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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Effective Email Marketing Strategies

Email marketing is a cost effective communication channel. If used correctly, and not abused, your business will benefit. When marketing via email your business has to comply with CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) regulations enacted into law in 2003. These are FEDERAL regulations for all commercial enterprises engaged in email marketing.

CAN SPAM was enacted due to abuse by companies engaged in spam-unwanted and unsolicited email flooding your in box. Briefly, the law stipulates:
  • "It bans false or misleading header information. Your email's "From," "To," and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person who initiated the email"
  • It prohibits deceptive subject lines. The subject line cannot mislead the recipient about the contents or subject matter of the message.
  • It requires that your email give recipients an opt-out method. You must provide a return email address or another Internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future email messages to that email address, and you must honor the requests. You may create a "menu" of choices to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to end any commercial messages from the sender.
  • It requires that commercial email be identified as an advertisement and include the sender's valid physical postal address. Your message must contain clear and conspicuous notice that the message is an advertisement or solicitation and that the recipient can opt out of receiving more commercial email from you. It also must include your valid physical postal address.
  • Each violation of the above provisions is subject to fines of up to $11,000. Deceptive commercial email also is subject to laws banning false or misleading advertising.
Having said this, email marketing, should be embraced. There are programs and services that are geared for marketers of all sizes. Constant Contact is a web based email marketing solution specifically geared for small to mid size businesses. The software is CAN SPAM compliant so the small business does not have to worry about out in or opt out.

Two terms you have to know in email marketing are:
  • OPT IN- is when an individual grants permission for you to include their email address in any email solicitation.
  • OPT OUT- is when the same individual elects to remove their name from any email solicitation.
There are multiple objectives in email marketing including;
  • Building your opt-in email list
  • Segmenting your email list
  • Analyzing your email program
  • Integrating your email marketing with other on and off line communication channels
Building your opt-in email list
There are many approaches open to building an email list. Once such method I discussed in an earlier post entitled "Using Event Marketing And Your Website". They do not have to be complicated. Some include;
  • Have 3x5 cards or a sign in book near your cash register with a sign "join our email list". You or someone at your business will have to manually enter the information.
  • If you have a website, create a customized form that people fill out (online). The data is stored on a database for retrieval. This is a preferred method because you are saving a significant amount of money by having the consumer enter the information. You can also build in validation rules to insure accuracy of the information.
  • If someone purchases from your establishment, ask for their contact/email information.
  • Create a VIP club
  • In restaurants, leave a post card on the table with the check. The post card asks for their contact information for future event notifications.
  • If you notice on my blog, I have a link inviting readers to be added to my email list. If you have a website that does not provide forms to enter visitor information, you can put some html code on the site, provided by Constant Contact, that will direct the visitor to a data entry form created on your Constant Contact account.
Segmenting Your Email List
As with any direct response program, you want to target those recipients most likely interested in your product or service. Because email marketing does not have the high fixed costs associated with traditional direct mail, people are prone to email everyone. I think this is a mistake. You want to target only those people who will most likely have an affinity to your email. Equally important, you do not want your customers or prospects to think you as flooding their in boxes with solicitations that do not interest them. Remember, your recipients have the legal right to opt-out which you must comply. So it is in your best interest to heed this advice.

In order to accomplish this, you have to know a little about your contact. When asking for their email address, also ask a few, but not many, questions about their likes. For example,
  • If you sell clothes, ask what type of cloths interest them
  • If you are a restaurant, ask if they are a business, are they interested in parties, catering, etc.
  • Whenever I send emails, I provide a link in my email for the recipient to update their account. I created in Constant Contact broad categories of solutions that I provide. The responder can check off any solution that are listed. I create a customized email dealing with that solution emailed to that audience
Analyzing Your Email Program
A direct response program, to be effective, has to be based on Return on Investment (ROI). You want to choose your communication channel based on how much money you made relative to your investment. There are many different communication channels open to you. They include:
  • Email marketing
  • Solo direct mail
  • CO-OP direct mail
  • Newspapers
  • Free Standing Inserts
  • DRTV -Direct Response Television
  • Radio
  • Text Messaging
  • SEARCH (SEM/SEO)
Many SME's marketing is haphazard. All marketing results have to be tracked, analyzed and stored on a database. The easiest way to identify each response or sale is to code the initial advertisement during it creation and request that source code for the response. For example:
  • When driving traffic to your website from an event marketing, provide a source code specific to that event that has to be entered along with their contact information.
  • When responding to a direct mail piece, ask for the source code.
  • DRTV and Radio can also ask the viewer/listener for source code information when ordering.
When responses come in and tabulated, you are analyzing the effectiveness of each program by the source code. Make sure you keep track of each source code, the promotion, type of advertising, data of advertising, how many people were involved, expenditure (cost) for the ad.

Integrating With All Advertising
Now that you know your ROI, you can consider your email marketing in relation to the ROI of all your advertising. You will make sound, financial decisions, enable you to select which communication channels to use to achieve the highest ROI and fall within your overall marketing budget.
By Eric B. Mohr EBM Direct Marketing Services LLC ©

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