Category Archives: Sales

Why print is not dead: the case for the defence

With all the talk of the Royal Mail privatisation it reminded me of the amount of times I have been told that direct mail and print marketing are dead. Whilst they may be seeing a decline they are far from dead, and I firmly believe that print has a crucial role to play in many marketing plans. Here’s my case for the defence of print marketing.

Digital is easy to ignore and forget

Yes, digital marketing is relatively quick and cost effective, but how many times have you forgotten the date of an event or a URL you intended to remember? We skim-read online more than we do for print, and consequently our ability to retain and recall online information is less effective.  Print materials take slightly longer to read and therefore your message reaches your customer in a different way.

Print hangs around

It’s easy to hit the delete button on an email, and yes, print too can be binned, but if the message is one of interest customers are likely to hang on to the leaflet for reference. Emails get rapidly pushed down the inbox and are as good as forgotten.  Meanwhile your print item is stuck on their notice-board at home.

Greater reach than digital

extend your reachHow many people see the contents of your email inbox? Probably just yourself. How often do you forward an email offer on to friends? Rarely, if ever? A print leaflet can be seen by every member in the household, can be shown around friends and shared.  This is particularly helpful if other members of the household are the decision maker or influencer.  For example a college may contact their future students by post – in order to get in front of the parents too. You’ll reach more people with each communication.

Make the intangible real

Particularly in services marketing we face the challenge that the thing we are selling is intangible – you can’t pick it up.  That can present some communication challenges.  In particular, if your service is high-value customers will want something they can hold in their hand as proof that the service exists. Think holiday brochures, wedding venue brochures or university course prospectuses.  Digital content can change from day to day or even be deleted, whereas if I have an official printed copy in my hand there is some certainty to what I am buying.

Print speaks for your brand

Whilst great design, photography and copywriting all say a lot about a brand, print has the added dimensions of paper and print quality. These provide marketers with another opportunity to communicate brand values and make an impact on their prospective customers. Personalisation and other innovations make print an exciting field, so think beyond the standard letter or flyer and get creative.

We’re not all digital natives

According to the Office for National Statistics, 17% of UK households still don’t have internet access. For some this is about price or security concerns, whilst a significant number just didn’t feel the need for it. If your target audience includes some ‘anti-internetters’ then print is the ideal medium with which to reach them. Let’s not assume that everyone is online all the time.

Push the envelope

Print is not just about flyers, posters and letters.  Print materials have a range of uses which are great for spreading the word and keeping your message front of mind – think ‘leave behinds’ at meetings, calling cards, postcards, vouchers etc. How you use print will depend on your marketing objectives and distribution method.

I’m a big advocate of print marketing – used appropriately, well designed and written, and produced by expert printers, print can have a fantastic impact.


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Social media: why its not ‘one size fits all’

One of the common misconceptions about the use of social media for marketing is that there is a single ‘magic formula’ that, if followed, will lead to easy success. Whilst digital marketing is accessible to all, that doesn’t mean that everyone should be using it the same way.

I’ve interviewed a few organisations who are completely disillusioned by social media because they have been advised that if they do X, Y will happen, and when it doesn’t they are put off digital media all together. This (bad) advice is typically based on the ‘one size fits all’ model of social media marketing, which is unlikely to work for the majority of businesses.

One size does not fit all

Consider these two example organisations:

  • a local clothing retailer targeting teenagers
  • a consultancy business targeting national and international business decision-makers

A social media plan developed for one for is never going to work for the other. Their objectives, proposition and target markets are too different. One is trading clothing items, the other is sharing expertise.  One is local, the other global. Their tone of voice and objectives will be different. Their target audiences won’t be using the same social networks, have the same needs or be behaving in the same way.  Each business requires their own digital marketing plan tailored to their specific needs.

Use best practice guidance in context

social media hand printThere are clearly some ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ for each social media channel, and some great case studies of what has worked for other businesses. There’s also a wealth of best practice guidance available online from some leading thinkers.  Such guidance should be taken on board by anyone planning to use social media as part of their mix, but it should always be taken in context of your organisation’s own marketing needs and adapted accordingly.  How, for instance, would a social media guru in the USA know what the right frequency/timing of tweets is for my UK based business? Do they know my target audience like I do?

