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Turning to the Internet for success during a recession – Part 2 – Email Marketing

This is a cross-blog post from Network Solution’s Solutions Are Power website that I guest wrote. Originally posted on SolutionsArePower.com on April 20, 2009.

With any online program, in order to extend your reach to the masses, one crucial part to have to your strategy would be to have a mass distribution channel. You could resort to sending out your marketing messages through traditional snail mail, but there are a few things that could affect its performance: not-targeted enough, slow to delivery, lack of metrics, and costly. But let’s take a look at email marketing which will help you in this time of belt-tightening. It’s a great way to find yourself overcoming the obstacles you’d face with traditional means. Plus, why wouldn’t you want to reach your customers using one of the most common forms of communication?

On email marketing. What better way to be more targetive than by sending them an email? But wait, before you just put together that creative (adhering to best practices, after all), make sure that you are personalizing EACH email so every individual that will receive that email will feel appreciative and cared for. But at the same time, putting “Dear John” or “Dear Sally” in the introduction isn’t enough. When you collect this piece of information, make sure that it is relevant to their needs. So if John is a loyal customer who wanted to know about power tools or trips to Europe, don’t send him an email with a discount code on gardening books or weight-loss camp. That’s insulting and shows you just don’t care!

Think about employing email marketing as you would communicating with your best friend. It’s a natural conversation so less marketing speak and more relevancy. The costs of sending emails is relatively low compared to using printed pieces (I’ve seen the cost of sending out one email around $0.02 and multiplied by 1000, you’re looking at still sending out more emails versus regular mail) and it’s quite possible to do it yourself or have a company like Blue Sky Factory or another third-party email service provider help distribute your emails.

Email production isn’t that costly either and you can have greater control over what you want to say. With respect to the design, you don’t have to worry about the design because the goal of “keeping it simple” works out best here. Keep in mind that not every email provider like Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or even AOL will render the look the same so the simpler you make it (and adhere to the best practices), the better impression your customers will have when reading it. Remember, save your great designs for websites that will render correctly across all browsers and make the design on your emails have impact while being simple. The message is what’s important.

Speaking of messages, you have great power to make effective use of your email copy during times of recession. Don’t be too quick to simply type of something and send it out. Experiment with different messages and send it to different sample people. Gauge their responsiveness and you can help improve your targeting. As with print collateral, you need to make your information succinct and memorable. Drive them to your call to action. If you don’t have one, then you just wasted money just to send an email. That’s worse than sending it by snail mail! Make sure your content is conversational – don’t push your product onto your customers. Tell them the problem they may be having and how you can solve it. It needs to be clear in your email. Just put enough to grab their attention. Once you have that, then you convince them to click on the action button/link and drive them to convert.

In the conversion process, you’ll need to have a better chance to provide them with more information. The call-to-action in the email will lead your customers to a landing page or website. It is there that you can offer them more details about your campaign, promotion, or solution to their problem. Only there can you begin to throw in some glamour and glitz with the design, but not until the customer gets there.

But what if your customer doesn’t want to click on the call-to-action, but rather wants to explore more of your site or get straight to your website or contact you? Do not make it difficult for them to find you. Insert a phone number and be willing to take the call. Include links to vital areas of your website that your customers may be interested in based on their interests. Customize it based on segmentation. So those who are interested in women’s shoes should not see a link for “Pet Products” unless they are also part of that segmentation. The more relevant the content and links on the email, the more effective and beneficial.

You might be wondering how to get the segmentation or interests of your customers in order to customize the emails. That’s the easy part. When you ask them for their email address when they sign up for more information, you can ask them their interests. But don’t brush it off like you’re doing it for their benefit. You need this information. If you respect your customers and the business you do, then respect the time they took to provide you with that information and use it efficiently.

Lastly, do not forget to analyze everything. You can apply tracking tags as you would with online advertisements that will show you demographic and web analytical information on every link that was clicked. Google has a free way to track the link traffic that will work especially if you have Google Analytics integrated with your landing pages (and the rest of the website).

With a healthy customer email database and careful management, you should be able to build a great rapport and relationship with each person. Naturally you’ll have those that unsubscribe due to various reasons – that’s normal. Pay attention to the rate of drop-offs. Remove those that wish to be de-listed immediately to avoid CAN-SPAM violations. And I would suggest never buying/renting email lists. You’ll spend money on a list that you’ll get a few interested people off of and spend more time and expend more dollars trying to build a rapport. Too much uphill work, in my opinion.

Remember: Rapport, crafting a great message, and constant communication is the rule of email marketing. Stay this course and you’ll be able to reach more people quickly and effectively.

NEXT TIME:

We’ll look at online advertising and how you can determine whether you think spending money on text ads or banner placements is a wise thing during a time when all companies are trying to spend less but do more.

Published in E-mail Marketing Network Solutions