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Email Marketing:
The good, bad, and deleted

Elizabeth White






Email marketing means more than pushing the send button.





Email marketing was to be a marketer's dream and for some, it's been a dream to many companies who have used the power of email marketing for good and not for evil. Customers and prospects have willingly given their email addresses up in exchange for the promise of special offers, discounts, breaking news, or information of specific interest to the individual subscriber. All promises are delivered to individual inboxes and for pennies of what direct printed marketing costs. So who is doing it right and who is doing it wrong?

Incorporate the three key elements

The key is to deliver on what you promise. If you promised special offers, yet your prices don't reflect that, you've failed. If you promised specific information and send out general information about your products and services, you've failed. If you've promised a monthly newsletter, then deliver weekly or even daily communication in between the regularly scheduled newsletters, then you've probably made their email filtering list and your messages are never read.

Email marketing is a way to get your marketing message to the consumer, customer, or prospect in a personal way. It is a part of building a customer relationship. You're message should reflect your company's tone and attitude. The messages should be planned, well thought out, tested, and executed flawlessly. The key elements in any email marketing program are personal, timely and relevant.

Personal - If you ask their name, use it. If you already know their name in the case of many B2B (business to business) instances then by all means merge your corporate data so you can leverage the business relationship you already have. There is nothing more discouraging for a distributor, for instance, to receive a generic email from a supplier or manufacturing company.

Timely - Timeliness can mean from the perspective of how frequently you send your emails to the sensitivity of what's going on in the world or the consumer's life. One day after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC, an airline company sent out emails announcing low fares to New York. It was the airline company's regularly scheduled email mailings and no one bothered to read the contents before the computers blast the email around the world. While this is an extreme case, you can see how being sensitive to what the consumer or business is going through is important.

Relevant - The best way to know what a customer wants is to simply ask. If you have several different types of email information then allow a subscriber to select what content he would want to receive. General emails are quickly skimmed or simply deleted. Along with content relevance, know to whom you are emailing. One cruise company would send weekly specials that must be booked within a day or two. This would be fine if the target audience had all the time and money in the world, but if the company had analyzed their audience demographics they probably would find most of the subscribers worked and had families, so skipping out of town for a few days took enormous amount of coordination.

The successes inspire us

Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but simply offering a newsletter, doesn't bring you the success that other companies have. You need to look at why their email marketing is successful. For example, Greensboro, NC-based Replacements Ltd. is a company which sells new and used china, silver and collectibles. Its emails go to 3.1 million inboxes monthly. What are they doing right? They ask which china patterns the subscribers are interested in; they don't always sell, sell, sell, but offer brief histories of china patterns; and they allow the subscribers to respond to the email and they in turn get an email response from a real person. Their numbers: sales from email subscribers are 20% higher than from its printed catalog subscribers and sales originating from its website rose to 22% and continues to climb.

Be heard above the noise

With the success stories to keep everyone going, the consumer is quickly getting wiser (as they always do) and simply offering a newsletter won't cut it anymore. To entice the consumer or prospect to take that first step in the relationship you must offer something of value to the subscriber. Success on the web goes back to the basics which are to identify your customer and to develop a relationship. With email marketing you can begin to develop the relationship as well as deepen it, and along the way you want to continue to identify who your customer is and what do they need.

Elizabeth White is the Director of Interactive Marketing at Experienced Design, an internet business solutions company focused on helping its clients maximize the internet to its full potential.

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