This material originally appeared as one of Jim’s Daily Herald columns


That newsletter you faithfully email to your contact list or the e-blasts you send announcing your latest hot deal – maybe a Thursday morning discount on painting supplies or a free copy of your latest book – aren’t necessarily an effective use of email.

So says Neil Kristianson, owner of Em@il Splat, Yorkville, and a believer that email automation is the way to boost sales.  He spoke mid-May at an Aurora (IL) University Sales Institute gathering and, later, in a long conversation the two of us had.

“Very few small businesses do email right,” Kristianson says.  “The purpose is to get the phone to ring” – or the email recipient to make an online purchase if that’s how your business works.

Pay heed when Kristianson asks if you ever shop at Amazon.  (Let’s say you do.)  If you go to Amazon, look at something but don’t buy it, you’ll get what essentially is a reminder email from Amazon the next day, Kristianson says.

In the Em@il Splat process, that reminder email from your business to the shopper who visited your website but didn’t buy may well come the same day.  Depending on what you sell, your follow-up email could be an FAQ list – a message that says to the non-buyer, “Here are some questions other people have asked us about the product you researched” – or could ask, “Can we help you with. . .?”

Importantly, the follow-ups are sent automatically, with content depending on site visitors’ actions:  Email automation is Kristianson’s mantra – and, not incidentally, a way to relieve the owner of email scheduling.

You can quibble with some aspects of Kristianson’s approach, but remember that his purpose is to enhance email as a selling tool.  “Email is evolving,” Kristianson says.  “Marketing with email is becoming one-on-one, not one email to 50,000 people.

“We’re getting away from simply sending newsletters and blast emails.  We want the email to start a conversation” with the prospective buyer.

Intended to connect with but not badger people on your contact list, here’s where Kristianson seems to be heading with his automated email system:

* The goal is to structure the email process so that sales messages, follow-ups and reminders flow automatically, based on the recipient’s response to your initial email message.

* The messages “are from me to you, not from my company to you,” Kristianson says.  That’s an important distinction.  The email is from Neil to Jim, for example, with Neil’s company name and logo relegated to the signature block – a possible quibble.

* There’s one action per email.

* Based on the apocryphal story of the house painter who for years had painted interior rooms for a customer but wasn’t asked to bid when it came time to repaint the outside because “I didn’t know you did exteriors,” Kristianson also uses email to “tell past customers of five other things we do.”


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