Create your own social media strategy

There are so many social networking sites that are available for businesses and marketers to use, that selecting the right one(s) forms one of the first steps of any social media plan.  That resolves one question, but exactly how you use the channel is equally important. Are you sharing useful resources, creating a community or offering special offers? Being clear about your objectives, and planning how you intend to interact with your audience are critical steps towards social media effectiveness.

So next time you are advised that you must do X, Y or Z, take the time to relate it back to your business objectives and adapt it to meet your needs. Otherwise, you are delivering someone else’s marketing plan, and not your own.

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Legal fail: what every marketing person needs to know

It’s easy to break the law with marketing activity, without realising it.  I’ve coached several junior marketing staffers on the legal aspects of their great new idea in the past, and whist these conversations invariably leave me looking like the party pooper, it is essential that every marketing person should know and keep up to date with the legal framework within which they operate.

There are various Acts and Codes of Practice that are too extensive to write about in one post, but here is a summary of five common areas where marketing activity can come unstuck. By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the statement that nothing in this blog post constitutes authoritative legal opinion! If you require legal advice please consult a lawyer.

Can you back up your marketing messages?

The claims you make in your messaging need to be authentic and substantiated. Claiming to the ‘the UK’s top’ or ‘most popular’ or ‘leading’ without any basis will leave you open to complaints via the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Any customer or competitor business can make a formal complaint against you to the ASA free of charge. Since (2011) the ASA has also had claims made on websites within its remit.


Before you claim that an item or service is ‘free’ or make use of the word ‘guaranteed’ you need to pay attention to the legal definitions of these terms when in use within marketing and publicity.

Therefore if you make a claim or statement, regardless of which media it is on, make sure it is accurate and that you can back it up should you be challenged.  If you don’t, you would be forced to change your marketing messages (which could be costly) and the ASA’s judgment will be published thereby generating negative publicity which will undermine your brand’s standing.

Image rights and permissions

Any images (photos, illustrations etc.) you use in your marketing materials and website need to be lawfully used.  The owner of the image needs to provide their permission for its use or license it to you.  The terms ‘rights managed’ or ‘licensed’ mean that payment is required to use the image. ‘Royalty free’ means that the image is free to use and reproduce. Always check the licensing terms and conditions as a credit to the owner may be required in exchange for the right to use the image free of charge.

When image rights are not properly observed the consequences can be very expensive, as was the case at one organisation I worked at, who had not paid due attention to the rights of the photos they used in their direct marketing.  Likewise a friend who set up her own business was contacted by Getty over illegal use of images from their database, discovered by one of their automatic web crawlers. Save yourself the worry and expense by getting this area straight from the outset.

Specifically, any photography or video footage you take or use which includes recognisable faces need to be used with the permission of the subjects, even if they are in the background.  It’s best to have permission in writing (not just verbally) and recording it with the images.  Crowd shots or photos of events can be covered by prominently displayed signage or text on a printed item that all attendees will have received (e.g. ticket). Always provide an option for people to opt out of they don’t want to have their image used in publicity.

Storing of personal details

The recording, storing and use of personal details are governed by the Data Protection Act (1998).

If you are collecting data for marketing purposes then the provider of details (e.g. your prospect) needs to be notified at the point of collection how you intend to use their data. This is normally managed through a data protection statement and consent boxes on the data collection form. Naturally your database needs to be able to record those opt outs/ins so that you do not mail or phone anyone who has not given their consent.

Data protection statements are now so commonplace that it is startling that organisations are still getting this wrong. Think about all your data collection activities regardless of channel – online, paper forms, telephone – are you letting people know how you will use their data and giving them the chance to opt out? If not, your prospects have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) about your business practices.

If mailing, emailing or phoning prospects that have not willingly provided you with their details (i.e. using a bought in list or cold calling) then you need to check that they are not registered with the Mailing Preference Service or the email/phone equivalent. If you make a sales call to someone registered with the Telephone Preference Service (or the equivalent for other media) you can be reported to the Information Commissioners Office and receive a fine.

