Email Marketing: Inexpensive, Expedient and Measurable
In the past 10 months of writing this column for Greater Wilmington Business and simultaneously publishing to my online blog at EntreMagnet.Com , we’ve spent a good amount of time discussing the fusion of marketing, technology and business. It seemed only fitting that my last column for Greater Wilmington Business would be about Email Marketing. (I'll continue to update this blog periodically but am beginning work with IBM as a Technical Sales Engineer and will juggle the new time demands between my MBA and my family accordingly!)
Email Marketing is important to you as a small business owner because it is an inexpensive, expedient and highly measurable way to “touch” your customers. Coupled with an online newsletter, it can be a very powerful method of providing useful information to your clients while at the same time, reminding them of your brand, or, in other words, maintaining strong customer “mindshare”. And, the more positive interactions you have with your customers, the higher your customer retention rate will be.
Amazon does a fantastic job of utilizing email marketing to pitch certain products to customers that have previously purchased an associated product. Since they track all customer purchases in their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database, they might know, for example, that 58% of customers who bought a camera case for a Canon SD630 digital camera have also bought the additional battery.
Have no fear if you’ve not yet amassed a lengthy email address list of customers as there are numerous ways to do this including contests, postcards and coupons.
If you are a golf store, for example, you could raffle off a new Nicklaus Titanium Driver at the end of every month or quarter. Customers that want to sign up for this contest can submit their email and other demographic information (how often they play golf, for example, or their favorite brand) into an online form on your website.
To cut down on potential abusers of this contest (ie., people that sign up for the contest, but are not really golfers and are just going to ebay that driver if they win.) you might send physical postcards to your existing physical mailing list of past customers. This postcard would drive them to a specific webpage within your site that is not otherwise accessible.
Finally, you could provide them with a “20% off” or “get something free” coupon (mailed to existing customers or created as a cut-out ad for potential new customers) that is only valid if they fill out their email address on the coupon.
There are also additional online sources of email lists. InfoUSA.Com, for example, provides targeted email lists broken out by demographic variables that start at $750.
It’s important that when you are amassing an email marketing list that you obtain “permission” from these potential customers to market to them. If you send marketing emails without permission, you risk having your email being marked as SPAM, being delisted by your ISP, and losing your email account, not to mention that this may be against the law. (Click here for more information on the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.)
Now that you’ve amassed your email marketing list, there are few ways to go about conducting your email marketing. You could send an individual email to each client, which would probably have the highest return rate, but would be the most time intensive. The alternative way is to put all the emails into the Blind CC (BCC) section of your email and sending it that way. This is less time-intensive, but will have a lower response rate, and your ISP (whoever you pay for internet access) may blacklist you since your email may seem like SPAM. This can also be cumbersome when dealing with email lists that number in the hundreds or thousands.
A better solution I’d recommend is utilizing online services like VerticalResponse.Com to create and manage your email marketing campaigns. They both have online tours and free trials to get you started.
You begin by uploading your existing email lists (from Excel, Access or ACT!), composing an email using a set of online templates, and then sending the email. These online vendors will then track who opens the email, what emails have bounced (allowing for easy removal), and who has unsubscribed from your email list.
ConstantContact.Com charges a monthly fee that is based on the number of emails in your email marketing list. For example, it would cost $30/month to send unlimited emails in a month to your list that contains less then 2500 email addresses.
In contrast, VerticalResponse.Com charges for every email that is sent with no monthly fee. For example, it would cost $15 to send out an email to a marketing list consisting of 1000 or less email addresses. If you go above 1000 addresses, the price goes down to $13 per 1000 email addresses.
Make sure that you give your customer the option to remove or unsubscribe themselves from your email marketing list. Ideally, they could specify the frequency and method with which they should be contacted. For example, I might only want to be contacted once every month, while someone else, who is farther along in the purchasing cycle, wants daily or weekly reminders of new product offerings. One customer might want an HTML email with lots of graphics, while another client (possibly with a slower internet connection) might want a strictly text-based marketing message. The more that your customers feel they are in control, the higher the chances that they will be open to your message.
I’ve really enjoyed writing this column over the past year and wish you good luck in your future email marketing efforts. If you ever have any questions about marketing, technology or small business, please pop me a buzz, comment or email.