Antique Dealers: Don’t give up on email marketing

Email is one of the most cost-effective tools available

Just to watch her reaction, I asked my mail carrier to break the law.

“Jane” I said, “I’m going to put a trash can right here next to my mailbox. Would you mind just throwing the junk mail into the trash can and putting the important stuff into my mailbox?”

“I certainly will not!” she replied (she wasn’t being a very good sport about this). “It’s against the law for me to do that. I have to deliver your mail to an approved box! Besides, how do I know what mail is important to you and what isn’t? I can’t make decisions about your mail!”

Darn. I was really hoping I could get her to do that for me, like my email provider does. They decide for me what’s important and what isn’t. They search my mail for clues about its desirability: Clues like the mail’s origin, and whether it contains subject-line words like “Special Offer,” “Hello,” “Free,” “RE:,” “FW:,” text in ALL CAPS or exclamation points! They can even tell whether or not I’m opening mail from certain senders.

Big webmail providers like Yahoo! and Gmail know exactly what mail I open, view, click or delete before reading. If I consistently ignore mail from certain senders, eventually such mail will automatically be sent to my spam folder.


This article originally appeared in Antique Trader magazine

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I suppose they’re doing me a favor, but email censorship is a two-edged sword. If a software program can sort and dice the mail I receive, then it certainly sorts and dices the mail I send as well, and that means I have to very careful about how I handle the email I send for business. If I’m not careful, then some software program is going to decide whether or not my mail gets delivered to my customer’s inbox.

Antiques Auctioneer Wayne Jordan

Behind the Gavel by Wayne Jordan

Antiques dealers have to be careful as well. I’ve heard repeatedly from dealers that they have abandoned all attempts at email marketing because “It doesn’t work.” Yet, studies have repeatedly shown that email marketing, done correctly, produces more sales per impression than direct snail-mail, social media, newspaper ads and radio. Perhaps the reason email marketing isn’t working for some dealers is that their email marketing program needs a little “tweaking.”

If your email marketing isn’t working, here’s how to “tweak” it to get it working for you.

Email marketing is part of a process, and if you don’t employ the process step-by-step, you’ll get anemic results. The process is simple, but “the devil is in the details.”

First, you need a good mailing list, then you need to give the recipient a good reason to open the mail, and then you must provide them with something of value. If you follow these steps, more customers will open your mail and respond to your offers. You’ll make more sales, pure and simple. There is an opportunity for failure at each step in the process. Here’s how to bridge the gap from no email sales to regular and predictable email sales.

Develop a quality mailing list

Build your list by giving your customers the opportunity to sign up for your emails at multiple “touch points”: your Facebook page, website, printed receipts, newspaper ads or fliers, store signage and remote events like shows and flea markets.

Whenever subscribers are acquired online, make sure that you use a double-opt-in sign-up method. A double opt-in occurs when, after your subscriber signs up, you send an email to confirm that they intended to sign up for your mails. Double opt-ins will help avoid delivery problems in the future.

Give your subscribers something of value as an incentive to sign up; something that is only available to your email subscribers. Consumers like to feel that they are getting deals that the general public isn’t getting.

Use an email management service to send and track your mail. Regularly cull subscribers who aren’t opening your mail. Email providers compile an “engagement score” for your mailings, and every email you send to an unengaged subscriber puts you one step closer to having all your mail sent directly to spam folders. A high-quality, responsive mailing list is the most valuable business asset you will ever have. Don’t ignore it.

Get your mail opened

Check out Wayne Jordan’s new book “The Business of Antiques” – available at Krausebooks.com and other booksellers nationwide.

Begin by avoiding subject-line words that are commonly found on spam (listed above).

Maintain a consistent and recognizable “from” name and a clear subject line. Let there be no doubt in your subscribers’ minds who the mail is from and why you are sending it. If it’s your newsletter delivery, say so; if it’s a sale flier, say so.

Don’t be coy. Being straightforward not only helps your credibility, it helps you determine which emails are being opened and allows you to improve your mailings and keep your list profitable.

Provide value

When a customer signs up to be on your mailing list, they want to hear from you. They have given you their email address, and along with it they have given you permission to contact them. Don’t abuse the opportunity by filling their in-box with nothing but advertising.

Who needs more junk mail? Always remember that the spam folder is just a click away.

It’s OK to send ads (you can’t make sales without making an offer), but include your ads as part of something more valuable, like a subscribers-only newsletter containing insider tips or points of connoisseurship for various collectibles.

Consumers — especially collectors — are hungry for information that will make collecting more fun and/or profitable. Give your subscribers accurate, fun-to-read information on their collecting hobby and they will open your mail.

The key to getting your mail read regularly is to provide original content that hasn’t been published someplace else. Don’t send articles that you’ve published on your (or someone else’s) blog or website.

It wasn’t too long ago that direct mail was in every small business person’s marketing toolbox. Today’s email marketing is cheaper than snail-mail marketing ever was. Gone are the costs for printing and postage, which could be considerable.

But an effective email marketing campaign is just as much work as snail-mail ever was: You still have to invest in good copywriting and graphic design, pay attention to your list and test, test, test.

More importantly, you have to mail consistently.

Dealers who are willing to invest in email marketing will find that it is the most cost-effective advertising that they can use.

About our columnist: Wayne Jordan is a Virginia licensed auctioneer, certified personal property appraiser, and accredited business broker. He specializes in the valuation and liquidation of estate and business assets. His column Behind the Gavel appears in every issue of Antique Trader. Learn more at www.waynejordanauctions.com, 276-730-5197 or auctioneer.wayne@yahoo.com.

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