Use of Cookies on your website

The European ePrivacy Directive regarding Cookies (an extension of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) finally came into force in the UK last May (2012).  This means that every website owner who places cookies on a user’s machine must make it clear to the user. The guidance level on this issue changed over time, moving from a strict opt in towards ‘providing clear information about the cookies in use and implied consent’.  Cookies are used for a variety of purposes on websites, from tracking visitor numbers to storing information about baskets/purchasing behaviour. At minimum every site should state clearly the cookies that are in use with the site.  The ICO is yet to pull anyone up on this issue, yet it remains an issue in the spotlight that you cannot afford to overlook.

Competition terms and conditions

Competitions, prize draws and raffles are great ways of engaging prospective and current customers, but need to be properly planned and executed. All of these need written terms and conditions published and available to anyone before they enter the competition.  Each type of competition has slightly different legal requirements and you need to be clear about which you are promoting. Always have your legal advisor check over the T&C before they are used.

The risk of not publishing your T&C is that any competition entrant could query your processes and tie your organisation up in a lengthy and costly legal claim.

Competitions publicised via social media sites have the added complication of the platform’s own requirements. For instance Facebook does not permit the use of competitions unless undertaken through one if its licensed apps (See Tina Gammon’s excellent article for more details). Claiming that you weren’t aware, or that ‘everyone is doing it’ is no defense in law.

Keep up with best pracice and compliance

It pays for every organisation to keep up to date with the legal requirements of marketing as the consequences can be very costly in terms of time or budget.  If you are not sure about your practices check with someone who does – start with your marketing expert and then your legal team.  Ignorance is no defense in the eyes of the law.

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Understand Generation Y – and make your marketing smarter

At the weekend MP Clare Perry came under attack in the media for stating that over-parenting was stifling children’s ability to fend for themselves.

Generation Y and their younger siblings are often under attack themselves for their self-obsessed attitude and inability to manage their own lives without ‘helicopter’ parents by their sides.

Whilst this is an interesting and useful cultural (and political) debate, the behaviours of Generation Y present challenges and opportunities for marekteers trying to engage with this audience. My previous post about segmentation covers the different approaches to targeted marketing. In this post I’m highlighting some of the characteristics observed of Generation Y and Z as a starting point is to understanding this target market better.

So who or what is Generation Y?

Many are familiar with the term ‘baby boomer’ generation referring to the population born in the post-war years. Their children are typically Generation X, born between the early 1960’s to 1980’s. They are followed by Generation Y, also known as Millennials with birth dates ranging from 1980 to 2000. There’s yet to be consensus on a term to describe the post-millennium babies – the most common being Generation Z or the Net Generation.

The theory behind generational segmentation is that we (and subsequent generations) are shaped by the world events and society in which we grew up. For Generation X the fall of the Berlin Wall and Nelson Mandela’s release are significant events that occurred in their formative years. For Generation Y, their world view has been shaped amongst other things by 9/11 and the global economic situation, which has resulted in significant youth unemployment. Generation Z will have their own defining events depending on which country they grew up in.

vectorstock_742396 generations

How do Generation Y and Z behave?

As well as a perceived narcisstic attitude, there are other characteristics observed of this generation. In contrast to the increasing importance of being wealthy and famous (fame for fame’s sake), they possess a strong sense of community both global and local – friendships and family figuring strongly in their lives; politics and current affairs less so than previous generations.

Lifestyle is important to them, which does not always equate with wishing to be wealthy. It has been said that they don’t live for work … they work to live. Perhaps they are trying to crack the work-life balance challenge the older generation has wrestled with?

Helicopters and trophies

Parents, feeling the pressure from school and society for their offspring to perform well have taken to hovering over their child, coaching them to success, thereby coining the phrases ‘helicopter parents’ and ‘trophy children’. Society also has a role to play in this outcome, as non-competitive sports days at school and methods of reward result in many young people having the sense that they are someone special, and that mere participation is sufficient for reward.

Whilst this could result in a more egalitarian and caring society it also means that young people are not used to receiving knock-backs, and are put off by the first hurdle, rather than persevering and improving until successful.

Always on

These generations have lived in a society where the Internet is a way of life. Information is instantly available just a few clicks away. Whilst the benefits of this are indisputable, it does mean that the need to learn and retain information is by and large removed. Why should a person learn the capital cities of the world by rote if they can find that information quickly on the world wide web? Schools, keen to raise their rankings in the league tables have been teaching to the test, creating a narrow focus for learning and reinforcing the perception that a wider knowledge base isn’t required.

