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Feb 04, 2004
Case Study

How to Convert More of Your Tentative Prospects with Highly Targeted, Personal Emails

SUMMARY: Congratulations - you just sent a wonderfully crafted email message to your prospect file touting your new business service. It got a great open rate; it got a great click rate. But did you actually get the sales you deserve?

If you're promoting a high-priced item, opens and clicks aren't enough. How do you get prospects to convert, and can it be done without the expense of field sales or a call center? Here's one email idea that works.

Like many business-to-business marketers, Renato Beninatto of Common Sense Advisory has a very limited universe of prospects. In fact, his entire potential marketplace is executives at no more than 3,000 companies worldwide.

Plus, although at $1500 a head his workshop is priced in line with other two-day business seminars, executives in his marketplace are extremely tight both with their budgets and their time.

When Beninatto and his partners launched their company 18 months ago, they "covered all industry channels" with a comprehensive ongoing PR program, to grow their brand name recognition and opt-in email list, including:
- Writing articles and columns in industry magazines
- Running space ads in the same magazines
- Issuing a stream of regular press releases on company
activities and in-house research findings
- Joining local, national and international associations in the
field and pro-actively participating in activities
- Speaking at every related trade show

Pretty soon everybody had heard of them, repeatedly. The next step was turning brand recognition into sales…


Beninatto crafted a two-part email marketing campaign to blast to his list whenever he was about to offer a new workshop. (Link to samples below.)

The subject line always started with his now-famous brand name in brackets -- [Common Sense Advisory] -- to maximize opens. Then message body copy immediately involved readers by stating some of the most worrisome questions they probably had about their business:

"How do you manage sales in your company? Do you have the
right metrics? Do you know the size of the market? Do you pay
competitive commissions?"

"I know these are problems these companies have," notes Beninatto. "It catches their attention."

Next, the message outlined the upcoming seminar and includes multiple links to various details on Common Sense Advisory's site, such as hotel information, speaker bios, workshop outlines, etc.

Beninatto sent the first broadcast four-six weeks prior to an event, and then sent a follow-up reminder, which was almost identical to the initial message, about a week out. But, he knew no matter how great his broadcasted promotions and site are, it wasn't quite enough to move many prospects off the dime.

So, in addition, he studied his site logs religiously looking for individual click patterns. He figured if someone clicked on more than one link in a message, it indicated a high-interest prospect.

"If there's a time lag -- it can be 15 minutes, a few hours, or sometimes a few days -- that's somebody who's going back to the Web site to get more information who is struggling with the decision, 'Should I go to the workshop or not?'"

Beninatto's email and Web analytics systems are linked so he knew exactly which prospect was clicking, when. Unable to resist, last year he started testing sending a personal email message to a few people who'd clicked at least three times in response to an email campaign.

Although the message generally started out the same way, "I see from our logs that you have shown an interest in…", it was *not* a cut-and-pasted canned message.

It was also *not* in HTML. It was exactly what it appeared to be, a personally hand-typed email sent by Beninatto to a particular individual. (Link to sample below.)

Before writing a message like this, he first checked the prospect's Web site if he didn't already know their company well, so he could say something tailored to them.

For example, for a prospect whose headquarters were near the seminar location he mentioned how that person could just pop over. For a prospect who was in London, he mentioned that he'd be delighted to share tips on low-cost international airline tickets. For a prospect in China he enquired if they would be able to get a visa in time, or if they'd prefer he reserve a seat for them at a future seminar.

After sending these personal notes, Beninatto waited by his email, ready to reply quickly to additional questions. He was a bit anxious that some prospects might think his tracking their activity on his site was a bit too Big Brother-ish. Would it turn anyone off?


75% of personal email recipients wound up converting to purchasing a seminar ticket. Plus, of seminar attendees, 60% converted to additional products and services such as in-house workshops and research subscription services.

Now, Beninatto uses the tactic for every workshop he promotes. Sales are good enough that his company's workshop schedule has grown from four per year to almost a dozen per year around the world.

Although personal email recipients sometimes admit they are a bit startled by the tactic, no one has said they were offended. Instead, many ask about the site tracking tools so they can use a similar tactic in their own marketing.

However, we're pretty sure this tactic has the potential to annoy prospects if it's abused. If you are considering something of this nature, you should follow best practices Beninatto uses, including:

- Only approach people who've clicked multiple times. Single clickers may be in a very different stage of the sales cycle and more easily offended.

- Never send a note that's obviously canned copy. Personalizing isn't accomplished by merely sticking an individual's name in the salutation.

- Make sure your email signature is CAN-SPAM compliant, with a physical street address and a working opt-out link. Even one message from one single sales rep to one single prospect can land you in a world of trouble.

- Look at the prospect's site prior to approaching them. There's nothing more annoying than a sales rep querying, "Tell me more about your company" or "What do you guys do?" It just shows that rep couldn't be bothered to click around for a minute and find out for themselves prior to contacting the prospect.

If the rep doesn't bother, why should you do business with them?

Useful links related to this article:

Samples of Beninatto's broadcast campaigns, plus a real-life example of a personal exchange with a prospect who wound up buying:

Common Sense Advisory

See Also:

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