Email Marketing: Selling To The Unexpected

When I was working in minor league baseball, we’d do a magnet schedule giveaway every season.  The 4” x 6” magnet would feature our season schedule and the logo of our sponsor.  Fans loved it because they could put it on their refrigerator at home or on their file cabinet at work.  Sponsors loved it because it put their name in front of fans for the entire season.  And we loved it for the same reason – it got our schedule in front of fans – plus we made money on the sponsorship.

So, each season we produced 10,000 magnet schedules and gave them out to fans entering the stadium during the first few home games of the year.  But one season, we got behind, and realized we hadn’t sold the sponsorship rights.  We knew we had to sell it fast as production deadlines were quickly approaching if we wanted to get them printed in time for opening day.

I scrambled.  I got my sales team together and went around the room asking if anyone had any leads.  “No,” was the consistent reply.  We were in trouble and we had to figure out something fast.

We had never sent a mass email to our sponsors before, so since we were running out of time, we decided to give it a try.  I told my staff to send me the emails of any prospect they thought might be interested in the schedule magnet giveaway.  Then we took all of those “prospect” emails and added them to our “active sponsor” email list to create a master list.  The final list had over 300 email addresses of current and potential sponsors on it.

I crafted an informative email that detailed all of the features of sponsoring the schedule magnet.  I included the price of the sponsorship, the production deadline, and sweetened the deal by offering tickets to opening night and the opportunity to throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.  I mentioned that this was a limited opportunity because we only had room for one corporate sponsor on the schedule magnets.  I had one of my sales staff proof the email and then I hit “send”, with fingers crossed.  We had nothing to lose.

Within a few hours, I got a phone call from one of our largest sponsors saying he was interested in sponsoring the magnets.  “Wow, what a surprise,” I thought.  I never would have thought that this particular sponsor would have been interested.  I thought they were already tapped out as far as their spending with us.  I was wrong.  (I might add that I was the sales rep for this client, too!  Shame on me :))

I faxed a contract for signature and within the space of an afternoon, we had the agreement for the magnet schedule giveaway locked up.  Plus, we got a handful of other emails saying things like:

“We’d be interested next year, please keep us informed”
“Not this time, but let us know about other opportunities!”

One of our “happy surprises” from this experience was we noticed there was a lot of interest in the magnet schedule giveaway.  So much so that the following year, we decided to do a second run of magnet schedules later in the season.  We sold it easily and increased our sponsorship revenue.

What We Learned About Email Marketing

  • Create urgency and demand.  We had two factors working in our favor – one was the sponsorship was a “winner takes all” exclusive opportunity – only one position available.  We also had a deadline that was real – this helped us get a quick decision and create excitement.  After all, our sponsor got the feeling of being able to “save the day”.  Even if you don’t have real urgency, you can usually find a way to create it.  How have you created urgency in your marketing emails?
  • Fluff it up.  We felt the magnet sponsorship on its own was pretty good value, but we made it into a package by including the tickets and the ceremonial first pitch.  While these add-ons didn’t cost us anything to throw-in, they helped increase the overall value of the package in the eyes of the client.  By turning our standalone product into a package, we increased the perceived value, making it more attractive.  Have you created a package to help sell one of your products?
  • Don’t assume.  You know what they say about “assuming”.  I never thought our Cadillac dealer would be the person who would step up and sponsor the magnets.  In our conversation, I learned that he had always liked the schedule magnets because he kept one in his office each year as a reminder of our games.  Have you ever gotten a sale from someone that really surprised you?


Email marketing was a great tool 8 years ago and today it’s even better.  Services like Mailchimp and Aweber help you build your list and communicate with customers and prospects automatically.  Writing a compelling message can bring visitors to your website, keep your brand top of mind, and help you get sales – even from customers you didn’t expect them from.

Do you have a surprising email marketing story you’d like to share?  What strategies do you use when sending “blanket” emails?

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