Combine E-Mail With Other Strategies

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Your start-up Internet company wants to grow your customer base and launch several Internet online marketing initiatives to targeted audiences online. But what is the best way to go about it? It can put a marketing professional on edge. Marketers' use of e-mail has quadrupled since 1998, but e-mail technology is constantly changing. Vendors and options for online advertising are changing every day. What's the right formula for success?


Try integrated interactive online marketing. It's a new twist on two powerful strategies many marketers already use. Integrated interactive online marketing creates a targeted and highly personalized marketing program by combining online advertising with permission-based e-mail. Such a marriage is designed to maximize profits while benefiting many customers.


Businesses that combine permission-based e-mail with an online advertising program are likely to obtain customer data faster and more efficiently. They potentially glean a stronger, higher return on investment on their marketing programs.


A key part of integrated interactive online marketing is personalization. Personalized e-mail marketing allows a back-and-forth flow of information between marketers and customers. It allows interaction. By profiling an individual's needs, interests and history, marketers fit the message to the customer and get to know the customer better.


Personalization can also put customers in control. They select the information they want, how much information they want and when they want to receive it. And services like product orders and account information are confirmed faster using personalized, permission-based e-mail.


Integrated interactive online marketing reaps a true competitive edge through the following four ways:


Differentiation: What "flavor" is your business? How is it different from others? Many businesses marketing online convey company culture by using multiple sight-and-sound dimensions like color images, animation and music or voicing to become more personal with customers. Viewers instantly sense a company's unique personality. Try doing all that on a printed page.


Customer retention: Do you like making choices? Allowing customers to choose whether to subscribe to an e-mail marketing service and receive the specific information they want builds trust. Open lines of communication win consumers' financial commitments, often permanently.


New technology: Do you like saving money and time? (Who doesn't?) E-mail is one of the hottest applications on the Internet. It's a huge cost savings over brochures and paper, and it's a much faster way to reach potentially millions within your targeted audiences with one-to-one relevant messages.


Customization: Do you save unwanted mail? Not likely. If people get the news they want, they keep reading. If not, they toss it. If they toss or delete what you send, you waste their time, your money and possibly some credibility as well. And customization as well as personalization -- the two overlap -- is easy online.


Building Customer Relationships


There are three reasons why integrated interactive online marketing can maximize your customer relationship management strategy:


• Permission-based e-mail marketing creates loyalty and trust for customers or prospects who have opted in to e-mail lists.


• Targeted marketing -- including an online advertising strategy -- gives businesses a chance to discover each customer's needs and track behaviors.


• Businesses can examine buying behaviors and customer profiles to determine and match trends so they can develop new products.


Integrated interactive online marketing service companies can provide stronger solutions for businesses looking to expand their online base, including:


• E-mail prospecting databases that can help in customer acquisition by targeting predetermined groups of online consumers.


• Ad management and reporting systems that can seamlessly deliver ads to both Web sites and e-mail.


• E-mail and online advertising can complement each other. Selling ad space in your e-mail newsletters and buying ad space in other targeted newsletters give companies a variety of options for reaching consumers as well as an additional revenue stream.


• Marketing campaign information can be accessed from desktops, without having to purchase costly software, via Web-based campaign management and reporting interfaces.


• The cost of scalable, front-line e-mail delivery technology -- including list administration, subscription management, advanced list hygiene and bounced mail handling -- can be minimized by outsourcing to an expert.


Of those five, the last one -- e-mail delivery technology and its effective use -- has some companies stumped. How do you get the maximum benefit from e-mail? For example, how do you develop a prospecting list in order to grow your customer base? Companies specializing in brokering e-mail lists can help maximize your e-mail program's reach.


The first step to finding a reputable vendor is to determine how a vendor builds its list, and what language it uses to persuade people to sign up. What motivated prospects to join the list? Did they fill out a questionnaire? Did they sign up to win a sweepstakes? Did they opt for e-mail about specific information or a sales offer? Find out what percentage of addresses bounce back, how many are unsubscribed and the typical response rates of the list. Also, ask for references.


And a word of caution: Don't use lists from brokers that "harvest" e-mail addresses. This is when a company uses special software to anonymously collect e-mail addresses from Web sites, chat rooms and online directories. Doing business with these vendors jeopardizes consumer privacy, along with your organization's credibility.


Planning Your Campaign


Know your audience. Would you tap a stranger on the shoulder and recite all your accomplishments? Businesses do that. Many spend millions reciting their accomplishments and credentials to audiences who don't care. The mistake? Businesses forget that customers care only about benefits from products and services. An e-mail campaign can cut to the chase by eliminating meaningless "business speak." It powerfully receives and listens to a constant stream of customer feedback so that companies can fine-tune products to better meet customer needs.


Refine your customer data. Would you ask a friend for the same information repeatedly? Businesses do it by plying customers for the same information in the same format. (Ever wonder why the competitive advantage of an opt-in strategy gets lost?) The immediate and interactive nature of the Internet can dramatically alter static business habits. E-mail messages allow your company to constantly meet the changing needs of your customers.


Track your respondents. Would you ask for directions and not listen? Tracking is listening to what your customers want. Tracking taps into their changing needs -- an invaluable asset in getting and keeping customers. Why are they buying? What is the reaction to a new product? Are tastes changing? Nothing will give your company more marketing flexibility and success than meticulously tracking and learning from audience response.


Combining these interactive online technologies creates an integrated online solution. Combining two powerful online, interactive marketing channels -- online ad serving, and permission-based e-mail marketing and communications -- offers businesses unparalleled access to a constantly evolving marketplace.


E-mail is the only medium that links directly to the Web and the only one that allows immediate feedback on the success of a campaign. E-mail delivers more relevant messages. As a result, businesses get higher subscription rates, higher retention rates and high open mail and click-through rates. All of these result in higher response rates. When e-mail is enhanced with targeted ad campaigns, response rates increase even more.


Using integrated interactive online marketing means transforming every John Smith whom you've acquired and identified as a valuable customer into a customer with whom your business has a learning, responsive, reliant relationship. It's essential to really know the audience. Constantly ask them questions. Tracking responses means listening and understanding trends and forces that shape the industry
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