Email is a marketers dream. It’s quick, there’s no costly postage and it is more effective than the telephone. Or is it? Many companies now choose email as the ‘best’ medium for campaigns, with the view that it’s so much easier to get people to respond by email. You can be ‘corporately clever’, you can take your time to plan your answers, you can be intelligent yet witty, but does all this really bring in a better response rate than the personal touch?
Whilst emails can be embedded with media, are shareable and trackable, they’re not adaptable. Many companies don’t want to admit it but the old fashioned methods can help increase response rates. The reality is speaking with people costs money; it’s often more inconvenient and perhaps trickier. As a nation we instantly assume when someone calls us they must be either selling or scamming! However, when you get past this, most people are generally happy to talk. Don’t get me wrong I love email but it has its limitations. A two pronged approach is often more effective and cheaper in the long run especially if your target audience is over 40.
An example of this was our recent sports marketing work across the East Riding with the over 50s. The activity campaign was to promote activity and sports by finding people an activity to try in their local area and offering them a free trial session at their nearest Leisure Centre. Many responded to the campaign noting the activities they would like to try and the times they were available. They opted for response by email, telephone or post.
Whilst answering email and postal responses were quick, efficient and essentially the easier option, it was when actually speaking with people that the truth became clear. Speaking to people gets an instant picture of what is going on in the present; things do change after all. We found that people don’t always register for sports and activities themselves, often it is a well meaning relative or friend that has forwarded their details. An email doesn’t necessarily tell you they may live at x but they are always at y. You can personalise the help if you listen to what is going on now. They can ask questions, you can ask questions. They can tell you they have a health complaint and you can instantly identify that the sports activity they wanted to try is perhaps not as suitable as something else, often something they hadn’t thought of. You can avoid disappointment by ensuring they are available and know what is involved. People delete emails very easily especially if they don’t recognise the sender. If you speak with them first they are less likely to put the letter on a pile or not open the email.
Unfortunately emails and letters can’t be reactive or proactive. Many people had different agendas for getting active from losing weight, helping an existing health complaint, or simply to get out of the house. Being more personable meant that the help could be tailored to meet the person – whether it was arranging an induction at the gym to put together a personal fitness plan or ensuring the facilities/classes were suitable for a particular complaint or disability. It also meant that the location for the activity was the most suitable, an email doesn’t always tell you they are a carer for a relative, they don’t have a car or have mobility problems.
Things don’t always go to plan and we all need room for manoeuvre. Schedules and availability change and unforeseen things do happen, we get ill or an elderly relative has an accident. Email and postal responses (soon we will make change of address online and post a new one) don’t see past these. The result is you email/post out details for an activity or sport that is entirely unsuitable. A more personal approach means that you can see that they cannot commit to the same activity at the same time each week, therefore the Salsa class they initially were enquiring about is no longer a relevant option and maybe the Gym or Swimming would be better alternative. This meant we could still help them to achieve their goals whilst increasing their customer experience.
Modern media is an important part of marketing, however, the more traditional methods will never die and you often can’t beat the personal touch.