Practical Ecommerce

Email as a Mini-sale

Sales professionals have a notion of “mini-sales.”

A mini-sale occurs when a prospect agrees to learn more about you or your product, but has not yet agreed to a purchase. Say, for example, that you sell cleaning supplies to restaurants. You may call a restaurant owner and ask him to purchase your cleaning supplies and the restaurant owner may promptly say “no.” Conversely, you may call the restaurant owner and ask him to meet with you to discuss your cleaning supplies and the restaurant owner may say “yes” to meeting with you. That “yes” is a mini-sale. The owner has not agreed to buy your products, but he has agreed to meet with you and learn more about them. The mini-sale is a necessary step for you to ultimately sell your products to the restaurant owner.

Email sign-up a first step

Email marketing, say many experts, greatly facilitates mini-sales for an ecommerce business. A prospect may read advertising from an ecommerce business or may visit the owner’s website. The visitor may not, however, be ready to purchase products from the ecommerce store. But, he may agree to sign-up for an email to learn more about them. This email sign-up is a mini-sale, and it can dramatically improve sales to an ecommerce business.

“Email is so inexpensive,” says Gail Goodman, chief executive officer of Constant Contact, a self-service email-marketing firm. “It’s a great alternative for folks who aren’t ready to buy. They may not buy, but they will, oftentimes, sign up for an email newsletter or sign up to receive more product information from you via email. Eventually, many of these prospects will buy something after they’ve received your email communications. In this manner, it dramatically improves purchaseconversion rates to a website and, likewise, it can dramatically improve marketing returns.”

Chris Baggott, chief marketing officer and co-founder of Exact Target, another email-marketing firm, agrees. “It’s a mistake to use email as a customer-acquisition tool,” says Baggott. “Email is best used to start the sales process and gather data about your customer.”

From email to DVD to a sale

Baggott continues, “We have a client who arranges $2,000 rafting trips. Hardly anyone will agree to a $2,000 rafting trip the first time they visit a website. Recognizing that, our client offers to [physically] mail to any prospect a free DVD about river rafting. Our client mails the DVD only after the prospect has agreed to receive email communications from him. Eventually, many of the recipients of the DVD and email communications will sign up for the rafting trips. The email and DVD just started the sales process.”

Says Goodman, “There are so many innovative ideas for prospects to agree to receive your emails. There are frequent-buyer club promotions. There are special sale alerts. There are newsletters. There are emails for new product releases and new product specifications. The key is to communicate with your prospects. You’ve got to get them ready to eventually buy something from you.”

Kerry Murdock

Kerry Murdock

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