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Email Marketing

What is one of the first tasks you undertake when you arrive at the office? Chances are you read your email. Email use is rising fast. According to Forrester Research, over 35 percent of Internet user time is spent with email. What is most interesting is that we even check our work email while on vacation and during the weekend. It has become a part of our every day lives.

With people spending so much time on email, there is an enormous opportunity to market to them and build solid customer relationships. According to the 2001 eMail Marketing Report by eMarketer, total email spending in the US exceeded $1 billion for the year 2000. It is predicted that this number will increase to approximately $4.6 billion by the end of 2003. Email has emerged to become one of the most profitable and economical ways to manage customer relationships, presenting marketers with many opportunities and benefits.

Low Cost – Email advertising is the most cost-effective way to reach customers. When you consider how much money you spend on traditional marketing vehicles, the value of email marketing is evident. For instance, you do not have to worry about production, the use of materials or postage – as you do for direct mail. What is most attractive is that you market to an audience that will receive your message and likely respond to it because they have provided permission to accept it.

Targeted and Qualified Audience – When you create your own email list (as opposed to buying it) it means you follow a process whereby you contact your intended audience and gain permission to use their email address for future communications from your company. No list is more targeted or qualified. Because these individuals have agreed to accept a message from you, it is likely that they will read the message and take part in a particular action, whether it is to simply visit your site or make a purchase. This type of marketing is very effective – particularly when you consider direct marketing or other forms of traditional advertising where you spend large amounts to reach an audience that may never receive your message.

Fast, Efficient and Effective – Developing an email campaign is not as resource hungry as other marketing activities. You simply develop the message, identify your audience and send the message. There is also the flexibility to alter the message for different audience groups. For example, you may send a message informing recent buyers about a sale you are having. Then, you may add a coupon to this message for customers who have visited your store but have not yet made a purchase. This flexibility is not available with other marketing vehicles, which require various resources to implement. Email marketing also generates immediate responses since the call to action is within the message and provides an easy response mechanism for customers. For example, all they have to do is click on a link.

Personalized Communication – Email marketing is a proactive medium to maintain contact with customers and build relationships with them. Leveraging information from past interactions, you can identify where your customers are in the buying process and engage them with regular communication that is tailored to their needs with personalized messages and timely information. You can deliver information that provides the most satisfaction to them and is most profitable to you.

For instance, you may remind customers about a sale you are having, invite them to a customer appreciation night or alert them with new product notifications. By personalizing the customer experience you can maximize existing relationships and turn prospects into long-term, loyal and profitable customers.

Easy to Track and Evaluate – Traditional marketing campaigns can take months to plan, implement and evaluate. For instance, to roll-out a direct mail campaign it would take weeks to develop the content, organize production and mail the promotion. Then, there is a period of time when you wait and see if your campaign brought any results. Have people visited your web site? Have they visited your store? Have they made a purchase? What exactly is the return on investment? Measurement of the effectiveness of the campaign is limited. Email marketing campaigns can be executed within days and results tracked immediately. Using various software packages, you can determine how many customers received the email, how many opened it and how many bought a product because of your message.

The low cost, efficiency, and personalized nature of email marketing provides substantial opportunity to reach all your marketing objectives, whether it be to increase sales, improve brand awareness, or drive site traffic.

Increase Sales – In addition to providing an easy means to send out coupons, discounts and other promotions, email marketing enables you to provide a solid call-to-action to a specific offer, which is easy to take advantage of. If you want to increase sales, a strong offer is central to the success of your email campaign. It’s also effective to include e-commerce functionality within the email to shorten the sales process.

Improve Brand Awareness – Email provides an easy medium through which to gain the attention of a large audience, particularly if your message is entertaining, compelling, or unique. The trick is to improve the association of your message with the branding of your company. For instance, if your audience is primarily young and have a carefree attitude, you may provide a promotion to win an outdoor adventure vacation.

Drive Site Traffic – If you want to increase your site traffic, email marketing provides an easy and effective avenue through which to entice people to your site. Attract attention to your site with a sample of the benefits your business provides. Provide content that will attract the audience’s attention and encourage customers to check your site for more information. Entice them with free offers, humor, or entertaining tools.

