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Five ways to profit from e-mails during the recession

While everything else is going down, e-mail marketing will probably be going up in the months ahead. Why? Because it is the most cost effective marketing vehicle ever invented. Direct mail costs more than $500 per thousand (total in-the-mail cost). E-mail marketing costs less than $6 per thousand. Marketers and consumers have caught on to this. Forrester Research reported in 2007 that 97% of consumers and 94% of marketers are using this channel. The DMA reported in 2007 that $1 spent on e-mail promotional ads yielded an average sale of $48.29.

What is not so certain is whether e-mail will continue to be as successful for marketing in the future as it is today. Since it is so cost effective, more businesses are sending more e-mails. The competition for subscriber attention during the recession, therefore, will be fierce. Result: more e-mails will be dumped into consumer Internet inboxes. Subscribers, deluged with e-mail, will have to stop reading something and it could be your e-mails.

The problem for e-mail marketing during the recession is: How to deliver communications that subscribers will want to open, read, click and buy from? This is what this article is about.

A one-to-one conversation

The ideal commercial e-mail is a one-on-one conversation with the subscriber. It is a communication that provides her with news or information that she considers interesting and relevant to her life and interests. I like to compare a successful e-mail program with the activities of the old corner grocers of a by-gone era. In those days (before 1946) almost all the groceries in the US were delivered in small stores. The proprietors typically greeted their patrons at the door with a personal greeting: How’s your boy doing in High School? Those businessmen knew their customers by name. They knew where they lived, and what their families were like. They knew what their customers wanted to buy. Instead of talking about products and prices, they talked about their customer’s lives and interests. They built relationships that kept customers coming back.

Marketing e-mails today are often highly impersonal. They are not from any named person, and are often not personalized. They are like a TV ad – sometimes clever – but basically a presentation of products and prices. Certainly they are seldom like real conversations.

This is a shame, because, unlike ads on TV, radio or print, e-mails can be not only targeted to each subscriber but personalized and highly interactive. How can you create e-mails that your subscribers want to read? Here are some answers:

Know your subscribers. Most e-mail marketers know nothing about their subscribers more than their e-mail address and possibly their name. To communicate with your audience you need to know (depending on your product) their location, age, income, family and housing type. You might not want to send the same message to college students that you send to seniors or to families with young children in the home. But if you know none of these things, how can you have a real conversation? You are selling lawn mowers, or dog food. Wouldn’t it be useful to know that they live in a single family home or that they own a dog? The first step in communication should be to find out who you are talking to, and what their interests are. Solution: Decide what you need to know and ask your subscribers to tell you when they sign up for your e-mails. Failing that, get their postal address and get the data appended by a service bureau (at a cost of about $0.05 per name).

Treat buyers better. Many marketers send the same e-mails to buyers that they send to people who have never bought anything. A typical e-mail subscriber audience is about 10% buyers and 90% non-buyers. Your profit comes only from the buyers. Once you have a buyer, you must work to retain her. Solution: When she buys, thank her, get her to rate the product she bought and the buying process. From then on, call her by name, and include information in your subsequent e-mails that she has told you that she wants to hear about.

Make each e-mail an interactive adventure. Interesting and profitable e-mails contain a lot of links. “Click here to see an enlarged view”. The more they click the more they buy. Why? Because clicking gets subscribers involved. Your goal is to fill every e-mail with enticing clicks that will get those mice moving. Solution: Be sure that you have an HTML expert on your staff – or at your ESP – who can and will fill your e-mails with exciting clicks.

Make the most of transaction e-mails. Transaction e-mails (“Your order was shipped today”) are opened and read two or three times as often as promotional e-mails. Because they get opened, they present an ideal opportunity to use the space below the fold to promote a product that this particular customer in likely to be interested in. Unfortunately many marketers send their transactions out as text, not HTML, and are not able to add promotional copy to the messages. The reason? Their e-mails are sent out by the shipping department or some other unit that is not equipped to send sophisticated messages. Solution: With a recession staring us in the face, it is high time to clean up this situation. Have the shipping department electronically send the message to your outsourced e-mail service provider (ESP) who can put the message into HTML and add the appropriate promotional copy.

Drive traffic to retail stores. If you have retail stores, you should be using e-mails to get people to visit them. To make sure your e-mails are working, you need to be able to prove that e-mail readers actually arrive at your store. How can you prove that? Solution: Get the subscriber’s zip code and feature your local store and a map in each e-mail. Then, try putting coupons in your e-mails that the subscriber prints out and takes to your stores. The coupons should be bar coded so that when scanned in the stores you can learn instantly that the e-mails worked – how much sales they generated, and which subscriber used them. Benefit: by knowing this information, you will be able to create more and more effective e-mail coupons which result in more and more sales.

Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president of The Database Marketing Institute, has presented 28 seminars on database and email marketing.  Arthur has also authored several books includingStrategic Database Marketing 4th Edition (McGraw-Hill 2012). He and Andrew Kordek, chief strategist and co-founder of Trendline Interactive, are hosting a two-day Email Strategy Study Group in Fort Lauderdale  March 26-27, 2013, featuring group competition for email marketers responsible for subscriber acquisition, lifetime value, ratings and reviews, boosting their email budget, and doubling their ROI.  To learn how to attend the Study Group,click here

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About Arthur

Arthur Middleton Hughes has published over 200 articles on Database and E-mail Marketing. Click Here to read them.

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