Gen Y are used to interacting with each other 24/7, via instant message or SMS, which makes email seem like carrier pigeon, and written English seem like Shakespeare compared with text speak. They expect constant and immediate feedback, and are used to getting it. Speed is elevated over accuracy – the Y and Z generations are true ‘digital natives’.

Reward and ambition

Generation Y and Z have grown accustomed to instant gratification because of the digital age. Purchases are easy and credit freely available. Play on demand and instant access to whatever you need mean that expectations are high. Why wait, if you can get it now?

Employers report that Gen Y employees have a sense of entitlement and are looking for rapid promotion in the workplace. The idea of starting at the bottom of the ladder and slowly working your way up is not attractive to them. Opportunities for conflict and misunderstanding in the workplace are significant given the different outlooks of Generation X and Y towards workplace practices and career progression.

Friends and recognition

Friends, acquaintances and popularity are of great importance to many Generation Y’ers. Is it any wonder with social media sites promoting popularity as a virtue, and television talent shows ridiculing those perceived as untalented. It is sometimes said that a great night out is not as important as what you are going to say about it afterwards on Facebook. Gen Y and Z are used to recording and documenting every event and thought and publishing it to the world. As children their every move was captured in photos and video by their adoring parents.

information overload

Information overload

Members of Generation Y and Z have to be experts at filtering information given the volume of messages they face every single day. The number of channels has increased year on year, with the proliferation of TV channels alone a good example of this. Add that to social media sites, experiential and in-store marketing, and you can appreciate why filtering information is an essential life skill for them. With this amount of advertising being pushed to them daily can we blame the youth for their perceived short attention span?

Let me entertain you

Generation Y and Z expect to be entertained, posing a challenge to advertisers trying to get a more serious message across. YouTube, Internet TV and gaming provide endless distractions from day to day activities such as studying and working. The humdrum of everyday existence appears quite boring and chores ‘a waste of time’ compared with all the entertainment that is waiting to be consumed. For marketeers there is a real risk of ‘getting it wrong’ in tone or style and coming across as ‘dad on the dancefloor’.

Let’s engage with Generations Y and Z

These much maligned generations have plenty to offer if we see past the sometimes negative characteristics that have been observed of them. Take, for example, their ability to filter a volume of information – this is a strength in the workplace, where email overload threatens to take over people’s roles. Likewise their social networking skills can be put to good use in business development and marketing roles. There are many positive characteristics that have been observed of this generation that receive much less airtime.

For marketeers the challenge is to understand the generations better and appeal to their behavioural characteristics through smart use of message, channel and creative. Infotainment (information wrapped up in entertainment) is an important tactic in reaching them.

Generations Y and Z are very aware of being sold to, so marketing needs to focus on engagement and endorsement – the emotional rather than transactional sale. Let’s stop bashing Generations Y and Z (and their parents!) and start appealing to their positive characteristics.

Author: Roisin Kirby, Refresh Marketing Consultancy Ltd


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HMV and Blockbuster – the blame is in the boardroom

Few people are surprised at the demise of Blockbuster and HMV this week. It comes as no surprise as both retailers have failed to move with the digital age and embrace new models of media consumption.   Whilst the headlines have rightly focussed on the number of retail staff who are unfortunately set to lose their jobs, it is in the boardrooms where blame should be laid for failing to move with the digital age.

It pays to monitor market forces

It is now the norm for many people to search a digital library and play on demand. Why make a trip to the store when you have access to many more titles from your home?  Any business who fails to recognise market changes is likely to end up the same way as HMV and Blockbuster. If your consumer is behaving differently than they were a year or two ago, or if a new player has entered the market then it is indeed time to take a long hard look at your strategy and consider your options. The move to digital has been taking place over a number of years, so the Directors of HMV and Blockbuster cannot claim that market forces took them by surprise. Indeed online searches for either brand have decreased steadily over recent years.

Why do organisations fail to get on board with digital?

There can be many reasons, but in my experience the two main factors are failure to invest and unwillingness to take a risk. In some organisations the traditionalists believe so strongly in the bricks and mortar model, or the ‘this is the way we have always done it’ approach to believe in the case put forward by their marketing or product teams for investment in new technology. Company Directors need to remember that their behaviour as a consumer does not necessarily match that of their business’ customers.

