I recently sent out my first, if not the company’s first as well, marketing emails as part of our campaign to make the business grow. It was a bit of rollercoaster ride to get to the actual point of sending them but we managed it. It was also a wild ride for me after the emails had been sent. I’m going to run through my experience of this and then offer my thoughts of what I’ve learnt and what I’d change.
It all started at our Operations Team meeting one Wednesday, I had been looking it up and thought “yeah I could do that”, so I suggested that we send marketing emails in the meeting and took responsibility for it. First, I had to choose what the email was actually going to be about so I decided on our Service Desk solution, I’d just done some work on it and it seemed the perfect fit since it was fresh in my mind. Now I just had to find the right software to send the emails from, I vaguely remembered my sister, who actually does marketing, mentioning MailChimp. It seemed perfect for what I wanted to do and there were loads of templates for me to choose from, so I picked my template and was adjusting it to fit our brand and how I wanted the layout. I worked on the wording for a while to try and get it to say everything I wanted and it seemed perfect, exactly what I’d pictured. So, we’d set a date of when we were going to send these emails and I had my list of who they were going to sorted out, everything was in place and ready to rock and roll.
Around comes the week before the emails are being sent, naturally, I check to make sure that everything is still there and fine. It wasn’t. I tried not to panic as I googled why all of my hard work that had gone into the text had just been replaced by standardised text that read “Place your text here” or something similar. Clicking on the text box to edit wasn’t working, there’s a little content tab that wouldn’t load either. I trawled the internet for two days trying to find out why this had happened to my masterpiece and how I could get it back. There was nothing. I look to contact MailChimp directly, you have to be a paying customer to receive support. Oh no what am I going to do. Ask the boss, he has all the answers. He suggests looking at SendGrid, it’s perfect. Now at this point I’m thinking it’s perfect and I’ve clearly not learnt the lesson that has just been handed to me yet because I thought MailChimp was perfect at the start too.
In comparison, SendGrid didn’t have as many templates as MailChimp but it looked cleaner cut and the menus, oh boy the menus, they were far better and much more intuitive, to me at least. I import my mailing list and choose the template I want to work on but it’s the end of the day so I leave it there. As I’m walking home I realised that tomorrow is the only day I have to work on this email template. Oh Neil. So now I’m trying to plan how I want it to look on this new template and try and remember the wording I had used previously. I wake up in the morning and it’s to no avail, I just can’t remember the words. I decided that I’m going to get into work early, roughly an hour and a half early, so I rock up at about 7:30 and get down to business. Headphones in, typing and adjusting the looks. I must have changed the wording between 20-30 times in the whole day, it was a 10-hour day in the end. As the day continued my mind was starting to melt and I couldn’t think of what exactly it was I wanted to say, but I felt that I couldn’t let the business down and miss the deadline we had set so I kept going. In the end, it wasn’t a bad attempt but it wasn’t quite how I wanted it to be, it didn’t feel perfect like the MailChimp one did.
To be honest with you, I was relieved I had managed to do what I did in the time frame I had. But, and this is a big but, I should have said something to my boss because this wasn’t anywhere near as good as it could have been if I had just put a few more hours in. With a new day comes fresh ideas and that could have drastically changed the email. Like I said previously though, I felt that I had to stick to this deadline and to try and show that I could help the business grow by getting in new customers.
I sent the emails the next day and waited in somewhat excited and also nervous anticipation to see if anyone would respond. I waited and waited, trying to work on other things to distract me and refreshing my emails every 30 minutes. I kept waiting. Waiting. Refreshing. Waiting. By the end of the day there was nothing. I felt so dejected that I’d done this and nothing had yet to come of it. I was looking at the figures and out of 340 that had been delivered, there were some 84 opens and 8 unsubscribes. 84 opens out of 340 emails, that’s 24.7% and not one person had emailed back. Trying to sell one of our great solutions on our fantastic product and no one seemed that interested in what I had to say.
What have I learnt?
What I learnt from that first email campaign was that no matter how good a product is, if you don’t grab people’s attention and show them exactly what you see then it’s difficult to get them to think that they need your product. There aren’t many times I’ve felt that dejected, it’s a horrible feeling and I honestly felt like I had let down my boss and the company. I didn’t worry about letting myself down, it was all about the business. The more I thought about it I was able to convince myself that it wasn’t the end of the world. This was my first attempt at doing anything like this. People, like my sister, get degrees in marketing to do this and all I’ve done is use Google. It could have easily been much worse than it was.
The day after the emails had been sent, I decided to put my head down and use Google like I had done before to theory craft and work out where to go from that position. It comes down to sending out a second, follow up email. My sister suggested that being able to offer something, like discounts is a good idea and my searching led to finding that more calls to action are also useful. More calls to action implants in a reader’s mind the different ways for them to respond and to remember at a later date, repetition helps with memory. It’s also important to remember where you are, going into someone’s inbox is essentially going into their house so you have to be polite and courteous to them when writing the email or they’re just not going to care.
What would I do differently?
I would mention to my boss exactly what I was doing and that the deadline wouldn’t necessarily matter if we were a week later. There was no real need for a fixed date, if anything this panicked me into thinking that I had to do that 10-hour day to get remotely near to being able to send the emails out. This rush meant that I was essentially setting myself up to fail and I didn’t do as well as I could have done. I think that taking an extra day or two would have helped so much with the wording but it’s impossible to tell if this would actually have made a difference to the response. I feel like there was information that would probably have been important that I left out, it took me a little bit of time to realise what I’d left out and if it would have been useful to have added it the first-time round. What else I would do would be to get at least one second opinion, either from my boss or someone else in the company. I would also try and find more persuasive techniques to use to increase the chances of getting a response.
Would I change my expectations?
I think my expectations were rather high to start with, which was naïve of me but if I didn’t have that confidence then I wouldn’t have suggested that we try email marketing and I wouldn’t have done it myself. I was expecting to do so much by myself and for everything to work perfectly but I was rather foolish in thinking like that. This is why there are marketing teams instead of individuals so you can get different points of view and not everything works the first time.
Realistically, despite some of the pitfalls I fell into, I still maintain that email marketing is one of the most essential ways for a smaller business to market. It may not be one of the most effective ways, but for smaller businesses it is practical as it can be used for a small audience and then as your business grows it can be sufficiently extrapolated. There are a lot of free ways to market your business and product if you’re a small business, utilising these early on will help much further down the road.
On a more personal note, I think it’s important for me to keep my head up and keep trying because without trying then I won’t ever succeed. I’m just one person and not a team of marketers so it would be harsh to judge myself on an individual level, with no extensive knowledge in the field, in comparison to their expertise as a group of people. I knew the possible outcomes of this campaign, it just so happens it was the worst possible outcome but I have gained insights from it still. I have seen the number of unique opens, the number of opens overall (it seems like some opened it at least twice) and also the number of clicks and where the user navigated to. This has actually allowed me to plan out a better idea of how to improve and what to do next.
I am currently working on a follow up email and also on a new starter email to a whole new group of prospective clientele, I may well update this blog with what’s happened with the follow up.