How to Use Email to Sell More to More People

In October 1984 I started my first firm. The mission: Eat IBM!

Only one of the 220 IBM mainframe users in SA knew how I could help them. The rest could not care less.

When starting a new business this first problem we each face looks insurmountable.

At least I knew who was most likely to buy datacommunications kit linking IBM mainframes to PCs.

One big problem: Not one single data processing manager (DP Manager) knew that it could be done. And every single one HATED PCs.

They were fast losing control of their computer infrastructure as every accountant in the firm started spreadsheeting on PCs. And every secretary started wordprocessing on PCs. And every manager tried to manage staff on PCs.

But how to inspire these DP Managers to call us…?

I read many books on marketing back then. All focused on helping corporates (like IBM) compete with each other, employing the same expensive techniques. My small business comprised just me, in a bedroom, with no advertising budget. No budget at all, including dinner.

And then I stumbled upon a book on direct mail marketing. Back then this meant sending letters to people who might be interested. (Direct mail was also called junk mail. )

One paragraph caught my attention. “If you’re competing with IBM, then for every $100,000 they spend on marketing you can afford 50 cents.” I could not even afford the 50 cents, but…

I competed for a tiny slice of a segment of IBM’s market: Just 220 IBM mainframe users. If just a few bought just a little kit, that fed my kids and paid the bills.

This Advert & Placement cost more than one full year of direct mailing.

The process? Simply send a letter to each… Regularly… Telling a short story about how some IBM user applied my kind of kit to solve a problem they faced…

220 letters cost a whole lot less than a tiny advert anywhere, and so I started writing and posting:

  • Every month for a couple of years.
  • Then every second week for a couple of years.
  • And when these IBM users installed fax machines, I sent faxes every fortnight.

Direct Email Marketing Delivers Incredible Results

Fast forward 7 years: Me in a tuxedo, wearing my first ever bow tie, at a formal bash in Johannesburg accepting an award as South Africa’s Fourth Most Admired IT Supplier, standing on stage with ISM (What IBM called itself in SA in 1991).

That direct mail approach rocked.

Nowadays direct emails are easier and cheaper. After 32 years of me feeding my kids with the sales those emails generate the f-word marketing industry still poohs on them, calling them spam.

I love that because while they waste money going big and complex you and I can still sneak in by going personal.

After direct mailing for 32 years I know it works better than anything else for:

  • Selling to the same people, but sell more stuff to each.
  • Selling the same amount of stuff to more people.
  • Selling more stuff to more people.

Finally, if you know a small business owner who wants to sell a whole lot more without a whole lot of effort, please forward this email and ask them to join this course.