In an earlier ‘dot com boom’ I was fortunate to be working within an organisation which believed in it’s marketing teams, and listened to our bid for investment in online retailing systems. The marketing teams of the National Express Group train companies joined forces to make the case for investment, and we were successful in launching our own rival to the new kid on the block The Trainline. And Qjump Ltd was born! Many other train companies were wary of adopting online retailing full stop, let alone contributing to the significant investment required to develop and maintain an online retailing operation.  Business decisions later down the line meant that Qjump Ltd was sold off to The Trainline, but that does not belittle the bold decision and financial investment that NEG made. As well as ticking over financially it was a statement to the City of the type of organisation NEG was.

I’ve also been unfortunate enough to work at organisations where investment in ‘new ways of doing things’ is regarded as a nice to have, rather than essential.  Sometimes new systems are slow to grow or are beset by technical problems, but without taking those risks and riding the tough times the organisation is permanently in a ‘do nothing’ state. OK, so you might have to take your Marketing Director’s word for it that this investment is necessary. There may not be a business case based on fact. Innovation rarely has a benchmark (otherwise it wouldn’t be so innovative!) so forecasts are always going to be ‘best estimate’.  But if you don’t listen to your Marketing/Product team who are keeping abreast of market forces you risk staying in the dark ages as far as digital is concerned.

This, I suspect is the reason why Blockbuster and HMV have failed to move with the times and stuck with their outdated retail models or invested too little too late. Indeed, speaking to Marketing Week, marketing and e-commerce director Mark Hodgkinson says HMV has a “fantastic brand and heritage” but that financial problems have held it back.

Many models for ‘clicks and mortar’

Bear in mind that the bricks and mortar retailers don’t have to replicate their business entirely online – a clicks and mortar approach means complimentary arms to the business online and on the high street. Ultimately each retailer has to find the model that works for them and their customers.

With Jessops and Comet also disappearing from our high street, we really need our bricks and mortar retailers to embrace changing consumer habits and embrace online retailing or the UK high street is set to become emptier still.

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Better marketing: understanding your target market

Defining and understanding your target market is a marketing basic but it is frequently overlooked by organisations. It is true that really understanding your audience(s) can take time and effort, but it is effort that will reap rewards.  How can you effectively reach your audience without understanding who they are and what motivates them?

The starting principle of targeting and segmentation has to be that we are not all the same.  We have different levels of income, live in different areas, have different outlooks, aspirations and needs, and so on. Your target customer may not be similar to you, and want what you want.  Businesses also need to think differently about new customers vs. existing customers; and the segmentation of suppliers or clients. We see this strategy adopted by sales teams identifying ‘key clients’ who receive a higher level of service than the rest.

Are we generalising?

I have in the course of my career also experienced reluctance to segment and define target audiences. This is based on a misunderstanding that profiling is the same as generalisation.  By defining a target segment as, say, 50-year old high-income males in the South East we are by no way stating that all men of that age and location are the same. We are able, however to define some common (not universal!) characteristics that they share and use that to adapt our product, service and communications mix to suit them.

When working on segmentation models in the past I always start with asking who the organisation is trying to reach. Invariably the answer comes back as ‘everyone’ – this is the only incorrect answer in segmentation! Your product or service may be available or open to anyone who wants it, but invariably there is a bulls-eye of one or two segments that you are really trying to reach. By identifying and understanding those you will be much more focused on product and service delivery, and your marketing communications will be more effective.

We are not all the same!

This brings me back to my earlier point, that your target market may not be the same as you. It is hard to put oneself in other’s shoes and see things from their perspective. This is where profiling comes in. A useful profile of a segment will provide you with key characteristics that allow you to think yourself into their perspective. Behavioural characteristics are extremely useful alongside the basic demographics (location, age, etc) as they offer insight into needs and wants which are invaluable to the marketeer. Experian’s Mosiac tool is probably the best known and most used profiling tool in the UK, and has provided insight and direction across numerous projects I’ve been involved in.