The biggest challenge with email marketing is the collection and maintenance of email addresses. To have a successful email campaign you need to qualify your email addresses and ensure you have your customer’s permission to use their address – otherwise the long-term costs could negatively impact your business success.

Qualify – How can you ensure an email address on your list belongs to a particular person? How can you ensure the email address is correct? When you compose a list of email addresses it is necessary to qualify each one. There are many techniques to test the quality of the addresses you gather. For instance, you may send an automatic email telling the customer that they have been added to your mail list and ask them to confirm their acceptance. Or, you can have the customer provide their address twice to reduce entry mistakes.

Inform and Gain Permission – Adding email addresses to your customer files requires that you inform customers on how you plan to use their address and obtain permission to do it. If you do not follow this process, the long-term results could result in lawsuits, and wasted marketing dollars trying to reach people who do not want to receive your messages. You may also be labeled a ‘spammer’, which can affect your business reputation and image.

Maintain Lists – Email addresses are perishable pieces of information. What may be the correct email address for a customer one day may be different the next. According to NFO Research Group (2000), 32 percent of consumers change their email address each year. Therefore, it is important to ensure you maintain contact with customers and provide then with easy methods to update their address. It is also important to re-establish email purposes. For instance, if the customer has agreed to accept information on product sales, this does not mean they are open to accepting other forms of communication, such as a newsletter. You will need to re-affirm what your customers have agreed to accept so you do not anger them or risk jeopardizing your company image.

Email Marketing Campaign Steps

Collect Addresses
Obtain Permission
Determine Objectives
Identify the Audience
Determine the Message
Track and Measure
Maintain Lists

1. Collect Addresses
There are two options to obtaining an email list – buy one or develop it in-house.

Buy List – When you buy a list, you have instant access to a range of potential customers who you may not have been able to reach otherwise. However, the downfall is you have limited knowledge on how these customers’ addresses were obtained and how long they have been available. It is also difficult to determine who else owns the same list. It can be expensive to buy a list and even more costly when you consider how much you pay for a list of addresses that may no longer be valid. If you are considering buying a list, ensure you do your homework. Find out how the list was developed and how targeted it is. Make sure the vendor has a list that matches your target audience, and evaluate the reputation of the vendor you plan to buy the list from.

Develop List In-House – While the biggest downfall to building your own list is the time it takes to develop one, there are many long-term benefits. There is no cost to develop the list, you can be confident that the people on your list are quality contacts who are willing to accept email from you, and there is little risk of being labeled a ‘spammer‘ since you have gone through an ‘opt-in’ process to qualify your customers.

If you have a business, your ultimate goal is to gain long-term profitable customers. The way to gain long-term customers is to build relationships with them, which involves regular communication. When a customer enters you store, browses your web site or has any contact with your company, it is a prime opportunity to gather as much information about them as possible. There are a number of ways you can obtain your customers’ email address.

  • Conferences and Events – Provide prizes that require the customer to fill out a form that includes a box with an option to accept more information about your company via email.
  • Direct Mail – In the next promotional piece you send out, ask customers if they would like to receive further information by email.
  • Support – When customers call in for support ask them for their contact information. You can also have them complete customer service forms.
  • Memberships – Encourage customers to become members of your business or web site that will enable them to receive personalized information via email.
  • Forms – Give customers a chance to be a part of your email list by providing an online form.
  • In-Store Locations – Entice customers to fill out forms that will enable you to send them product information via email.

Not all these methods will necessarily give you permission to send out regular communications via email to your customers. However, they will provide an avenue where you can gain initial contact and then develop boundaries for your email campaigns. For instance, if a customer completes a customer service form you may contact them to gather their opinions on how you can improve your customer service and then further qualify them by asking them if they like to receive other communications from you company in the future. The trick is to make email submission quick and easy to do.

2. Obtain Permission
When you gather customer email addresses, understand the intended use behind them, ensure you communicate this knowledge to your customers and gain their permission.

