the water, however, before moving on I always send out my “Australia email”.

It goes something like this:

Subject: Impromptu Trip to Australia?

Hi Steve,

I haven’t heard from you in several weeks.

Are you busy exploring another continent?

Amazingly, the vast majority of the time I have sent this email I have suddenly received a response. The obvious lesson here is that you need to find a way to cut through the noise. The more subtle lesson: find an interesting way to call people out on their lack of professionalism.

Is Sales Dead? Is Marketing the New Sales?

As a sales and marketing professional for an enterprise software company, I deal in the realm of both sales and marketing on a daily basis. Recently sales has come under tremendous pressure and is continuously being pushed further down the sales cycle. Let’s explore some of these dynamics.

In business-to-business operations, sales has always been dominant over marketing. While marketing was used for branding purposes and generating a buzz and some general interest, it was rarely likely to bring executives to the table. Salespeople, combined with some good old fashioned elbow-grease, were vital in schmoozing contacts  to close sales as well as actively seeking out new leads.

Fast forward to today and the opposite is true. No one likes to take cold calls anymore; executives have little patience for sales people and grow more sceptical of them everyday. Instead, inbound marketing is relied upon to bring buyers to sellers. Buyers feel at ease knowing that they are not being chased after – instead, they actively seek out the products they desire based on information they found online.

Although I do not have any stats readily available, the anecdotal evidence I have experienced as a B2B sales and marketing professional, is that sales are much easier to close when they have found you. The logic itself is simple, as people tend to prefer to be the hunter rather than the hunted. Your products and services are also likely to be a better fit if they have done their research and sought you out, rather than you trying to make them fit your mould.

sales-dead-inbound-marketingThe change has huge implications for both sales people and marketers. Marketing, but not necessarily advertising, has no where to go but up. Sales on the other hand may be a dying profession. It will always be needed to close-off a sale but salespeople will likely play a smaller role until later on in the sales cycle.

I will continue to sell with vigour, but will be spending the majority of my day trying to increase our visibility online so that leads can come to us.

A recent article in Canadian Business, Death of the Salesman, brings these points home.

The Disney Merchandise Money Train

So I just got back from a week trip to Orlando, Florida to check out Universal Studios and the Disney parks. Now that the stage has been set . . .

disney-merchandise-moneyDid you know that Disney makes a lot of money? Of course you did but did you know that since Cars came out in 2006 they have made 8 billion dollars on merchandise sales alone? The movie, surprisingly only made $500 million internationally but they couldn’t care in the slightest. In fact, they could have given movie tickets away for free and still be laughing.

Disney merchandise is both absolutely thievery (from a paying parent’s perspective) and complete brilliance (from a business perspective). Walking around the parks you quickly discover that for every ride and attraction there are 2 or 3 gift shops. Most attractions exit directly into either a gift shop or arcade to make it easier for the kids to start their “mommy please” chants. These chants are parents’ number 1 weakness and wreaks unbelievable havoc on their wallets.

I learned many things on my vacation to the parks:

  1. Most things in the U.S. are relatively cheap (booze, food etc.)
  2. You could buy a brand new car for the price of a family’s share of Disney merchandise

It might seem crazy but after visiting 3 parks I walked away without a single souvenir. My reasoning is simple: souvenir or not, a small fridge magnet is not worth $8, a tiny figurine is not worth $24.95 and a Harry Potter wand (read: tiny piece of wood) is not worth $32 – this last one is almost laughable.

disney-merchandise-money-trainFor those interested, there is a business lesson here. There is a lot of money to be made by attracting consumers and upselling them but more importantly – sell to kids. Sell, sell, sell, sell, sell to kids. If you can capture the kids attention you’ve got money in the bank. Harry Potter is even more brilliant because it attracts both younger audiences and slightly older audiences that have disposable income. Genius. Is it too late to invest in Disney???

