May 21, 2002
Robert Singer, who markets SportsLife franchises to would-be entrepreneurs, found himself with a list of 5,000 old, cold sales leads on his hands. Each one of the names had definitely opted-in to get more information from SportsLife, but it had been a while back. As any good sales rep will tell you, a cold sales lead is practically worthless.
SportsLife, a vendor of business franchises, needed to
revive old business leads. Marketing Director, Robert Singer,
decided that email was the route to reach, revive, and sort
through this large list of leads.
Singer had management experience, but no marketing experience,
so he had to rely on common sense to craft a campaign that these
leads would respond to.
His first pass at sending email to a list of leads interested in
starting their own business had not gone exactly as planned. It
had been thrown together too quickly. "We were offering three
specials at once and when responses started coming back I was
overwhelmed, sometimes I didn't even know which special offer
each email was responding to."
Singer had found himself sitting at his desk all day long
processing incoming replies. Singer recalls, "It wasn't a one man
job, and it could have been better executed, but I had to grit my
teeth and bear it till I made it through."
After the dust settled, Singer's challenge was to make the most
of the 5,000 names of people who had shown interest in starting
their own business by responding to the email. But what was the
best way to turn leads into sales? How could he rekindle their
interest in SportsLife?
The cost of calling each person on the phone would be
too high. Email would have to provide the answer.
SportsLife did not want to resort to high-pressure sales because
it is not part of their philosophy as a business, and it is not
First, Singer decided to play on their previous curiosity by
reminding them of their initial response. He appealed to them
with design and content that was more personal.
The new email differed from the original campaign that encouraged
the leads to respond in three critical ways:
1. The Deal
The new email offered the SportsLife package that had
originally been marketed for $99 for free. "If it was free,
and they really wanted to start their own business, there
was no longer a cost dilemma," says Singer.
SportsLife realized that the customer base would
respond to an offer that was "easy to get into,
with a lower cost upfront." By raising the ongong monthly
dues of $33 to $37, the company could eliminate the initial
investment while netting the same profit.
2. Fewer Right Words
Singer believes there were three important factors
in communicating with a customer base via email.
* The subject line had to grab the reader
* The first couple of lines of the email had to spark an
* It had to be short, "The email can't be a book."
Singer changed the subject line from "SportsLife -
Your own Sports Business" to one that simply
mentioned the Company name and the great deal:
"SportsLife - free dealership." The second campaign
went out with a message that was half the length of the
Singer's believes his lack of marketing experience was an
asset in the email campaign. Singer says it seemed like
"common sense," but he pictured what he would want to
see when he opens his inbox, what emails appealed to him.
"I just tried to think about what people want, and I
thought about what I would want to hear." In a
nutshell: shorter, sweeter and more to the point.
"The email we went with was more laid back, and I
didn't sugar coat it. Starting a business isn't for
everybody; I wanted people to see it for what it
was. I don't want anyone to join and find out it's
not what it's cracked up to be." The body of the
email was not only shorter it was less "sales-y."
3. Make it Personal
Using a customer's first name increases the feeling of
human interaction. Singer avoids Sir, Ma'am, and even
titles like Mr. and Ms. Whenever possible,
personalizing responses is best. For instance, one
customer mentioned that he was a football coach in his
response. Singer made sure to reference that in his
email back. "The less cheesy auto-responder messages
the better. It's important to make people feel like
they're talking to someone; they don't want something
That approach extends to other aspects of SportsLife.
Singer says being ready to do anything for a customer,
is an asset to everyone involved in the relationship.
From giving out his email address and phone number to
"hand-holding them through running their business.
We'll sit on the phone with them until they're sure.
Because the key to any business is customer service.
If you treat a customer right, they'll stay with you for
Anyone who replied to the "free offer" was sent an auto-responder
email that gave them a username, password and directed them to
Then, Singer replied to interested leads with a more personalized
message that basically said, "if you're interested, contact me
directly," according to Singer. He gave each contact his phone
number and he set up a special email address specifically for
those people who responded to the "free offer."
------------ The personalized message--------------
A while ago you looked at our program and considered becoming a
SportsLife Dealer. Becoming a SportsLife Dealer would allow you
to own your own sporting goods business, either full- or part-
time. Well, now I have a very special offer for you - your
SportsLife Dealership (regular cost $995) could cost you NOTHING
Please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-909-
5433 x 150 to see if you qualify for this very limited time
offer. This offer expires on April 26th, so if you want more
information please contact me right away.
Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
Singer kept track of those responses, by keeping each name in his
inbox folder. Anyone who replied but did not purchase was then
sent an email (or telephoned, depending on how the customer
specified) to inform them that the free offer deal would expire
in one week.
Singer believes that customer satisfaction is the best gauge of
the success of the campaign's success. Honing in on service
translates to acquisition campaigns. SportsLife measures revenue
based on the one-year contract that customers sign. Each
customer agrees to pay the monthly dues for one year and can
decide to continue their contract the next year.
The "one week notice" email, alone, resulted in a 29% sign-up rate, based on the number of people who had expressed
interest, but not signed up. "Once people got the one week
notice, they signed up immediately," says Singer.
Of the 5,000 emails sent, Singer saw an impressive 4% conversion
rate on the "free offer" email, overall.
Singer has seen a 50% to 75% renewal rate for franchise owners. In
his eyes, that is the best indicator that SportsLife is a valued
service. "We're doing something right with our service-it's our
greatest asset." SportsLife marketers focus on keeping the
service and content fresh because they know that after than year
clients can get rid of them. "We bend over backwards for our
dealers because as long as they're in, we're getting their dues."
What would Singer have been done differently?
* When sending out various specials at once, he would have
liked to include a code to put in the subject line, so he
would immediately know which special each response was
* He says he would have tried to determine which email
addresses were "bad," no longer valid or in-use, so that
the response rate could have been more accurately