There are varying levels of permission you should consider.

Spam – When you send an email message to someone who does not give you permission to do so and does not welcome the message, it is considered ‘spam’ email.

Opt-Out Lists – Many times, customers are sent a message that includes an opportunity to remove themselves if they do not want to receive further communication. For example, a customer may have filled out an online form that automatically checks a box that says, “I want to receive additional product information”. If they fail to uncheck it, then permission is automatically assumed.

Opt-In Lists – This type of list includes customers who have proactively added their contact information and provided consent to receive additional information from you.

Although ‘spam’ and ‘opt-out’ lists are less time consuming to gather, in the long-term you will likely upset customers and negatively affect your company brand and image.

To deliver successful email campaigns, inform customers about how you will use their address, develop a clear privacy clause, and make it easy for customers to remove themselves from your list.

3. Determine Objectives
Even before you started to develop an email list, you should have had some idea how you were going to use the addresses. Whether you want to increase online sales, improve brand awareness or drive site traffic, your objectives will provide guidelines for measurement, direct your business endeavors and help to determine the success of your campaign.

4. Identify your Audience
It is important to understand your audience so you can target your message and improve your chances of building solid long-term relationships. When is the best time to reach your customers? What kind of information do they like to receive? What motivates them to buy from or visit your site? If you deliver the same message to all your audience you may risk losing profitable customers. For instance, you may send out an email thanking customers for visiting your store recently and provide them with an incentive to visit again. Obviously, this same message would not be used for those who have never visited your store.

5. Determine the Message
When you develop an email message, every stage – from the time the customer receives the email to the time they open it, should be considered. What will the customer see when they receive a message from you? Will it entice them to open the email and read the message?

Email Headers – The ‘subject’, ‘from’, and ‘to’ lines of your message have the ability to influence the customer. The ‘subject’ line is the key to opening the door to your message. It has to attract the attention of the customer and encourage them to click into the message and read it. The text should be short enough so that the customer can read the entire message and it should include your company’s name. The ‘from’ line should have your company’s name or an individual’s name to make it more personal. Using the name of the customer in the ‘to’ line will make it more personal as well.

Message Vehicle – There are a variety of methods through which to communicate with your customers. The vehicle you use will depend on your campaign objectives. Determining your vehicle will also be much easier once you encourage your customers to provide their areas of interest during the permission stage. For instance, do you simply want to provide news about your company? Then, perhaps you will send out a newsletter or a press release.

Message Components – There are four primary components to the message – the greeting, offer, call to action and ‘opt-out’ function.

The greeting personalizes the message and makes the customer feel as though you know them. The offer should be provided at the top of your message and include all the benefits you would like to communicate. It is also useful to provide a link directly to the offer. The call to action should be clear within the message. What exactly do you want your customers to do? Buy a product? Learn about a service? Visit your site? Attach a sense of urgency to the action by putting a time period on it. Your message should always include an option to ‘opt-out’ of your mail list.

Message Characteristics – When you develop your message keep it clear, short and to the point, and relevant to your customers. Also try to make it different and unique from your competitors. It is also beneficial to develop each campaign upon previous emails so there is continuity in your messages. For example, you may send a message that ends with “Watch for our sale next month-we’ll keep you updated”. Timing is also important to consider. You should send your message when your customers are most likely to read it and act on it.

6. Track and Measure
When you have completed your email campaign, ensure you track its success. How many messages were ‘bounced’ back? How many were opened? How many customers ‘opted-out’? How many became new customers? What you track will depend on your site objectives – and will provide huge clues on where your campaign is going. For instance, by tracking what emails initiate a response, you can learn the type of messages your customers like to receive. If you have a low click through rate, perhaps your call to action is not clear or your links are not functioning. If you have a high number of customers ‘opting-out’ of lists, find out why and make adjustments to your campaign.

Once you have gathered the necessary information, it will be possible for you to measure the effectiveness of your campaign with real numbers. What is your return on investment? What was the total revenue generated from your campaign? How much did it cost to create and send each message?

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5 Responses to “Email Marketing”

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