The hot topic in the world of marketing is social media, and rightfully so. Yet there is another, perhaps quaint, way to leverage technology—email marketing. More than just email “blasts,” successful email campaigns are integrated into a larger, more comprehensive marketing program and complement existing advertising and promotional efforts.
Permission. The power of email marketing lies in three areas. The first component is the permission-based nature of an effective email campaign. The correct approach to an email campaign involves obtaining the permission of the recipients of the email campaign prior to sending the first email. In other words, your existing and potential customers should agree to receive emails from your organization.
Why should obtaining permission matter? Simply put, “spamming” customers by filling their email inboxes with unwanted emails will create unhappy, if not angry, customers. Remember that you are trying to build or solidify a positive relationship with your customers. Most good relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Therefore, if your customers expect that you will send information of value to them, and not send information when they do not want to receive it, you are gaining their trust. While permission-based marketing emphasizes obtaining customer permission before sending information, it further establishes trust by offering a way in which customers can remove their name from the distribution list (also referred to as opting out).
Email content. The second component of a successful email program is the content of the emails themselves. While special offers and other incentives are a great way to encourage initial email sign-ups, studies have shown that the primary reason customers remain on email distribution lists is the information contained in each email they receive. Additional coupons and special offers are welcomed, but customers want to know about new product launches and the benefits of existing products. Not only does an email campaign hold the potential to drive additional sales, it is a chance to develop brand loyalty. In short, you are creating fans of your products and brands.
Measuring your success. The third aspect of email marketing programs may be the most powerful of all—measurement. True, the thought of measuring the success of any marketing campaign tends to inspire glassy-eyed stares. However, tracking can be as simple as determining how many email recipients opened up your email or clicked on a link in the email that connects with a page on your website.
Beyond simply evaluating the effectiveness of your email campaign efforts, responses to an email marketing program can and should become part of a larger database marketing opportunity. Once you begin to determine which customers are making more frequent purchases and utilizing your emailed coupons, you are effectively collecting more data on your customers’ buying habits. Add into the mix some low-cost surveys to determine the demographics (e.g. age, income) of your customers, and your database becomes a tool to help you make better, more cost-effective decisions with your marketing budget.
While the benefits of email marketing are clear, taking the next step and actually starting an email campaign may seem like a daunting task. Luckily, gathering email addresses is less complicated than it might sound. Just ask for them! Train customer service personnel to ask for customer email addresses at the checkout counter, or create a brochure describing the benefits of subscribing to your email program.
Once you reach the stage at which you will create and manage your email campaign, there are several resources offering varying degrees of customization and automation. For a relatively low monthly fee, typically determined by the number of contacts in your email list, Constant Contact and CoolerEmail are just two examples of national web-based companies that allow you to build your own emails, supply your own lists and track the results of each email sent. Local web development companies, such as Alpine Internet and Smart Solutions, provide customized email marketing applications. If you need more advanced tracking data or believe that “the more information the better,” then Google Analytics is available to help.
As complex as an email campaign can be, it doesn’t have to begin that way. Collecting ten contact email addresses, creating an attractive-looking email with information relevant to your customers, and checking to see how many recipients viewed your email is a great way to start. If a “journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” perhaps a database of a thousand names begins with a single email.
Michael Hansen is an instructor in the business department of Central Oregon Community College. He can be reached at 541-383-7710.