It's not meant to be a pitch of any kind. Have scrubbed any mention from my business (which at any rate is not IM-related) from my profile, sig, etc.
Have been the owner of a successful web-based business since 2000. It is not in the IM world. Until recently it fit squarely into the 4 Hour Work Week category. For reasons beyond my control, sales have declined significantly.
We have a mailing list of 500,000. Of those 92,000 have bought from us in the last few years. We have sales every so often, I think 3 in the company history. Previously the sales were announced in the most boring way possible, with zero hype and no sales effort at all. They did OK, but business, which depends on another popular website, was booming in those days. We are a third party service, and an unauthorized one at that. The site we rely on has changed its business model, and after 5 years on WF, I decided to act like a real marketer and... send out a sales letter.
The dark secret is this. We have never, ever sent out a marketing letter to our customers, and while I will gleefully talk you to death about cool businesses owned by my friends, my screwed-up psychology simply grinds to a dead halt whenever I consider doing any kind of self promotion. This time I decided to use the marketing skills I have supposedly honed over years of following WF and buying hundreds of WSOs.
Key to this was discussing some of it with Glen Hopkins through his absurdly inexpensive All-Access Coaching. I am not an affiliate & sure don't get paid to mention this, but his advice was dead on the money.
I told my wife we were going to have a sale, then did nothing because I'm a "perfectionist". I had to write the sales letter. I had to write a news story explaining it. Do a press release. Then a pricing table. Then a better entry in the online help. Then format it right. Then get my ops guy to send out an HTML-formatted letter, which we've never done. Then maybe a blog entry, except I haven't put the blog on the site. Plus, what if the users got pissed off? They've never got an email like this before. Maybe they'd all report me as a spammer. My wife finally bugged me again after nearly a week spent trying to format the damn table. I irritably agreed to get it done.
Which meant, at a minimum, writing a sales letter and sending it out. Lately I'm tired & low on energy. We got rear-ended & suffered some medical problems, not to mention a buttload of paperwork. I'm in the midst of getting a loan to buy an office, so, more paperwork.
And what I didn't tell my wife is that I'm afraid, deathly afraid of emailing my customers. Who, by the way, like us just fine. We're reliable, don't charge much (though you can go elsewhere to get the same service for free, albeit less reliably), and have real human customer support.
I write the letter, which takes a few hours. For those of you who don't freelance, that means a day. I get it done in time to miss our peak usage period, of course. I send it out to the staff, who find way too many mistakes in a letter of just a few hundred words.
They don't catch some of the important ones. Nor do I. They miss that the main sales link doesn't work too well. If you're not logged on, you get a weird error message.
They also don't mention something I know already: the site has absolutely no mention of the sale. The only way you can find out if the sale exists is by logging in, clicking Buy, then noticing in the dropdown that discounts have been added in some cases, and increased in others.
That pricing table I punted on? Really would have helped, but I was tired, my wife was a tad annoyed (not too annoyed--even with business down I earn a good living), and the most important thing was to take some kind of action.
A day after I sent it around to staff, the corrected letter went out. As an experiment, instead of some kind of email@example.com I instead used my personal company email address and decided to answer every response. I had no idea what to expect. What happened was pretty damn good. In the next 24 hours:
- 3,000 email addresses had gone stale.
- We got 140 spam reports, which it turns out is not at all bad when you're sending 92,000 emails--in fact, SendGrid said that anything under 20% is good.
- 5 people reported serious errors in the email. For example, I said the discount couldn't possibly go down when I meant up. I was genuinely using scarcity--this truly was our best sale ever, and it truly won't be repeated with these discounts--yet I made it look just like the opposite. More to the point, because there was no mention anywhere of the sale, people decided it didn't exist.
- A few folks reported the Purchase link didn't work. It did, but sometimes produced an obscure error message.
- 2 people said they thought my marketing sucked.
- 5 people (not counting friends) said they liked my marketing sense.
- 200 or so of the 265 replies were automated out-of-office emails
The cannier marketers among you will have figured out that this poses an opportunity, and I have already taken advantage of it. We fixed the link, added the pricing table, wrote a news story, brought the discount down a little further due to my stoopid stoopid mistake, and sent out a mea culpa to those who didn't buy. It was all grinding work of the sort I hate doing, but it was far, far easier than it would have been two weeks ago because of the fabulous sales achieved through one ill-conceived letter. Today has been another banner day with 5 figures in sales.
Most important thing? It won't surprise you. Take action, please! Put up that squeeze page. Find that high-quality affiliate offer and send it to your list. Don't have a list? Spend $25 on a solo mailing or on an original freebie by an outsourced author. Think it's too late to take action? Well, I did it, 12 years after starting my list. How long's it been for you?