Six Steps to Better E-Mail MarketingYou have heard the stories and seen the commercials -- the Internet is this generation's great equalizer.
Small companies suddenly look huge. A mom-and-pop store in Ocala, FL, does business halfway around the world in Oslo, Norway. While the Internet has leveled the business playing field and created a global marketplace for millions of companies during the past four years, e-mail has emerged as the killer application to sustain success and build long-term customer relationships.
Increasingly, businesses are embracing this medium to develop an ongoing dialogue with their customers. Creating one-to-one relationships is not easy, but e-mail can offer an enormous advantage.
E-mail, like no other medium, has empowered companies to more effectively and efficiently acquire, retain, upsell, cross-sell, promote and reinforce branding. That means lower costs, more sales and longer, stronger, more profitable relationships, which translates to greater return on investment. E-mail does all this and more to create good old American competitive advantage every day.
A local New York luxury car dealership exemplifies this. The dealership recently began collecting permission-based e-mail addresses from its customers. The dealer started mailing customers an assortment of relevant offers and reminders to create value throughout the life cycle. Offers ranged from maintenance alerts to specials including financing and lease rates for family members.
The dealership continues to lead in customer satisfaction ratings and has been recognized as a premier dealership in the car manufacturer's network.
Creating effective e-mail is a mix of art and science. It requires a well-considered strategy, contextual messaging and creative and interactive implementation to be effective. Consider the following tips to ensure an effective e-mail:
· Capture e-mail addresses at every customer touch point. Spending millions of dollars does not mean you know who your customers are. Let the past 2 1/2 years serve as an example of what not to do. Know your customers. Capture e-mail contact and customer information at every touch point -- print (business reply cards), call centers (scripts), online banners, face-to-face sales opportunities and so on. A huge gap exists between a company's traditional and e-mail databases. Close this information gap and you reduce costs, improve efficiency and strengthen customer relationships.
· Integrate e-mail into your marketing mix. E-mail has emerged as a key component in comprehensive marketing programs and should be treated as such. The most effective e-mail initiatives are those that are seamlessly integrated with your offline marketing and customer knowledge to capture critical information and generate results. Without an evolving customer knowledge database, you almost ensure that your most valuable customers will disappear.
· Create value throughout the customer life cycle. The old rules still apply. It is much easier and more cost-effective to keep a customer than to go out and get a new one. E-mail can be critical throughout the customer life cycle, from acquisition and retention to conversion and repurchase and, if necessary, win-back. Use e-mail to create value at each stage of the customer life cycle and watch your customer database and loyalty grow beyond your expectations to become your company's greatest asset.
· Be relevant and personal. Continually gathering data about your customers and their preferences builds response, efficiency and value. Create a preference page and track past behavior.
· Test! The immediacy of e-mail lets marketers test like never before. Test offers, subject lines, copy, creative designs and more. By analyzing sample results in almost real time, you can optimize the success of your e-mail efforts.
· Make e-mail someone's job. Building valuable and long-term relationships requires a different approach than most traditional marketing techniques. Hire someone dedicated to understanding e-mail as a marketing medium and how it fits with your customer segments.
· Companies need to work smarter, harder and faster to stay ahead of the competition. That means getting the most from existing customer databases and finding strategic and efficient ways to grab the attention of new customers.