Closed Systems–Putting Consumers Second

closed-systems-putting-consumers-secondI have a funny relationship with Apple and PlayStation – I love their products and hate their products at the same time. Specifically though, it’s closed ecosystems and the lack of consumer choice that is baked into these companies policies that really get me.

Apple is notoriously bad for maintaining closed products that, although they are great products, could be so much more if they just let go a little. I think the best comparison for Apple’s policies is an over-protective mother who can’t stand to see something happen to their child so they give them no freedom. It’s actually a perfect comparison. Perfect.

Apple’s software is locked down with minimal opportunity for customization. Users must resort to “jailbreaking” their phones in order to restore functionality to their phone that has been locked down. Jailbreaking has become extremely common – so much so, that it is crazy to believe that Apple still thinks it is working in the best interest of consumers. Don’t get me wrong, Apple products are great but they have so much more potential. Android is slowly but surely taking over the market because of its prevalence across devices as well as its open environment that allows both basic users and hackers enjoy the full ability of the hardware and software that they purchased. Apple, please learn soon. We are your customers. Hear us roar.

PlayStation also has a similar problem. Their customers pay hundreds of dollars for their hardware only to be restricted to the company’s wishes. PlayStation’s audience is hardcore gamers who like to hack and customize. They need to make sure they always operate for that audience. Restricting hardware might be okay for a system like the Wii (where many users are not techies) but not for a system like the PS3.

The funny thing about having a closed system is that if the mass public wants it open – they’ll get it open. When you get the attention of hundreds of hackers, it’s only a matter of time. If you won’t open it up, they WILL.

Hackers recently attacked the PlayStation network, taking it down for weeks. Their motivation is believed to be retaliation for PlayStation having attempted to sue a hacker that was hacking their software to make it more open. Their loss is estimated at billions. A pricey lesson to learn for not listening to your customers. Not to mention customers like myself losing respect for PlayStation.

PlayStation, Apple. Figure it out. Seriously.

Effective Marketing is Freedom of Choice & Building Trust

effective-marketing-freedom-choice-build-trustOne of my most effective roles is playing devil’s advocate. I have always had a knack for thoroughly thinking through an idea and picking it apart piece by piece until it is either abandoned or reinforced to the point where it is a sure-thing. Why does this matter? Because I am about to go against some well-supported marketing practices.

I have read numerous articles and heard from many consultants that the best way to do marketing is to offer the consumer something and throw a form at them to fill out. Although this is great for tracking marketing results, it leaves consumers with 2 choices: fill out the form, or get the hell out. I think this is a problem.

Many marketers believe that the most important thing is to capture consumer information so you can ‘market’ the hell out of them later. Instead, I suggest that marketers focus on bringing consumers to actively engage themselves. Give consumers an option! Allow them to call you, email you, fill out a form – whatever they want. If you hide all your information behind a form, many will people will baulk – leaving you with nothing. Instead, give them options like: “or give us a call” and provide a phone number.

Perhaps a campaign could be designed to inform them through a number of steps before asking for information. The point is, people need time to develop an interest in your product/company and gain trust before they are willing to give you all the goods. Some people are particularly protective of their information and they will be unlikely to comply to a simple offering if, in order to receive said offering, they need to give up their personal information. Perhaps try offering something first and then asking for information instead of the other way around.

Consider the following example: a guy is out making his rounds at a bar asking girls for their phone numbers and asking if they want to come home with him. Would he be more likely to succeed if they first get to know him, see what he’s all about and then he asks? Or should he simply offer a pickup line and hope to take her home? (a crude example, I know, but hopefully a good one).

Is it more important to get the information immediately at the cost of some customers walking away? Or should we work on building trust and work on our patience in dealing with customers?

Shorten the Sales Cycle with Relationship Building

I was having a conversation with my boss the other day when this idea for a blog post hit me. It seems like something that people have been discussing for quite some time but I like to dive deeper than the mumbo-jumbo like “build a relationship” , “play big”, “have confidence”. For a minute, let’s get nice and specific.

