Think Before You Send

By Bryan Eisenberg

You’re thinking of creating your email campaign. Of course you want to get that first email sent out. Hold on. You have some critical groundwork to tackle before you are ready to start speaking to your readers.

With an understanding of the dynamics of conversion and the human dimension in hand, you now need to train your microscope on the specifics of your business and your audience:

Who are you?

What are your objectives and strategic considerations?

With whom are you communicating?

Why should your readers want to hear from you at this time?

How will you successfully address their needs and motivations?

Simple though they may seem, these questions are not easy to answer. But answer them you must to avoid falling into the trap of “accidental marketing,” a practice that focuses on the “how,” not the “what” or “why,” of marketing.

Persuading people to take action is both an art and a science that requires understanding the fundamentals of marketing and how it supports sales. Your goal is to market intentionally through the advertising and sales medium of email. Intentionality demands an honest appraisal of all the players.

Identifying your business is partly about how you view yourself and partly about how your customers view your business. Understanding both sides – each of which has an effect on your position in the marketplace – is essential to crafting effective emails that drive action and build relationships.

Identifying your audience entails not only knowing who they are but also understanding the nature of your relationship with them. Why might they be interested in you? How would you interact with them face to face? How do they speak? What are their concerns?

In creating an email or email campaign, you ignore these considerations at your own peril. How can you establish a credible, appealing voice; a personality; and an accessible image in your audience’s mind if you cannot define that image for yourself? And how can you expect to connect with and persuade those you do not understand?

Whether you are business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), in the online environment you are no longer nose to nose with your customers. You don’t have access to the nonverbal forms of communication (which constitute a whopping percentage of communication’s substance) that iteratively help you shape or redirect your message. So in your planning stages you have to be brutally honest with yourself about your business and your audience.

We look to the process of discovery as the path to clarifying the dimensions and nature of your business. For discovery to be successful, you need to sit down, contemplate, and provide careful answers to a slew of questions (take a look at past articles such as “Accidental Marketing” and “Why Should I Buy From You?”) that will help you define not only the content of your emails but also the objectives and strategic considerations that should drive each individual email and every campaign.

Try a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis. Typically, you would undertake a SWOT analysis prior to establishing your business (during the business planning phase) or at any other time when a major expenditure is required. Undertaking it now, as you develop your email objectives and tactics, will help you define the image of who you are.

A thorough and careful SWOT analysis can direct your efforts to:

Build on the strengths of your business/organization

Protect, and correct where necessary, areas of weakness

Highlight and take advantages of opportunities

Assist you in devising contingency plans to counter possible threats

Here are the questions you need to ask yourself:

Strengths. What does your business do well? Why do your customers buy from you? What differentiates you in the market? What things are going well for you?

Weaknesses. Which areas of your business cause you concern? Which areas or issues do you need to work on? What are your biggest problems?

Opportunities. What opportunities, both present and future, are available? Are there new markets you could tap with your existing products and services? What opportunities exist to improve the way you perform your current activities, and what efficiencies could be gained? What new products and services could you develop or add? What could you do that you’re not doing now?

Threats. Have there been any significant changes in the industry in which you operate? What are the issues that threaten your business? Are there any, or do you anticipate any, new competitors in your market?

This exercise can help solidify in your mind the appropriate objectives of your campaign, the strategy required, and the tactics you’ll use to achieve your goals. From this you need to create the message that you will communicate to your customers throughout the campaign.

If all this sounds too basic, remember that getting the fundamentals right is what major league players do every day in practice. How often do you work on marketing fundamentals? It’s not too complicated, not too sophisticated, not even too challenging, but doing all this before you send out the first email is certainly worthwhile. After all, if you want results, shouldn’t they be the ones you planned on?

Bryan Eisenberg is chief information officer of Future Now Inc. It is the only consultancy focused on helping companies realize that to maximize results it is essential to incorporate expert persuasion techniques into Web site design, email marketing, development and implementation. Bryan is also an adjunct professor of Roy H. Williams’ Wizard Academy and co-author of The Guide to Web Analytics: How to Understand and Use Your Web Trends to Maximize Results. You can find Future Now’s award-winning newsletter, GrokDotCom, at

Reprinted from

Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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