Staying relevant in the minds of your customers is a vital part of the sales cycle, but communicating directly with them can be a challenge.
Email marketing is the answer.
What It Isn’t… And What It Is
Real email marketing is not spam.
Spam, or unsolicited commercial email, is something with which most of us are all too familiar. Our inboxes are flooded with messages we didn’t ask for and don’t want.
(And if you think your spam problems are bad, consider this: It’s been said that Bill Gates receives 4 million emails per year, most of which is spam. Ironically, one of the world’s wealthiest people is receiving those same ‘get rich quick’ messages as you!)
Opt-in email marketing is permission-based. The recipients of the messages have given your business the green light to communicate with them via email. They know who you are and expect to receive emails from you.
Advantages of Email Marketing
Email marketing has a number of advantages:
- Email is cost-effective. At just pennies per message, a business owner can communicate simultaneously with thousands of potential customers.
- According to research conducted by the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing returned $57.25 for every dollar spent on it in 2005.
- Email is an active way to move your target audience to take a desired action compared to most other forms of marketing, which are passive.
- Tracking recipients’ reactions to messages allows you to gain valuable information about their interests and needs.
- One rarely considered advantage of email marketing is that it’s green, making little impact on the environment.
The Beauty of Tracking
Consider the ways that a jeweler might use email marketing to increase sales. Over the years, our jeweler has built an opt-in database of customers, and also has a list of other people who’ve expressed interest in the company’s products. (Perhaps they’ve invited website users and visitors to the store to sign up for periodic emails.)
Now let’s suppose that our jeweler is having a sale. They carefully craft a message (including an attention-getting subject line) that’s designed to get people to move on the call to action—Buy Now!
The ability to track results is where email really shines. After all, it’s not about how many messages went out; it’s about how many sales were made as a result. Good email service providers offer powerful tracking capabilities that will allow our jeweler to see how many messages were delivered, how many were opened, and any click-throughs by recipients.
So if our jeweler’s email included links to watches, rings, and bracelets on sale, they’ll be able to see which links recipients clicked. This valuable information can be used to target subsequent messages. For instance, recipients who clicked on the link for watches might later receive a special discount on the entire stock of watches or an announcement when a new watch is added to the jeweler’s product lineup.
Because email tracking allows you to gain insight into your customers’ specific interests, your marketing activities can be continually refined.
And keep in mind that effective emails needn’t be just about a product sale. Virtually any business can establish itself as a trusted advisor by offering periodic informational newsletters or other items of interest to their target audience.
Important Things to Consider
Internet service providers continue to fine-tune filters to identify spam and prevent it from ever arriving at its intended destination. That sometimes means, however, that even legitimate messages get tossed aside, so it’s important to do everything you can to ensure that your messages reach your customers.
- Develop an understanding of and maintain compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. This Act was designed to reduce the amount of spam we all receive. While it’s hard to see much of an impact in our inboxes, fines can be assessed for those who fail to follow the Act’s provisions. Emailers must, among other things, include in their messages a physical address, a working phone number, and an opportunity to opt out of future emails.
- Use a whitelisted email delivery system. Sending messages from your own Outlook database may be easy and seem effective, but a portion of your messages are probably never reaching their intended recipients. Using an email provider that is known by the major Internet service providers for not sending spam can improve deliverability rates considerably.
- Test messages before sending them. Some email systems allow you to test your message for potential spam-filter flags. At the very least, brush up on the most obvious causes for being flagged, such as using all caps in the subject line or including claims like ‘free’ or ‘guarantee.’
It’s estimated that roughly 147 million people use email every day. Why not take advantage of the opportunities for marketing to them with cost-effective, permission-based email?
by Rob Croll
President, Marlannah Group Internet Marketing