Email Marketing Strategies for Your Business [Or is Email Dead?]

31st May 2012
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Email marketing is an essential part of advertising for many businesses, whether large or small. There are many benefits attached to exploiting this in comparison to more traditional forms of marketing, and it plays a large role in marketing in the virtual world. However, how exactly do you define email marketing?

In a sense, the term ‘email marketing’ can cover any email you sent to a potential customer, a current customer, or a public venue. There are three main strategies of email marketing: These are direct email, retention email, and advertising in other peoples emails. Direct email usually involves the sending of a promotional message in the form of a standard email, for instance a discount offer or a sale. This can be used to introduce new customers to your product or service. Retention email tends to take the form of a newsletter. These will include advertisements, but aim at building up a long term relationship with the customer. This means rather than a simple “50% sale now on!” message, the newsletter will be something the costumer will actually take the time to read, with contents that will entertain or inform its readers. Advertising in other peoples emails is just what it says on the tin: instead of producing your own newsletter, for example, you pay another company to place your advertisement in theirs.

Spam is obviously the downside. You probably have a folder in your inbox to deal with it. This is unwanted, unsolicited mail bombarding random addresses, and will NOT be a successful strategy for any email marketing company. You need an email address owner's permission before you can send them a commercial email. If you ignore this concept of permission, your marketing campaign will be poor at best, and at worst, your website shut down, and your repetition ruined. But what constitutes permission? This can be a very grey area, but here is a clear example. There is one important thing to remember: It doesn’t matter what YOU think is permission; it’s what the CUSTOMER perceives it to be. Get this wrong, and it could cost you your business.

So, how do you gain and maintain a customer database? You will hear a lot of advice flying around, but here is some starting general advice.

  • Spread the word- Start by advertising in other people’s emails, and once you get enough interest, start asking for customer referrals. Offer referral incentives, for example a discount or a gift, to encourage people to do this.
  • Ask for feedback- Not only is this useful for you, it builds a two way relationship with a customer, making them feel like they are valued and are being listened to, making them more likely to come back to you. A short feedback form is a good way of doing this.
  • Offer incentives and gifts to existing customers- This will make them realise the benefits of becoming a long term customer, and also encourage others to do so.
  • Ask for contact details- For instance, if you manage a website, ask for an email address at login or registration. This will allow you permission with the client. However make sure you make this clear to the customer, don’t forget the concept of ‘permission’.

This is only the bare bones on the vast and exciting world of email marketing.

On the other hand, there are hues and cries about e-mail being dead. Not as a means of communication, but in terms of getting feedback or support from the customer. This is what the author with an anti-email view has to say-

This might come across as a strong assertion but as a result of interactions with numerous business owners (startups), a clear result has surface, Email for sales support is dead. There are a few interesting anecdotes which point towards this.

There was this company that uses a typical ‘Contact Us’ form to stay in touch with their leads. The founder informed how one of their leads (let’s call him Joe) had come down to their website, spent some considerable time on the website and filled the query he had, in the ‘contact us’ form.

And, this entrepreneur wrote back to him answering his queries within the next few hours. After not getting reply back for few days, he tried to touch base with Joe again. But it went in vain. Joe never replied. And, couple of weeks later, he realized that Joe had started using a competitor’s product.

Does the story sound familiar?

So, what went wrong?

Joe spent considerable time on the website. He needed some hand holding and hence filled the form. He wanted someone to help him, when he really needed it.

Typically, Joe has to do 10 different things in a day. So when you take an hour to get back to him, he would have simply forgotten the context or your competitor would have helped Joe when he needed it and not when the entrepreneur got time.

And that is why we should evangelize real-time engagement.

This situation perfectly fits support or feedback mechanisms but when one thinks in terms of marketing and reaching out to the audience as well, is the lag an obstacle? For example, if you send a super engaging newsletter or an organized mailer which excites the user but he needs more assistance on it but as he can’t reach out instantly, he’ll sleep over it. Do we see new mechanisms evolving in this real-time engagement mechanisms?

There are two views in this article. The pro e-mail view was from Sofie Huber and the opposing view has been inspired from InteractEasy's blog.

Image credit: greenreview.blogspot.in

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