E-mail Helps Build Lifelong Relationships

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In today's dog-eat-dog marketplace, it can be difficult and costly to win new customers. Then, once you acquire new customers, you are faced with the daunting challenge of how to keep them. How can you build a one-to-one relationship and establish long-term brand loyalty with each customer without going broke? E-mail marketing is perfectly suited for your customer retention efforts.

When executed correctly and responsibly, e-mail marketing can be the most personal of marketing communication. It is timely, cost-effective and can generate better results than traditional direct mail or other online marketing techniques.

As you acquire new customers, you will want to capture and store information about them in your inhouse database. Most importantly, you will want to get permission from each customer to send them e-mail. This database will become the foundation of your retention marketing efforts and the robustness of each customer's profile will determine the success of your e-mail campaigns.

Capturing a customer's name and e-mail address will get you started down the road towards personalized e-mail marketing campaigns. Ultimately you will need more information to create campaigns that truly respond to customers' interests. Go beyond the basic questions and ask your customers where they live, their profession, lifestyle interests, income range, geographic location - any information that's relevant to your product or service.

To avoid alienating new customers, require them to provide as little information as possible up front. Then, as your customers become more familiar with your offerings, give them opportunities to update their profile over time. This also will help keep your data fresh.

If Delta Air Lines' SkyMiles members want to receive e-mail about special offers, they must opt-in on the airlines' corporate Web site. On Delta's opt-in registration form, customers are asked to provide their e-mail address, select which programs they're interested in and specify up to five preferred departure points. This information enables Delta to send e-mails to customers that contain only the information they've requested to receive.

To cultivate lifelong relationships with customers, don't always ask them to buy, buy, buy. Analyze the information collected in your customer database and develop e-mail campaigns that respond by providing some valuable information or service. Relate to customers' common interests, send account balance information, educate and provide helpful hints and tips, offer special third-party promotions. These types of ongoing e-mail campaigns will help you retain your customers and build brand loyalty.

After you distributed your personalized e-mail campaigns, you'll want to monitor and record your customer's responses to those campaigns. Did your customer open this week's message? Did he click-through on the redirect URL?

For example, if a large percentage of customers didn't open your most recent e-mail message, perhaps the subject line wasn't an attention-getter or maybe their interests have changed. In future campaigns, you may want to try a different subject line or send out a survey to learn more about those customers' interests.

Tracking and responding to customer behavior in subsequent campaigns will keep your retention rates high. At a minimum, your e-mail marketing solution should record message receipts, click-through rates, HTML capability and invalid e-mail addresses into your customer database. It's also helpful if your solution offers a remarketing feature.

Ever heard the phrase, don't wear out the welcome mat? The same rule applies with retention marketing. Be careful not to overwhelm your customers with the frequency of your campaigns. Just because a customer has granted permission to receive e-mail doesn't mean you can deluge him with messages. When possible, it's a good idea to send your campaigns at the same time each week (e.g. lunchtime on Wednesdays) that way your customers learn the routine and know when to expect your e-mail.

By using e-mail as your retention marketing tool, you have an opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with your customers. Plus, e-mail marketing provides good ROI by costing just pennies per message and achieving average click-through rates of 10 percent. If you follow the tips outlined above, you'll keep your customers happy.

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