Blend 1 Part Email Newsletter with 1 Part Cinco de Mayo
Every Cinco de Mayo, history buff and Texan Les McGee gets one more holiday to showcase his email marketing creativity. Les sells 100% made-in-the-USA United States and State Flags and flagpoles for Betsy Ross Flag Girls Company Inc.
Les combines his hobby of researching history with his business need for lead generation. Before e-marketing, Les’ prospecting strategy was territory “drive by’s,” looking for flags and flagpoles on commercial properties like apartment buildings, schools and big companies. Whenever he’d find one he didn’t know about, he added the information to his ACT! database.
“I’m very database oriented,” Les says. “It’s the only way I keep up with my market. The property management business is very transient. One of my buildings has had 4 managers in 8 years. Big properties may have 10-12 flagpoles. So if I don’t keep up, I miss sales.”
About a year ago, Les discovered email marketing and enrolled in The Database Diva’s Drip Marketing Camp. “I’m a huge fan of the internet, and I love email marketing. But I hate when I subscribe to things online and they try to sell me new products without giving me the info I thought I was getting. I didn’t want to do my marketing that way.”
That’s how the marriage of history and marketing was inspired. Les doesn’t try to sell flags in his email newsletter. “My philosophy is ‘I want to share something pithy and short about our US history and remind you that we’re a local resource.'”
Email Newsletter Content Inspiration
At first he thought he’d send messages quarterly, but he found that once a month was better timing. That challenges Les to come up with a different concept each month. Some of his historical flag topics have included:
- The story of the first United States flag
- The 48-star flag (the one Les grew up with)
- Flags in the Revolutionary War
“I read books on flags, so I write about any flag having to do with the history of the US,” he says. “We share the border with Mexico and I like to celebrate their hard-working culture and religion on Cinco de Mayo.” Later this month, Les will send a reminder to his list to lower all flags to half-staff for Memorial Day.
Besides his flag books, Les relies on Wikipedia and Google Images. He finds he’s more inspired to do his writing at the end of the month because “it has to get done–I feel the pressure!”
Email Newsletter Results
What’s the payoff for all this hard work, we asked Les? Here are some of his tangible results:
- A pre-school in his territory reads his history lessons to its students
- A local radio station reads his messages on the air (he’s working on converting them to customers).
- A principal at a local school caught a “wrong date in history” and pointed it out to Les to correct! (School’s never out for lifelong learners! Or did he do that on purpose as an attention-getting device??? The Diva wonders!)
That’s just the fun part. The business part is even better. “For the first 4-5 months, I didn’t get much response,” Les says. “Recently, I had 15 people email me back with orders. People are always on their computers, so they’ll receive one of my messages, open it, call me and say, ‘Les, I need some flags.’ On sales calls, many times people think they’ve done business with me–even when they haven’t!”
Les sends about 1,400 messages per month and averages about a 15% open rate. His favorite time to send his emarketing campaign is the first or second day of the month at about 10am because “the apartment complexes don’t open till 9am.”
After 8 years of “drive by” prospecting, Les says he doesn’t get in the field as often as he used to. But he writes twice as many orders as the other reps at his company, even though his territory is not in the most affluent area. “I’ll take quality when I can get it, and quantity when I can’t,” he says.
Les says there are 4 secrets to his email marketing success.
- Prepare your database so you can do something with it. This takes time. “I had to go back and code everybody on my list with P1 for flagpoles, P2 for Flags and P3 for both, then code all my prospects and customers,” he said. “But I look forward to doing postcard mailings and email blasts, so I had to have an accurate list.”
- Always be prospecting. “When you start out in sales, you are prospecting more than writing orders. The longer you stay with it, the more writing of orders you’ll do and the less prospecting. But you still have to keep up with everyone. Even now I still find flagpoles off the beaten path, even though I think I know anybody who’s got one. Some customers buy at the corporate level and some buy local, but they all go on my list.”
- Be persistent in acquiring email addresses. It increases your marketing options. “In the old days, tracking business on 3×5 cards was cutting edge. Not anymore.
- Be consistent with your e-newsletter. Schedule messages and get them out on time. “Despite not being in the field as much, people still instantly recognize the Betsy Ross brand.”
And how much did Drip Marketing Camp help Les organize his database and launch his email newsletter strategy? “Lori, you’re better than I thought you were, and I thought you were fabulous.”