I will not say that my experience applies to all sales people but those in a similar situation can probably attest to what I have to say. Currently, I do B2B sales; selling very expensive business software systems. In this line of business there is very little that matters more than building a relationship.

When business managers think of building a relationship they are often focused on repeated business. In the B2C space there is little time to form a relationship before a purchase – particularly if the purchase is low-involvement. Before you even have a chance to build that trust consumers have already made up their mind – it doesn’t matter to consumers enough because they have little to lose. In these circumstances, it is most important to build good products, make the experience great and focus on ways to build loyalty after-the-fact. With high-involvement B2B sales you need to build a strong relationship long before your customer ever makes a decision.

In my line of work deals can take months or even years before a decision is made ,which is why it is so important to build a strong relationship through the process. In fact, the relationship is often the sole deciding factor. When there is little distinguishable difference between products, decision makers have no choice but to go with their gut and with the person they trust. The sales cycle in these businesses are long not just because the products are high-involvement but because a strong relationship needs time develop. Often decision makers have made up their minds many months prior to the closing of a sale but they need time to make sure their decision is the right one and ensure that they have left enough time to truly get to know the individuals within the company they will be working with/buying from.

So what can we learn from this? Focusing on relationship building is one of the most important aspects to shortening the sales cycle. That means making sure that your sales staff understand the importance of being honest and not pushy. Yes, you want to make a sale but you need to take it easy, present your information and try to be open and unbiased with them. If your products or services are not a good fit, be honest about – don’t try to make something happen that is not meant to be. Potential customers appreciate honesty and will look to you for advice and this will ultimately shorten the sales cycle and lead to loyal and trusting customers in the long-run.

University Does Not Prepare You for the “Real World”

Usually I like to support my points with numerous articles but today I’m lazy so my arguments will be primarily supported anecdotally.  Although this article from the Economist touches on some of the points I will be discussing. They do discount some of the points at the end but it is a professor of higher education speaking against it – hardly an unbiased source.

Post-secondary education is highly overrated these days, in my opinion. Do not mistake me for saying that it is not valuable (it most certainly is), however, the perceived value may be much higher than the actual value received. My own experience and the experience of many friends I have spoken to have pointed to the same thing: university, while increasing our knowledge in our field of interest, does little in terms of developing specialized skills within said field. In other words, we learn a lot of theory but not a lot of “practice”. I realize this is not a novel idea in the slightest but I would like to delve in a little deeper.

For example (anecdotal evidence begins here), I attended Wilfrid Laurier University for Business Administration majoring in Marketing. For the record, Laurier is an amazing school, I learned a lot and I want to go back every single day. That being said, there is a lot that I could have (and should have) learned in order to better prepare me for the world of marketing. Who knew that you needed video editing skills to edit together promotional material? Who knew that you would be expected to have web design skills to perform SEO (search engine optimization), and manage the corporate website? Don’t know HTML, Javascript and VB? You’re out of luck. Fortunately for me, I picked up many of these skills as hobbies throughout my life – for those that were not so lucky (or did not have as much foresight) life might be a little difficult.

So instead of memorizing the 27 steps of “blah-di-blah” we should have instead spent a little more time developing specific skills to facilitate entry into our chosen field; especially technological skills. In the 21st century, it doesn’t matter what field you are in, you need to know about technology.

College programs suffers from a similar problem but typically reversed. College teaches a number of specific skills but very little in terms of “higher-level” concepts. So a college graduate may earn a diploma in web design and as a result have the skills to create a fully functioning website. What they may not learn are the “higher level”, less-specialized but related skills (e.g. how to promote said website/business/self, run a web design business etc.). It seems that to truly gain all the necessary skills to excel in a given field you need to attend both university and college. With tuition rising at phenomenal rates – this is putting a lot of pressure on students.

