When Times are Tough, Turn to Email Marketing

With the state of the economy, businesses of all industries are finding it difficult to find marketing mediums that will generate sales at an acceptable acquistion cost. Offline mediums are not bringing in the response rates that have always been experienced and the average cost per lead for online advertising continues to increase. Where is a business to turn? The answer might be right under your nose, in the form of your customer database. Those who have been growing their opt-in database are already headed in the right direction. If you are not currently collecting emails or have no idea of what it means to be “opt-in”, then it’s not too late. Good email practices can begin at any time and will provide a means for you to contact your customers for fractions of a penny.

You might be wondering what it actually means to have an opt-in email. Now, I have always taken a more conservative approach to what constitutes an opt-in email address. I feel that there is too much to risk by marketing to those who do not grant permission and protecting a company’s reputation is always pretty high on my priority list.  Merely collecting an email from a customer, whether it be on a written form or through an online form collection does not give you the right to openly market to the customer via email. When collecting an email, always give them the option to opt-in to receive marketing communications and product updates from your business. Once these emails are loaded in to your email marketing tool, you can start communicating with your customers immediately.

I want to touch on something that I mentioned above. Offering product updates and industry information can be a great selling point on collecting an email address. Lets say that you sell automobiles. Sure, it’s great to be able to alert your customers about new leasing specials and in-store promotions, but don’t you think they would also like to get an alert when they are due for an oil change? What about a quick email pertaining to the new Hybrid that is getting ready to hit the showroom? Give customers a reason to give you their email and you will have a group of loyal followers.  You can also incentivize them with a small discount for an opt-in email. Again, lets use the car dealer example. Offering $5 off an oil change will not only help build your customer base but also get a customer in to your service department. From there, future emails can be sent with additional service department coupons, vehicle checkups and/or any other services that car owners might need.  Your customers will appreciate it and it usually leads to increased open rates for future emails.

“How often should I be emailing my customers?” This is something that I hear pretty frequently and there is no real answer. It all depends on your particular customer base. I would say as a general rule, start with no more than 1 email a week. From there, you can start analyzing your open rates, as well as your opt-out numbers. When customers get annoyed, they are going to opt-out and this is a customer base that can be very good for generating repeat business and referrals. You want to keep them as happy as possible. If you want to introduce more emails, then test it. Just try to keep the emails relevant to what they have requested and again, work in some of those product updates.

Email marketing can be a very cost effective marketing tool, but you need to execute your campaigns correctly. Always make sure that your emails are Can-Spam compliant. If you are unsure if you are doing things correctly, ask a professional for help. Outside of that – test, test, test. Test different subject lines, promotions and content until you can find a mix that will generate open and click through rates that will bring in more sales.

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