Change the Customer Relationship

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The Internet has revolutionized direct marketing and, led by e-mail marketing, has changed the relationship between marketers and consumers. Marketers have discovered unexplored territory, which creates new challenges and opportunities.


Customer acquisition, retention and loyalty, which are developed through targeted, relevant communication using traditional and electronic channels, are what the most effective marketers use to build their businesses.


There are several approaches a marketer can use when trying to acquire, grow or retain customers. The marketer must identify where dollars are best spent, where the best marketing return on investment can be found and how results can be tracked to determine what is effective. Because of the need for quantifiable results, e-mail marketing is one of the best direct marketing vehicles.


E-mail was first used as an inexpensive way to communicate with prospects and customers. A business had the ability to put a registration form on its Web site and start the data capture process. Once it had data, the business had the ability to send targeted, personalized messages to customers who wanted to receive e-mail. The main difference with e-mail is that the consumer is in control of the messages he wants to receive, thereby driving the relationship between the customer and the company. Though this places more power in the hands of the consumer than the marketer, responses to e-mails easily can be tracked to allow the marketer to measure the campaign's success.


Integrating e-mail marketing with traditional direct marketing. With the recent dot-com failures, marketers are forced to look strategically at their businesses and, specifically, at how they sell to their customers. Pundits long had predicted that the winners in the retail world would be companies that effectively combined an Internet sales channel with traditional channels. The same can be said for retailers' marketing efforts. Reaching consumers electronically as well as through traditional methods will ensure that a marketer's message reaches the entire target market. Successful companies will conduct integrated campaigns using multiple media channels.


Research shows that eight out of 10 consumers who are online use the Internet to research products and services before they buy offline. Research also indicates that more than 90 percent of consumers' disposable income is spent within 20 minutes of where they live or work. If consumers spend most of their money offline but use the Internet to determine what they will spend their money on, companies need to communicate with them while they are online.


Accepted direct marketing and direct mail principles can apply to the Internet, using e-mail to drive foot traffic to stores. It works just like direct mail, but marketers use a different medium to deliver the message. Using e-mail campaigns combined with traditional direct mail is an extremely effective integrated method of communication. E-mail is used as an additional channel that reaches new customers who are spending more time on the Internet, and it establishes a one-to-one relationship with consumers who are comfortable using the Internet regularly.


The basic direct marketing principles used during the past 50 years to drive customers into stores and to build new customer lists for retailers can be applied via e-mail. The best e-mail campaigns are those combined or coordinated with traditional direct mail campaigns. Such multichannel campaigns offer retailers fully integrated programs using far-reaching targeting capabilities.


Targeted e-mail: Give consumers what they want. By sending e-mail to motivated consumers who have expressed an interest in specific goods or services, marketers are able to introduce consumers to promotions ranging from oil changes and dry cleaning, to family entertainment activities, free trial memberships at warehouse shopping clubs and home decorating items. Marketers can tailor promotions to the lifestyle needs and interests of the consumers who sign up to receive the e-mails, and traditional companies have recognized the value of these targeted offers.


There are companies that leverage knowledge of the customer base to help receive higher response rates. A typical e-mail marketing campaign costs 25 percent to 50 percent less than paper direct marketing, and the response rates are 5 percent to 15 percent higher because consumers receive targeted e-mails that contain only those coupons they will use.


• Jere Doyle is president/CEO of Eversave.com, Woburn, MA, an online source for offline coupons. Reach him at jere@eversave.com.
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