Email Marketing

Explains how/why an email marketing program helps to promote business. The article also explains what should be included in the plan.

If you're busy running your business, chances are you tolerate e-mail as a necessary mode of communication. In reality, getting up close and personal with e-mail marketing could transform your business.

Forrester Research reports that marketers see a return on investment on e-mail marketing that's two to three times more than any other form of direct marketing. While on the flip side, 72 percent of consumers prefer companies send them permission-based promotional messages via e-mail, according to the 2008 Channel Preference Survey from ExactTarget.

So, why aren't businesses doing more of it? Effective e-mail marketing — perhaps starting with a consistent newsletter or e-mail campaign — doesn't require massive doses of either time or money if properly executed.

·  Build a receptive audience. Before doing anything else, collect your customers' e-mail addresses at every opportunity. This is essential; without the right list, having a great message or a great offer is a moot point. Stop and consider what would prompt a customer to share his or her e-mail address with you. Depending on your audience, it could be valuable content, rewards such as free gifts, or access to exclusive offers or incentives. Next, spark your customers' interest by making it easy for them to share their e-mails with you. This may take the form of a sign-up form on your Web site or a link in your signature area at the bottom of every e-mail. Tap all traditional marketing venues as well, from your sales collateral, product packaging, print ads, billing inserts, and your customers' receipts to a subtle nudge at the cash register or on the phone to share an e-mail to access special deals or content.

·  Determine content. The content of your messages should hinge on your audience. Manufacturer? Send leadership articles that differentiate your products and service from the competition. Salon or spa? Promote exclusive incentives or specials. Consider what differentiates your business and make that a point of focus in your e-mails and newsletters. Ask your customers what they'd like to read or receive and cater to their requests in formulating the content of your e-mails.

·  Formulate and automate how you circulate. Sending an e-mail marketing campaign can be as simple as setting a schedule and purchasing one of the many e-mail newsletter programs available that make it easy to send e-mail, manage subscribers, format messages attractively and measure response, all in one. (Think Constant Contact, myemma and others.) You can also opt for autoresponders, software that automatically answers e-mail sent to it or automatically delivers information by e-mail on a schedule.

Bottom line: Customers will read e-mails that are interesting and relevant. Make relationship building the intent of your e-mail marketing and your readers will keep your business.

About the Author

Dana VanDen Heuvel is president of MarketingSavant, a marketing consulting and training firm. Reach him at (888) 989-7771 or dana@marketingsavant.com.