It’s well know that B2B sales tend to have longer cycles than B2C. In public safety—for our purposes, a division of B2B, although sometimes referred to as B2G—these cycles can be even longer. Evolving municipal budgets, personnel changes, government contract requirements and more add to the time it takes to convert prospect to customer. So how do you effectively keep in touch and keep your solution relevant to your potential customers over the long haul?
For the purposes of this article, our focus will be email. Nearly two-thirds of companies say email is their most effective marketing channel. It’s the jab in the one-two punch of COVID-era communications: You begin with an email exchange and then follow up with a phone call. For now, we’re going to review some email habits that will lead to meaningful conversations over the long haul, hopefully leading to lasting relationships.
1. Why exactly are you contacting this person? It’s reported that the average person deletes half the emails they receive daily. Meanwhile, author and sales strategist Marc Wayshak finds that about half of all prospects aren’t a good fit for the sales solutions being offered. Coincidence? Probably not.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to craft emails to prospects and busy customers with a concrete idea of what you’re after. And by what you’re after, what I really mean is what they’re after. What are the challenges this person faces? How can you help?
2. Get specific. Since you’re taking the time to reach out to this person via email—time out of your day and theirs—don’t come at it as if from thin air. If this is a prospect, take a moment to connect with them on LinkedIn and have a look at the profile to get a sense of their accomplishments and interests. Read about their department or the response area. Often a simple Google search will provide you an anecdote that separates your email from the deluge of auto-generated emails and sales contacts we mostly ignore.
If this is someone with whom you have an established relationship, again, be specific. For example, if in your previous query the person indicated they are busy because an active wildland fire, wishing them well in your next email and inquiring about how the fire turned out seems only natural. Or, if you have identified a pain point for this person or agency, reference that issue specifically—and immediately. For example: “I think I can help with your shift scheduling challenges. Do you have a few minutes this week to chat?”
3. Subject lines matter. Everyone who’s ever worked on an A/B email campaign knows this. The good news? You don’t need to get cute or creative with a personal email, just to the point. “Got 10 mins tomorrow? I’ve got some good news regarding your RMS” is much better than something generic like: “Let’s catch up” or “How’s it going?”
Solving someone’s problem, addressing them specifically—this is what makes an email enticing. So lead with that in the subject line if you can.
Solving someone’s problem, addressing them specifically—this is what makes an email enticing
4. Grammar matters—but not like it used to. It used to be that emails were like letter correspondence, with all the rules that applied. This is now an antiquated view (although some still hold it). Nowadays email often takes on the trapping of chat or text: emojis, LOLs, lack of punctuation and capitalization, and so forth. But routine casualness can backfire, especially when working with people of rank and experience. This is all to say, the hard rules of grammar and etiquette are blurry in email. But begin on the side of formality and keep your message succinct. As you develop a relationship with a prospect or customer, your conversations will develop their own rhythm and syntax, which might include emojis and LOLs. Or not.
5. Signature lines matter too. It’s easily overlooked but the signature line says a lot about your and your company. It should be simple and professional: full name, title, company, phone number and email and company website should do. And keep them consistent across your company!
6. Too much! I remember a famous writer once saying, “Email is perfect because it’s self-sorting. I ignore all of them except for the most pressing: If someone really needs to get my attention, they’ll send follow-ups I can’t ignore!” That seemed extreme to me at the time but increasingly it’s true: We ignore the emails we can.
I personally don’t mind a couple of unsolicited emails from the same person in a week. What I do mind is an email clueless about who I am, which insists on taking more of my time via phone call or link click. It’s insulting, frankly. Which brings me to my final point …
7. Don’t always ask. “Can we jump on a quick call?” Why? Same with calls to action: Yes, they are assertive and clear—and totally worth it if you’re seeking to track leads and deliver complex information. But why should I click? Sometimes clicking feels like taking the bait.
To avoid this, don’t ask. You’re emailing them for a reason, so tell them what you’ve got: “Our new line of ruggedized tablets is faster and tougher than the last, but it’s also significantly lighter. Product demos take about 15 minutes. Prices are very compelling as well, especially if you outfit in shifts. I’m available if you’d like to learn more.”
Keep in Touch
Working with today’s busy first responders and local government professionals over a long lead-nurturing process means keeping in touch, and increasingly this means email. Don’t be shy about reaching out—just make sure you’re making it worthwhile when you do.