E-Mail: Essential for Online Branding

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When you hear the names McDonald's, Microsoft and Coca-Cola, distinct images and feelings come to mind. Each company has developed a brand so strong that the name itself may be its most valuable asset. Branding has never been as important as in today's marketplace.

Brands are a way to communicate with customers, helping them understand who you are, what you do and what differentiates you from the competition. Most importantly, brands have proven to be powerful marketing weapons, cutting through the marketplace clutter and driving demand.

Using online marketing techniques to enhance brand loyalty is key to long-term marketing success. Just as companies have realized the importance of developing a presence online, they also must learn to extend their marketing efforts and customer communications online.

E-mail helps companies communicate frequently and inexpensively with thousands or even millions of customers. And, because permission-based e-mail allows your customers to choose the type of e-mail they get from your company, your customer communications are highly relevant and targeted.

With each e-mail sent, you have the chance to put your name, logo and company tagline in front of a potential customer. The more frequently you communicate, the more familiar your audience becomes with your company's name and likeness. When your audience knows you, what you do and what you stand for, it develops trust. Once your audience feels loyalty toward a brand, it will seek out the brand even when many options are available.

E-mail also proves its strength because of the high response rates it generates. Because marketers can monitor when and if consumers open their e-mail messages, they can measure the true reach of their efforts. Moreover, when compared with banner advertising and other online marketing methods, e-mail posts significantly higher response rates. Many attribute these rates to e-mail's visibility with customers. It is one of the few marketing techniques that is almost impossible to ignore. However, marketers must be cautious not to undermine their branding messages by e-mailing too frequently or ignoring consumers' concerns for privacy.

High response rates also are attributed to e-mail's enhanced personalization capabilities. Many e-mail marketing service providers monitor what happens after the e-mail reaches customer inboxes. Companies can learn which customers opened the e-mail, what links within it they clicked through, which customers made a purchase and what they bought. This knowledge helps companies further personalize future e-mail messages to customers, increasing brand awareness and loyalty.

Finally, one of the most basic ways companies can use e-mail as a branding tool is simply through the appearance of their e-mail message. The HTML format, which allows for a variety of fonts, catchy graphics and rich colors, provides endless branding opportunities. At the touch of a button, you can send customers e-mails with your company name, logo, tagline and promotion. In addition, experience proves that response to HTML-formatted e-mail measures two to three times higher than plain-text e-mail.

To maximize your efforts, you want to do everything possible to encourage your customers to open your e-mails. So, what's the trick? Here are three tips to get the most out of your e-mail branding campaigns:

· Maintain consistency. The company logo, tagline and even colors in your e-mail campaigns should be the same every time. Keep the messages behind your brand consistent in e-mail and other communications. Your brand image communicates to customers who you are, what you do and what your company stands for. You want this image to be clear, constant and strong. With consistency comes familiarity and trust, and with trust comes loyalty.

· Speak to your customers individually. Personalized e-mail messages have response rates eight times greater than do widely broadcast, generic ones. As you begin sending information to your customers that is more relevant to them, their needs and their lifestyles, you are much more likely to gain their attention. Customers understand and appreciate that you know enough about them to send e-mails that are relevant and specific. When you give customers specialized attention, you have a greater chance of winning their attention in return.

· Provide a solution. In the end, your company is using e-mail to gain customers and increase profitability. To do this, you must give your customers a reason to buy your products or services. Each e-mail should address their needs and interests. For example, during the holiday season, customers are looking for ways to shop while saving time and money. If you address these needs and provide customers an adequate solution, your response rates will rise.


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