The goal of all marketing is to attract interest in, build desire for, and generate sales of your products or services. Email marketing is a perfect medium to pick up where other marketing leaves off. Email marketing is still one of the most cost effective ways to contact prospects and customers. It’s far cheaper than traditional bulk postage mail and in many cases can have a much larger impact on immediate sales and long-term relationship strength than traditional advertising.
When done correctly, email marketing can be an extremely powerful and effective marketing technique. It’s a medium that allows a buyer and seller to freely communicate with one another and build a relationship based on value and trust. When done incorrectly, however, email marketing can be destructive, erode brand equity, and turn your happy clients into litigious flamers. It is for this reason that one must make sure they send only permission-based email communications to their subscribers.
Before we proceed any further, let’s define exactly what permission-based email marketing is. It is important to note that there are two types of email marketing. One can either send unsolicited email promotions or send out emails only to persons who have requested to receive them. Unsolicited email is, of course, called spam. Sending spam will ruin any legitimate organization’s reputation and brand value faster than mold grows on bread that is left outside in the middle of summer. Rule number one of becoming an intelligent email marketer is to not send unsolicited email
Permission-based email marketing, on the other hand, is used effectively everyday by hundreds of thousands of organizations to build the value of their brands, increase sales, and strengthen the relationships they have with their clients and subscribers. The key difference, of course, is that these senders are only sending messages to persons who have requested to receive them.
Let’s take a second to understand the key difference between spam and permission-based emails.
The Axiom of Value
For the last 100 years, companies have relied on traditional advertising in the form of catchy jingles, TV commercials, billboards, print ads in newspapers and magazines, direct mail, hot air balloons, and waving mascots. The technique is to interrupt a radio listener, TV viewer, or magazine reader with an attention grabbing ad that compels the consumer to buy the company’s product or at least have the product closer to the forefront of his or her mind next time the individual is making a buying decision.
In most instances, advertising is acceptable to the consumer. Most people don’t mind seeing ads while watching television, listening to the radio, or reading magazines-or at least they understand that these ads are necessary in order to receive the content they are seeing, reading, or hearing. While technologies like TiVo, DVR, and satellite radio are challenging advertisers to come up with new methods of advertising, other technologies such as Internet television require users to watch a 30-second advertisement prior to the start of a show. The point is, as long as value is provided, consumers will be willing to be exposed to a few advertisements.
This same axiom holds true online. As long as your web site provides content that people value, visitors will continue returning to the site even if there are a few banner ads or Google AdWords boxes within the page layout. While some web sites, such as WSJ.com, have successfully switched to a subscription-based model, many more web sites rely on banner, box, skyscraper, and contextual advertisements to earn the bulk of their income.
The same axiom, that as long as value is provided, consumers will be willing to be exposed to a few advertisements, also holds true with email. As long as one provides value-whether by providing content on a topic a recipient is interested in or a discount off a product related to one purchased previously-people will allow you to continue to contact them. Each and every email you send of course contains your logo, information on your products and services, and links to your web sites. These items are the advertising and should be surrounded on all sides by the items which make the communication actually add value to the lives of your readers.
Spam however, by its very nature, breaks the axiom. Unsolicited bulk email very rarely has any value. Spam is usually irrelevant, always impersonal, and rarely helpful. Everyone with an email inbox knows how aggravating it is to sort through forty new emails to only find two that are from persons you know. While spam may make money for persons in Eastern Europe promoting fake drugs, I feel strongly that sending spam will always have a net negative impact on any legitimate organization.
For this reason, we strongly recommend only sending permission-based email, also known as opt-in email. Permission-based email marketing can be an extremely effective way to increase visitor-to-sale conversion rates, build strong relationships with your customers, and turn your one-time buyers into lifetime product evangelizers who recommend your organization to everyone they know. Permission-based email marketing allows companies to develop and sustain relationships with their prospects and consumers by creating value. Permission marketing is about “turning strangers into friends and friends into customers” as Seth Godin likes to say.
The nature of permission marketing-building a relationship with a prospect or expanding the relationship with an existing customer over time-allows you to concentrate on the prospects and customers who are really interested in what you have to sell and are more than willing to become repeat customers.
The Five-Step Process of Permission Email Marketing
There is a simple five-step process in putting a successful permission-based email marketing campaign in place. This process is reviewed below.
1. Start using a permission-based email marketing software that allows you to easily create newsletters, automatically manage subscribes, unsubscribes, bounces, and view reporting statistics like opens and clickthroughs.
2. Decide on the type and frequency of email communication you will be sending. We recommend sending at least a monthly newsletter. You can certainly send multiple newsletters if you sell different types of products. You can also send promotional messages offering a discount or coupon for a product or service.
3. Add a sign-up form to your web site so you can start collecting subscribers and import any existing lists of subscribers that have already requested your communications. It is generally also safe to import the names of anyone who has done business with you in the past year, provided you will be sending content relevant to what they purchased.
4. Create a good email template by using a template provided within the email software, having your in-house team create one, or using the custom design services of the email software company.
5. Develop quality relevant content for your newsletter or message and send it out to your list. Continue sending your newsletters, announcements, or promotions with consistent frequency. As your list grows, you will notice increased traffic (and if applicable, increased sales) on the day of and the days following an email send.
By providing quality relevant content you will succeed in keeping your brand mindshare at the front of the mind of your customers and cement strong relationships with your subscribers.
Guest Article by Ryan Allis