So what is the solution? Well, for those still in school and with time to spare: learn lots on your own. You have to. Oh wait, you are involved with 3 campus clubs, 5 courses, and a job? Too bad. You need to find time to learn the skills that you will not pick up elsewhere. If you are in marketing, start doing video editing, web design, SEO, online marketing etc. You will not learn it in the classroom and you will likely need it. For the rest of us, it is either back to college or we need to change our hobbies from “drinking beer” to learning client-side computer programming.

Do you feel like you got the most out of your education? Were you fully prepared for the “real world” with specific skills? If so, how did you do it? Please share these secrets.

Originality is Dead, But it’s Okay

The idea that nothing is original anymore is, itself, not original. This has been expressed in many different ways but perhaps most poetically expressed in the Bible:

“That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes (Bible)

originality-is-deadIt is hard to believe that with over 6 billion people alive today that any individual can think of something that over 5,999,999 others have not thought of. For the most part I believe this to be true but there are some things to be taken into consideration – the news isn’t all bad.

First of all, although any individual idea may not be original, combinations of ideas can be very original. In fact, the greatest ideas today are unique combinations of concepts.

Take the average Hollywood movie. Chances are you have seen a movie with a similar plot before. Hell, James Cameron received a lot of flack for Avatar because it had a similar plot to a couple movies. In reality, all he did was take a universal story and applied it in a novel way. If people were that sensitive to similar stories, chick-flicks would be non-existent. How many of those have original plot lines? Not many.

The good news is that although there are no truly unique ideas on their own, the combination of ideas or repurposing of ideas can still produce fantastic outcomes. So all you entrepreneurs out there, steal like an artist.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent.”

CRFA Show & The Changing World of the SalesPerson/Marketer

I recently attended the Canadian Restaurants and Foodservice Association Show held at the Direct Energy Centre in downtown Toronto. The purpose of the trip? Business. I currently work for Blue Link Associates, a software firm that specializes in the FoodService industry and we were there visiting current clients and trying to sniff out future clients as well.

Foodservice-software

There was much to see and do and especially taste. One of the biggest draws of the show became abundantly clear early on: there was so much great food to try! The attendees were forming packs around the exhibitors with the best food. The cost of attending the show was only $25 so I highly encourage anyone who wants to try some great food to give it a try, especially if you have other reasons to be there as well (it was a popular show for culinary students, for example). After mingling amongst the great food for a little while though, it was off to work!

A colleague of mine joined me at the show to aid in our intelligence gathering. We learned a couple things early on: pitching the idea of software at a food show is tough and some people don’t want to give out their information. And now for my “boo-hoo salesperson rant”.

It is a shame that salespeople are looked down upon in today’s world. Salespeople were rarely ever given the time of day in the past, but as a result of the ever-growing spam and annoyances people face each and every day – legitimate marketing and sales have begun to be ignored even more. It has become harder and harder to get your message across so we must continue to find new ways to express ourselves to ensure we are heard.

Spammers do what they do best; send out information to vast numbers of people with no targeting whatsoever. Over time these communications have been lumped in with legitimate marketing efforts and have driven the use of spam filters through the roof. There is now a lot of legitimate email (not even other marketing promotions) that are lost in these junk mail filters never to be read.

What all this means is that we must be continually more targeted in our marketing and sales efforts. As I found at the show, the only way to breakthrough some of those barriers was to create a sense of familiarity. Discuss how you are relevant to their business, how you have clients in a similar industry (point them out) and talk about their business and what you can offer them specifically. Remain sincere and informative and focus on building a relationship and rapport. The solution for getting around spam filters I am still working on. I will report back when I have a solution.

What other means to modern salespeople and marketers have to break through some of these defensive barriers? How can marketers reclaim their territory that spammers have all but taken?

A colleague of mine also wrote a blog post on the Benefits of FoodService Software. Feel free to check it out as well.