Lessons from the NBA

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Magic Johnson, the basketball great who played for the LA Lakers and won five NBA titles, was undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball players and the best point guard in the history of the sport.

As the point guard, he had a very important role: he was responsible for running the team's offense and creating scoring opportunities for his team. Yes, but what does this have to do with e-mail marketing, you might ask. If utilized correctly, your e-mail marketing program is the point guard for your entire marketing effort.

Today's marketers use a variety of advertising and lead source vehicles to reach their customers and prospects: direct mail, print and online banner ads, search engines and email. Most marketers use some or all of these to varying degrees to promote their product or service. But it is their e-mail marketing that drives the other marketing efforts and provides the unifying bond.

How? Well, your e-mail marketing may not close sales, but it can provide leads to your sales department. An e-mail message can also drive customers and prospects to your Web site, where they can gather information about your products and/or services.

An e-mail campaign, particularly one with something of value to offer such as a discount or coupon, sent in conjunction with a direct mail campaign can reinforce the message and provide a boost to the mailing's response rate. The recipient might not make the effort to pick up the phone and call you in response to a postcard, but they might be inclined to reply to an e-mail that arrives within a few days of the postcard.

Online banner ads provide branding for your company along with being an actionable piece of advertising media. When users click on your ad, they can be taken to a landing page where they fill out a brief form and in return, you use e-mail to send them a whitepaper, a catalog, a coupon-whatever the banner was promoting.

Print ads are also a way to convey your company's brand identity. An e-mail campaign that incorporates that same branding message and elements bolsters the impact of the print ad, but also provides direct response opportunities.

If you're not thinking about your e-mail marketing in this way, you may not be utilizing it to its full potential. And that might just leave you sitting on the bench while your competitors score all the points.

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