An example of segmentation within services – back in 2008 the Library at Macquarie University in Sydney considered their users on the basis of frequency of usage before they embarked on a website redesign.  They developed a segmented audience model of five types, which were then worked up into personality profiles. Nicole the novice scholar was identified as the primary audience for their website, and hence the redesign was built around the needs of her type of student. The needs of the other segments were recognised but regarded as secondary for this project.

Sport England Logo
Sport England has taken a similar approach, providing a segmented model of sporting and non-sporting types. They have developed pen portraits of the 19 types identified based on their attitudes to physical activity. Sports marketeers across the country can identify which types are more/or less prevalent in their location, and adopt different strategies accordingly.

Based on fact, used in marketing

What these examples all have in common is that the segmentation is based on market research or data – which allowed them to identify the common characteristics and build the profiles as a result. Quantifying the size and opportunity of each segment also allows the business to focus on those easiest to reach, and/or where the opportunity is greatest.

Finally, as the population changes and society develops so will your profiled segments. Even if you have a tried and tested segmentation take a moment to review if it is still valid, or if behaviours or external factors have changed that mean you need to adapt your approach.

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Do you make these mistakes with sales emails?

What does a good sales email look like? Well, it needs to be targeted, relevant and invite the reader to respond to find out more. Unfortunately as often as not the ones I receive are either too long, unclear what they are offering or just not relevant.

Here’s one I really had to share with the world – this is a genuine email I received last week. This one actually made me laugh out loud for how poor it is as a sales generation piece. I have changed the names of the sender and the company to spare their blushes.

From: James Smith
Sent: 05 December 2012 13:05
To: Kirby, Roisin
Subject: I would like to connect with you

Hi Edmund, Trust you are well

I realise you are busy so I have not called you directly.

I would however like to connect with you and your team to tell you a little more about our company, why we are different and how we can help.

The key to our success is the technology behind our services. Our goal is to replace costly traditional call centre data cleaning programmes with technology driven services that save our clients time and money.

We work with over 2,000 companies globally including A, B & C keeping their email marketing data clean and deliverable.

Our clients regularly see time and cost savings of 70%+ over traditional call centre models.

I would like to present to your data or marketing team, do you think there might be an opportunity here?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn here (link) and find out more about us.

John Smith

Managing Director

Ok, so who spotted the first schoolboy mistake? Yes, my name is not Edmund. You know that because you emailed me John.

The subject line of any email is THE most important part. Just like blog titles, they are there to entice the user to open the email and find out more. The subject line of ‘I would like to connect with you’ comes across as self-serving and a bit over-personal. I don’t know who you are and you would like to connect with me? What’s in it for me?

‘I realise you are busy’ is a fairly safe assumption, but is used in this case as an excuse for not having phoned me before the email approach.

The body of the email is all about John’s company, and only a little bit about what they can do for me. It shouts ME ME ME and makes the reader think that John is only interested sales for his company, not genuinely interested in what he can do for mine.

The targeting of this email is also poor. I do not have a call centre in my current role, therefore these services really are not of interest to me. I am not sure what the source of John’s data is (LinkedIn perhaps?), but there should be much more filtering of data before hitting the ‘send’ button. Every email delivered to the wrong person not only costs money (depending on your mail server) but also serves to damage your brand.

The call to action, inviting me to connect with John on LinkedIn requires me to actively seek him out and read through his profile. This is asking the recipient to do too much work to get in touch with you. Why not provide a URL to a specific, relevant case study online and promise to follow up with a phone call? You know my name, where I work, so it should not be too difficult to get hold of me via our switchboard.

Finally, the ‘blessings’ at the end of the email does not come across as a professional sign off from one business person to another.

Give him his dues, John did include his company contact details and social media links at the foot of his email.

So what should John do differently next time?

  1. Research his prospect list thoroughly so that he only targets relevant prospects. Less is more.
  2. Spend a bit more time composing/tailoring his template email for each recipient (or at least get their name right!)
  3. Start by reminding me how we know each other or where you found my details.
  4. Demonstrate some understanding of their industry and challenges they face. That illustrates that some research has been done, rather than being one in a thousand emails John sent that day.
  5. Illustrate how his company can help solve those problems. Either through a short paragraph of text or a link to an online case study that is relevant.
  6. Make it easy for me to respond
  7. Include a professional sign off to the email, including your contact details.
  8. Follow up with a phone call to see if you can generate my interest in your offer.

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